It was nice to hear Tommy Boyd back on Talk Radio again this week. The former Wide Awake Club host has been standing in, on and off, for Iain Lee in recent months — a welcome return for a broadcaster who’s rarely been given a national platform for more than a decade.
He’s also, indirectly, responsible for one of the podcasts on this site – after becoming the first, and possibly only – national radio host to put pro-wrestling on the air. As in, broadcasting it like a real sport.
In the early 2000s, and the fledgling years of being a fan, I used to read ‘smart’ magazine Powerslam. One issue in 2001, tucked away inside the news pages, was a small mention of the fact that Tommy Boyd had started a wrestling hour on his Saturday night show on Talksport. And so, I tuned in.
Boyd had reportedly seen how popular wrestling was with his son and decided there was a market to tap into, especially with the WWE’s regular tours and presence on Sky Sports. And so, he gave over part of his show to become the UK’s only national professional wrestling phone-in.
It quickly became one of the strangest things ever to hit commercial radio. A sort of quasi-kayfabed version of 606, as the show continued and its popularity grew Boyd took on a character on the show, increasingly attempting to play the bad guy heel to the internet-savvy, behind the scenes aware fans that phoned up.
Alex Shane would regularly feature as a guest/co-presenter. Later to become a controversial, and incredibly divisive, figure in the British wrestling scene, at the time the 22-year-old motormouth Shane was pitched as the good guy expert foil to Boyd’s bad guy reactions.
Shane, who was a booker and wrestler with the FWA promotion at the time, would explain how wrestling worked, only for Boyd to dispute it — the highlight of their in-studio double act being a long-running thread about how wrestlers made themselves bleed.
Boyd, being the master of the wind-up, would berate increasingly irate studio guests, callers and listeners alike, telling them that the in-ring talent cut themselves with a small blade, claiming instead it was down to a make-up artist who hid under the ring and came out to apply blood to ‘injuries’ during a match.
As the show’s popularity grew, and the presence of the British wrestlers on it increased thanks to Shane effectively being the co-host, Boyd began to make regular murmurings on air about staging a wrestling card of his own.
It ultimately built up to Revival, a one-night tournament staged at the Crystal Palace arena on February 9 2002 in front of around 2000 fans.
The TV version of Revival aired in a two hour slot on Bravo around a month after the show at Crystal Palace had taken place, with commentators Mark Priest (who now co-hosts one of the best UK wrestling podcasts) and regular FWA manager Dean Ayass, and Boyd in a cameo role at the start as the villainous promoter who fixes the tournament draw to deny his radio colleague Alex Shane a chance at competing.
It was a fun show, even edited down to its TV form, which I’ve waxed lyrical about on Braw and which, if you look hard enough on Youtube, you can find various matches and highlights from — including this fun match between British star Doug Williams and the late Eddie Guerrero.
What regularly gets overlooked, however, is that the show also aired live on Talksport from Crystal Palace that night.
Boyd gave over his two hour show to providing a flavour of the atmosphere from the event, complete with a separate, radio-specific live commentary by Priest and Ayass on the in-ring action.
Live professional wrestling commentary on radio — possibly one of the few times anyone’s ever tried to pull such a thing off. With Boyd mingling among the fans doing voxpops, the two commentators would call the matches for an audience without any visual point of reference — a very different presentation style to the one they’d use on the post-production dubbed commentary for the TV version.
Hearing the show at the time made for a curious experience in listening. All credit to them, it just about worked.
And amazingly, someone’s put the whole thing online. So if you’ve ever wondered what a professional wrestling show would sound like as a radio commentary rather than TV spectacle, look (or listen) no further.
The first hour:
And the second:
Revival, sadly, ended up proving a false dawn of sorts. Bravo never picked it up as a series and while the FWA, which promoted the event with Boyd, would be one of the flagship shows on The Wrestling Channel, it never really made the breakthrough.
And less than two months after the show at Crystal Palace, Boyd was sacked from Talksport, reportedly dismissed after failing to block remarks from a caller who said they wanted to shoot the Royal Family just hours after the death of the Queen Mother.
The wrestling show limped on Talksport without him, with Shane taking over as host. But it too ended up having the plug pulled, replaced by veteran actor Gerald Harper resurrecting his old Radio 2 Champagne and Roses show — allegedly because Kelvin MacKenzie wanted something in that slot he could listen to in a restaurant.
Very few fragments of Boyd’s wrestling show survive online, it seems, which is a crying shame as not only was the show a curio in itself, it showcased Tommy Boyd’s skill as a broadcaster — not just in creating his bad guy heel persona, but in dealing with a wide range of callers.
From young kids to Meltzer-reading grown-ups, he was able to handle them all with aplomb and the right approach. So it is good to hear him back…