Trib­utes paid to for­mer wrestling cham­pion An­dre

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by James Scott js­cott@thek­m­group.co.uk

FRIENDS and fam­ily have paid trib­ute to for­mer wrestler An­dre “Sledge­ham­mer” Baker, who died at the week­end. Wrestling trainer and pro­moter Mr Baker, 45, who was known also known as Jay, was found dead at his home in Prov­i­dence Street, Ash­ford, on Satur­day evening. His half-sis­ter So­nia Etherington said: “It was a bit of a shock. We had only been for a meal with him on Thurs­day. We knew he was up­set that he couldn’t see his son. They were more like broth­ers or mates than fa­ther and son. We weren’t ex­pect­ing it at all.” The for­mer Tow­ers School pupil started wrestling aged 14 and made his de­but aged just 16 in 1980. He went on to com­pete at the high­est level and was once Ul­ti­mate Pro Wrestling heavy­weight cham­pion. Friend and train­ing part­ner Des Aldridge said: “He was the best at sub­mis­sion wrestling. Once he got hold of some­one, they couldn’t get out. He re­ally knew how to get the crowd go­ing.” Mrs Etherington added: “He had wanted to be a wrestler since he was about eight years old. He got to the top and went to Amer­ica and Ja­pan. He didn’t just wres­tle. He also did sumo wrestling, weightlift­ing and karate, any­thing like that. He loved it.” Dur­ing the 1990s he took part in shows in Las Ve­gas in Amer­ica be­fore he turned to train­ing and set up his own wrestling pro­mo­tion com­pany, NWA-UK Ham­mer­lock, in 1993. He trained a lot of top UK wrestlers and he ap­peared on TV shows such as Fak­ing It and the Transat­lantic Wrestling Chal­lenge se­ries. Mr Baker is said to have been one of the first pro­mot­ers to bring fa­mous for­mer WWF wrestlers like Wrestler An­dre “Sledge­ham­mer” Baker Jake “The Snake” Roberts for tours in the UK. On in­ter­net fo­rums, wrestlers from around the world have paid trib­ute to him as a true pro­fes­sional who gave many oth­ers a break in wrestling. Chris Stone said: “I had a lot of re­spect for An­dre, scary as hell but al­ways seemed to be fair with me and gave me chances in some pretty great matchups. Ab­so­lutely shocked and sad­dened by his pass­ing.” An­other writer, Quentin, wrote: “His in­flu­ence will live on through those he men­tored and pushed to be bet­ter. Wrestling in this coun­try is bet­ter through his in­put.”

An­dre Baker’s fu­neral is ex­pected to be held at Char­ing cre­ma­to­rium. For de­tails, call Wood’s fu­neral di­rec­tors on 01233 620109.

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