Andre remembered as a pioneer of wrestling
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