When 5 Star Wrestling comes to Sheffield in February it will be a particularly emotional night for one of Yorkshire’s top grapple stars.
Nathan Cruz was a wide-eyed 12-year-old wrestling fan who dreamed of one day emulating his heroes when he watched the WWE superstars at the Fly DSA Arena as a boy.
Now 15 years on, the Hull-born star known as ‘The Professional’ will get to live out his childhood dream when he competes as part of 5 Star Wrestling’s historic arena tour and live TV show.
Cruz will perform alongside the WWE legends he idolized as a child when 5 Star Wrestling presents the first and only weekly UK-based live wrestling TV series in the history of British television, starting on February 1.
Real name Nathan Irwin, Cruz has been handpicked as one of Britain’s best to join a star-studded roster of wrestling names from all over the world including former WWE champions Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, John Morrison and Jake Hager (formerly known as Jack Swagger) to tour the biggest arenas in the UK and appear live every Thursday night on UK all-sport TV channel FreeSports.
And this time the Yorkshire wrestling fans will have their eyes firmly on him when 5 Star Wrestling comes to Sheffield on Thursday night, February 15 and the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Thursday, March 29.
“Sheffield is really special to me because I came to see my first WWE show there as a fan when I was 12 years old,” said Cruz.
“It was called the Hallam FM Arena back then. I went with my best friend Matt Myers who also went on to become a pro wrestler.
“It was a point in my life when I thought yes, I definitely do want to pursue wrestling as a career. Getting to wrestle in the venue where I first saw WWE and being a Yorkshire lad myself, it’s very special.”
Cruz, who grew up on a small council estate in Bilton Grange, Hull, became hooked on pro wrestling after watching a match on TV between WWE icons The Undertaker and Triple H at the massive American spectacular WrestleMania 2001.
The former Griffin Primary School and Archbishop Thurstan pupil then started training aged 15 and within four years became the UK’s youngest full-time professional grappler.
Cruz was helped on his rapid rise by the guidance of Leeds-based grapplers El Ligero and Rampage Brown, who will be joining him on the 5 Star Wrestling tour and TV series.
“It’s exciting and I love being a part of things like this that are creating an alternative to the WWE and highlighting the best of British talent,” said Cruz.
“It’s no secret that British wrestling is booming at the moment. So this is a huge reward for everybody involved.
“Coming from a small city like Hull that’s starting to expand due to the City of Culture last year…and now me being able to do this as part of the wrestling industry going nationwide with 5 Star Wrestling, I think it’s going to put more attention on Hull as well as myself.”
The 5 Star Wrestling tour kicks off at Liverpool Echo Arena on February 1. This is also a venue Nathan knows well from when he received a tryout with WWE in 2014 and wrestled a ‘dark match’ as part of the company’s Smackdown brand.
Since then Cruz has developed his new ‘Professional’ persona which has taken him to the upper echelons of the rising UK wrestling scene.
The well-dressed Nathan says ‘The Professional’ symbolizes his real-life dedication to pro wrestling.
“Being a wrestler is a fun job but it’s still a job,” he said.
“I want to be successful so I don’t want to treat it as just a hobby. I always conduct myself as a professional. I show up on time, early if I can. I always wear a suit. And it became one of those things that people always said ‘he’s the consummate professional’. There’s a lot to be said about that.
“We’re in an era where some of the fans almost see being professional in wrestling as a bad thing. I’ve made a career out of being the wrestling bad guy. So dressing smart and being punctual, taking what should be deemed good qualities and making them bad qualities, and being smug and arrogant about it, it’s a way to complement my own career within a character role.”
Cruz hopes to get the chance to actually face off with some of the WWE legends on the 5 Star Wrestling tour, including Rey Mysterio, who he describes as “phenomenal…a revolutionary” and 5 Star Champion John Morrison who he says is “an incredible athlete…the total package”.
“I’m now in the 11th year of my professional wrestling career and I’m still only 27,” he said.
“At 27 I’ve still wrestled in eight different countries and had 1200 matches, wrestled for the WWE and wrestled in all the top countries in the world. Now I’m going to be on live weekly British television doing what I love, facing some of the biggest names in wrestling, in some of the best-known arenas in the country. It doesn’t get any better than that.”