Bubblegum Interview – “I met Marty Scurll on a train going to wrestle in front of 5 people”

Bubblegum has been an integral part of the British wrestling scene for the past 16 years. He has seen it grow from crowds of 5 people to the phenomenon that it is today.

He is largely considered to be the patriarch of the current crop of stars; having either worked with or trained all the top talent thriving today. We spoke to Bubblegum, real name Pip Cartner, about his battle with depression, the spike in UK wrestling and his dearly missed friend Kris Travis.

The British scene has gone crazy over the last couple of years. What’s it like having wrestled during the barren years?

It’s been 16 years now, so most of my adult life I have been wrestling. I remember when I used to travel 6-7 hours to wrestle in front of five people in Bethnal Green. At the end of this month I am down in Portsmouth for Rev Pro who sell-out for 1000 people. In 10 years or so it has grown massively. It’s a huge payoff. It’s just nice that Britain is getting the recognition it deserves.

This crop of talent is very much the ‘Golden Generation’ for British wrestling. You hear a lot of them speak very highly of you. What is your role to this group of wrestlers?

I still find it weird that people come up to me telling me I was on the first show that they watched and now they are working with me. I think to myself – has time gone that fast, or am I just getting old really fast? I try and keep up with the news guys. This morning I watched Will [Ospreay] and Marty Scurll In New Japan. I joked with Marty on social media, as he was one of the guys I met on the train down to Bethnal Green to wrestle in front of five people, and there he is now in Japan. To be honest I struggle to keep up with them (Laughing) they are too fast and athletic. I just hope that when they are my age now that they can still have a career and have a lot of money. I don’t want them to keep putting their bodies through this.

Would you move up to the next level if the opportunity came along?

If given the chance obviously I would. To work at the very top was why I got in to wrestling. I am a father of three young boys now so when I’m away from Thursday to Sunday it huts as I cant see them. I Facetime them but it’s not the same. So for me, being away for a long period of time messes with my head. But a one-off show I would definitely do. I’d still love to go to Japan, I’d take Japan over the USA. If it happens then it happens but I feel I have done all the things I set out to achieve in British wrestling.

You suffer from depression and you are very open about it on your social media channels. How has it affected your life?

I think it started when I was 14 when my Nan passed away. My Nan being taken away felt unfair and I couldn’t cope. Still to this day I breakdown when I see photos of her. I think wrestling was my savior because I really didn’t like who I was. I hated how I looked. When I looked in the mirror I couldn’t go out as I felt so paranoid. Wrestling helped me because people saw me as Bubblegum not Pip. So when I was away wrestling I didn’t have the anxiety. However, when Monday morning came, and I had to go back to my normal life, that’s when it hit. That comedown from a Sunday to a Monday as a wrestler was so hard. I went from a superstar at the weekend to a normal Joe in a job where people spoke to me like shit. If I’d stayed at that job I would have ended up dead. It was that bad and I hated my life.

Are wrestlers with mental health issues supported in the industry?

Loads. A lot more than people would think. Promoters have messaged me and supported me. They have great understanding. It’s also amazing when the fans message you and ask if you’re ok. They message explaining that they suffer from depression too and they know what I am going through. People from the outside would struggle to understand, but it isn’t nosey when a fan asks how I am, it really helps. For the fans wrestling is their escape. They can go in to a fantasy world and lose themselves for 2-3 hours. I think that one of the reasons British wrestling has blown up is because of the fans.

You were very close to Kris Travis and you still wrestle with his initials on your arm. He is missed tremendously on the British wrestling scene. What kind of a mark did he leave on your life?

Personally in my life it still hurts. When a Facebook reminder pops up with a picture from the past, it really hits home that my friend isn’t here anymore. When I first left my training school he was the very first guy that I wrestled. We both went to Nottingham where Keith Myatt brought us together. He knew we’d have amazing matches. I looked at him, he was so tall and skinny and I was so small and round. We had this match and instantly the connection just blossomed. I used to spend most of my weekends in Sheffield with him. Our paths went separate ways as I became a father and stopped going out after shows. We kept in touch and were close friends. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I was thinking about stopping my in-ring career. I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. I will never forget this, he sent me a long Whats App message saying “I know you’re thinking of leaving but think of it from my point of view. I haven’t got long left. Please keep going.” Then when I read that I thought that he must know something was wrong. This was a year before he passed. He was my inspiration to keep going and that’s why I wear the band. I was about to give up on something that one of my best friends couldn’t do anymore. People say that it’s respectful that I wear the band but in reality he gave me his passion to keep carrying on. When he gave me that my game stepped up. In a way Kris gave me that extra spirit.

Kris was an inspiration for a lot of people in the business not just wrestlers. There was a fan called Callum who was always in and out of hospital. His Mum Sharon was constantly trying to raise money for him and Kris used to do all of the charity events and fundraising. That’s why Kris is so well remembered. At his funeral hundreds of people from all over turned up to pay their respects and thank him for what he had done.

You can follow Bubblegum on Twitter.

You can also donate the Kris Travis fund with the Cavendish Group. Kris gave a great deal to British wrestling and here is an opportunity for fans to give back.