By now, many people have seen the brand Wrestling Travel. If you haven’t seen any of their social media pages or done business with them, their name gives a good, solid indication of who they are and what they can do for you. But, the goal is far greater than that.
Wrestling Travel spawned from the mind of the savvy Lee McAteer, a 35-years-old lifelong wrestling fan that has been coined Britain’s Best Boss in the media. He trained to be a lawyer originally but eventually ended up in the media as a magazine editor for Max Power magazine.
After getting quote-en-quote ‘screwed over’, McAteer decided to team up with university friend Nick Steiert to work on the vast amount of business ideas they had. They started off by co-founding Invasion, a business where, essentially, they would take students to other student cities to enjoy a night out. But, as you will learn with every McAteer project, he goes way above and beyond the expected.
Still, he always had a ‘bee in his bonnet’ about doing camps in America and believed there was a better way to do it after his own experience in 2004. Thus, in 2010 they created Invasion Travel and AmeriCamp which originally survived on his own personal loan of £4,000, but is now a multi-million-pound company. In fact, it is reported to have turned over in the region of £4.5 million in 2018.
Under his umbrella, McAteer, also an associate director of his boyhood club Tranmere Rovers, has around 30 niche brands with his Camp Thailand brand their best-seller.
So, with all of his businesses flourishing and his plate as full as one could imagine, how did Wrestling Travel come to be? talkSPORT took time to speak to McAteer and discover the secret behind one of the new driving forces behind the wrestling industry.
“What happened was, around WrestleMania 30, my ex-girlfriend bought me tickets,” McAteer started. “I thought ‘fantastic, I’ve always wanted to go,’ but what I didn’t realise was that getting the tickets was the easy bit. Trying to sort out the logistics – the flights, the accommodation – realising where all the other events are in the week and to actually to become properly apart of that wrestling community so you can talk about everything to one another, there was nothing that existed. That’s basically when I said ‘Ok, there’s something we can do here, we’re going to use our ABTA and ATOL and create a travel company in Wrestling’. We made the right connections to a point where we then created Wrestling Travel and then all of a sudden away we went… and what a crazy ride it has been!”
There is nothing ostentatious about Wrestling Travel, they can get you to where you want to be, but give you an experience, too. And that’s crucial. The wrestling world can be an esoteric place to anything but hardcore fans, but this is a company that appears to cater to all.
“The wrestling community is a powerful thing. It’s often the case that people like wrestling, but they have no one to enjoy it with. We put individuals together and give them a chance to enjoy it together on these trips, it certainly makes the wrestling community stronger and the experience richer. And we don’t do this cold. People who have paid for a trip with us in the past, we invite them to our offices and we’ve had the likes of WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett their before to greet them for free, and it’s a great opportunity to get to know the people you’ll be on the same trip with,” McAteer said.
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Traditionally – and this writer can attest – you’d have to go through the likes of WWE if you wanted to attend WrestleMania and have tickets for the whole weekend and accommodation. Wrestling Travel is now bucking that trend and offering packages for the biggest promotions in the world even outside of WWE. The question is, how are they doing it?
“We’ve tried to offer the same packages as WWE, but to include flights,” McAteer explained. “Obviously, we don’t make as much money on it, but at the same time, we’re really trying to give that great service to the wrestling community. And it’s little things like putting on the bus to the Sears Center in Chicago for All Out, we’re trying to give added value.
“We’re supporting the independent scene, too. We’re very much supporting promotions like TNT in Liverpool, we’ve done travel packages for Progress, we did all the logistics for What Culture’s World Cup of Wrestling, we’re even booking flights for promotions to get talent over to the UK now, too, and we’ve got plans that go far beyond travel that will really serve wrestling fans.”
A normal businessman probably wouldn’t have targeted this industry at a glance or even had the ability to glance in the first place. But, not only is McAteer no normal businessman, but he knows wrestling extremely well. And that’s his major advantage, one that helped the company get going.
“Wrestling Travel began in the summer of 2017. Honestly, we’re just scratching the surface with this brand. I genuinely don’t even think that it has even got into second gear yet. I really don’t. It’s incredible the growth that we’ve had and obviously, we’ve had some great relationships with the likes of Starrcast and stuff like that, but I really think there is so much more.
“We’re learning; we did make some mistakes with our first WrestleMania like any start-up,” McAteer admitted. “In theory, we’re a start-up, but it has the infrastructure that comes with my other businesses and we are constantly improving each show we cover.”
Having the financial backing of his other businesses is an important safety net, but Wrestling Travel is far from something just to amuse this wrestling fan; McAteer told the Telegraph last year: “I appreciate that we’ve got the weight of the group behind it, but I launched it with a £500 marketing budget and it turned over £100,000 within seven months.”
As mentioned previously, this isn’t just about getting to WrestleMania. If you want to get to any pay-per-view in wrestling – even beyond NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom and AEW’s All Out, both of which Wrestling Travel can get you to – they can create bespoke packages for you.
“We’ve got our main standard wrestling travel packages which are WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Royal Rumble, Wrestle Kingdom, All Out – all the major promotions biggest shows basically. But, we also create bespoke packages, too. Last WrestleMania, we offered the Hall of Fame as standard in our packages, but we had a lot of people that wanted to go and see Ring of Honor and New Japan at Madison Square Garden, so we made it happen. We’ve done bachelor parties and all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff; if you have an idea in wrestling, we might be able to put it together.”
It’s an industry-wide ambition and their success is beginning to crossover into many other fields that are there for the taking.
“And that’s the thing, we’re always expanding and growing,” McAteer says proudly. “We have MMA travel, boxing travel, soccer travel and, randomly, fishing travel on the horizon with their URLs secured! Soccer travel and fishing travel – both .org – will go live on August 1, touch wood. I’ve got the next 30, 40 ideas for what to do next in my head. We’re even looking at doing Film Travel in the future because we have such good access to the comic-cons and things of that nature.”
You’re not just booking your flights with an airline. You’re not just booking your accommodation with a hotel. You’re not just buying your tickets to an event. Wrestling Travel is determined to give you an experience.
“The thing with Wrestling travel is, it’s for the fans by fans. When we do our events, we roll out quality surprise guests so you never know what cool moment might unfold. At our last one, James Storm rolled up to our pre-party and we didn’t tell anybody. We’re going to have special guests throughout the week leading up to our next big events, so all sorts of weird and wonderful people will appear and we have a really big budget committed to that. For instance, if you take out one of our ‘too suite’ packages [get it?!] as we’ve already got suites sorted out at the Amalie Arena in Tampa where WrestleMania 36 will go down – chances are you’re going to be watching it with a former WWE wrestler, a legend or something like that.
“It’s all about creating an experience that you wouldn’t normally get with just buying a ticket, because the reality is if people don’t want to be looked after like we look after people every step of the way, if you want to penny-pinch, then you might be able to save a few hundred quid,” McAteer candidly said. “But, take last WrestleMania for example: we had a load of people that all lost their tickets and we couldn’t replace them. So we ended up buying four new tickets – which cost us a boatload of money – to save their experience. We had two people go to the emergency room which we then looked after and on top of that, because we are ABTA and ATOL, all of our customers money is protected. So that’s the main thing with Wrestling Travel, we’re there to hold your hand, give you the information for shows that you wouldn’t normally know.”
As part of their meteoric rise in just two years, Wrestling Travel has become a recurring sponsor of Starrcast, a fan convention that takes place on the same weekends as AEW pay-per-views. Would you believe that this deal was done while McAteer was at the cinema watching Mission Impossible?
“It’s actually a funny story. Conrad had tweet out that he was looking to partner up with a travel company for Starrcast and loads of people were tagging me in his post. I was in the cinema watching the new Mission Impossible film and my phone was blowing up like crazy! So I followed Conrad, he followed me back, I messaged him and told him what a big fan I was of everything he does and I’d actually been to his first-ever live show. What’s even more ironic was the fact that Jeff Jarrett was at that show! Within half an hour of the film I’d sent him money via PayPal to become one of his sponsors [laughs]. We’ve both got pretty damn good records as negotiators but we came to an agreement very quickly and our relationship has only gone from strength to strength,” McAteer said.
On top of his many ventures, McAteer is an associate director for Tranmere Rovers, a side that won promotion to League One in the English Football League. To have achieved all of this by the age of 35 is nothing short of remarkable, if not spectacular. Wrestling Travel are even going to be Tranmere’s social media sponsor and there is plenty of examples already of McAteer making high-profile wrestlers Tranmere fans!
A consultant of Tranmere had read that McAteer was a fan in a newspaper article and decided to reach out to him. She would introduce the Wrestling Travel head honcho to chairman Mark Palios and manager Mickey Mellon and although he didn’t realise it, they were vetting him to come aboard. They did for three-and-a-half hours, in fact.
McAteer was blissfully unaware he was even interviewing for a position on the board, but the end result was a dream come true for a lifelong fan. It seems like McAteer’s flair for success in business follows him into football clubs too as his beloved Tranmere have enjoyed two successive promotions since he joined the club officially.
McAteer’s drive and vision are impressive in their own right, but one of the smartest things he seems to have done is meticulously pick his team that comprises Wrestling Travel. They’re all love wrestling to varying degrees and have the same non-stop work ethic that keeps McAteer and many of his employees travelling around the world on a weekly basis.
On the surface, Wrestling Travel is here to help fans get to the events they’ve always dreamt to see. It’s in the name in a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin kind of way. But, the key difference with Wrestling Travel lies in their commitment to the wrestling industry and its fans at large. It’s a two-fold operation almost that results in the betterment of wrestling full stop.
If you hadn’t deduced this company’s love for the business during this interview, then checking out their social media pages – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – and their website will show you how seriously they take being involved at the heart of the wrestling community. They will tweet nostalgic moments, breaking news and at the same time, their Instagram story will give you highlights from a TNT show or many others that they attend.
“The difference with us is we give a shit. We want to be at the epicenter of the wrestling community. And we are getting there, but I see it in three tiers. We want to back that local wrestling show around the corner with talent that needs to be able to earn their stripes. I want to be a sponsor of that. Then there’s sponsoring people like your TNTs, ICW and the big domestic shows and beyond that, of course, are the AEWs, WWEs and even travelling to Wrestle Kingdom for New Japan, we do all of that and we want to be at the heart of it all.
If you want help getting somewhere or there’s someone you want to meet, we want to try and make that happen. Our Wrestling Travel jackets, for example, are becoming the new Ribera jackets! Bret Hart has one, Natalya wanted one, Cody Rhodes and the list goes on.”
Wrestling Travel wanted to become apart of the furniture in the wrestling industry, but push it forward too. They’ve already done that in a respectful well and one has to guess they are far from done with their US expansion already in full swing.
The Watford-born heavyweight lost his IBF, IBO, WBO and WBA (super) heavyweight titles to the Mexican-American in New York and there had been rumours that AJ was lobbying to go back to the scene of his first defeat to truly right that wrong.
Chief among them was where AJ’s rematch with Ruiz Jr will be. Does Joshua really want to return to Madison Square Garden?
“No, I don’t think so. The problem with AJ is, he doesn’t care,” Hearn said. “He just sees it as a ring. So I’ll say ‘look, we’ve got to make a decision’ and he’ll say ‘yeah, wherever you want it’. And I’ll say ‘No, but you’ve got to make the decision’ and I don’t want to be the guy making it and he’ll say ‘No, seriously, I don’t mind’.
“There’s more money in New York, but it would be amazing to bring it to the UK. And, I think the general consensus of the training team is ‘no, do it in the UK. What are you even thinking about?!’ Because it’s not about the money. He doesn’t need the money. It’s about winning the fight, it’s about the occasion, where is he more comfortable. He says, honestly, a ring is a ring. But honestly, right now, Cardiff [on December 14] looks like the frontrunner.”
WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will be live at the talkSPORT studios next Friday on the Jim White Show, but if you can’t wait till then to hear from one of the biggest names in boxing you can catch the Bronze Bomber in the flesh at the famous ICC Arena in Birmingham on July 27 for his UK tour with Showfighter and Gold Star. talkSPORT will be in attendance so for more details head to eventbrite.co.uk and you can get your tickets From showfighter.co.uk
Below them, Daniel Dubois – another promising heavyweight – had a breakout win over Nathan Gorman, Joe Joyce is marching towards a world title opportunity, while David Price scored his biggest win in recent memory with the stoppage of Dave Allen on Saturday night.
With just one week between their respective shows at the O2, Hearn naturally believes he put on the superior event but he has also welcomed the competition from Warren and his impressive stable of fighters.
“There’s different kinds of levels,” he cheekily claimed. “It’s a bit like when you want to go out for a real great steak. You want prime, wagyu beef in an ideal world – you come to our shows.
“If you want to try and convince yourself that it’s a lovely cut, then you can. If you just want to pop to Angus Steakhouse – other steakhouses do apply – fine.
“[Our events] the creme de la creme. It’s a different type of event. And I thought the event that Frank did at The O2 was really good.”
Warren’s Heavy Duty card was indisputably good with Dubois and Gorman putting on an electric main event that was supported by a fine undercard.
“I think Dubois is a really good heavyweight,” Hearn stated. “Joe Joyce gets a lot of criticism and unfair criticism, really. If you don’t know by now that Joyce is slow and isn’t the greatest to watch… but he’s good and he’s going to be tough to beat. He’s not going to be entertaining to watch and have you on the edge of your seat, but he is a very good heavyweight that will cause a lot of people problems.”
Hearn believes the rivalry between himself and Warren is only good for the boxing business and is one of the reasons the domestic scene is the healthiest it has been in decades.
“I think, always, the competition between promoters is good for the fans. Frank Warren will always try and outdo us and we’ll make sure we stay number one and try and out outdo him, etc. And that’s great for the fans.
“I think what happened before we made a big charge probably a decade ago now, Frank didn’t have any competition. Then we came along and started blowing it out of the park and now he’s coming back and doing his own stuff and that’s great for boxing because if he didn’t do that, maybe I wouldn’t bother and I’d be lazy.”
“And obviously, we’re now doing our thing in America, Italy, Germany and so on, we’re doing 50 shows a year. So that’s why it was important for this Lomachenko card to be in the UK. Because, a lot of criticism from hardcore fans was ‘oh, Hearn’s off to America. He’s doing his shows over there. He doesn’t care about British boxing anymore’.
“So that’s why when you get the opportunity to do a show like this and bring it to the UK fans – the pre-sale at The O2 was crazy and the general sale is today 12pm – and it looks like AJ will land at Cardiff on December 14th, that’s the frontrunner. So we could be in a situation where within five months we’ve got Lomachenko vs Campbell and AJ vs Ruiz II back in the UK and then everyone turns around and says ‘British boxing is on fire!’ again. So, we’ve got to keep everybody happy’.”
WWE, Vince McMahon more specifically, has become somewhat famous for being the land of the giants, once upon a time.
With Andre the Giant the most famous, guys like The Big Show, Undertaker and Braun Strowman has flirted with being in and around seven-foot and WWE has a host of stars six-foot-six and over in their history books.
However, in NXT right now, they have one of the biggest men to ever set foot in the ring.
Stokely Hathaway’s – who has recently been renamed Courtenay Moore, because, you know, WWE – newest client in NXT is the 7-foot-3-inch giant, Jordan Omogbehin.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Omogbehin played basketball at the University of South Florida and made his in-ring debut at a recent NXT live event against Team 3.0.
The 25-year-old tossed his foes around with ease and putting him with a fantastic talker like Moore is sure to be a recipe for success.
Omogbehin was signed around nine months ago and has been working out at the performance center in Orlando and now that he is working live events, a TV debut surely won’t be too far away.
Jimmy Hart is one of the greatest and most recognisable managers in the history of professional wrestling and he will return to WWE screens this Monday as part of the RAW reunion show.
With his speakerphone and patented jacket, Hart has endeared himself to or annoyed audiences for decades and will rightfully be apart of Monday’s festivities.
talkSPORT caught up with the Mouth of the South ahead of his grand return.
“When they called me this past week or so and said ‘hey, we want you o the reunion show that we’re going to have in Tampa, Florida’ and then I started looking at the list and I saw Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Ted Di Biase, Diesel, Razor Ramone, Sgt Slaughter, Booker T, the Boogeyman, Mick Foley, Me – the Mouth of the South – Jerry the King Lawler and plus, they’re adding many many more as we speak now. It’s kind of like the who’s who of wrestling,” Hart said.
“Whatever they want me to do: pop the popcorn, park the cars – I’ll do whatever it takes. It’s all great.”
Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and at the age of 76, he is still one of the finest talkers you will ever meet.
If Hart was able to manage in WWE today, he singled out one team and one solo act that would get his attention.
“I could be managing maybe Elias! I’d love to manage that guy. I think he has so much personality and he’s got a music background the same way Honky Tonk Man did, maybe they’ll let me put a jumpsuit on him, take him to breakfast and cut a hit record.
“Elias is great, but back in the day I used to specialise in tag teams. I had the Hart Foundation, The Nasty Boys, The Rougeau Brothers, Earthquake and Typhoon, Money Inc, The Mega-Maniacs and Terry and Dory Funk. Those were great guys, I really like tag team matches.
“They don’t need a manager, but I really love The Usos. Ah, The Usos are one of my favourite teams, they’re so good,” Hart beamed.
In today’s climate of pro wrestling, there are not too many managers around, certainly not in the same ilk as Hart. We asked why that is.
“You know, the business goes in cycles and it seems like there aren’t many right now, or at least they’re not directly calling themselves managers,” Hart analysed. “Paul Heyman is a master, though. I love Paul Heyman, he’s so good at what he does. I love that little guy Drake Maverick, too. He was managing one of the tag teams [AOP] before they got injured and he’s very entertaining. He does a great job on TV. Maybe one day they’ll start using the managers again, it’s all about timing.”
Hart has seen decades of the wrestling business, but we’re about to experience another boom again with AEW launching a TV show in October and the WWE heading to FOX in the same month.
However, Hart believes WWE will always remain the market leader.
“WWE has always been so strong. It’s the production. I don’t care who puts what company together, you got to have production and Kevin Dunne is the best. Kevin Dunne can take 5,000 people and make it look like 15,000. A lot of other people that try to do production, they take 5,000 people and make it look like 500. It’s amazing how the WWE evolves it’s production and look year-on-year and, of course, the talent is so good too. A ot of these kids come from independent shows and territories, but when they get up to New York, they get a different level of polish.”
Tune in on Monday night for a very special RAW Reunion show featuring a whole host of Hall of Famers and legends alike.
The welterweight division is one of the most stacked in the UFC, but Britain and Jamaica’s Leon Edwards is the refusing to go unnoticed.
‘Rocky’ is 16-3 through his MMA career but is currently on a seven-fight winning streak with names like Donald Cerrone and Gunnar Nelson on his hitlist and he takes on former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Ajos this Saturday at UFC on ESPN 4.
The last time Edwards lost was to now-welterweight champion Kamara Usman nearly four years ago. Now, the only man that is on a better win streak than Edwards himself is the champion.
The 27-year-old, who fights out of Erdington, Birmingham, England, has had to watch many others, including compatriot Darren Till, rise to title shot opportunities instead of him and despite his winning record, he’s still ranked only 12th in the welterweight division.
That has to change. With a win over a former world champion in San Antonio this Saturday, Edwards is on course for some career-changing fights.
talkSPORT caught up with ‘Rocky’ ahead of his clash with RDA.
Hi Leon. How has your camp gone and how are you feeling heading into your big showdown on Saturday?
I’m feeling blessed, I’m feeling good. I’ve had a nice long camp. I came out to San Antonio early to acclimatise to the weather and the time difference, because we’re six hours behind. So, I’m feeling good. It’s hot as hell here [laughs] but it’s been good and I’m looking forward now to going out there and showing the world I’m one of the best fighters in the world. Getting the opportunity to face a former world champion in RDA and to go out there and to stop him, that would prove my case in my quest for a world title shot.
How do you beat someone like RDA?
I’ve visualised many ways to beat him. I’m really focused on making a statement, to be honest with you. He’s a former world champion, he’s tough, he’s fought who he has fought, but I know I’ve got everything needed to beat this man and I’m looking forward to going out there and doing it. I’m younger, fitter, faster, stronger, solid mentally. My journey has brought me to this point to defeat him.
If you are victorious on Saturday, that would be eight victories in a row in the UFC. Fighters have earned title fights for far less in this company. If you do get the job done, how can they deny you anymore?
Exactly! You’ve just answered it for yourself [laughs]. Once I beat a former world champion, how can you deny me? I’m on the second most winning streak in the division compared to the champion so I know beating him puts me right up there for a world title shot anyway. We’ll see after I beat him, but I am just focusing on RDA, going out there and beating him. Once I get my hand raised, we take it from there.
Ahead of your last outing at UFC London, you and that night’s headliner Darren Till got into a verbal war at the press conference. Jorge Masvidal ended up knocking him out that night, did it bother you that you didn’t get the chance to do that?
Not really. It’s nothing personal between me and Darren. It’s not like I hate the man, do you know what I mean? All I wanted to do was prove I am the number one fighter in the UK. That’s all that was. I wish Darren nothing but good health and I’d hope for him to come back soon.
Speaking of Masvidal, he recorded the quickest knockout in UFC history at UFC 239 with his win over Ben Askren. What did you make of it?
Not really much to make of it. He did what he did. I think if they fought 10 out of 10 times that would never happen again. Masvidal charged towards him, Ben ducked into the knee like he was going to shoot on him and it’s just one of those things. It happens. Nothing you can take or give to it. It just happens.
Masvidal has since said he wants to face Conor McGregor or get a title shot next. If you do beat RDA, we know you’d love to get your hands on Masvidal, perhaps in a title eliminator?
Well everyone wants to fight Conor McGregor [laughs], it’s mad. My focus right now is RDA, but Masvidal’s day will come. Whether it’s next, the year after, 10 years from now – wherever I see him, we’re fighting. I’m focused on RDA and after that, I’m focused on a world title shot. If I had to fight Masvidal first, that would be the icing on the cake for me. I could beat him and then go on to [Kamara] Usman.
What should the fans expect from Leon Edwards on Saturday?
The fans should expect a focused Leon Edwards. I really want to stop him. If I stop him, that will prove my case that I’m one of the best fighters in the world and that’s right where I need to be. I’ll prove I’m number one.
CM Punk has been out of wrestling since leaving the WWE in 2014, but he may have just made his most significant step yet towards returning to the industry.
The Voice of the Voiceless will appear at Starrcast III in his hometown of Chicago between August 30 and September 1.
Of course, that’s the same weekend that All Elite Wrestling will run their second big show ‘All Out’ at the Sears Center in Chicago.
Speculation has run rampant since the inception of AEW that Punk may join them. President Tony Khan is known to be a long-time fan of Punk’s.
Couple that with a creative licence he craved for in WWE, being very well paid and working with several of his friends, if a return to wrestling was ever going to appeal to Punk, this would be it.
He’s straight edge. He’s controversial. He’s a former Heavyweight Champion. He’s “The Best in the World” & he’ll have a live mic at Starrcast!#Starrcast is honored to welcome CM Punk to Chicago, Labor Day weekend!
All Elite Wrestling sold 5,000 live tickets for the event and TNT executives were delighted with the event. According to Dave Meltzer, they loved how over the talent was and the passionate crowd.
The Bleacher Report Live buyrate was down between 10-14 percent on Fyter Fest, but that was to be expected given the WWE competition and only two-week gap in shows. B/R Live did get an 18 percent rise in subscriptions though and that’s considered a success.
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