On August 31 last year, wrestling history was made as Gwent wrestler Flash Morgan Webster and his tag-team partner Mark Andrews from Cardiff were crowned NXT UK tag team champions, becoming the first Welsh wrestlers to hold a WWE title. ELIZABETH BIRT found out about his career leading up to the special moment.

“THE moment that three-count happened, the place erupted,” said Gavin Watkins, 28 from Brynmawr – the athlete behind Flash.

“The moment we were told to get in the crowd, we were over the barrier. I remember being surrounded by everyone and thinking this was a full circle moment – the moment I wanted to become a wrestler was watching Eddie Guerrero in his home town winning his first championship and being surrounded by his friends and family as they all celebrated and me and Mark are now the first Welsh guys to hold belts in the WWE and I’m surrounded by all my friends and family.”

While life seemed to have come full circle for Mr Watkins, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows on his journey to WWE.

South Wales Argus:

Mark Andrews (L) and Flash Morgan Webster (C) celebrating their NXTUK tag-team title win in Cardiff on August 31, 2019. Picture: WWE

“My first real exposure came when I was around 10/11 years old in 2001 and it was the Royal Rumble. My mum’s friend was a wrestling fan and she bought me a video copy of the Royal Rumble. I remember watching Steve Austin win it and it was leading to Wrestlemania 17 which is now regarded as one of the best of all time.

“I remember it just capturing me and needing to see more and I was just hooked from there. I always say from that moment wrestling took my heart and never really gave it back, that was me just chasing it then for my entire life.”

South Wales Argus:

Flash uses the ladder for some acrobatics. Picture: WWE

It took a couple of years for Mr Watkins to take the first steps into his career due to the lack of opportunities but when he was a teenager, his dream started to become a reality.

“I come from a disadvantaged background, so mum couldn’t drive and even trying to get to places like Newport and Cardiff was a bit of a struggle because the train link didn’t exist at the time. When I was 13 or 14, my friend Dan told me that there was a lad who had a wrestling ring in his back garden.

“What was there was a carpet with four sticks in the ground and a hosepipe for rope. I went down there that day and had fun. The guy whose back garden it was ended up being the Wild Boar, Mike Hitchman. Every week whether rain or shine, I would be down in his garden and we would be recording ourselves as we learnt to wrestle. Eventually more people joined in. We met a lad who explained that there was wrestling training down in Newport. I started to train in Newport with NWA UK Wales and that was me on my wrestling journey.”

South Wales Argus:

A double-team move during a tag-team match. Picture: WWE

It was at NWA UK Wales that he met Mike Bird who took both Mr Watkins and Mr Hitchman under his wing. After the demise of NWA UK in 2009, there was a six to seven month period of nowhere to train until Mr Bird decided to get some mats and a place to train and DragonPro – what is regarded as one of the premier training facilities in the UK – was created.

In 2015, Mr Bird left to continue his journey in England and Mr Watkins, Mr Hitchman and Mark Andrews continued as trainers.

South Wales Argus:

South Wales Subculture - Mark Andrews (L) and The Mod-father of professional wrestling Flash Morgan Webster (C) enter before their tag-team championship match in Cardiff. Picture: WWE

The following year was filled with highs and lows.

He had his first taste of WWE life in February in a qualifying match for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in London that was held by Progress Wrestling against English wrestler Zack Sabre Jr who won the match and reached the semi-finals.

During that match, he was side-lined for 11 months.


South Wales Argus:

A double flip off a ladder during a tag-team title match for Flash and Mark Andrews. Pic: WWE

“That match was my first taste of WWE and I realised I could do this. Unfortunately, I fractured my ankle in two places during the match, I carried on and four minutes later I dislocated my shoulder and tore my labrum and rotator cuff muscles. Stupidly enough I carried on for another five minutes and completed the match.

At the end of that year, the hard work of the British wrestlers was noticed when WWE announced the start of the NXT UK brand. In a message to people in the valleys, Mr Watkins said: “I was able to do this, and Mark Andrews and Wild Boar were able to do this with very little resources, with no clear plan and we were able to go out there and take what we believe we deserved.

“If you want to be a wrestler in Wales now, no matter where you’re from, the valleys or the cities, there has never been a better time to become a pro wrestler."