“After all we have done to build House of Pain up, that success has boomeranged and is now what puts us in the most danger,” says Paul ‘Stixx’ Grint, founder of House of Pain Wrestling Academy.
Just under a year ago, Nottingham’s native wrestling school, House of Pain were celebrating their 10-year-anniversary with several shows on a local tour.
From when it opened its doors a decade ago, the promotion has grown from a small facility providing one lesson per week to one of the UK’s largest wrestling academies, producing talents such as Joseph Connors, Gabriel Kidd and Kanji.
But a month into their 10-year anniversary celebrations, shows were cancelled as wrestling promotions around the country were forced to face their greatest heel yet.
Keen to avoid being held down by the Covid sleeper hold, the promotion quickly moved to produce content for YouTube as well as launching a Go Fund Me page to help them survive the pandemic, which has so far raised over £14,000.
However, a year of lockdown has taken its toll as pre-recorded episodes run out and further government financial support unclear.
“If we have to carry on under the current circumstances and we don’t get any further [government] support and if we can’t raise the money, we won’t make it to the end of the year,” says Laura Grint, Director of operations at House of Pain.
She added: “We have been badly hit [but the pandemic], when you make your money by putting on shows and that stops, the income stops.
“We started the fundraiser out of desperation because we didn’t know when we would be able to put on a show again.
“All I can say is we have been truly taken back by the generosity and the willingness of our fans and former students to help us through this.
“But the pandemics lasted longer than expected.
“It becomes a difficult situation where you feel like you’re saying: ‘you’ve given us a lot of goodwill, but have you got any more to spare.’”
Bans on live events over the past year have separated wrestling promotions from their primary pool of income, with House of Pain reporting they were operating on below 20% of their normal income at peak of the first lockdown.
The slight income, partnered with finances from the Go Fund Me appeal and government Covid-relief, was enough to see the school through 2020.
With further financial support for wrestling promotions to still be announced, the cost of a full-time professional training facility has “boomeranged,” and is now what puts the promotion “in the most danger,” according to House of Pain founder Paul Grint.
The 39-year-old, who performs under the ring name Stixx said: “just because everything else has stopped doesn’t mean the bills have.
“Most wrestling schools operate out of local gyms and leisure centres, but the problem with running a full-time facility is that there is sizeable upkeep.
“it’s kind of ironic that with all we have grown over the past 10 years, House of Pain’s success could be our downfall.”
The promotion has however been producing content, despite the lockdowns by releasing a video series of pre-recorded matches and turning them into episodes for a YouTube series.
“we managed to shoot some footage before the lockdown for season one and between the lockdowns for season two,” says Stixx.
He added: “It turned really well, we’ve had people from all over, not just Notts, message us good things and asking when the next episode is coming out.”
They have since however run out of episodes, with season 2 concluding on Christmas day and tier 4 restrictions in Nottingham prevented them from shooting new episodes before Lockdown the third struck.
With the closure of gyms and fitness facilities, the pandemic has had an impact on training too, with the school forced to move their classes online.
Head trainer, Paul “Stixx” Grint has over 15 years’ in-ring and coaching experience, having become a head trainer just one year into his career.
The Heavyweight of the House of Pain, who rebranded the wrestling school using his own nickname, says that the school has continues classes during lockdown through video conference, with classes focusing on the “character, strategy and the entertainment side of wrestling.”
He said: “People forget that there is a lot more that goes into wrestling than purely in ring work and there’s a lot to get out of home classes.
“Wrestling combines the strategy of a sport and the mentality of the performing arts.”
The lack of in-ring performing presents concerns around ring rust, with Stixx cautioning trainees and professionals alike about rushing back to the ring.
“Most wrestlers are just waiting to get up and go, but wrestling is a very physically demanding sport, and when you’ve done a 180 from nothing to training and performing multiple times per week, it can have consequences.
“But the thing I worry most about is the mental health side of things.
“For a lot of people, wrestling’s all they have and coming to the school with people who share that passion is what they look forward to.
“This is more than just a wrestling school; it’s a lot of people’s lifelines and we will keep trying to make sure its there to support them.”
Further information on the save House of Pain fundraiser can be found through their Go Fund Me page.