AS stage names go, JD Sassoon is a bit, well, wet. But then James Dowell, of St Annes, has been named after – a hairdresser.
Just why some wrestling promoter inflicted the unlikely moniker upon him has passed into history. But, like Bo Derek’s perm and Pat Sharp’s mullet, James admits the name’s a bit passe.
He’s one half of a local double act out to take the regional wrestling circuit by storm. And the Blackpool Blonds are worth it!
James and fellow wrestler Gil Elkin (Axl Rage in the ring) are a tag team with a trademark ... Blackpool through and through. They out-psyche opponents by shouting up the merits of Blackpool.
One of their training videos on YouTube features a message for The Manchester Massive “direct from their private gym in their native Blackpool”.
Not lads to be trifled with, Sassoon and Thor-lookalike Rage filmed in preparation for bouts in Stockport, Preston and Morecambe this month and next.
As blond moments go, they play with fire – some opponents look twice their size and half their IQ – but James admits: “Get into their head and you’ve got them beat.”
James, 18, drama student at Lancaster University, says theatrics is part of the process.
“You get to know the moves, you’ll get a whisper of what’s coming, you add to the enjoyment and experience for the audience.
“We come out, and have storylines, some continue to the next match, like a grudge with rivals. It’s physical performance art, partly for real, sometimes choreographed, and, believe me, it still hurts, but you act as you’re getting hurt a lot more.”
He’s keen to see Blackpool born again as a base for wrestling at its best as it was back in the day when Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki made old ladies swoon over televised wrestling on Saturday afternoons.
Many of the biggest names called at The Tower, Winter Gardens, Pleasure Beach and for sportsmen’s dinners.
Current homegrown talent includes cage fighter and circuit wrestler Shak Khan, Blackpool’s Beast from the East, wrestling champion of Azad Kasmir, adding Pakistan’s flag to the World Wrestling Alliance’s world heavyweight champion belt he’s possessed since winning in Dubai in 1998, in front of 20,000 spectators.
He explains: “In America, it’s 95 per cent show, five per cent sport, here it’s the other way round.”
Resort-raised wrestling superstar William Regal is an enduring inspiration to James and tag partner Gil, 26.
He’s a big name wrestling toff in America, but, as Darren Matthews Regal, took on all comers at the Pleasure Beach’s wrestling booth.
“He’s awesome,” says James.
He and Gil teamed up to emulate idols in American wrestling ranks, World Wrestling Entertainment and TNA Impact Wrestling.
Charlie Hass and Hulk Hogan are superstars, thanks to the power of television, but the Blackpool Blonds are a long way from having their own toy figurines.
“We tour doing shows as professionals but promote ourselves and British wrestling,” says James.
His mother Bev Vivane adds: “I’m proud of them. They have trained from a young age. It’s kept them out of trouble – fitness is always their focus.
“I’d love to see them make it big. They wrestle solo and also as a tag team. They have the talent to go far. Gil’s in work and James is at university, both are grafters.
“British wrestling lags behind America’s when it comes to sponsors, money and advertising.
“Yet, in every breath, they announce how proud they are to come from Blackpool and love everything about the town.
“They are passionate promoters and even have Blackpool Tower leggings and wear I Love Blackpool T-shirts.”
James says Sassoon’s days are numbered.
“I like the Blonds but I despise my stage name. It’s corny.
“Gil changed his stage name from Ben Rage to Axl. Now that works.
“I started training at 13, all the basics, how to fall safely, the moves. I never liked sport but wrestling’s cool, and not popular cool, which makes it even cooler.
“It’s huge elsewhere but here it’s mostly underground.
“I’m amazed to learn old ladies used to watch the wrestling on telly at weekends – I wish it was like that again because we put on a good show.
“We have wrestled at the Pleasure Beach and Tower – I couldn’t believe being there because I watched the circus as a kid.
“The Tower’s the most beautiful location. We were backstage and it was surreal – we kept stumbling across circus props and saw the cages where the animals used to be.
“I think wrestling is going to make a comeback in Britain. We’re determined to be part of it, leading from the front, winding the competition up with how Blackpool’s best. It may be a gimmick – but we believe it too.
“I come across as the bad guy, a bit confrontational, with the banter about Morecambe being washed up, Blackpool’s better, if we’re in Preston, just look at your football club.
“We keep up to date with what’s happening in Blackpool, and throw in topical references.
“We’ve had people take it very seriously and chuck stuff at us, real stuff. But that’s part of the fun!”
The boys take on Manchester Massives at Future Shock at Stockport Masonic Guildhall on January 29, are at Morecambe’s Carleton February 3, and back at Preston City Wrestling on February 25.
They also have their own Facebook fanbase, www.facebook.com/pages/The-Blackpool-Blonds which links to the YouTube video too.