Liverpool wrestling star Zack Gibson says he’s been inundated with well-wishes from old school pals ahead of the biggest match of his career.
Friends who grew up with the Maghull grappler have been bombarding him with messages as he prepares to face WWE legend Rey Mysterio at the Liverpool Echo Arena and live on British television.
Gibson, who calls himself ‘Liverpool’s Number 1’, will battle the hugely popular masked former WWE World Champion on Thursday, February 1 live from the Echo Arena as part of 5 Star Wrestling’s new live television series on all-sport TV channel FreeSports.
Real name Jack Rea, the 27 year-old says his friends and family are just as excited about the Mysterio matchup as he is.
And the match has taken on greater significance after Mysterio’s shock appearance in the WWE Royal Rumble on Sunday night.
“Wrestling in the Echo Arena against a future Hall of Famer in Rey Mysterio, it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.
“My family live in and around Liverpool so the Echo is an easy place for people to come and support me.
“Now it’s been announced that I’m wrestling Rey Mysterio, people from school have been messaging me saying how big of a deal it is.”
He joked: “These are people who have been loosely following my career so when I achieve real celebrity status they can pretend they have supported me from the start!”
The support of his friends and family means the world to the former Hudson Primary School and Deyes Lane High School pupil, although he says his dad was unhappy at his choice of profession at first.
“At first my dad said I couldn’t do wrestling, didn’t want me doing it. For safety, he didn’t want me getting hurt. So I did it for two or three years without telling him, sneaking out of the house. When he found out he kicked off big time, he wasn’t happy. But since then he’s come around and realised it’s not a trend, it’s something I love doing and he comes to shows, and brags about it to family and friends.”
Pro wrestling has been hugely popular in Liverpool for years but Gibson admits he didn’t follow the city’s grappling scene as a child.
“I only started watching wrestling in 2000 and then it was WWF. I had no idea the British scene existed.
“St George’s Hall was well known for being a famous wrestling venue but I had no idea about it!
“When I started training I started researching the old British wrestling and now I love it. Now I’m gutted I missed all of it.
“By the time I started watching British wrestling had already been taken away from the telly and we only had WWF and WCW. British wrestling didn’t have the budget or the TV backing so I’m hoping the opportunity we’re being given now by 5 Star Wrestling can change that for future generations, by seeing us on TV every week.”
Gibson now sees himself as a spokesman for British wrestling and gave a passionate speech defending the UK scene – which has long lived in the shadow of the big-budget and glitzy American wrestling of WWE – at the press conference to launch 5 Star Wrestling LIVE on FreeSports.
He also hopes he can follow in the footsteps of Scouse wrestling hero Robbie Brookside, who for many years was given the mantle of ‘Liverpool’s Number 1’ by wrestling fans and experts.
As an outspoken ring villain, Zack has proclaimed himself as the new ‘Liverpool’s Number 1’ but hopes Brookside, now a trainer of wrestling hopefuls for WWE’s NXT group in Florida, hasn’t taken offence.
“I didn’t have a conversation with Robbie Brookside before taking on the name Liverpool’s Number 1…maybe I should have!
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to guys like him because I learned a lot from guys like him. I want to follow in his footsteps and take the ball even further.”
The February 1 match will be Gibson’s second for 5 Star Wrestling at the Echo Arena, after battling WWE NXT star Killian Dain at the venue in 2016.
On that occasion Zack was the crowd favourite but he admits this may not be the case against family favourite Mysterio, one of wrestling’s greatest ever high-flying underdogs.
“Walking in to the show on February 1, I’m not necessarily pushing for either a good guy or bad guy reaction,” he said.
“I’ll be the home town boy but I’m wrestling the big star and crowd favourite in Rey Mysterio. So we’ll see how the fans react to me.”
Tickets to see 5 Star Wrestling live on FreeSports this Thursday night featuring ‘Liverpool’s Number 1’ Zack Gibson v Rey Mysterio are available from www.5starwrestling.co.uk
Also on the show: 5 Star Champion John Morrison v Rob Van Dam, 5 Star Tap or Snap Championship: BT Gunn v Flash Morgan Webster v Mark Haskins v ‘The Professional’ Nathan Cruz v Joey Axl, ‘The All-American American’ Jake Hager v ‘English Lion’ Eddie Ryan, Moose v Rampage Brown, ‘Darewolf’ PJ Black v Brian Cage, 5 Star Tag Team Tournament: Carlito and Chris Masters v Adam ‘Flex’ Maxted and Charlie Sterling, 5 Star Tag Team Tournament: Jody Fleisch and El Ligero v Big Grizzly and Dave Mastiff, Jack Jester v ‘The Primate’ Jason Prime.
Watch on FreeSports live this Thursday night from 7pm. FreeSports is available on Freeview (channel 95), Freesat (channel 252), Sky (channel 424), Talk Talk TV (channel 95) and BT TV (channel 95).