With the makeshift Showcase of the Immortals set to air this weekend I had the pleasure of interviewing award-winning British actor, screenwriter, director, producer and comic book author Noel Clarke on his love for wrestling, today's wrestling product and the upcoming Wrestlemania 36 PPV.
Noel's acting roles include playing Wyman Norris in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Micky Smith in Doctor Who however I first became a fan of his following the Kidulthood movie which he wrote and starred in back in 2006. The sequel Adulthood soon followed in 2008 which he wrote, directed and starred in before completing the trilogy in 2016 with the release of Brotherhood which he again wrote, directed and starred in but also produced alongside his partner at Unstoppable Film & TV Jason Maza. Right now, it seems Brotherhood was the final chapter of the Hood movies however Noel indicated that if he feels there’s a story to tell further down the line then who knows.
His most recent starring role comes as NCA Detective Inspector Aaron Bishop in the television series Bulletproof 2 which is currently being broadcasted on Sky One and Now TV in the UK following a successful first series. He stars alongside his partner in crime Ashley Walters who plays NCA Detective Inspector Ronnie Pike and the pair have been dubbed by some as the UK's answer to Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the hit movie trilogy Bad Boys.
For those who haven’t yet seen Bulletproof or Bulletproof 2 I asked Noel to describe the show in his own words and this is what he had to say;
“It’s an action cop show that that hasn't really been done in the UK, we just wanted to do something that's a bit different, that’s special in the way that the action was, the way the humour was and that gives it an American feel. So, anyone who likes the Lethal Weapons and the Bad Boys of this world should definitely watch it. I mean you get people saying, ‘oh it's a knock-off Bad Boys’ but it's not because there's nothing in England like it so it's its own thing really.”
While currently available on demand in the UK, Bulletproof is set to air on the CW Network in the US in early summer, with the first series being replayed followed by Bulletproof 2. So, to anyone who hasn’t watched either series give it a watch, you won’t be disappointed.
The UK fans can also look forward to what Noel described as Bulletproof 2.5, the special that was filmed in South Africa doesn’t have a release date at this time but I’m sure Noel will provide updates via social media. Noel’s someone who enjoys interacting with his fans on social media so make sure you give him a follow or like if you’re not already doing so.
Facebook: noel Clarke
Back in 2014 I met Noel while honeymooning in Hawaii and during our conversation it quickly became apparent that we shared a passion for professional wrestling. So, during what is a challenging time for us all I hope this interview on all things wrestling acts a timely distraction and hope you have as much fun reading it as I did during my conversation with the man himself. I thought I was passionate about wrestling, but I’ve never spoken to someone so passionate, he really is a superfan, he’s knowledgeable and I’m sure you will see that from this interview.
Growing up as a kid in London what's your earliest memory of a either a wrestler, match or moment that got you into wrestling?
“My earliest memory actually would be the likes of Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki, Fit Finlay and Pat Bomber Roach and I always used to watch World of Sport Wrestling although I don't remember it being called that. I’d watch every Saturday morning and very occasionally, if you were lucky they would show one American match, usually featuring Hulk Hogan and I would just love it, I would love it!
Then when I started secondary school at 11 years of age there was a kid in my class who was the only kid who had Sky and I'd say Bro can you tape the wrestling, so he'd tape it once a week and bring in and I would go home and watch it. We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up but from that point I begged my mum, I said we need to get Sky and as soon as cable got put in I was on it, that was probably 1986/87.
So my first memories that are really clear is probably the time between Wrestlemania 3 and Wrestlemania 4, so the likes of Andre The Giant, Macho Man and I remember Hogan hitting the Million Dollar Man with a chair behind the referees back and back then good guys never really did that sort of stuff so at the time it was just amazing, then Macho Man hits the elbow and wins the title, oh my gosh amazing.”
The Mount Rushmore of Wrestling often gets brought up during wrestling interviews and Q&A’s, so I have to ask who’s on yours?
“It's interesting because obviously I’m a wrestling fan but overall more than anything I'm a WWE fan and always have been. Like I was one of those guys who had fights in the playground and when asked are you WWE or WCW I was always strictly WWE so while I am an overall wrestling fan my choices may differ to that of fan who watches different wrestling companies with equal interest.
So, for me I'd have to have Stone Cold, The Undertaker, then it's interesting because four is not enough as I could top it off with John Cena and The Rock. Then you can't really do that as arguably Ric Flair has to be on there and Hulk Hogan has to be on there. I could definitely put a few more on there but for the purpose of the question I'll go with…..Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.
But only because its Ric Flair. For me they're trying to be too respectful to Flair and his record as with all due respect to him I think it's time that Cena broke his record and before he goes off to do movies and other stuff full time. I hope it happens as arguably no-one will ever break that record.”
In a recent tweet to Triple H you made him an offer to provide ideas for "A new match and something else". Can you give us any more hints as to what these ideas are or are you keeping quiet until your conversation with the Game himself?
“To be honest I do wish someone would get back to me, I’m such a huge fan of theirs, for 32 years I've watched consistently and have probably been a fan longer than a lot of the wrestlers have been wrestling so when I say I've got ideas it's not like I'm just some random person who's come up with random ideas like “Triple H you need give us a bouncy castle match”, I've actually put a lot of thought into this.
I've come up with a new title, I know there's enough titles, but I've come up with a really, really good title and I've come up with a new match. I'm talking a good match, an epic match, like a Survivor Series and Royal Rumble that you could see every year, it could be a PPV, it would work well on TV. You know when you watch Survivor Series or Royal Rumble and there’s that feeling of unpredictability, this match really, really highlights that as well as highlighting who's on who's side, it would create so much rivalry, you could see new alliances formed, I've really put so much thought into this. This is a 13 year thought so you know I really do hope at some point, especially now that we are all on lock down that someone within WWE or WWE UK do get touch and say right you've got 30 minutes to speak to the guy, throw him your ideas, you know I write drama and storylines for a living.”
In all seriousness if an opportunity arose to become part of the WWE writing/creative team what would be your main focus in creating a positive change/improvement to the current product?
“It’s interesting because I've watched consistently and don't really complain about creative because it is what it is, its opinion isn't it. You can't please everyone, and the negative people always shout the loudest. But if I could provide some sort of consultancy or I was able to play a part I would just make things a little bit more unpredictable.
What I still love about WWE is occasionally…Oh by the way this Angel Garza Kid, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, and that kind of brings me to my point. Let me just say we don't have the facts and figures, they know who draws eyes, they know who sells merchandise, but they can also create people, create stars.
One of my favourite matches I can remember was Triple H versus Taka Michinoku and I'll tell you why. Because Triple is putting the title on the line, against Taka who weighs like 160 pounds and it was a no brainer that The Game would destroy him in seconds. but, Taka then enters with the APA who he’s hired to help him and that put that element of doubt in the Champions mind. It was a great match right, and there was that one single moment where I thought Taka might actually win the belt here, it was a 2 ¾ count and I was like oh my gosh and I actually wanted him to win it.
I feel like if I could be a consultant or anything like that I would just go for unpredictability. You know what you've got a mid-card guy, why not just surprise everyone, give this mid-card guy the title out of nowhere and create a moment. That does one of two things, either everyone is going to love this guy or alternatively and most likely, everyone is going to question why this guy has won the title. So, what do you do, you turn him into a heel, a snivelling runaway heel who keeps his title with count outs and DQ's and what you've done is create one of the biggest heels in the business. Then if he happens to turn face again down the line he's no longer mid-card and has been elevated. That's the kind of stuff I would do.”
What’s your view on the NXT/AEW 'Wednesday Night War' and do you see AEW as genuine competition for the WWE or as an alternative that wrestling fans should embrace?
“I watch AEW and I like it a lot, of course its competition and that's healthy but fans have probably turned it into more than it needs to be as I watch them both and I enjoy them both and I think it's also a good alternative place for wrestlers to go.
The only thing I don't like about is the fact that they seem to consistently take shots at the WWE, I'm like just get on with your thing man, they don't need to do it. AEW are good enough to do what they do without all that, so stop smashing up thrones, stop having wrestlers come on and mocking the WWE because firstly all it does it shows even though you consistently say you don't think it's a war you actually do and secondly it just shows you're taking shots at them because they're bigger than you. To be fair Matt Hardy hasn't done it, but you've got Brodie Lee who's been taking shots, Dean Ambrose has been doing it plus some others and that’s the only thing that bugs me. I watch them both and I enjoy them both.
You know you've got Brodie Lee who came over, great wrestler, I love him, loved him when he was Luke Harper, always wanted him to get the push he wanted but do you know what, he didn't get it, that's life. Not everyone enjoys work and I listened to him on Jericho's podcast the other day and he said he's friends with Big E, Big E isn't complaining, at least not publicly because he's living life, seven time tag team champion, NXT Champion, sometimes you work at a place and you thrive, other times you don't that's just the way life goes.
We’ve grown to learn about wrestling that you can come up with or be given gimmicks and ideas but if you’re not doing enough to stand out, sell t-shirts or get a reaction from the crowd and there's say twenty others who are doing more and doing it better than you then they're going to be on TV, you can't complain about it. He’s come over to AEW now and he's getting a great push but it's not like he had this character in WWE and they never pushed him, it's just a new character and role that was ready made for anyone to walk into, man I could’ve been The Exalted One for all we know. But listen I love that guy, I think he's an amazing talent.”
Since the emergence of AEW and former WWE star Jon Moxley even more stories have begun to surface about WWE stars unhappy with their lack of creative freedom. As an actor/writer/producer what's your thoughts on scripted promos and can you sympathise with superstars who feel that they are hindered by the WWE creative team?
“To be honest I don't know enough about how they work it back there in WWE, but I actually hear some people say that they have freedom so does selling tickets, selling t-shirts, being over with the crowd earn you that freedom? What I would say though is WWE is obviously a PG show and in Jon Moxley’s case who seems to gravitate more towards the unhinged, hardcore way and maybe he felt he couldn't do that in WWE with those PG restrictions.
Again, I don't know how it works but what I would say is that I’d find it very difficult to believe that some writer, who doesn't wrestle sits back there and says you've got to say this word for word, I would find that difficult, but I don't know.
Some wrestlers probably have more natural talent to make promos mean and feel more and again part of their job is acting so what's been really interesting watching it with no crowds is that I can really see now who I think the good actors are and who’s been exposed, I can see it. Even when they're on the apron during matches, or when they're in pain the crowd is usually there to distract us but without the crowd it's been really interesting to see.”
After a relatively low-key start NXT UK has begun to build momentum and has produced Takeover shows close to the level of the Takeovers in the US. What are your thoughts on the British brand and do they have any potential stars that can eventually make the transition to WWE's main roster?
“I love NXT UK, that's about my limit, I watch RAW, Smackdown, NXT, NXT UK and AEW, that's a lot of wrestling every week but I love NXT UK. The Coffey Brothers for me, that whole Gallus thing could easily be transferred over to America, Imperium is the same although I heard Walter is quite content in the UK and doing his European thing. Tyler Bate for me is a star, his matches are unreal, he's one of the best, I know he was trained by Trent Seven and I know a couple of the boys follow me on twitter as they know I'm a fan of wrestling, a lot of the boys are outstanding. Obviously they've got a performance centre in the UK now and I'm not sure who's responsible for the promo classes and character development but I think the one thing the UK brand lacks is, I don't want say characters like you don't want Isaac Yankem’s like back in the day but I think they definitely need to work on their promos and making sure their characters are not too similar and generic.”
Could you see yourself and Unstoppable Film & TV getting involved with wrestling in the UK or creating a TV show based on professional wrestling?
“Probably not at this stage to be honest. And even though we love it it’s still quite a niche audience when you think about TV ratings in the UK. If we were approached with something that was already happening because they knew that I was a fan and wanted me involved, obviously the company would have to be involved so there's that conversation. Then as I've said I'd love to maybe consult and give ideas now and then to Mr H, you know even if it was just once a month, he calls me up and says you’ve been watching, what do you think?”
So, we should be on countdown to WWE’s biggest live event of the year, in Tampa Florida, in front of thousands of WWE fans however this awful pandemic has resulted in the WWE opting to hold Wrestlemania in an empty Performance Centre, over two nights with the show already taped ready to air this weekend. What’s your thoughts on the whole situation, the current match card and what are your expectations the show itself?
“Well I mean when it was first announced that Wrestlemania was still going ahead I was disappointed as I couldn't understand but actually looking at it now I feel that they were right, I was wrong they were right, we need the entertainment and I would’ve missed this severely. Plus, I think it's better to put Wrestlemania on now if it's possible as we don't know how long this thing is going to last. What this situation will do is give the wrestlers a well-earned rest, time to heal. Also, as not everyone lives in Florida and some won't want or be able to travel then you may see some new opportunities, Austin Theory as a prime example, only just turned up in NXT and now he's going to Wrestlemania.
With the show and with it being taped I was thinking for example when it was going to be Roman versus Goldberg you could have the ring surroundings represent them, props and visuals, not to make it a Hardcore match or anything but just as a visual and to add some atmosphere and made each match have its own scene and maybe shoot it in a moviesque way. It will be interesting to see what they do and I can’t wait.”
With part timers/legends readying themselves for action at the weekend what’s your thoughts on this and should nostalgia take precedent over the stars of today?
“So, here's the thing Undertaker I don't mind at all, it’s the Undertaker, although I do feel at some point he needs to say I'm done. With Goldberg, again it doesn't bother me too much, what I would love to see is him drop the title to someone young and up and coming. Edge is an interesting one as I always thought that I was quite content with Edge being done, he had a great career, he seems a great guy, appeared in movies, he’s a father and when I heard the rumours he was coming back I was like that should be interesting. But looking at him now I actually want to see him win the title one more time. If any of these guys won a title I wouldn't mind it, but I would then want them to put over a younger star by dropping the title to them, maybe a fresh, first time champion that gets the rub from a legend.”
Following one of the greatest Royal Rumbles in recent history and as a Brit what are your hopes for the WWE Championship match between 'The Scottish Psychopath' Drew McIntyre and 'The Beast' Brock Lesnar?
“Well I was annoyed John Morrison got threw out for starters. With McIntyre he's earned this, it's been a long time coming and I feel bad for the kid as he got this opportunity in front of thousands at the Rumble and at Mania there's going to be no-one there. I was hoping it was going to end up as a triple threat match with Ricochet as it did seem it could go that way at one point.
I was plotting in my mind what I thought could happen. What I would’ve liked to have happened if the crowd was still able to be there was him to not win it at Mania as that would've surprised the fans as at the moment Drew seems destined for the title. But then the next night on Raw he gets a rematch and beats Brock for the title in front of usually the craziest, loudest crowd of the year, that would have been nuts.
To add to that I thought Ricochet might have surprised us all at Super Showdown by winning the title with help from McIntyre who costs Brock with a Claymore, shocking the WWE universe. So, at Mania it would be a triple threat with Brock winning by pinning Ricochet, then Drew comes out on Raw saying you never beat me and in a one on one contest on Raw beats Lesnar for the title. Again, give us some unpredictability.”
For as long as I can remember you have been an advocate for Women’s Wrestling and back in 2017 you tweeted asking that the WWE introduces inter-brand Women’s Tag Team Titles. Much like the men’s Tag Team divisions however the Women’s Tag Team division has been underutilised so how pleased are you to see the Women’s Tag Team Titles been defended at Wrestlemania?
“Yeah I'm glad they're getting a chance to shine. It's an interesting one and I'm not sure why it's been so lacklustre with the Tag Teams as it could've been an opportunity to bring up more women, for example they could've used Shayna's two girls Marina Schafir and Jessamyn Duke, they could’ve had the belts on NXT for a number of weeks. Not to make the belts feel meaningless but when they'd just been introduced you could have had them change hands a bit, give a number of different women opportunities to show what they can do and be creative with it. It would also build the legacy and history of the titles as well as elevating the women’s reputations who can now be billed as a former women’s tag team champion for example.
Of all the Tag Team divisions there’s only NXT that are doing it right at the moment, the whole Tag Team story is great, you’ve got the Broserweights and I think the Grizzled Young Veterans, Zack Gibson and James Drake will win the titles eventually.
”I’m a huge fan of The Fiend Bray Wyatt so couldn’t not ask you your thoughts on him and his current Mania feud with John Cena and their upcoming Firefly Fun House match?
“I like the Fiend, I've always liked Bray Wyatt, but they painted themselves into a corner with The Fiends no selling, even The Undertaker would sell, he would sell, be out then sit back up whereas the Fiend would just jump straight up no matter what move it was. This immediately made him look unbeatable so when Goldberg beat him in the way that he did I was like well that doesn't make any sense. He did do one match with The Miz where he was just Bray Wyatt and they should have played up to that more, so you got the feeling that as Bray Wyatt he could actually lose and that the Fiend only came out in dire and desperate moments.
What would've also been interesting, I mean I'm not sure how long it takes to get his gear on but if he starts the match as Bray Wyatt but them mid match when he's really getting beaten, you could literally have someone pin him and its ONE, TWO then the lights go out, the crowd anticipation builds then as the lights come back on he's still getting pinned but kicks out before three and has transformed into The Fiend. Hopefully the pre-recorded Firefly Fun House match gives them an opportunity to bring this idea to life.
And if I'm honest I think they made the wrong matches, I would’ve liked to have seen The Fiend versus Roman, then Goldberg versus Cena, Title versus Career, straight away the stakes are so much higher, Spear versus Spear was cool, but this would be next level. You could’ve had Goldberg come out and say “Whos Next?”, Cena responds to the challenge, then Goldberg says there’s no chance you can beat me to win that seventeenth WWE Championship. Cena hits back with “Well if I do beat you, you’re finished for good”, imagine the hype for that!?"
WWE Title Match
Drew McIntyre vs. Brock Lesnar ©
Noel’s Winner: Brock Lesnar
WWE Universal Title Match
Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg ©
Noel’s Winner: Braun Strowman
NXT Women’s Title Match
Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley ©
Noel’s Winner: Rhea Ripley
RAW Women’s Title Match
Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch ©
Noel’s Winner: Shayna Baszler
Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match for the SmackDown Women’s Title
Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Tamina Snuka vs. Bayley ©
Noel’s Winner: Bayley
RAW Tag Team Titles Match
Angel Garza and Austin Theory vs. The Street Profits ©
Noel’s Winners: Street Profits
WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn ©
Noel’s Winner: Daniel Bryan
Ladder Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles
Jimmy or Jey Uso vs. John Morrison ©
Noel’s Winner: John Morrison
WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles Match
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss vs. Asuka and Kairi Sane ©
Noel’s Winners: Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss
Last Man Standing Match
Edge vs. Randy Orton
Noel’s Winner: Edge
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
Noel’s Winner: The Undertaker
Firefly Fun House Match
John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Noel’s Winner: "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Noel’s Winner: Kevin Owens
Elias vs. King Baron Corbin
Noel’s Winner: Elias
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
Noel’s Winner: Otis
Bobby Lashley vs. Aleister Black
Noel’s Winner: Aleister Black