ANONYMOUS NO MORE: A-KID LOOKS BACK ON THE ONE MATCH THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE FOREVER

TEXT BY:  FRANCESCO “FRANK” MANDOLINI

This is the story of a specific point in time—a day, a match, and a moment that turned out to be pivotal for both a young man’s wrestling career and for wrestling as a whole in his native country. And here’s the kicker: On that same day, he was ready to quit the business for good.

The wrestler in question is NXT U.K.’s own A-Kid, the reigning WWE Heritage Cup champion, who, just as he was entering the ring in his native Madrid to face a still-unsigned Ricochet, made peace with the idea that this could have been his last wrestling match ever. “Worst case scenario, I’d quit anyway,” he said to himself, as he made his way into the squared circle.

But let’s press pause here for a moment and rewind the tape back just a little. Sliding doors moments—where something huge emerges from something small and seemingly inconsequential— happen in life (and wrestling) all the time. What makes this one so peculiar is that it happened in Madrid, Spain, a place quite far away from any traditional wrestling hotbed.

A-Kid was born and bred in Vallecas, a workingclass suburb of the Spanish capital where inhabitants are more likely to religiously watch the matches of their local soccer team, the Rayo Vallecano, than they are to turn on the TV to catch Monday Night Raw or Smackdown. In fact, those shows aren’t even an option on Spanish national TV.

But on that fateful day in January 2017, A-Kid had an appointment with destiny—the showdown that effectively put him on the map worldwide, starting his unlikely journey to NXT U.K.

The young, athletic A-Kid was handpicked to face Ricochet—the first big, international wrestler to work for the Madrid-based promotion White Wolf Wrestling (Triple W)—inside the Tabacalera, a ramshackle venue in Lavapiés, one of the most historical, culturally diverse, and vibrant neighborhoods of Madrid. The public venue, with its corridors, arcs, and columns, is generally used by the local government for concerts, events, and art exhibits. On that night, it played host to the match that changed A-Kid’s life.

After entering the ring to the strains of Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” and the chants of “Niño Anonimo” (Anonymous Kid), the Spanish grappler locked eyes with a young lady standing ringside, rolled out of the ring, and kissed her. This was Sara Leon, A-Kid’s girlfriend and fellow wrestler.

“I almost never think about my entrance beforehand,” he recalled. “But her being there for me in that moment helped lots. I needed to do something to tell her I loved her.”

The match itself was an incredible performance by both men involved. “I had no pressure going in,” A-Kid said. “I just wanted to have fun and check if I was able to hang with the best independent wrestler in the world.” Spoiler alert: The “Anonymous Kid” from Vallecas succeeded.

At the time, he didn’t even realize how much this match would change his life. As buzz around the match spread on social media, A-Kid was oblivious, not having any social media accounts himself. His tag partner, Carlos Romo, informed him that people were talking about the match online. “How many people?” A-Kid asked. “Five?”

And it’s with this kind of humility that A-Kid started to follow Ricochet’s advice: “Travel the world, wrestle the best, and learn from them.” Doing that, he succeeded in something that no Spanish wrestler before him ever did: landing a WWE contract. 

Fast forward to November 2020, when A-Kid was now a WWE superstar tearing it up on the NXT U.K. brand. Having vanquished opponents Flash Morgan Webster and Noam Dar, he reached the finals of WWE’s Heritage Cup tournament, where he became an underdog against the veteran Trent Seven.

The tournament was disputed under British Rounds rules, which meant matches made up of six three-minute rounds with 20-second breaks between each round. Each match was best-of-three falls, decided by pinfall, submission, or countout.

Almost no one would have predicted A-Kid to go this far in the tournament, but what many people didn’  know was that the boy from Vallecas had a background in MMA, and that the World of Sport era of wrestling, when British Rounds rules became famous, is his bread and butter. A-Kid cites Fit Finlay, Johnny Saint, and Steve Grey as wrestlers he’s enjoyed studying.

“I try to use their influence, adapt it to a modern style and fit it into the rules of the Heritage Cup in NXT U.K.,” he said, adding that this style makes him more mentally agile, and more open to trying different things.

 Trent Seven was just one more obstacle thrown his way. And, after the grueling six rounds ended in a tie, the match went to sudden death. A-Kid had scored his point at the beginning of the bout, while Seven evened the odds with a few seconds to go in the last round, entering the overtime with a little bit of an advantage.

It was in that moment A-Kid dug down deep in his arsenal, reversing a LeBell lock with one of his own on both of Seven’s arms, submitting his foe after a few seconds of agony.

After the match, A-Kid fell to his knees with a liberating scream into the Heritage Cup, inside the silent environment of the BT Studios in London—a polar opposite of the raucous crowd of the Tabacalera, but with the same symbolic importance for the young man’s career. This was the first time that a Spanish wrestler had won a championship in WWE. 

O n e c a n ’ t help but think about the fact that, prior to his match with Ricochet, this talented young man was about to quit the sport for good. “The Spanish scene wasn’t big enough,” he said. “I thought I wasn’t gonna make it.” Now, he hasn’t just made it, he’s a champion in WWE ... and someone a new generation of Spanish fans can look up to, given his multiple appearances on national media. 

After winning the Heritage Cup, A-Kid quickly realized he couldn’t soak in the joy for too long. “It’s a sensation that lasts just one day, then you reset to new goals,” he said. “You think about defending it, make your championship run unique. In wrestling, you never feel like you’ve accomplished too much.” 

The next bucket list item for A-Kid is an NXT U.K. TakeOver appearance to defend his prized Cup. And, who knows? Now that they both work for the same company, a rematch with Ricochet might be in the cards somewhere down the line. “Of course, I’d love to,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who wouldn’t want to be in the ring with him.” 

 

 

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