By Alan Boon for WrestlingObserver.com
One of the more fascinating aspects of WWE’s new reality show Breaking Ground is the appearance of the trainers: seasoned grapplers performing in front of the cameras in a whole new way. One of the WWE Performance Center’s faculty who may be unfamiliar to some American viewers is Robbie Brookside, a long-time face on the British wrestling scene, who spanned the transition from the old ITV television days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks to the current, thriving scene.
Here are five things about Robbie Brookside that you may not know:
1) He could have been professional soccer player.
Brookside’s father played as a goalkeeper for Preston North End, a former powerhouse of the English game. He encouraged his son to follow in his footsteps and the younger Brookside was a prodigious talent, catching the eye of scouts on his native Merseyside. But wrestling got under his skin after a trip to Liverpool Stadium, a famous old boxing venue in the city, and he began training in secret at the Liverpool Olympic Wrestling Club. He was sent to Blackpool to begin his career, where he met a young grappler by the name of Regal.
2) He and William Regal have worked together before.
Brookside formed a tag-team with Regal – then known as Steve Regal – called the Golden Boys, working for British mainstay Brian Dixon’s All-Star Wrestling. Their most infamous bout came in the dying days of British wrestling on ITV, when they faced the legendary Kendo Nagasaki and “Rock & Roll Express” Blondie Barrett. Yes, a man named after a tag-team. During the match, Brookside unmasked Nagasaki, who then fixed his gaze upon the young grappler, hypnotising him into attacking Regal, his own partner. It would be Nagasaki’s last appearance on TV and the show itself was cancelled two months later.
3) Breaking Ground isn’t his US TV debut.
After his tag-team with Regal ended, Brookside teamed up with Ian “Doc” Dean as the Liverpool Lads. In the mid-1990s, Regal invited the pair over to WCW where they spent six months as enhancement talent, racking up a dozen appearances on WCW Saturday Night, WCW Main Event, and a solitary appearance on WCW Nitro, where Brookside lost a WCW Cruiserweight title match to Dean Malenko. The hook-up even extended to a short stay in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where they took part on the 1997 Best Of The Super Juniors tournament.
4) Breaking Ground isn’t even his first reality TV show.
In 1993, Brookside was invited to record a video diary for a BBC2 series imaginatively-titled Video Diaries. The hour-long show revealed British wrestling in one of its down periods, and a visit to Regal in Florida – made before he got Brookside into WCW – reveals the stark difference between wrestling life in the two countries. Brookside also detailed his love for heavy metal music and showed him on tour in Germany, a popular destination for British wrestlers during that time. The show is available on YouTube.
5) He’s been training wrestlers for a while now.
Brookside opened his own training school in the UK -- Wrestleicester -- in 2006. Among his graduates, who were taught a style which was based in the British hold-and-reversal catch wrestling style, are Becky Lynch and his own daughter, Xia, who has recently moved over to Orlando to further her nascent career. In addition, Brookside worked as a talent scout for WWE in Europe before moving to the Performance Center in 2013.
Brookside should become something of a cult figure on Breaking Ground with his no-nonsense approach to life. If ever a man were going to call a spade a spade, it’s Brookside, only he’d probably do it in a more sweary, British-accented way. The talent that graduates from NXT will do so with a healthy respect for the professional wrestling business, instilled in them by one of the last of the old school of the British wrestlers, even if – and I know from bitter, personal experience – he doesn’t put much stock in the “wrestler’s handshake”!