WARNING: STRONG VIOLENCE AND LANGUAGE AHEAD
A new storm has been building in the UK deathmatch scene. Kumite Combat Wrestling burst onto the scene a few months ago and is already making waves worldwide. One of the people to be swept up in those waves is King Freak Alton Thorne. A veteran of the British scene and a dependable hand throughout wrestling, when Kumite called, Thorne jumped into the deep end of deathmatch. Now, he never wants to leave. We here at SteelChair got the chance to speak to Thorne, where we discussed all things deathmatch, Kumite, and more. Enjoy!
Since it’s your first time being interviewed by SteelChair, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your wrestling background?
“My name is Alton, and I’ve been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my grandma’s wheelchair, in her front room, where she used to have VHS tapes she’d get from car boot sales. She had a double tape of WrestleMania 4, and we sat and watched it together. She was a huge wrestling fan, she’d always enjoyed the World of Sport stuff, and then I got into it so, it kind of carried through. In many ways, it was my nan that got me into wrestling. We bonded over it, and as I grew up, I watched WWE and WCW, graduated to ECW, and my wrestling fandom continued to grow. I was watching the independents, starting to go to local shows. I suppose it was inevitable that I was going to find my way into it down the line. At the time, I didn’t realise it was an option that I could eventually be a wrestler. If that makes sense, it didn’t feel like it was a real thing. That’s how it all started.”
How did you end up in deathmatches? For several years, you were a traditional wrestler, how did that happen?
“I was always fascinated by the more hardcore style. I’m 35, so for most people my age, I think it started with Mick Foley and Terry Funk. You started seeing clips of the IWA Japan and FMW shows on WWE TV. You’d think, “that looks crazy, there are barbed-wire ropes.” It was kind of an eye-opener. So, it started with Foley and Funk, and my fascination just grew. I discovered Ring of Honor then they did the CZW crossover. You had Necro Butcher and all these deathmatch names of the time. I realised it wasn’t just Foley doing it. There was an entire scene out there. I started to watch the Games of Death, Necro Butcher, Mad Man Pondo and learned the wrestling world as I’d known it had been very small. There were so many smaller companies out there doing things. I’m not just a deathmatch wrestler or fan, I love every kind of wrestling. I’m a huge fan of the World of Sport stuff, a massive, massive fan of Japanese wrestling, I love the UK scene or what I’ve followed of it for the past several years.
“Wrestling is just how I can spend my time. I can have it on in the background all the time and never get bored. For me, the style I feel most comfortable with is that brutal, nasty style. I can take a lot of shots, I don’t get shaken by it. I’ve got a demeanour about me that comes across as aggressive, and I’m big and thick. It just already seemed to suit me. Even when I was doing the family shows around the country, I was always being booked in street fights and hardcore matches because that’s how I positioned myself as a wrestler. I suppose it means I won’t get the bookings others get for doing the conventional style, but what it’s led me to now, is this. The Kumite stuff and whatever may happen in the future. It was a personal choice that I thought I’d be a really good fit for this kind of wrestling. That I could tell some really good stories and that there are guys in this country that I could have really great matches with. That’s why I chose deathmatch wrestling overall.”
So, whilst you may wrestle a hardcore style, you feel you could be a more hybrid fighter?
“I was always trained as a fighter because my dad was a fighter. He was a professional boxer when I was a child, so straight away, I was living with a professional athlete who was always pushing himself. He was always pushing me to fight, and to box, to learn to protect myself. He’d been bullied as a kid, and he never wanted to see me bullied. It was like, “you’re going to learn to defend yourself.” He put boxing gloves on me from the age of four. I really didn’t enjoy boxing that much because of the pressure of my dad. I wanted to try something like wrestling, and I found Judo. I did that for years and years and became a junior black belt in Judo. Then I went back and did some more boxing because as I grew older, I started to like it more.
“Since I was tiny, I’ve had a combat sports background, so I know I’m capable of working different styles. Plus, I started training with Stixx at the House of Pain Academy, which were very much family-orientated shows. I might go and do a Megaslam show every so often or the really big family-based shows. I think it’s really important, Big F’N Joe did the same thing. I think the best deathmatch wrestlers are the ones able to work other styles. That’s why it’s become such a popular thing again because it is more of a hybrid now. You have multiple different styles of wrestlers doing this genre. Whereas when I started watching it, there were one or two smaller framed guys, but you were mostly going to get heavyset guys beating the shit out of each other, hitting each other with things, really fucking hard. Nowadays, you need to be able to do certain other things to keep up with the other wrestlers on the scene.”
You’ve been with Kumite from the start, how did that come about?
“So, I met Matt (Malachi), who runs the shows when he was just starting out as a manager at a show called hope. Which was in Derby at the time, or Nottingham. The guy running the show wanted to make Malachi my manager because I was playing a more monster gimmick with the hair and the face, he wanted him to come out and be my heater or my spokesperson. It was in a match against Tyson T-Bone. The match went terribly. It was one of the worst matches I’ve ever had. T-Bone got there really late, and we were still on first, so we didn’t have the time to plan anything. The promoter wanted there to be some spots with Malachi, so we tried to plan around that, but it was only his first or second show as a manager. He missed a couple of spots because he was a little confused and nervous, it was an absolute disaster. But Matt and I clicked instantly, down the line, that whole nightmare worked out. He knew my work and what I was capable of, and then he was starting to talk about running shows. He approached one of my good friend’s Visage, thinking they would be good in that no-ring, deathmatch environment. They didn’t think it would be good for them, but they knew someone who it would be for, me. He knew me cos we’d worked before and inboxed me asking if I’d like to work a deathmatch. The rest is history. I got to do my first deathmatch this year which is something I told myself I’d do in fact, I’d even put it on Twitter, I think. I was quite happy with that, it was definitely a bucket list thing. I knew I had to do it, or I wouldn’t have been able to say that I’d accomplished everything I wanted to do. I’m very thankful to Matt for giving me that opportunity, and so far, it’s paying off.”
So how did that feel then? To not only have your first deathmatch but to have it against two of arguably the best in British Deathmatch in Big F’N Joe and Danny Darko in the formation of a new company. That’s like three big hits in one.
“I was nervous. I was more nervous than I’d been for any match since my debut. I was at the venue watching them set things up and thinking, “I have no idea how much this is going to hurt.” You know, because I’ve not tried any of this stuff before. One of the things that makes deathmatch so interesting is that a lot of things that happen, the crowd can’t imagine how that feels. I ended up thinking to myself that I’m going to be the guinea pig for that. I’m going to find out how much it all hurts very soon. There’s a certain amount of pressure to that, and that Joe was doing a double shot that day, he got caught in traffic and was late. I met him for the first time ten minutes before we had that match, so there were a lot of things going wrong. But actually, I remember going to the toilet and looking in the mirror and just having a moment, “This is actually happening, you’re going to do this.” I looked really calm for someone who’s about to potentially put their life on the line. Once it got to about 45 minutes before I had to go out there, in the calm before the storm, I knew that the two guys I was in there are so practiced and so good at what they do, that it would go well. So I felt fine. I felt calm eventually. Plus, I love that kind of pressure. I thrive on that kind of pressure. You’ve got to put yourself in environments where you feel uncomfortable to find out what you’re capable of. To find out what you can do. What better way to do that than with two deathmatch outlaws?”
Did it hurt as much as you expected it to then?
“For the most part. I took a Wiffle bat to the head that was covered in tacks. That sucked, that really sucked. That left little scabs across the top of my head for about three weeks. You do pay the price, but it’s worth it at the end of the day. The connection and the response you get from the crowd. Being a part of this incredible kind of atmosphere that you really don’t get in any other kind of entertainment. You’re getting that immediate feedback from the crowd, it makes it absolutely worth it, I think. It makes it worth the sacrifice. I think the most annoying thing I’ve noticed in my short time doing deathmatches is how much they itch the next day. The big cuts, they hurt at the time, then they’re gone. It’s the small ones that are in the little parts of your body that fold up. Like, on your hand, that can bother you for a couple of weeks. It just won’t go away. It’s the things that you least expect that end up hurting the most.”
How was it working without a ring? Usually, with no-ring shows, it’s either sink or swim. You either see people take to them or they flounder. How did you find that?
“I’d never worked in a no-ring environment before, but I’d done a lot of crowd brawling. I suppose that’s what it feels like, a crowd brawl, but that’s the entire match. If you’re creative, if you’re coming up with new ideas and fresh spots, then you can keep that format going for a very long time. There are limits. You’re not able to take bumps as freely as you want to, no bumping and feeding. However, when you’re about to take a bump, the fans know you’re about to take a bump on the floor, and it means that much more. There are advantages and disadvantages, but you can get so much more out of a no-ring environment. I think I’ve taken to it well, and the feedback seems to be good so far, but I’ve got a lot to learn. I feel we all have because it’s a relatively new thing, right? We’re just going to have to work together and learn as we go. I’m sure the shows, out of necessity will keep upping the ante as we go and finding new ways to do interesting things. The casket match is a good example of that, something that you can do in that environment that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. I think it’s going to go well and there’s a lot of room to grow.”
Speaking of the casket match, I thought you were going to die on the Assault Driver chair spot. I was watching going oh god, oh god…
“I did have a moment whilst I was up there where I thought, “What am I doing with myself?” It made for quite good footage, right?”
— Kumite Combat Wrestling (@officialkumite) November 29, 2021
100% So, let’s talk about the casket match a little bit, because A) I got to see it live and B) that was mental. Do you now have a grudge against Cliff Richard and his invincible records?
“Jesus Christ, there was one that just would not break no matter how hard we hit. The others were shattering fine, but not that one. I already had a problem with Cliff Richard, that’s why I brought all those records with me. I’d inherited a massive bunch of LPs from my mum, and I was flicking through them and thought, I’m never going to play this shite, so they’re the ones I brought with me. I already had that vendetta coming in.”
Also, why nettles? I’ve never seen nettles in a deathmatch before. At that moment, I was just looking at it thinking, why, you mad bastard?
“Well, that’s one of the reasons for sure. I hadn’t seen it myself before, and I thought it would be interesting. My name’s Thorne, so I was thinking about what I could do that would be different from everyone else in deathmatches. The real reason I do nettles or that I’ve decided to do them occasionally is because my dad used to do endurance courses when he was training as a professional athlete, he’d have to go out with no shoes on carrying logs with other men and things like that. He’d sometimes have to do those walks through nettles or wear nettles as they were doing Karate sometimes. So I’ve got pictures of my dad, when he was a bit younger than me, draped in nettles. Just to freak me out when I was really young, he used to because he had no fear of them, he used to pick them up and eat them in front of me. I’d obviously be like, “Why Dad are you eating nettles.” That always stuck with me, it was just a weird thing he’d do to freak me out. I thought it would be a really cool image if someone brought a bag of nettles with them to a deathmatch and just started chewing on them because that’s how my sick brain works. So, that’s where that idea came from. I was worried a little bit at first that people wouldn’t know what they were. But I realised that in that small room that the smell was going to be really obvious. You can smell nettles from a mile away. As soon as I opened the bag, people knew they were nettles.”
Someone next to me screamed, “there fucking nettles” …
“That’s the reaction I wanted. It seems to have gotten a good reaction, so it will probably be something I use again in the future because no one else is using it, so why not take advantage of that? Everybody knows how much nettles hurt.”
I bet a lot of people are looking at that thinking why didn’t I think of that…
“I asked Joe if he’d ever seen it before, and he said he’d only seen it once, and it was a very long time ago.”
Your next opponent in the Kumite is probably the most hated man who ever came to Derby, Tyler Devlin. Are you looking forward to that?
“Absolutely. A couple of years ago, when I definitely decided I was going to do deathmatch, it was about the time people were putting lists up. I can’t remember if I posted mine or not, but I had written one and Joe and Darko were on the list, and Devlin was on the list. There are a couple more, and hopefully, I’ll get to wrestle those too. If I’m going to do this, I want to wrestle some of the best guys in the country. I wanted to test myself against the very best, and I think Devlin is one of the very best. So, I’m really looking forward to it. I want to see what I’m capable of. I want to see how far I can push myself.”
Does it bother you you’re on a 2-0 losing streak?
“No, it doesn’t bother me because one of my best friends in wrestling is Gabriel Kidd. I’ve watched him go through WCPW for months on end without a win and then win a belt from Cody Rhodes. Then I’ve watched him go to Japan and go months and months and months without a win. So wins and losses, if you’re doing the thing that you love, you can only get better at it by doing it. I’m more than happy to take a loss here and there if I’m going to keep improving, getting better. You’ve got to earn these wins. The eventual plan is to be the DeathWolf. Right now, I’m happy to learn, to keep levelling myself up, and eventually, that losing streak is going to end, and I’m going to win that title.”
A very measured, very respectable response…
“At the last Kumite show, I was referred to as the most polite deathmatch wrestler that one of the people there had ever met. I don’t think I’m going to get that put on a business card, I think I’ll leave that one.”
One of the other key things with Kumite is, it’s bringing deathmatches to a part of the UK no one would expect, Derby…
“I think that’s really important. I think this area specifically has been lacking in this kind of wrestling. That’s probably part of the reason why I hadn’t done it before because with the circles I’m in, there weren’t really any deathmatch wrestlers. Until I started doing Kumite, I didn’t have any deathmatch friends. Sometimes in this business, it’s who you know. There wasn’t a direct in for me. Now that deathmatches are starting to come to the Midlands, I know there’s an audience, you can feel it. I think we’re building something nice, we’re starting to get a good reputation and now the deal with IWTV, more eyes are going to be on our product. We’ve had to build a scene from scratch in this area, so hopefully, the momentum keeps up because right now, it’s looking good. We might have found a niche that no one else has capitalised on. We’re a viable alternative already, after two shows which is a testament to the two guys who run the show. RISE belts are being defended on our shows now. Our show was even discussed in the GCW Newsletter. The ball is rolling, and I think it really is a testament to those two. Hopefully, it means more people start taking notice. More people from America coming over, doing little tours. If we’ve got the date free. Hopefully, we can keep growing the eyes on the product. For now, though, it’s one show at a time, putting on the best shows we can. Keep winning over our audience and giving them something to come back to.”
What was the reaction when you found out IWTV were interested?
“I told Matt after the first show that he’d be on IWTV in no time. I could see it coming from the way he runs his show and how fantastic he is in his roles. He brings a certain energy, it just felt right. It felt, unlike any other show I’d been on in this area. I knew it was brewing, but I didn’t think it would be after two shows. It’s insane.”
I suppose it’s kind of monumental of the bigger deathmatch boom at the moment, there’s so much demand for it and so many places willing to fit the niche. Hell, even the UK is invading ICW, NHB now…
“I think deathmatch wrestling kept indie wrestling alive over the course of the pandemic. There were ICW shows, GCW shows. There were lots of little companies doing it too, H2O. Those shows kept a lot of buzz going during a time when lots of shows couldn’t run. IWTV was a massive part of that as well. I had somewhere to go to watch wrestling. I suppose in a way, being on IWTV is another booking as it did so much for me during those 18 months when I was wishing I could be doing something else. It’s given me lots of hours of entertainment. Now, I can say my show is up there with some best deathmatch wrestlers in the world. It makes you feel like you’re on the right track. It’s a good weird, a sign of immediate progress.”
My last question is what’s next, what do you want for yourself, for Kumite, and maybe even for the UK deathmatch scene itself?
“I don’t have any lofty goals for myself. I’ve found throughout my career that I’ve been very lucky to be booked on a regular basis. Not on big shows or anything like that, but I’ve consistently been wrestling for nearly 8 years now. What I do is just keep the ball rolling and see where it takes me. Nothing’s immediate, I didn’t come into wrestling thinking I need to be a deathmatch wrestler. It’s a thing I loved and something I thought I could bring some value to, entertain people with. That’s how I’m going to keep going. I can’t see myself wrestling forever, I’m 35 now, and I’m not getting any younger. The style of wrestling I’m in, I’ve thrown myself onto a lot of concrete floors. What I’m going to do is get the most out of it whilst I’m part of it. I’m going to try to get as much out of it as I can. If any opportunities come along, I’ll be the first to take them.
“I want to say at least I tried everything I could in wrestling before I hang my boots up. As for Kumite, I think the sky’s the limit. I think they have a niche that no one else is doing. I think they’re the first official no-ring company in the country, and you can say that now they’re on IWTV. They’ve already started making wrestling history, and with the contacts they’ve got, the wrestlers coming in, I think the future could be whatever they want it to be. Hopefully, they can keep these shows coming for a long time to come. I just think British wrestling needs to get back on its feet. It’s had a bit of a clear-out and people are taking extra precautions. Now, it just needs to brush itself off get back on its feet and not make the same mistakes again. Deathmatch wrestling helped keep it alive, and companies like RISE and TNT are killing it. Kumite is going to be killing it very soon, so the future is promising for Britwres too.”
And we’re all just hoping for Casanova Valentine…
“That is probably my biggest dream match so far.”
Alton Thorne on social media: Twitter
Tickets are available for our next show now! 28th January there will be a NEW FEAR'S REVOLUTION!
— Kumite Combat Wrestling (@officialkumite) December 18, 2021
All images courtesy of Kumite, Mark John