There aren’t many names that put Preston on the map globally. The most famous example is Sir Tom Finney, while others such as Andrew Flintoff and Phil Jones have pitched in and done their bit over the years.Advertisement
Not so long ago, that changed. WWE Superstar Wade Barrett’s hometown was correctly changed from Manchester to Preston on his ring entrance. All of a sudden, Preston is represented to millions on a global show, every week. All of this culminated last Monday (April 7th) when PNE (mixed with England) chants were heard at the New Orleans Arena in the US. Almost as entertaining as that, was the chant of “Wade Barrett’s Barmy Army”. It was a surreal experience for everyone from Preston who saw it, but none more so than Stuart Bennett (Barrett’s real name) who completely broke character in a huge grin at the crowd.
Barrett talks to an English WWE crowd in Birmingham
Talking about Barrett’s achievements is difficult because he’s in a sport that is now publicly known to be scripted. That said, there aren’t many people from the UK, never mind Preston that make it so far up the ladder in professional wrestling. For anyone outside of the US and Canada, they usually have ridiculous gimmicks tagged into their character – so the only Indian wrestler in WWE is “The Punjabi Giant, for example. It’s to Barrett’s credit that he’s avoided it, and a sign of his talent at what he does. Instead, his character is based around his very real bare-knuckle boxing background. His ring-style is a more believable strike style and while others perform ridiculous “finishing” moves, Barrett’s is a straight-forward elbow to the head.
Barrett trains with the PNE squad
Born in Penwortham, Barrett decided that he wanted to be a professional wrestler after watching another Brit, Davey Boy Smith, become a champion at Wembley Stadium in 1992. He debuted in the WWE in 2010 after winning a fan-voted reality show known as NXT. The debut will go down as one as the most infamous in history as he and the other contestants from the show tore the set to pieces. It’s hard to shock anyone in a business where the audience has seen everything before, but that debut did exactly that. He was thrust straight to the top of the industry and has mostly remained there since, with the exception of injuries. He’s had the chance to be the first ever British WWE champion, but that accolade has eluded him so far.
Barrett is outwardly proud of his Prestonian heritage. While most of his colleagues remain in character on their Twitter accounts, he regularly communicates with people from the city and comments on how PNE are doing. When the WWE tours the UK, he checks in at Deepdale to meet the players and the manager. He was even filmed doing a training session by Sky Sports with the PNE squad (above). He’s also contributed a column to the PNE programme for those of you with sharp eyes and has told his American followers to go for PNE as their team.
Barrett is hopeful that PNE can climb back up the football league. He said just after Simon Grayson was appointed: “Since about 1994, we went on this great run from the old Division Four and we really climbed up the leagues.
“We had David Moyes for a while, and then Billy Davies. Year after year we climbed up and we got to the point where we seemed to be in the Championship play-offs every year and then narrowly missing out.
“For the last three or four years it’s just been misery, decline and things going downhill. A succession of managers haven’t worked out and there have been false dawns over and over again.
“It’s been very tough to be a PNE fan, but hopefully with Simon Grayson in charge now, he’ll put a stop to all that and turn things around. I seem to be saying that two or three times a year, every time we get a new manager, but hopefully this is the one.”
We’ll be keeping as close an eye on the fortunes of one of Preston’s finest exports as he will be doing on those of Preston North End. Hopefully, both will be champions again soon enough.
Do you know Wade or Stuart (real name)? Let us know in the comments below