Indie Watch is our regular series that looks at all of the amazing talents working the independent circuits around the world. Some are veterans revitalizing their careers, some are indie prospects hitting their peaks, while others are names to be on the watch for! This edition looks at a British wrestler making his name in China, Middle Kingdom’s Big Sam.
Being a foreigner in China, it can be a bit easy to stand out. That’s especially true when you’re legitimately 6’4″ and 265 pounds. Given his size and background (an amateur wrestling and a brief stint in the UK pro wrestling scene), it’s easy to see why Big Sam has been part of the Chinese pro wrestling scene, seemingly since its beginning. A recap of his career in the country, almost sounds like a brief history of wrestling in China in general.
Trained under Orig Williams and “The Iron Man” Mike Roberts, the Chester UK native was eager to bring his passion for wrestling to the Middle Kingdom when he arrived to study in 2007. Unfortunately for him, pro wrestling didn’t really have any sort of presence in China until 2012. There were a few promoters doing things here and there, but it was difficult to find shows consistently. Because of this, Sam was unable to do anything involving his passion until attending a stand-up comedy show, where a comedian compared his size to that of Hulk Hogan. After the show, Sam and the comedian spoke, and this is where Big Sam was introduced to Hong Kong Wrestling Federation. HKWF is run by Ho Ho Lun, a competitor in the original WWE Cruiser Weight Classic.
In 2012, HKWF was still very new, Ho Ho Lun was building his roster and training much of the talent himself. Traveling from his home in Shenzhen to Hong Kong on a weekly basis was not something Sam could do, so Lun informed him of a wrestling school in Dongguan. The man who ran the school, The Slam, is a man we have covered on this site before. The Slam founded China Wrestling Entertainment in 2004 and started a training school to coincide with it. Beginning to work with CWE in 2013, Big Sam quickly became a popular topic of discussion in Chinese wrestling circles.
Early CWE shows often didn’t have storylines, but when it became time to add them, The Slam decided that Sam would be a heel known as the Aryan Beast. Though the giant foreign heel with a Chinese mouthpiece caught on, the name didn’t. Soon 大力 Sam was born. 大力士 (pronounced da li shi) is the Chinese translation of Hercules or strongman, and 大 simply means big.
Everything hasn’t been rainbows in Big Sam’s time in China, however. Like many other wrestlers, Sam eventually found himself in contact with Paul Wang. Many who have worked in wrestling in China have referred to Paul Wang as “The Drunken Boss.” The Drunken Boss thought of himself as the Chinese Vince McMahon. Unfortunately for him, no one else agrees with the sentiment. His wrestling promotion, China National Wild Wrestling Entertainment, was named surely with the intention of including the letters WWE. Since foreign wrestlers the size of Sam were in high demand, Wang offered him a full-time position with CNWWE, at half of his salary in Shenzhen. Sam declined but instead decided to work on a pay-per-appearance deal.
The first two shows he booked Sam on, Wang canceled after the talent was already in town. Since he was there, Sam trained with the talent, and then went to dinner with The Drunken Boss, who proceeded to spend more time asking about Sam’s line of work at the time, rather than professional wrestling. Soon after, the Chongqing based promotion folded, leaving many wrestlers, both foreign and local, without jobs. Apparently many wrestlers didn’t have the foresight to turn down Wang’s offer.
In 2014, Sam suffered another major setback, this time injury related. “My road to recovery has been bumpy. I suffered a torn pec, which after attachment took a very long time to feel right. Then a bone screw that was used to reattach the pec muscle came out and caused a huge infection, which led to my second and third surgery.
I know I’m not as strong as before, and I sometimes get caught off guard when lifting and moving with it. However, I do see my journey from surgery bed back to wrestling as something that I am proud of. I was at an all-time low when I tore my pec and I had, in my mind, kind of written off ever wrestling again, but the doctors had done a good job and after several months I began lifting again and being more agile. I remember doing my first push up after the surgery and my wrists cracked and a little bit of bleeding occurred from the wrist area. When that happened, I knew it would be a long and steady road back to getting in shape.”
In 2015, Adrian Gomez would start Middle Kingdom Wrestling. It was a no-brainer to bring in Da Li Sam at this point, but there was a wrench thrown into the plan. At the time, Sam was still recovering from the surgery. Sam pitched the idea of appearing as a bodyguard for other talents. Gomez went for the idea, booking Big Sam in the corner of Black Mamba and Voodoo. MKW had two shows in two days, where they shot their first season of content. Between these two shows and their next, Da Li Sam would find himself continuing to appear with The Slam’s CWE. During this time, he would change his name to Big Sam.
Big Sam has been one of the key names for the MKW roster since the debut. Along with Uncle Money, Ash Silva, Chairman Al, and Lady Marie, he is a member of The Stable, who consistently get some of the biggest reactions each and every show. When I asked MKW founder, owner, and promoter Adrian Gomez to share his thoughts on Big Sam, and what he means to MKW he had the following to say.
“It is no doubt that the MKW World Championship is the most prestigious pro wrestling championship in all of China today. Big Sam has had the most defenses of any past MKW champion and arguably against some of the most high-level challengers in the business today. It would simply be wrong to disagree that Big Sam has had the most dominant MKW World Championship reign in the history of Middle Kingdom Wrestling and has set the bar high for all pro wrestlers who hold any pro championship in this region.”
With such high praise coming from the man in charge, some might be surprised by Big Sam’s response when asked about his future in pro wrestling. “I do hope to return back to tag team again if my singles run ever ends.”
While China doesn’t currently have much of a tag team wrestling scene, The Stable could quickly change that. Uncle Money and Big Sam have teamed together, most often in bigger, multi-man tags, but the two have discussed taking a tag team a bit further. “I feel with his look and my look, we look different, but similar in the fact that we’re both two big guys. I think we could get far with it in Asia.” As both Gomez and Big Sam have noted, the way fans react to wrestling in China still feels like something out of the 1980s or 1990s, the idea of two teaming would be a perfect callback to the tag scene of those days. Citing the Legion of Doom, Demolition, and Powers of Pain as teams that would influence the duo, I’m inclined to agree that the Chinese wrestling audience would love to see the team.
With MKW heading to Nepal, you can expect to see Big Sam in the ring taking on David. If he comes out of Nepal with the MKW World Championship still around his waist, he has challengers lined up, including Michael Su and Cam Ferguson. Whether it’s as the champion or a member of a tag team or whatever else the future may hold, one thing is clear. Much like in the past several years, Chinese wrestling fans can look forward to seeing a lot of Big Sam.