The tale of goalkeeper-turned-wrestler Stuart Tomlinson
FORMER Burton Albion goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson may have prematurely retired at the age of 28 but his unorthodox career move in to professional wrestling has gone from strength to strength.
Just five months after his retirement, Tomlinson relocated to Orlando, signing a three-year deal with WWE’s developmental arm NXT.
The theatre that surrounds wrestling has come naturally to Tomlinson – who won the FA Trophy at Wembley with Barrow in 2010 – and he puts this down to the confidence that his football handed him.
He said:“I’ve not been fazed, maybe because I’ve played football in front of big crowds.
“I’ve always been fairly confident in my own ability to do something, ever since I was young. If you walk into something and you’re not confident you will achieve, then you probably won’t.”
Fighting in fronts of thousands of people is now a regular occurrence for the 30-year-old and he does so as his alter ego “Hugo Knox”.
He said: “Hugo Knox is a lively, high-energy and bubbly guy. On my way to the ring I’ll be dancing my socks off, but when the bell goes then it’s time to get down to it.
“Hugo Knox and I are the same person; he is a little bit more amplified. I’m myself, I’m not trying to be anybody else – it’s just a little bit more turned up.”
Not only does “Knox” enter the ring in distinguishable polka dot shorts, but he also takes part in a “promo” where the “performer” tells the audience a story – not an easy feat in front of thousands of loud wrestling fans. “Getting interviewed after a match stood me in good stead, especially when you’re getting asked dodgy questions about losing 5-0 and it’s all your fault!” he said. Tomlinson, 30, had spells with Port Vale, Crewe, Burton and Barrow before a knee injury prompted his retirement, but now has big ambitions for his wrestling career.
“I watched this year’s Wrestlemania where the crowd was 80,000 and I want to perform on those big stages.”
OLD JOB: Stuart Tomlinson in his Port Vale days and, inset, in his wrestling kit