Interview: Andy Shepherd

Andy Shepherd is a television presenter, producer and writer. He has worked on DAVE, Channel 5 and Spike TV as a ring announcer for MMA and boxing events and he is a life long wrestling fan.

Shepherd from London, England lived out his childhood dream by working for WWE as a ring announcer during their two night UK Championship Tournament in Blackpool in January 2017 before working at another WWE UK Championship show in Norwich.

We caught up with Shepherd to talk about how he got involved with WWE, working with Triple H, William Regal and Michael Cole and also talk Mayweather v McGregor plus much more.

When did you first become a fan of professional wrestling?

My love of wrestling goes back years to when I was a little kid. I didn’t have SKY TV when I was a kid, I remember being at one of my friends houses and we stumbled across a WrestleMania, I think it was WrestleMania IX and it was just the whole Americana of it lit a fire inside me. Especially when you’re a kid in the mid nineties, there was something exotic about it, it was something different that we hadn’t seen before.

I remember my parents being really cautious about letting me watch it at the start because it was fighting and they didn’t want me to get involved in that kind of stuff when I was a kid. As the years progressed I just fell more and more in love with it, I remember WCW being on Channel 5 at some point in the nineties and some of the WWE PPV’s on Channel 4 and that made it more accessible to me.

I would give my friend VHS tapes to record the PPV’s off SKY and that would be a monthly thing and I would buy the magazines and all of that kind of stuff right up until my late teens and maybe even 20-years-old the thought of being a wrestler had crossed my mind and I really wanted to do.

In the UK wrestling went through waves of when it was cool and then it wasn’t cool and then it was cool again but I stuck with it and I think it was the Americana and the escapism from it all kept me hooked.

Who were some of the wresters you enjoyed watching whilst growing up?

I think partly because WrestleMania IX was the first show that I had watched, Hulk Hogan was the person that captured my imagination, he was the person that really drew me in shall we say, and he went over to WCW around the time I began watching WCW.

As I got more into it, Shawn Michaels, he was my guy, I remember the 60-minute Iron Man match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. I remember getting the VHS tape that day, I was with my friend cycling home as quick as I could to watch it. That match just blew me away; there was something about Shawn that I really loved.

As the years went on and he stepped away from the limelight for a little bit, guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were other guys I enjoyed watching. It was Hulk Hogan that drew me in and Shawn Michaels who got me hooked.

What is your all time favourite match?

A lot of people have asked me what my favourite match is and it’s so subjective, there are so many great matches that have happened over the last however many years, and to single one out it has to mean something to you.  For me I would have to go with that 60-minute Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. Not only is it a great match but what it meant to me and how much I enjoyed watching it, I can watch that match over and over again.

WrestleMania XII was long past the years of seeing one hour matches, if you got a 30-minute match that was great but 60-minutes was a long time so getting to see two guys work for that long and holding it all together and not even getting a finish within the time limit. This is only me looking back at it now and to be able to hold my attention for that long when I was a kid is just amazing.

If you could have a dream match, watch would that be?

I’ve never been asked that before, that’s a good one. I would of course like to see Shawn Michaels back in the ring and maybe putting him in there with Roman Reigns, I think that would be a very interesting match.

How did you first get involved with WWE?

As well as hosting television shows I’m also a producer and director of things and I was actually working on James Corden’s Late Late Show and in April 2016 we were backstage of RAW in London at the O2 Arena with James’ parents having a really good time and they got to interview some of the superstars including Big Show, The Miz, Sheamus and The New Day.

Whilst filming that segment for the show we were working with some of the WWE producers and I sat down and made friends with a few of them, they were really nice guys and really welcoming.

After around two months I had just done the ring announcing for a David Haye fight and I thought I would send it to some of the guys I met at WWE and I genuinely thought nothing would come of it. A couple of days later I got an email back saying they were interested in me and the conversation started and there was a lot of back and forth.

I think it was the end of November 2016 I received an email saying that they would like to use me. I gave them a call and that is when they told me about the UK Championship Tournament and they asked if I would like to be a part of it and I said yes straight away.

What was it like being involved in the UK Championship Tournament for those two nights in Blackpool?

It was amazing, first and foremost I’m a big wrestling fan and I’ve watched it for years so to be part of it was out of this world. It was great to see how they put a show together from behind the scenes it was so enlightening and amazing to see everyone working there. I got to see Paul Levesque (Triple H) and all of the other guys in action and how motivating they are, when the likes of Paul, William Regal and Michael Cole speak, you listen and I was just captivated, they’re inspiring.

Getting to meet all of the superstars who were involved in the tournament was amazing, those guys were just workhorses that entire weekend. What really stands out for me was walking out on the first night before we went on air, I was in the ring and welcoming the crowd and I remember saying that everyone in that building was going to witness history being made and the reaction of the crowd was a reaction I don’t think I will forget for a long time.

The venue as well, The Winter Gardens in Blackpool was a perfectly sized venue, it wasn’t too small, we had a lot of people in there but again it wasn’t too big, it felt intimate so we were connecting with everyone in there. It looked great on television as well, it really helped the UK Championship stand out from other shows. It reminded me of the early Monday Night Raws from the Grand Ballroom and the ECW and ROH shows from the Hammerstein Ballroom in the Manhattan Centre.

I really do think it was history making and one day we will all look back and perhaps look at the start of something that began that night.

What was it like working with the likes of Triple H, William Regal and Michael Cole?

Absolutely incredible, Michael Cole had been amazing to me throughout this entire process, he helped me through everything; I can’t say enough good things about him. The same goes for all of the guys backstage, William Regal, the word legend doesn’t sum that guy up, the stories he can tell and he is so nice to everyone and will always make time for you, until you see it with your own eyes it is hard to describe.

Hunter is really helping push so many different avenues of this business forward and the talks he gives you before the show starts and when the show finishes are so inspirational. It’s little things when William or Paul will come up to you shake hands and say well done, it means so much.

All of the guys that came over from the States I can’t say enough good things about them, how supportive they were to everyone throughout the roster.

What was it like for you stepping inside a WWE ring for the first time?

I had managed to sneak into a WWE ring before when filming for James Corden’s Late Late Show and I’ve also trained at the Progress Wrestling Dojo a couple of years ago. However to be in there and this time to be working for WWE was crazy, I remember people sending me screen grabs of the show as it was going out on the WWE Network and I looked at them all later that night and it was 12-year-old me had dreamed about.

The two shows from Blackpool were a great success and you were involved in the WWE UK Championship show from Norwich, what was that like?

It was another great show, it was a very different venue to Blackpool and it was a different kind of show but it was nice to get the gang back together. Again the crowd were so hot, everyone just wanted to see more of this stuff, it was great that the first two shows that WWE did from Blackpool had grown and got its own fan base of people that wanted to see it again and they were emotionally involved in what was going on.

What did you make of the match between Tyler Bate and Pete Dunn for the UK Championship at NXT TakeOver: Chicago?

Honestly watching that match, it made my hair stand up. Pete and Tyler are two of the hottest guys in the UK and with this exposure they are getting through their work with WWE their worldwide profiles have grown massively. I remember them doing a spot outside of the ring on the steps and you could just see the scale of that show, how many people were in that arena, everything just looked huge.

As much as these two guys have achieved I’m pretty sure that was the biggest crowd they had ever performed in front of. They stole the show that night and if you ask people their match of the year so far I think for a lot of people that would be it, and to see them achieve that and rise to the occasion was amazing.

Has there been any talk of more UK Championship shows taking place?

I know what you guys know, we all want it to happen, I think as fans first and foremost we want to see WWE do something over here in the UK. The guys have shown we have the talent and not just in the UK scene like with Pete and Tyler showcasing the best of British at NXT TakeOver: Chicago. These guys are the real deal, they are superstars and I think people want to see that.

Personally, myself like you guys do want to see a regular show from the UK. If they start to build a brand over here I can see them filling the bigger arenas but I love venues with character like the Winter Gardens in Blackpool and York Hall in London, those types of venues give the show real character and charm. It looks different to Raw, SmackDown and NXT, it sets itself apart which I think is really cool.

What do you make of the UK and Irish stars on the WWE main roster?

I think the whole UK wrestling scene is red hot at the moment from the independent promotions like Progress and ICW, and I think it is a great move having the WWE UK Championship defended on those shows, through to the guys in WWE like Adrian Neville, Jack Gallagher, Noam Dar Finn Balor, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre, they are all just doing such a great job of showcasing what British wrestling is all about.

What are your thoughts on the other WWE Network specials such as the Cruiserweight Classic and the upcoming Mae Young Classic?

Personally I think the WWE Network specials like the Cruiserweight Classic, Mae Young Classic and the UK Championship Tournament are great. We all enjoy watching Raw, Smackdown and NXT each week, but these specials give us something a little different and also introduce us to new superstars.

If you got the phone call asking for you to join WWE full time as a ring announcer would you jump at that opportunity?

I think when you’ve grown up watching a brand as we all have with WWE, to be able to work with them is a dream come true, to be part of something you’ve always watched is fantastic. I would love to work with the WWE further down the line, so we will see what happens.

You are also involved in boxing with David Haye and MMA with BAMMA, what are your thoughts on Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor?

The recent world tour when they visited four cities in four days was incredible, there are things I would have done differently and I would have tried to change things up each night but the back and forth between the two fighters was incredible. Both Mayweather and McGregor are world-class shit talkers, which is great, I was down at the event in London and it was amazing to be there and witness that.

This is the biggest fight in the world right now and everyone is predicting the biggest fight we are going to see money-wise because these two guys are stars. With combat sports it’s all about building emotion and that is what the like of Mayweather and McGregor do so well, they build this hype they make you care about the result.

Mayweather is very open about wanting people to dislike him, he wants people not to like him so they pay to see him maybe get knocked out and that’s his game plan with these things and he’s a master at it. Conor McGregor has taken all of these things and utilized it in the UFC as well as being an incredible fighter he knows how to sell a fight.

You can trace all of this back to wrestling, Muhammad Ali stated in interviews he learnt a lot from wrestling and credits Gorgeous George, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather have been involved in WrestleMania’s and Conor McGregor does the Vince McMahon walk.

Wrestling, boxing and MMA all go hand in hand, they want you to buy tickets, buy PPV’s, they want you to be entertained and that all comes from being emotionally involved. Mayweather v McGregor is going to be sporting theatre at its greatest.

For more information about Andy you can follow him on Twitter @AndyJShep and visit his website AndyShep.com.

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