Exclusive: David Graves on his mentors, career goals, and his development
Graves is making his mark on the industry. Photo- Grapple Wrestling

Despite only being in the business for five years, David Graves has been making quite the name for himself on the British independent scene, particularly around the Yorkshire area. Working for companies such as Megaslam Wrestling, True Grit Wrestling, and the place where it all began for Graves, Grapple Wrestling, the Grafter is living up to his moniker and getting himself out there in the public eye.

Starting his career

For Graves, Grapple Wrestling holds a special place in his heart, as the school that first opened the door to his wrestling career, "my mum found an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post for a school that was opening up in Leeds, which was Grapple wrestling, and the rest is history."

But it wasn't just Graves who was getting started in the wrestling business, as he arrived at the company shortly after its inception and was welcomed with open arms as they both rose together, "Paul Clark taught me my first bumps and gave me my first starts on shows, so I've been there since the company first started, give or take a couple of months, I owe a lot to Paul for starting us off," he stated.

The decision to start wrestling didn't just come out of the blue for Graves, he had been a passionate fan for years and even without Sky he managed to get his fix of wrestling from a young age, "I used to watch wrestling on Channel 5, I think it was WCW, then me and my friends would just sort of mess around in my mates front garden, I was always Road Dogg for some reason, I don't know how that happened.

Graves battling for Grapple British Championship. Photo- Grapple Wrestling
Graves battling for Grapple British Championship. Photo- Grapple Wrestling

"I lived in Garforth and we moved to a town nearby, and it meant that I couldn't get home straight after school so I would go to my Grandma's and watch some telly and I would put a bit of wrestling on."

Watching the Wrestling Channel, a young Graves managed to discover Rockstar Spud, prior to his Rockstar days, and the realisation that a career in wrestling was feasible began to develop, "one of the first things I saw was Spud, he wasn't Rockstar Spud at that time, but he was getting chucked about and did some cool flips and I thought, well I'm bigger than him, I could do this.

"I watched World of Sport and loads of other stuff, and my grandad would tell me about wrestling shows that used to happen just down the road and that sort of opened my eyes to wrestling being a British thing because up until that point I had always just thought wrestling was an American thing."

Important Mentors

As he developed, so did Grapple and the decision was made to bring in wrestling legend, Marty Jones, to help train the young wrestlers and it was a decision that helped Graves enormously, "Marty has done wonders for me in terms of my movement and my understanding of the older style of wrestling, he's been incredibly helpful."

Then, along came a man who has arguably been Graves' biggest mentor, El Ligero, who joined the Grapple coaching team and has been a source of inspiration to Graves, "Ligs (El Ligero) has done great things for me as well in terms of the new style and how to brand myself and get myself out there. I jump in the car with him and we go to shows sometimes.They have both done a great deal for me and I cannot thank them enough."

Whilst El Ligero is often seen as the hardest working wrestler on the British independent scene, Graves has set himself a challenge to prove that he can do one better than his mentor, "so, at the end of every year, El Ligero puts a post saying "I wrestled 9 million matches this year" or whatever it is. So this year, I want to put up a post, respectfully, and if I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose just.

"My aim is to put up a post at the end of the year that says I have wrestled more matches than El Ligero, purely because it would be hilarious to see his reaction and annoy him a little bit."

El Ligero has played a significant role in Graves' development. Photo- What Culture
El Ligero has played a significant role in Graves' development. Photo- What Culture

Even though Graves may want to wind him up a little, his Grafter gimmick owes a lot to Ligero's work rate, "His work ethic is ridiculous and I got the 'Grafter' sort of moniker, that very much comes from my parents and my dad in particular who works all the hours ever. For me, a work ethic is something that you don't get taught to you, it's your drive that's just in you. That's where the Grafter stems from, to work as hard as possible to get better."

Family environments

Right now, Graves is working a lot of family orientated shows, including the famous Butlins tours that the likes of Daniel Bryan once worked and he is enjoying the experience, "For me as long as I'm working every weekend and I have those dates in my calendar then I'm happy. I want to be getting my name out there in as many companies as possible, but if I can be a part of one company and that company has global reach then I'm happy with that as well."

Of course, Graves would also like to work more adult shows, such as Progress, but he is well aware that the core principals of all these shows are the same, "It's all wrestling. The name above the door is wrestling and everyone who goes there does it to see a bit of wrestling so I can go out there and do a bit of character stuff, but I want to go out there and I want to wrestle and put in a decent performance.

"Obviously, some audiences will understand things better than others, but as long as what I do when I go out there looks good and is solid and looks like it hurts then I'm doing my job."

Getting in his own head

With every wrestling career comes several challenges and roadblocks, and Graves is no exception to that rule, yet his obstacle has proven to be his own head, "I've been wrestling now for about five years, but for three of those I only wrestled for Grapple and I only did the trainee shows and I only trained there, which is great but I was very much in that bubble of the Grapple training school.

"I got to the point where I finished University and I was working at Tesco's and was like, I don't want to do this forever, this is crap.That was the time when I started going to other seminars across the country and I got in my own head a little bit. After a year and half of doing that I just felt it wasn't working and I got a bit down, not bitter but I got a bit angry at little things.

"There was just a point in October last year where I did a MegaSlam tour and went to the Isle of Man and wrestled Ligs twice and I really enjoyed that tour. I came back from there and wrestled CJ Banks for Grapple which was a really pivotal point that sorted my head out a bit where I was like, I'm not bad at this, let's crack on and see how far we can go."

Championship Glory

But with every hard time tends to come an equally positive moment and for Graves, it came in the form of the Grapple British Championship in what was a true full circle moment, "Grapples first show was the 30 September 2012 and I was on that, then I've been on shows here and there until a couple of years ago and then I've been on every show since then. It was just great to see a school that has gone from being a school very much within its own little bubble to becoming one of the best training facilities in the North of England.

"To see that progression and then for the in-ring show quality which has improved massively for it to culminate in me winning that belt and having my mum and dad there it was a nice moment. It was a really sort of pivotal, great moment for me."

Now firmly focused on the future, as most professional wrestlers Graves wouldn't turn away any offers from the bigger companies and with the British scene only going from strength to strength the options are endless for a man who has one simple long-term goal, "I just want to make a full time living from wrestling."

To stay updated with David Graves follow him on his Twitter - @DavidGraves80