DRAMA fans will be gripped by a new play based on the life story of a former South Tyneside professional wrestler.
Gary ‘The Hardline Pro’ Davison was on the same bill as huge names of the sport, including Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki.
But despite rising to the top in his profession, he was forced to quit in 2000, due to an ongoing spine injury.
And over the last year he has been channelling his talents into writing instead, under the tutelage of Jarrow-born playwright and poet Tom Kelly.
Now his story is to be told in a no-holds-barred play entitled ‘I Love Kent Walton’, to be staged at the Customs House in South Shields early next month.
Written by Mr Kelly, it will be directed jointly by Customs House executive director Ray Spencer and the theatre’s cultural development officer, Fiona Kelly.
In the one-man play, actor Mick Cochrane has the daunting task of bringing Gary’s story to life on the stage.
Gary, 40, from South Shields, said: “I feel very honoured that Tom and Ray are putting on a show based on what I was involved with, emotionally, for so long and portraying that on stage.
“I still sometimes pinch myself that it’s happening, because I’m really that proud of it.”
It was back in the late 1980s that Mr Davison’s love of wrestling was nurtured when watching the sport on TV.
He said: “Even though sometimes it seemed rather bland, it had a sort of ruggedness about it, like a gladiator duel, and I found that compelling.”
After his aunt tracked down promoter Max Crabtree, Gary got to team up with his wrestling heroes.
But his first professional match, at the Temple Park Centre in South Shields, was a let-down.
He recalled: “I was only 16 and it was terrible, because I couldn’t wrestle.
“Wrestling is something that really needs to be experienced to be understood. It’s OK sitting and watching it, but when you step between the ropes it’s a different world.”
While learning his trade on the professional circuit, he got to know his heroes.
He said: “Giant Haystacks would sit out of the way from everyone else, and Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki were the only ones who had their own dressing rooms, but they always gave the younger ones a chance.
“People used to say the wrestling was fake, and while we used to get our heads together and discuss where the match was going, there’s one thing we couldn’t fake – gravity.”
The end of Gary’s own career was signalled when his spine was almost “crushed like an accordion” during a bout with the British cruiserweight champion.
He took 18 months off after the accident and, on his return, found the sport much-changed, adding: “By that time, Big Daddy had died and Max, who was his brother, began to wind up the promotion, so I wrestled for different promoters and carried on up until 2000.
“My last show was at the Whitley Bay Ice Rink.”
* I Love Kent Walton runs from Wednesday, September 4 to Saturday, September 7 at the Mill Dam theatre.
Tickets, priced £13 and £11 for concessions, are available from the box office on 454 1234 or www.customshouse.co.uk