Chapter One: A Wrestler, a Comic or a Clown I'm not as old as you might think.
It's just that I've been wrestling a long time.
There's very few on the current World Wrestling Entertainment talent roster with more experience on the job than I have.
Wrestling is one of my earliest memories.
Wrestling, comedy and showbusiness -- they were always going to play a big part in my life.
He said to me: "What would you think if you got home and your mum wasn't there?" I don't remember being too bothered.
I'd always looked up to my dad and he was the one I wanted to be around.
They'd tease me in the playground, shouting, "Where's your mum?" For the only time in my life, I turned into a bully.
I've no time for bullies -- and I met plenty of them when I became a wrestler.
I try to live my life without having regrets, but the fact that I bullied other kids all those years ago is something that troubled me for a long time.
It's a terrible thing to admit when I know so many kids watch me on TV every week, but it's true.
If that was the only thing I can remember from school, you can imagine how mind-numbing I found the place.
Then when I was nine I went to the middle school -- and was soon faced with another confusing situation.
My mum had run off with this bloke and my dad ended up marrying his wife.
I've a half-brother who's my mum and step-dad's kid, and a step-sister.
My dad had custody of me and I'd go to stay with my mum in the school holidays, but I didn't like going.
But most of the time I didn't want to be there because I wanted to stay at home with my dad, granddad and the close family who lived nearby: my uncles, aunties and cousins -- especially my cousin Graham.
He's older than me, but we spent so much time together growing up that he's more like a brother to me than anything else.
But my dad was always the one I looked up to.
To this day he's the nicest man I've ever met -- and I'm not just saying that because he is my dad.
He would come home covered in cement and has always worked hard for his living.
He doesn't need to work these days but he still does.
If he didn't work he wouldn't know what to do with himself.
But what it meant for me when I was growing up was that dad was often out at work.
That meant I spent a lot of time with his father, my granddad.
Granddad's name was William Matthews, known as Bill, and he was probably the biggest influence in my life.
In his younger days he was a bit of a rogue, well known for fighting and drinking.
He'd do a bit of wrestling, a bit of boxing, a bit of running -- anything to make a few quid.
He'd tell me stories about how he used to wrestle at a place called the Pear Tree pub.
He also worked in Blackpool for a while.
He was a navvy and there had been a lot of work going there when he was younger, on the sea walls and the like.
He used to tell me all these stories about him fighting when he was younger.
He was a big, powerful fellow, over six feet tall, and he was a great character.
He'd tell me all these things and whenever I repeated any of them to my mum, I'd get a thick ear for it.
I've still got a picture of him in a suit and the older I get, the more I look like him.
He loved it when I started wrestling and travelling around the world.
Even when I'd moved to Blackpool, I'd come back to see him more than I would most people.
Whenever I was passing through the Midlands on the wrestling trips that would take me all over the country, I'd stop over with him.
He'd had every disease you care to name but in the end, the only reason he died was because he had got fed up with living.
My gran had died a few years before and he used to tell me there was nothing on TV he wanted to watch any more, nothing he wanted to do.
The last time I saw him, he told me: "I'm going to die, son." "Don't be so soft," I said.
I told him I was due to go to South Africa two weeks later to wrestle.
When I got to Codsall High School I had the same trouble as before.
Things that I liked, I did okay at, such as woodwork.
But something I didn't like -- French for example -- was another matter.
I remember one of my last days at Codsall High, when I was sent to see the careers officer.
"I'm going to be a wrestler." He threw me out of the office and told me to come back when I wanted to talk some sense.
I didn't become a wrestler because I wanted to be rich and famous.
My dad owned his own business and we lived in a lovely village, in a beautiful home, because my dad had built it.
Everyone expected me to take over the family business from my dad, but I knew I could never work a regular job.
Even when I helped my dad out at weekends, I knew I couldn't hack that life.
My dad's a grafter, and my mum too - she's a nurse.
One reason was the way I saw people treat my dad.
I was going to be a wrestler and that's all there was to it.
I was going to be a wrestler and that's all there was to it.
My dad used to take his young, wrestling-mad son to Wolverhampton Civic Hall every two weeks to see Dale Martin's shows.
I watched all the stars of the day, people who affected me and whose inspiration I still use in my own act now.
There was Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki, The Royal Brothers, Mick McManus and Cyanide Sid Cooper -- I was always a huge fan of his and use a lot of his material today.
He was only a little kid and he wasn't flying around like he did later in his career, but you could already tell how good he was going to be.
One night he wrestled another guy I liked a lot, Tally Ho Kaye, in a street fight.
I didn't care about all those people who said it was bent.
I used to run round collecting autographs from all the wrestlers.
That's why I always give autographs now, as long as I have the time -- I can remember when I was the excited kid with the pen and the notebook.
Sometimes, if I see 250 kids and I know I'll only be able to do two or three, I'd rather not do any at all and let them think I'm a bit of a dick.
I would feel badly for all the people I couldn't do.
My being such a starstruck wrestling fan wasn't so unusual back then.
They say that in the 1960s, a couple of matches between Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo, which were put on before the FA Cup final, the biggest sporting event of the British year, drew more viewers than the football -- eleven or twelve million.
Everyone went to the wrestling at their local town hall or swimming baths; it was a British tradition.
When I turned fifteen I started taking the bus into Wolverhampton on my own to go to the wrestling.
But what I liked most were the villains.
It was the way they could control people.
In life as well as wrestling, I've always admired the rogues.
Soon my wrestling education expanded as I travelled further afield to watch my heroes.
One guy was called the Wild Man of Borneo.
You'd see people like Crusher Mason and Adrian Street, very different from the guys you saw on TV.
It wasn't long before I realized there was a great deal more to this wrestling caper than what you saw on Saturday afternoons on World of Sport.
Others were very skilled wrestlers.
I began to watch the wrestlers who made me believe that what they were doing in the ring was real.
As far as that goes, England has the best wrestlers in the world -- or did in those days, at any rate.
I wanted to be a wrestler whose matches were completely believable.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were so many amazing guys in Britain to watch and learn from.
There was Rocco, Finlay and Marty Jones - someone who became a big influence in my career later on.
There was Satoru Sayama who wrestled as Sammy Lee and later became the original Tiger Mask in Japan, and sometimes the Dynamite Kid.
These people revolutionized the wrestling business in England.
They did flying moves but it was all part of a believable, hard-hitting style -- my favourite.
I recently watched a video of Marty Jones wrestling Rocco in 1977 and it still stands up today.
It was the first time they ever wrestled each other on TV and you wouldn't know it wasn't a modern match -- in fact, it was better than a lot of what you see today.
But wrestling isn't the easiest thing in the world to get into.
You can't just look in the Situations Vacant column and answer the ad that says "Wrestlers wanted".
He used to drink in a pub in Wolverhampton with a guy who did a lot of wrestling.
So I met this fellow and started putting up the ring with him -- the traditional first job for anyone starting out in the business.
I'd watch while they put up the ring and after a while I began to meet a few people involved in the shows.
I hung around with them and whenever there was an opportunity, I'd get in the ring and I'd try out different things.
I'd done a little bit of judo when I was younger, just enough to know how to fall properly.
I didn't know anything else, so I started to figure things out for myself.
There weren't any wrestling clubs in Wolverhampton, so I went to a boxing club to get fit.
But I started getting into shape at the boxing club, and all because I wanted to make it as a wrestler.
Watching these guys in Wolverhampton, I'd figured out all these falls.
So I started practising them at home in my dad's back garden.
I made a frame of two-by-two wood, put two eight-by-four sheets of plywood on top and a blanket on top of that to make my own improvised ring and I used to throw myself around on that all the time, trying to teach myself how to fall.
Most people today don't realize I'm 6 feet 4 inches.
I want the fans to think they can beat me themselves because they'll hate me all the more when I get away with some in-ring villainy.
So I was tall enough to be a wrestler, but there was a problem: I had no athletic ability whatsoever.
I'd never done any sports, watched any or cared about them, for that matter.
At school I'd get out of them any way I could.
So pretty early on I recognized I couldn't be a high-flying wrestler, even if it was my favourite style to watch.
When I tried to fly I looked like a very sad sack indeed.
I'd never be a performer like Rocco in the past or Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit today.
That's why I decided I had to concentrate on mat wrestling and entertaining.
Making my matches look more believable and fluid became my obsession.
I have a tremendous respect for the wrestling business.
When I started in the wrestling business it was part of our job to defend the legitimacy of our sport.
Nothing that most people didn't already know or at least suspect.
Today, people watch wrestling and enjoy it for what it is.
But I personally do not like to overexpose the business -- more on that later.
So I will start by telling you this -- yes, a professional wrestling match is "fixed".
It's fixed because the participants know what the outcome of the match is going to be when they start.
No matter what you do, when a man weighing 300 pounds lands on you from a great height, it is going to hurt.
People say we know how to fall, meaning we can fall in a controlled way.
Yes we can -- but in a wrestling match, with so many things going on at the same time and so many switches of momentum, too many things are outside your control.
It wasn't that far away from Staffordshire and when I was a little kid we used to go there for days out.
Even then I used to say I would live there one day, because it was like wonderland to me.
It boasts a giant amusement park, known as the Pleasure Beach -- one of the biggest in the world.
It's got three big piers, an enormous sandy beach and non-stop entertainment.
There's so much to do there -- everything a kid would want.
Unsurprisingly, one of my first memories of Blackpool revolves around wrestling.
We went to the Pleasure Beach one day when I was nine or ten.
We walked round the corner of the beautiful old White Tower building there to be confronted by this row of wrestlers.
They looked like monsters to a little lad like me.
They were throwing out challenges to the crowd, daring them to step in the ring.
Years later I'd get to know the truth behind some of these people.
I wrestled him later on.
When they were challenging the crowd to a fight, I was convinced they were challenging my dad.
As far as I was concerned, my dad was the biggest, strongest fellow in the world; but Radnor the Viking was enormous and had a big axe!
The moment we went in to watch their show, I was hooked.
I looked at those men in that ring, with the crowd in the palms of their hands and thought: "I'm going to work here one day.
I'm going to be a wrestler at Blackpool Pleasure Beach." And a few years later, I was.
I remembered that first view of Radnor the Viking when I was fifteen and went back to the Pleasure Beach to see the wrestlers again.
Again, the same experience -- I walked round the corner, saw the wrestlers and knew more than ever this was what I wanted to do.
So I started out like many people do in the wrestling business -- from then on, while I was still at school, I went to the Pleasure Beach every weekend and hung around.
The promoter, Bobby Baron, was a lovely man who really looked after me.
After a few weeks of hanging around, I plucked up the courage to tell Bobby what was on my mind.
I went up to him and blurted it out: "I want to be a wrestler." Bobby took out the pipe that was permanently clenched in his teeth and said: "Eee," which was how he started all of his sentences.
At the time though, he wrestled as a gay character called Magnificent Maurice.
Already, in the short time I'd been hanging around the wrestlers, I'd seen him knock several people out.
"I know what this wrestling's all about," I thought.
Soon after -- though the match felt plenty long enough to me at the time -- he got me in a single-leg Boston crab and I tapped out.
Either he'd thought I was just another wannabe from the crowd or Bobby had told him to slap me around a bit to get rid of me.
I wasn't going to give up after just one match.
I went back the next weekend and I kept going back.
They had a lot of guys who never became real wrestlers but just worked as plants in the crowd, and they thought I could be one of them.
When I got the chance to, I'd jump in the ring and roll about, teaching myself some moves.
The way it worked was this.
The wrestlers lined up outside - just as they had when I'd seen them as a nine-year-old -- while Steve Foster from Wigan, the man on the microphone, would get everyone going.
Punters were challenged to get in the ring with the wrestlers.
Challengers would get 10 for every round they lasted, and 100 if they lasted all three or knocked the wrestler out.
"What we're looking for are fighting men.
We want boxers, wrestlers, judo men, karate men, poofs, queers, perverts, Len Faircloughs, anybody who can fight." Now Blackpool's a tough place.
That would get the crowd going.
Then Steve would ask: "Is there anybody else?" and a bigger guy would step in.
They'd ooh and aah, thinking the big guy was bound to have a great chance.
Sometimes the wrestlers would have to go out and do this routine two or three times to fill the place up before the show started.
It was a great place to learn about crowd psychology.
When the big fellow got in to have a go, you could tell everyone was thinking: "Now here's someone who can win." The wrestlers who took the challenges usually wore masks.
Firstly, it made you look more like a monster when you were standing outside and Steve was getting people in.
Secondly, if trouble really kicked off in the shows -- which it did -- or if you had to give someone a really good hiding, you could bugger off when the police came because no one knew what you looked like.
The crowds used to be so programmed by TV that they'd shout at the challengers to tear the wrestler's masks off.
No good advice, like "Punch his head in!" or "Kick him in the balls!" Just, "Tear his mask off!" That always used to make me laugh.
At the end of that summer season, I had to go back to Codsall to finish my last year in school.
I still went to Wolverhampton when I could to hang around and talk to some of the wrestlers.
And I wasn't going to stay in school one second longer than I had to.
My dad has probably got the certificates somewhere but I've never looked at them.
I was a few days past my sixteenth birthday and about to become a professional wrestler.