Tributes paid to former wrestling champion Andre
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.