CM Punk recently had his Wrestlemania date with destiny, and an Englishman’s new book recalls his own amazing encounter with the WWE wrestling superstar a decade ago.
The events of this dramatic night and other inside tales of the grapple game are revealed in Greg Lambert’s smash hit story Holy Grail: The true story of British Wrestling’s revival.
In 2003, Lambert was a nervous rookie wrestling manager tasked with sharing CM Punk’s spotlight at an independent grapple event in London – an eventful day Greg will never, ever forget.
“It was CM Punk’s European debut at the famous York Hall in Bethnal Green, there was a sold-out crowd, a ton of anticipation, and then just minutes before the show was due to start, we had to evacuate the entire building because of a bomb scare,” said Greg, 41.
“The wrestling crew, including Punk and myself, stood in the freezing cold in the back yard while the bomb squad combed the building.
“Thankfully it turned out to be a hoax.”
When the wrestlers were allowed back in and the show finally began, Punk, at the time a highly-touted newcomer, defeated his best friend Colt Cabana in a match where he showed the prodigious talent that would, a decade later, lead him to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and his upcoming WrestleMania 29 showdown with the legendary Undertaker.
In the very next match, Lambert was in the corner of FWA British tag team champions The Family as they battled former ECW stars Mikey Whipreck and Ulf Herman in a violent ‘Apocalypse Death Match’. But matters went horribly awry when a pre-planned stunt almost had tragic consequences. “The bout ended when one of my men, ‘The Righteous’ Paul Travell, plunged off the top rope and through a table which had been set on fire,” said Greg.
“But the stunt went terribly wrong and Paul went up like an inferno.
“He was right in front of me, his back ablaze, like he’d just staggered out of a burning building. He ended up in hospital with third degree burns.
“I was horrified. I was just eight months into my wrestling career and I saw a man almost burn alive right in front of my eyes. But it was a perfect example of the kind of risks a British wrestler will take for fame and fortune.”
The book is full of such incredible stories of risk, and lack of reward, as it tracks the lowly British wrestling scene, unknown and unloved since the era of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and ITV World of Sport, as it tried to emerge from the shadows of the big-money World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) at the dawn of this century.
Holy Grail weaves a tale of triumph, disaster and hope through Greg’s own eyes and experiences as a wrestling manager and promoter, and his encounters with a who’s who of wrestling legends like Punk, Daniel Bryan, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and Mick Foley.
Fans and wrestling stars alike have been raving about the Morecambe man’s work, which shot to the top of the Amazon Kindle best-sellers chart for wrestling books over Christmas and has received five-star reviews all over the place.
BBC1’s The Apprentice winner and former grappler Ricky Martin called it “a refreshing and no holds barred account of British Wrestling”, TNA British Boot Camp winner Rockstar Spud said it was “hard to put down – so many great memories and wonderful stories”, while The Daily Star’s Patrick Lennon said “this story needs to be told, read and understood by anyone calling themselves a wrestling fan”.
Collarandelbow.com’s Ben Veal simply said: “It will make you feel proud to be British.”
Fans clamoured to lay their hands on Holy Grail on Greg’s recent nationwide book signing tour of wrestling venues in London (PROGRESS Wrestling), Glasgow (ICW), Liverpool (Infinite Promotions), Stockport (Futureshock Wrestling), Hull (New Generation Wrestling) and Preston (Preston City Wrestling and Pro Wrestling:EVE).
And with the book’s success showing no signs of abating, it has now become an official sponsor of Challenge TV’s new show BWC British Wrestling Round Up, a Sunday night showcase of those talented British wrestlers who have suffered from lack of TV exposure.
“The book is called Holy Grail because it’s about UK wrestling’s quest for recognition in our pop culture,” said Greg.
“UK stars like The British Bulldogs, William Regal, Wade Barrett, Doug Williams and Magnus have gone over to America in recent years and been a success. But in our own country, British wrestlers are nowhere near as famous as the likes of CM Punk and The Undertaker, and that’s a real shame.
“British Wrestling Round Up will give TV viewers the chance to see some of the next generation of UK stars and see for themselves that we can compete on the same level as the Americans.
“It may not quite be the Holy Grail of mainstream acceptance we’ve all been searching for but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
BWC British Wrestling Round Up debuts on Challenge TV on Sunday, April 14 at 11.30pm straight after Challenge’s other British-made wrestling success story WrestleTalk TV. Both programmes are produced by former British wrestling heavyweight champion Alex Shane.
Outlets include Waterstones in Fishergate, Preston and Gower Street in London, and WH Smith, Waterstones, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Authorhouse websites.