As with the whole of professional wrestling, 2020 has been a year filled with ups and downs for Cara Noir, real name Tom Dawkins. The Black Swan Of British Wrestling started the year by capturing the PROGRESS Unified World Championship and winning wXw 16 Carat Gold, but he has spent much of 2020 locked down because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
I had the chance to catch up with Cara Noir recently to talk about his recent return to the ring in wXw Catch Grand Prix 2020 and much more. Check it out below:
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Aidan: I know it's been a rough year, but what has been your favourite moment of 2020 from a career standpoint?
Cara Noir: 2020 was a pretty wild ride for me. Going from in 2019, being like kind of this weird enigma that people knew about but didn't really know much about because the platforms that I was wrestling on before weren't that big. Whereas, going from the NPS [Natural Progression Series] with PROGRESS, before that wrestling PAC in 2019, and then 2020 everything changed. I won the PROGRESS Title, and then going to Germany for the first time and having the opportunity to wrestle in front of a completely new crowd, showcase what I do in a tournament structure and then win it, it seems unreal.
Where I can go back to 2019 and I look back and I was genuinely upset when Wembley happened and all my friends were there and I wasn't involved in that big PROGRESS event. To fast forward a year later, I'm now holding the biggest title in the country and then I go to Germany and win the biggest tournament.
Aidan: Did you know in advance you were going to win wXw 16 Carat Gold or was it sort of sprung upon you on the day?
Cara Noir: So I kind of have this thing where I like to thread storylines, especially when I'm wrestling. Even if it lasts two matches, I feel that there's something that threads through. And I said to them, 'I've got a few ideas, so if it ends up going towards semi-finals, finals, I've got a few things that I'd like to cover.' But I said to them, 'Don't tell me what I'm doing.'
So every day I turned up at the venue and then found out, 'Oh, I'm wrestling this person. Oh, this is the match that we're going to have.' So, I was like, 'Oh okay. That's cool.' And then the last day I was like, 'Oh Eddie Kingston, that's great. Oh, I beat Eddie Kingston.' Then I was like, 'Oh, now I have to wrestle Speedball [Mike Bailey] and now I'm in the final.'
So yeah, I kind of asked them nicely not to tell me what was going on just because I enjoyed the ride and then it becomes more special. Rather than fixating on the end result, I get to fixate on every single story as we go.
Aidan: Since 16 Carat Gold you have returned to wXw. What was it like going to Germany in the middle of these pandemic times and staying over there?
Cara Noir: Germany's got their s**t together. They had this whole set up. They had protocols. They had a government body come and visit the venue to check that everyone was safe, which I was like, 'Wow, this is incredible.' They had a very small audience that were the same audience every day, because it was over a three day period of these tapings.
It was a shock to the system for me physically. Not wrestling for six months and then going to wrestle was kind of like returning home but then also feeling like taking your first bump. Actually, I say that, the first one wasn't too bad. It was the second one I was like, 'Oh God. This really hurts. I'd forgotten how much this hurts.' So, yeah, it was a baptism by fire really. It was genuinely quite frightening to step back into the ring without any preparation. The only other break I've ever had in wrestling was probably nine weeks when my daughter was born, so having a six-month break and then going back into wrestling was really daunting.
I was quite frightened and quite nervous stepping into the ring for the first time because I thought, 'I don't want to get hurt because I'm not conditioned enough for wrestling I don't think.' And as soon as I entered the ring, I did my entrance for the first time in six months and I kind of got swept up in the emotions of being there. In front of a very small audience, but I could still feel that energy and I was happy just to be there and I think they could feel that.
And I went down, span down into my position before I come up and do the big wing pose, and I tweaked my knee on the way down. I haven't done it for six months and I rolled my knee and then had to wrestle the rest of the weekend with a tweaked knee.
Aidan: Is there any news on when we can expect PROGRESS to return?
Cara Noir: I don't know whether there's anything written down. Things are always changing. They have had plans previously but we'll just have to see what the rest of the year brings or what next year brings. Fingers crossed there is a lot of opportunity. I've got a lot of things written down but wrestling is what I like to say is hypothetical at the minute. It looks like a busy year in theory in 2021 but, again, so was 2020. That was meant to be really busy.
Aidan: You have been involved in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling and their inquiry into British Wrestling. How did you become involved with that?
Cara Noir: When the whole Speaking Out thing happened, I felt that it was my role and responsibility to listen to everything that had come out and not share necessarily my thoughts and opinions because I felt that it took away from what was actually being discussed. I'm not there to get likes or make myself look like a hero.
But what I did then do is discuss with people like James Amner, who's having meetings with Pete Dunne, and other different fringe groups and try and pull everyone together. I was talking to Equity behind the scenes. And with work with PROGRESS and then working with MPs, I was able to actually get my foot in the door and have discussions with them. And I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes. At this point, it is an inquiry and nothing may come of it but I'm hoping that something does and something can be done.
I feel like if I go into what I'm hoping then I might be setting myself up to say, 'This is what must happen.' And I think it's not about leaving it up to them [MPs] but helping them essentially guide our future and safety. Because it's not about necessarily protecting me. I am now in a position where I can say no to things, but definitely, when I first started I wasn't. I worked for a very bad company for a long period of time and I was able to navigate that. Luckily, because I have a background in martial arts and I'm a man and I'm white etc. I have these things where I would turn up, do my job and leave and not get involved in anything because purely I wanted to wrestle, but I don't want people to have to go through that themselves.
Aidan: One place that is currently running is WWE, of course, and NXT UK. They've been looking to add to their roster recently. Did they approach you at all?
Cara Noir: Never say never. We've had conversations. It's not always right. I have other aspirations and things that I want to do. I'm currently fully self-employed but I have other businesses and other interests. We run a gymnastics company. I teach adults gymnastics with my partner. We are also running an inquiry into gymnastics. My partner is spearheading a campaign to discuss elements of abuse in British Gymnastics and she's involved in a class action [lawsuit] against British Gymnastics.
I have had discussions with them but it's not necessarily right for this point. Wrestling is my passion and it was my job before we got locked down [laughs]. But also I have a lot of other interests and other businesses that I would feel like at the minute I would have to hand to someone else if that happened.
Aidan: What are you hoping to accomplish in 2021?
Cara Noir: I really struggle, especially at the minute, I'm really struggling looking into the future and going, 'This is what I want to do.' Because at the minute I don't want to get my hopes up and then it be dashed. Really, what I would love to do is simply be exposed to a bigger audience. And the beauty for me is while I have been locked down, PROGRESS particularly, and wXw have been put on the [WWE] Network and they're putting their product on the Network. So, that means more people get an opportunity to see what I do even though I'm not actively wrestling.
I think that the biggest thing is I feel like I've started to showcase my talents in this country, in Europe, but now I feel that I would like to go further afield and wrestle in the US. You mentioned about WWE and NXT UK. I feel that there's so much more I can do before I go there.
Aidan: So would you be looking to go to the US next year if the world gets back to normal?
Cara Noir: Yeah, if the world gets back to normal and they let me in then yeah, of course [laughs]. But yeah, that would be a big goal. I would love to see how my act and how people respond to what I do in the US. And to be able to do what I do in an American-style grand space.
I always think the entrance was originally designed to be done in big arenas and big venues. When I did it for the first time in Ally Pally [Alexandra Palace], I got home and watched the hand footage that my partner shot from the back of the room and then I cried because I was like, 'This is why it was designed. It wasn't designed to be in little tiny working men's clubs. It was meant to be in this setting.' And now it’s starting to come together.
Thanks to Cara Noir for taking the time. You can follow The Black Swan Of British Wrestling here and if you want to buy any merch ahead of Christmas, you can visit caranoir.com. Also, if you want to do some gymnastics in your living room with Cara Noir click here.