Adebayo Akinfenwa, who rose to prominence online following a video made my YouTuber KSI showcasing the footballers strength on the videogame FIFA went viral, recently announced his retirement from football following a 20 year career playing football. Akinfenwa’s physique has always made him stand out amongst most footballers, and it now appears as though he’ll be putting his strength as he prepares to enter a new sporting world.
Speaking to Lewis Browning of The Daily Mail, Akinfenwa revealed that he’s set to make his pro-wrestling debut for PROGRESS on Sunday October 23, as he’ll be accompanying Anthony Ogogo to the ring for his upcoming bout with Malik. The 40 year-old revealed that a career in pro-wrestling has always been on his mind, and now that he’s retired from football, he’s ready to give it his all.
“I was always asked when I was coming to retirement what I was looking to do and the response was always new experiences. I was lucky enough to do the thing I love for 22 years but it was a profession. When you retire, it’s just freedom and experiences. It’s always been in the background because of my love for wrestling. I’ve known Anthony Ogogo for a while, years. We came across each other when he was a boxer and stayed in contact and the wrestling thing never went away. He unfortunately couldn’t box anymore and he found that love with wrestling and he hit me up and said: “Listen, you want to try a few bits?” When you find something that you enjoy it makes it a little bit easier. But then the mindset is to try new things and if it lands, it lands. I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed the workouts, I enjoy that it’s intense.”-Adebayo Akinfenwa
Ogogo turned to wrestling in 2019 upon his retirement from boxing, and has been a regular for All Elite Wrestling whilst also maintaining a presence across the UK independent scene.
The former boxer will face Malik at PROGRESS Chapter 145 – Wrestling Witch Face – Trick or Treat at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, and whilst Akinfenwa acknowledged that the pair have developed quite the rivalry during training, he also admitted that he didn’t hesitate to accept Ogogo’s offer when he requested back-up.
“We are part of the same agency, when he first came on the scene boxing in the Olympics we came across each other then. He won’t admit it, but I think he always wanted to be as big as me, cause he’s a lightweight, so he started banging in the gym. But I saw the process of how big he got and we’ve worked out a few times together. This is more his domain than mine but he’s showing me a few tricks. I go to bat for my people. Any of the Wycombe players could call me and I’d do that. When he gave me the call that people were trying to trouble him there was only going to be one response. They were cool once, and it’s like when you go up against a defender and he starts talking that he wants the smoke, it starts getting under your skin a little bit and I’m expecting it to get techy. No matter how techy it gets, me and Ogogo will be there, so any way it goes, we will handle it.”-Adebayo Akinfenwa
Ogogo isn’t the only well-known pro-wrestler that Akinfenwa has been mixing it up with at the gym lately, as before WWE’s UK pay-per-view ‘Clash At The Castle’ last month, he trained with former WWE Champion Sheamus.
As evidenced by his physique, as well as his “Too Big To Play Football” and “Beast Mode” slogans, Akinfenwa is no stranger to a tough gym session, although he revealed during this interview that his experience training with Sheamus was a step up from what he’s used to.
“I tried it, and I ain’t going to lie, it hurts. Anybody that watched me play football knows that when I went down it took me a while to get up, and it takes me even longer to get up in wrestling when I try to move. The training is training, but there are different body things that hurt. Normally I’m the person that pushes people on the floor, but I’m finding myself going on the floor a lot more now. I enjoy my weights, I still do the bike. I’m working for BT and they cover wrestling. They know I enjoy wrestling and he was coming over. I enjoyed the workout with him, it’s funny because there’s an element of entertainment but when you’re in the gym it’s real work, and that’s what it was.”-Adebayo Akinfenwa
Akinfenwa continued, emphasising that despite the scripted nature of pro-wrestling, he’s well aware of serious risks stepping into the ring can bring.
“I’ve talked to Anthony, I’ve seen him have surgery. It’s real. Regardless of the entertainment that goes in, you get injured. You will see the statement: “Don’t do this at home”, and you have to practice, you have to work on it, you have to know that you are going to get injured somewhere down the line, that was a conversation we had. That’s the thing people sometimes don’t understand. Broken ribs, broken shoulder, broken eye socket, that’s stuff that happens in the sport. Even me, you have to do your due diligence, it really isn’t like anyone can do it and I am really seeing that.”-Adebayo Akinfenwa
Despite only retiring from football at the end of last season, Akinfenwa already has a number of other commitments on his plate, and thus he’s not sure where his journey in pro-wrestling will lead him. Regardless, he’s willing to give it his all and see whether it’s the right move for him.
“I have a lot of things happening at the moment and I always knew that would be the way. Depending on how the process goes, I’ll always say you can only take it a step at a time and that’s what I want to do. If it’s the longevity I’m all for it, and if it’s one wrestling match and hopefully one win then so be it. For me it’s more enjoying the process and seeing where it lands. My aim, like anything I do in life, is to perform on the highest stage possible. I go into anything to put my best foot forward and to get as high as possible. That’s how it was as a footballer and that’s how it’ll be in any walk of life I go into.”-Adebayo Akinfenwa
Closing, Akinfenwa noted that a career in pro-wrestling has always been lingering in the back of his mind, and its an announcement he’s excited to share with his former Wycombe teammates.
“Nobody has really heard about it yet. But it’s always been synonymous with me when I was playing, it’s been lingering. I’m going to see the boys at Wycombe on Saturday and I’m sure they’re going to talk about it, so if they don’t win the game I may have to body slam one of them. If there’s a scrap on the pitch, I’ll ask one of them to tag me in!”-Adebayo Akinfenwa
Whether or not Akinfenwa’s experience at next Sunday’s PROGRESS show sparks a late career in the business for the big man remains to be seen. The former striker has made no secrets in the past of his love for the business and his desire to compete in WWE, and so we wish him all the best as his wrestling career gets underway.