A Croydon powerlifter turned professional wrestler could make history this weekend as he looks to become the very first World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) UK Champion.
In December, ‘Bodyguy’ Roy Johnson, 32, was announced as one of the 16 British and Irish professional wrestlers selected to take part in the inaugural WWE UK Championship Tournament in Blackpool this Saturday and Sunday.
Johnson won a European Title and a British Open Championship during a successful powerlifting career, but when he suffered an injury while doing a routine squat during a competition his career took a different turn.
He said: “I thought to myself, I don’t really need to do this anymore, I’ve got to the point where I don’t think I can go any further with powerlifting, there’s no money in it. I was just self-gratifying.”
At 6’0’, 204lbs, he was regularly told, ‘You’re huge, you should give wrestling a go!’ and in October 2014 he took up the unique form of sports-entertainment he had loved since childhood.
He said: “Mum bought me all the toys, all the wrestling figures and the belts so it’s something that I bought into at an early age and has stuck with me ever since.”
Despite training for a little more than two years, Johnson received the call to compete in the tournament while losing a game of FIFA as his beloved Crystal Palace.
“I was getting a bit frustrated and then the phone rang,” he said.
“I looked and I was like, ‘Caller ID says Connecticut, I better answer that’, so I paused my game and the phone call was from William Regal.”
Regal, one of the UK’s most decorated professional wrestlers, was calling from WWE HQ to invite Johnson to compete in the knockout tournament for the billion dollar wrestling promotion.
Johnson kept the invitation a secret until it was made public at a press conference in London, a period which he described as ‘the most bizarre couple of days I’ve had in a long time’.
Johnson now looks forward to a first round tie against tournament favourite, Birmingham’s Pete Dunne.
He said: “I told my dad to sign up to the Network to make sure he watches. I told him about the preview and I woke up to a text one day saying, ‘Signed up for the Network, watched the preview, you’ve got a bit of a tough draw’, I was like, ‘Thanks dad!’
“Pete is an incredible wrestler, he’s one of the most sought after guys in the country and possibly in the world so the fact that I’ve got him means all eyes are going to be on our match.”
He added: “The fact that it’s going to be seen by thousands in attendance, thousands in the country and potentially millions worldwide on the WWE Network is huge for me.
“I want to get the point where I’m wrestling full time and I don’t have to do another job as most of us do.
“Ever since I realised I was OK at wrestling and that I understood wrestling the goal was to get to WWE.”
Johnson’s microphone skills are second to none and his signature ‘Wasteman Challenge’ has become a sensation on the independent circuit.
“It’s like a lucky dip between an 8-Mile rap battle, a wrestling match, a comedy show and a dance off,” he said.
“My dream is to have a ‘Wasteman Challenge’ at WrestleMania. Who it would be answered by is a tricky one. Maybe New Day, maybe 2004 John Cena because he was doing the whole thuganomics thing, that’s my favourite John Cena.”
Watch the first-ever WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament LIVE on WWE Network. Subscription is 9.99 a month, and the first month is FREE. Go to WWENetwork.com.