EAGLE-eyed wrestling fans were in for a surprise in the early hours of Monday morning as a flurry of Grimsby Town themed signs appeared during the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Fast Lane show in Memphis, TN.
They were courtesy of Andrew Newman (24), a long-time Mariners’ supporter, who WWE fans will have spotted sporting Town-related signs and shirts at other big events, such as WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble.
But it may come as a surprise to many that Andrew isn’t from Grimsby but actually resides in Scotland, as he revealed when we spoke to him before the Telford game on Tuesday night.
He said: “I live just outside Edinburgh but my mum and dad are from Grimsby, so that is where the affiliation to the Mariners comes from.
“I went to my first game in 1993, so I have enjoyed plenty of good memories in the Championship over the years.
“Up until this season I got to about five home games a season but I have been to most home games this season.”
And the 600-mile round journey means that each home game is a marathon trek for Andrew.
He continued: “The train journey is about five hours each way, so it is ten hours in total.
“It is a long trip but always worth it to come and see the games.”
Away from football, Andrew began watching WWE in 2000, at the height of the company’s most popular period, the Attitude Era, when top stars like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Triple H ruled the wrestling roost.
And, like most fans of the American extravaganza, his dream was to go to travel to the States and attend WWE’s flagship event, WrestleMania, which is something he achieved in 2012.
He recalled: “I started watching wrestling in 2000 and I had always wanted to go to WrestleMania because it is the biggest event of the year.
“That opportunity came in 2012 when I went to Miami to watch WrestleMania XXVIII.”
The event was headlined by the first-time clash between wrestling icons The Rock and John Cena but it also marked the debut of Andrew’s Grimsby Town related signs.
He continued: “My friend is an Ayr United fan, so we decided to go in our football shirts to the show because they are two of the lesser known teams.
“But we were quite far back and it would be hard to pick them out on screen, so I decided to write a sign, which you can just see in the background throughout the show.”
Andrew’s ‘Hearn for England’ sign was a homage to the Mariners’ striker who was leading the Blundell Park scoring charts at the time but, at recent events, the 24-year-old has gone even further with his Grimsby related support.
Fast forward two years to 2014 and Andrew attended WWE’s Hell in a Cell show from Dallas, TX in October and it was here that the famous black and white stripes cropped up for the first time.
He said: “I was looking on Stub Hub a few days before the show and noticed you could still get quite good tickets for the event.
“So my friend and I decided to head to Dallas and this time I wore my Grimsby shirt.
“I got on screen quite often and a few fans picked up on it on social media, so I decided I would carry on doing it at future events I attended.”
This year, Andrew has been to WWE’s two biggest shows of the year so far, January’s Royal Rumble in Philadelphia and last Sunday’s Fast Lane in Memphis.
He added: “I was in the first few rows at the Royal Rumble and held my Town shirt up quite a lot so it got on TV and again social media was picking up on it, so I knew it was something I wanted to continue, to get the club noticed more than anything else.”
With the Mariners being backed by a 1,000-strong inflatable army at Barnet last Saturday, Andrew was thousands of miles away in a hotel room listening to the game, but it was the 3-1 win that sparked his bevy of signs at Sunday night’s event.
He said: “I was listening to the game and was a little disappointed at 1-1 because we had dominated the match.
“But then the two goals went in during injury time and you could feel the atmosphere through the radio and the descriptions of the inflatables was amazing.
“I tweeted Jon-Paul Pittman about his goal and how USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann was looking on and when he replied that got me thinking about Fast Lane and signs I could make.
“So I went to the nearest Walmart and purchased a pack of large card and some marker pens and went back to my hotel room to write the signs out.”
He continued: “So I started holding the different signs up throughout the show.
“I always try to purchase tickets near the front of an event and to get on the hard camera side, so I knew at Fastlane that people would be able to see my signs but I must admit that I was a little overwhelmed by the response on Twitter!”
Some of the signs that caught the eye were: ‘His Name is a Shop’, in tribute to striker Lenell John-Lewis, ‘Disley 8’, ‘Palmer 33’, ‘Thank You Fenty’ and ‘Barnet 1 Grimsby 3 Hahaha’ and now Andrew, who is planning to attend next month’s WrestleMania 31 in San Francisco, is asking Mariners’ fans to come up with their suggestions and tweet them to him @gtfcnewman.
He added: “I’m in the first few rows at WrestleMania so I should be able to get my signs and shirt on screen, if anyone has any suggestions just tweet me and I will see what I can do.”
Some of the WWE’s top stars are avid football fans themselves, so we could see a day where one of the grapplers is backing the Mariners? Current WWE Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett is a supporter of hometown club Preston North End and former WWE Champion Sheamus backs Liverpool.
Andrew said: “There are not too many British or Irish wrestlers in WWE and I don’t know whether we can expect anyone from Grimsby to head to the States or whether any of the guys would choose to support the Mariners – but you never know.”
On the flip side of that, former Port Vale goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson went to America to sign with WWE in late-2013 and is rumoured to be taking part in the company’s Tough Enough, a programme for aspiring wrestlers, which is due to hit screens later this year.
So could we be looking at future WWE superstars like Lenny ‘The Shop’ John-Lewis or James ‘The Big Cat’ McKeown swapping their football boots for tights and the pitch for the squared circle in the near future? Andrew has one popular Mariner in mind.
He said: “I’m not sure about any of the current squad being wrestling fans but I think Carl Magnay might be.
“He was tweeting me during the Royal Rumble and it seems like he really enjoyed the signs.
“I’d love to be wearing one of Carl’s shirts to WrestleMania!”
Despite his regular presence at WWE’s biggest shows, Andrew is modest when it comes to his support of wrestling. Long-time fans of the American genre will recall regular crowd members who were dubbed ‘Super Fans’ during the mid-90s, such as Vladimir, a bespectacled, muscular New Yorker who attended most shows in the late-80s and 90s or even Ellis Mbeh, who went viral on social media last year with his reaction to the Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak coming to an end at the hands of Brock Lesnar.
“I only really watch RAW (WWE’s main TV programme, broadcast in the UK live in the early hours of Tuesday mornings),” Andrew stated.
“I don’t watch SmackDown or any of the other shows and I don’t have a subscription to the WWE Network (the company’s online on demand video archive).
“I like attending the big shows because of the atmosphere – that is what WWE is all about to me.
“I am going to a show in Glasgow when WWE comes over for its UK tour in April and I have tickets for RAW in London but I am not sure if I can make that show.
“If I can then I will have some more Mariners’ related signs with me to show on TV.”
But when it comes to the thrill of seeing the Mariners victorious against the pageantry of WrestleMania, Andrew admits there is only one victor.
“I would pick seeing the Mariners win any day of the week,” he declared.
“They are my team and there’s no better feeling than seeing them win.
“Previously it would only be Grimsby fans and followers of Conference football who would notice my signs but now hopefully more people will be aware and they can check out how the team are doing.
“I’m hoping that we can end the season with promotion – it would be nice to go up in the Play Offs at Wembley in front of a big crowd that gives WrestleMania a run for its money.”