An­dre re­mem­bered as a pi­o­neer of wrestling

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by James Scott js­cott@thek­m­

MORE trib­utes have been paid to for­mer wrestler An­dre “Sledge­ham­mer” Baker who died last week.

The wrestling trainer and pro­moter, 45, also known as Jay, was found dead at his home in Prov­i­dence Street, Ash­ford on Satur­day, May 15.

Friend Michael Shep­herd from Willes­bor­ough said: “He was the god­fa­ther of my chil­dren and he trained my son Michael to be the Bri­tish sambo wrestling cham­pion.

“It’s just such a shame he’s gone. He did so many good things.”

The for­mer Tow­ers School pupil started wrestling aged 14 and was trained by the le­gendary Dale Martin in Brix­ton be­fore mak­ing his de­but at the age of 16 in 1980.

He com­peted at the high­est level of wrestling, and chal­lenged pro­fes­sional wrestler Dan Sev­ern for the Na­tional Wrestling As­so­ci­a­tion (NWA) ti­tle in the early 1990s.

He founded a train­ing gym and wrestling pro­mo­tion com­pany, Ham­mer­lock NWA, in 1993. Among the wrestling stars he trained was Bri­tain’s first NWA World Heavy­weight Cham­pion Gary Steele and suc­cess­ful World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment (WWE) diva Katie Lea, real name Ka­te­rina Hig­gins.

Mr Baker is said to have been one of the first Bri­tish wrestling pro­mot­ers to bring for­mer WWE stars like Jake “The Snake” Roberts for tours of the UK. His pro- mo­tions com­pany brought the wrestling back to Bri­tish TV with ap­pear­ances on the Big Break­fast, Fak­ing It and the Transat­lantic Chal­lenge se­ries in 2000.

Out­side pro­mot­ing and wrestling, he had black belts in mar­tial arts in­clud­ing judo and com­bat sambo. Mr Baker was also a for­mer pow­er­lifter and was a reg­u­lar at Fit­ness First gym in New Street.

Bri­tish wrestler Alex Shane said: “An­dre was a very like­able per­son to be around. It is be­cause of this like­abil­ity that he gen­uinely touched so many peo­ple. He was gen­uinely funny and was al­ways be­ing a prankster.

“An­dre Baker was the fa­ther of mod­ern new school wrestling in the UK and his con­tri­bu­tions, be they his orig­i­nal in­ten­tion or not, have made thou­sands of peo­ple’s lives bet­ter.”

Bri­tish wrestling man­ager and com­men­ta­tor Dean Ayass de­scribed him as a ‘pi­o­neer’ in an ar­ti­cle he wrote for the Sun news­pa­per last week.

He said: “He grabbed Bri­tish wrestling and dragged it into a new, mod­ern time.”

Mr Ayass added: “It’s so very sad that you left us so early but your legacy will live on in the work of those who you gave a start to. I, like so many oth­ers, went from a rookie to a pro, and from a boy to a man un­der your guid­ance. You won’t be for­got­ten.”

Mr Baker is sur­vived by his 18-year-old son Daniel. His fu­neral will be held at Char­ing cre­ma­to­rium in New Court Wood, Char­ing on June 25.

Wrestler An­dre “Sledge­ham­mer” Baker

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