Welsh wrestler 'Mandrews' is hoping to be UK Champion in WWE

Mark Andrews
Mark Andrews is the only Welshman who will compete in the WWE UK contest

He grew up dreaming of following in the footsteps of his wrestling idol Shawn 'the Heartbreak Kid' Michaels.

Michaels, a former World Wrestling Entertainment champion, was a pioneer in WWE - the billion-dollar company with a global audience that reaches 180 countries.

A main event-level star even though he is only around six foot tall, Michaels' success in the 1990s until his retirement in 2010 paved the way for other wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk to win WWE's top title.

Now a Welshman hopes to follow in his footsteps as Wales' own high flyer, Mark Andrews, gets ready for what he describes as "a chance of a lifetime," with WWE ahead of their inaugural UK Championship.

'Mandrews', as he is known, will be the lone representative of Wales in the two-day tournament on Saturday, 15 and Sunday, 16 January.

With a chance to make an impact in the tournament and earn a deal with WWE, Andrews is desperate to make sure he makes the best of his opportunity.

Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan
Vince McMahon (owner of WWE) with Hulk Hogan, one of wrestling's most famous faces and names

A boyhood dream come true

For 24-year old Andrews, who has travelled around the world wrestling since he took it up aged 13, the opportunity to compete in WWE is a lifelong dream achieved.

"Getting out to America and breaking out in the WWE is the big aim for any UK wrestler," the Cardiff grappler told BBC Radio Wales.

"For me, this tournament is the big time. I would love to sign with WWE in the USA, but for now, it is just great to be flying the flag for Wales.

"This is the holy ground for UK wrestlers and the WWE is where we all want to be.

"To be part of the WWE would be a lifelong dream."

Shawn Michaels
Mark Andrews grew up idolising WWE Hall of Fame entrant Shawn Michaels

Size no longer a big issue

There was a time where success and recognition in wrestling and WWE in particular was about how you looked and how big you were, with larger than life athletes like Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan seen to be the archetypal WWE superstars.

In 2016, however, there is more opportunity than ever for smaller wrestlers to make a giant splash in the ring, especially with WWE's flagship television show Monday Night Raw now featuring a cruiserweight division for wrestlers under 14-and-a-half-stone.

Andrews says his lack of stature helps to define the kind of wrestler he is as he soars through the air rather than focus on a ground and pound style.

"I grew up idolising guys like Shawn Michaels and the Hardy Boys, who are some of the small wrestlers, like myself," he explained.

"I am only five foot eight, a little short of your traditional seven-foot wrestler.

"You get wrestlers of all different shapes and sizes now and I am the little guy who gets thrown around and takes a few bashes.

"I get to have more fun though I think, flying around and jumping out of the ring."

William Regal
William Regal is one of the most famous UK wrestlers to compete in WWE

A wrestling revolution in the UK

Andrews believes wrestling in the UK has already been going through a boom period that will only increase when the top 16 wrestlers from Britain compete for the WWE UK Championship.

"This is the first WWE UK championship. The UK wrestling scene has been booming for a long time now and the world has been watching," he said.

"WWE have always taken an interest in the UK, always taken great talent from here and now they are expanding and creating an actual UK tournament.

"That is incredible news for wrestling in the UK.

"I am flying the flag for Wales. It puts a bit of pressure on me to be the only competitor from Wales, but I am also relishing the chance to do Wales proud.

"The tournament is 16 of us from the UK and some of my best friends are in there.

"We have a chance to impress every wrestling fan in the world now on the grandest stage of all.

"I want to get to the top and win the belt and be the top UK performer. That's the aim.

"To be the first ever UK champion would be a dream come true.

"WWE has already been popular here, but I think the British guys will become mainstream after the weekend."

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