GRAEME COUSINS talks to Northern Irish wrestler Grant Davison about his alter ego Dunkan Disorderly and his journey from chubby teen to muscle-bound performer
If you have ever wondered what would happen if you spent 20 years in the gym, take a look at Grant Davison.
At the age of 15, the Comber lad saved up his pennies and enrolled in a wrestling camp in England where he was told he needed to lose weight if he was serious about making it in the sports entertainment industry.
And so, Grant hit the gym and began a journey that would seem him become Dunkan Disorderly.
Now 35, not surprisingly, he runs his own gym.
At one stage he could have pushed for a move to the WWE but he chose family over fame and fortune.
He said: “I loved wrestling as a kid. I never grew out of it I suppose. I played a bit of football, a bit of rugby, but my heart really wasn’t in it.
“I always wanted to do wrestling but there weren’t any opportunities in Northern Ireland.
“I saw an advertisement in a wrestling magazine for a wrestling camp over in Kent called Hammerlock. I saved up my money and went and did that when I was 15.
“I just kept going back as regularly as I could for the next few years.
“It’s the same school that Finn Balor [WWE superstar] went to. There were a lot of great names over the years who trained at Hammerlock.”
Grant said that while he was growing up he had problems with his weight, but some harsh words from a wrestling promoter gave him the motivation to get into shape.
He said: “I was a pretty chubby kid. After my first wrestling camp when I was 15, the promoter told me, ‘you have to hit the gym, nobody wants to see their nextdoor neighbour in spandex’. I’ll never forget that.
“Basically if you want to be a wrestler you have to look like one.
“That’s when my fitness journey began. I started lifting weights. That’s 20 years ago, I haven’t stopped since.”
The former Grosvenor Grammar pupil said: “In Upper Sixth my body really started to change. Over the summer I remember just hitting the gym every day and coming back to school for the new term and people were like, ‘wow, where’s the rest of you’. I’d lost a lot of body fat and started to bulk up.
“It’s amazing how suspectable your body is to change when you’re young. When you get older it’s more difficult.
“I’ve always been naturally strong and fast for a big dude. Me and the gym were just made for each other.”
Of his favourite wrestlers as a boy, Grant said: “When I was a kid the big names I was looking up to were Macho Man Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart.”
Of those three wrestlers only Bret Hart, now 61, is still alive. As an industry, wrestling would seem to have a disproportionate number of early deaths, with drugs a factor in some cases.
Grant said: “I think back in the late 80s, early 90s there was a lot of drugs going on, and no drug testing being done.
“There was a lot more abuse of substances that would have been a factor in some of the early deaths.
“It seems to be a lot more in check now. There’s a lot more drug testing than there ever was. Wrestlers tend to be living longer these days which is good to know.”
After the camps at Hammerlock, Grant joined a jujitsu club to keep himself ‘ring fresh’. Along with some of the young men from the club he formed a company called Ulster Championship Wrestling.
He said: “We started booking the Threepenny Bit at the Kings Hall and put on a lot of shows there.
“I got a bit of notoriety and started to get bookings to come down to Dublin to wrestle. I started to appear in more shows throughout Ireland, picking up more dates.
“We disbanded UCW to go on and do our own things.
“I was getting paid good money to just turn up and wrestle without having to do any of the dirty work like booking venues, setting up the ring, putting up posters, ticket sales and things like that.”
He continued: “I used to tour years ago with a company called AWR, we toured all over Europe. At that point all I wanted to do was go to the big leagues, to the WWE.”
However Grant’s outlook on life was to change: “Circumstances changed in my home life and I really wanted to have a family, be a good daddy, not miss out on kids birthdays which is a sacrifice you have to make if you want to go to the big leagues.
“You have to be prepared to work five nights a week, come home, do the laundry and get back up and go again. I didn’t want to be that kind of daddy.
“In about 2010 I made the decision to stay close to home. I haven’t worked overseas since. My daughter was born the following year.”
Grant’s daughter Heidi is seven and his son Jaxon is five. He also has two step daughters – Mia and Aimee.
He said: “Family is very important to me. I still wrestle most weekends, I enjoy that, but I’ve come a long way with my life outside the gym and I no longer have that same ambition to wrestle in the big leagues.
“The highlight of my day is getting home and seeing the kids before the go to bed. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the WWE.
“The love of your family is far more important than the love of wrestling fans. Wrestling fans will forget about you when you retire. They don’t know the real you either.”
Having qualified as a personal trainer, Grant finally realised his dream of opening his own gym two years ago.
Zeus Training Zone which is located just outside Comber was shortlisted in the top five small gyms in the Province for the NI Fitness Awards.
Asked whether he was anything like Dunkan Disorderly, Grant said: “Me and Dunkan are very different. When you’re wrestling you’re a showman. You’ve got to go out there and be aggressive, intense. You’re playing a character. It was the big characters that drew me into wrestling.
“I gave myself the name Dunkan Disorderly 20 years ago and I’ve stuck with it. I’m not like Dunkan at all, though it depends what time of day you get me at. If you ask my kids they’d say I’m a big softie.
“I wrestle mostly as a babyface, a good guy. I do occasionally wrestle as a heel (bad guy) as well.
“I do get really worked up in the ring. I’m in the zone. I think if some of my gym clients saw me they’d be really surprised.”
Prior to WWE broadcasts a warning is issued: Don’t try this at home. Has Grant followed that advice?
“Everybody tries it at home. Or in the playground at school.
“My son is five and we’re forever wrestling. Obviously not the really crazy stuff.”
Dunkan will be among the wrestlers taking part in wrestling.ie’s tour of Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Among the visiting wrestlers as part of the tour is Londoner Tiny Iron aka Andrew Harrison, the man who famously lifted BBC star Stephen Nolan aloft live on air.
Also taking to the ring at selected dates is Northern Ireland-born Love Island star Adam ‘Flex’ Maxted who is visiting from his home in Newcastle, England.
There will be four shows in Northern Ireland during the tour. There are in Coleraine Town Hall on October 18, Queen’s Hall in Newtownards on October 19, the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen on November 1, Armagh City Hotel on November 2. All the shows start at 7.30pm.
Promoter, Stevey Reavey, commented: “There’s something for children, mums and dads and we know granny and grandad will be amongst the loudest in the audience.
“We are bringing larger than life characters, world-class athletic action, thrills, spills and the goodies battling the baddies. It’s a show not to be missed.”