Star Struck - RIP Kris Travis (FSM 125 - Oct 2015)
THE EARLY YEARS
El Ligero: Kris was at either the first or second training session I went to, so we worked a lot of shows together in the early years. We’d done one charity show at a fairground where the pay-off was free access to the rides and food, which was okay because we wanted to get as many bookings as we could. When we were booked on another charity show “in a fairground” in Lincolnshire, we thought it would be the same thing, but it took ages to find the place. It turned out to be a little garden sale in what was effectively a big driveway, and we passed all these tables of second-hand books and ornaments to eventually find a tiny 12-foot ring at the bottom. It had been sat there for hours, so the canvas was roasting hot, there were no seats, probably 10 to 15 people watching, and there was broken glass around the ring.
I think that was my first singles match with Kris.
We always used to joke with each other that for years we had no chemistry in the ring; we were so obsessed with getting stuff in, and we had a friendly rivalry, doing backflips and trying to outdo each other to the detriment of the match. It was a good few years before it clicked, and we realised we have to work with each other to help the match.
Martin Kirby: We were never meant to team up. Kris was doing a mystery partner storyline on the next 1PW show, but it wasn’t supposed to me. However, on one of the smaller 1PW trainee shows, Kris was working with Tracy Smothers, who I’d driven about a lot on a previous visit. Tracy demanded I come in to the ring for a dance-off spot, and Kris and I did such a ridiculous routine that people online started demanding I be picked as his mystery partner.
It’s quite often overlooked how much real partnership there is in a tag team. You work together on ideas, your look, your tag team offence, and you have to be on the same wavelength about how the matches will go. It was never much effort with Kris; we were very natural, and hit it off because our characters complemented each other, and the fans could see that.
Some of our best ideas came from stupid jokes we came up with to fill time while travelling.
IN THE RING
Referee Craig Anderson: Kris was in one of the first big matches I refereed. A few minutes in, there was a “double down” (both wrestlers lying hurt on the mat) so I started the count and got to five pretty quick. Then, from the canvas below I hear, pretty loud, “Slow the fuck down!” After that, the counts were very, very slow!
On that first night, I was a nobody and Trav had been around for 10-plus years, yet he made me feel like a superstar. He was excellent and gave me advice I still carry out to this day.
PCW cruiserweight champion Bubblegum: My best memory with Kris was headlining an NBW show in a Streetfight that had been building for months. We used tables, cooking trays, a Hoover and even an ironing board. Still, to this day, that match will always be my favourite, and the match that brought our friendship even closer.
AOW booker and PCW commentator Greg Lambert: I commentated on his comeback match against Sha Samuels. That night, Trav told an incredible and emotional story, and his selling was exceptional. It was like watching Shawn Michaels when he returned from back surgery in 2002; like Shawn, Trav knew he had physical limitations, and couldn’t throw himself around at a non-stop pace like he used to, so he worked smartly with mannerisms, body language, and made every move mean something. The result was a match I will personally never forget.
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Martin Kirby: Other wrestlers used to joke that no matter how ridiculous an idea was, we were the two guys who could pull it off. We dressed as our opponents or the Ego World Order; we did a match wrapped entirely in bubble-wrap; Kris went backstage during a six-man against Lion Kid and came back dressed as a monkey!
There was always a time and a place. You had to decide if you were going to do the whole match as comedy. With the monkey bit, we did it early in the match so that we could then turn things around and get more serious at the business end. When we worked with Grado and Mad Man Manson, we knew the whole thing would be comedy, so all four of us could start a conga line. You can’t turn around and start doing big moves after that – it’s past the point of no return!
PROGRESS co-owner Jim Smallman: Project Ego and T-Bone versus The Bhangra Knights and Grado at a PROGRESS show was one of the funniest matches that I have ever seen live. At one point, my laughter from that hurt me nearly as much as my beating from Jimmy Havoc later on. You could see Trav and Kirby trying desperately to make T-Bone break character and laugh. That match was then eclipsed by the one they had on the next show, against Grado and Mad Man Manson, where every single person in the Garage had tears of laughter streaming down their face.
BEHIND THE SCENES
UK veteran Ruffneck: Backstage, myself, Kris and Joey Hayes would have this imaginary finishing move called The DNA. To this day, we still don’t know what it is or what it looks like, but we knew it sounded great and would be the most awesome move of all-time. If one of us was going through matches backstage, then you can guarantee that Kris, me or Joey would interrupt one another and say, “Stop there, just duck one and DNA!” and then your train of thought was ruined because we would just laugh at our pathetic joke.
Manager Melanie Price: You’ll get lots of heart-warming stories, I’m sure, but I just want people to know: Kris Travis is possibly the most annoying person I’ve ever met. Backstage at shows, his antagonising was constant. His favourite party piece was taking my photo when I wasn’t paying attention (and usually looking worse for wear). I would only realise when it was too late: when he had uploaded it and tagged me in it on Twitter! My revenge tactics were never as good.
Kris made me laugh, made me furious, taught me a lot, and was there for me in low moments. An amazing wrestler, but more importantly he is a man with so much courage, and a huge heart.
El Ligero: Travelling with him was never boring, never dull. With some trips you run out of stuff to talk about after a couple of hours, but that never happened with him, not even on five or six-hour trips.
KRIS TRAVIS, THE MAN
Jim Smallman: He told me about his illness at a gig in Sheffield, and I remember being gutted, not just because it was happening to a mate but also because it seemed so unfair to be happening to a lad who was in his prime. I recall Trav – this is the kind of lad he is – was worried about telling me because I’d lost my mum to cancer earlier that year. He approached his illness with a bravery and a sense of humour that I certainly wouldn’t have been able to muster.
Wrestler and PWE owner Lionheart: His passion for wrestling was matched only by his passion for his friends. I remember when I got injured, Trav – along with a couple of other close friends – fell asleep on the hospital floor because he refused to leave my side. He’ll never know just how much that really meant to me.
El Ligero: He’s just funny. No matter what is going on with him, he has the ability to put a positive and humorous spin on it. There was a time when he had a notoriously short temper in matches if something went wrong, but listening to him rant about it on the way home, it was always done in an upbeat way.
Martin Kirby: Even in the later stages before he first got diagnosed with cancer, he was completely on fire. He had an incredible match with Marty Scurll about a month before the diagnosis, and he was already very ill at that point. Even in the match with Mark Andrews for British Bootcamp when he was even closer to being diagnosed, he was so good that he was selected to go to America.
Even in the face of severe illness, he was always someone who was willing to sacrifice his own well-being in the name of entertainment, and looked to put on the best show possible.
Photograph by Robbie Boyd / Warrior Photography