BIG READ: Wrestling star Andy is just a big softyÂ
Daydreaming at his parents newsagents, eight-year-old Andy Simmons could hear the roar of the crowd as he entered the wrestling ring.Â Side-by-side with his hero, The British Bulldog, Andy could almost smell the sweat and feel the frenzy of the audience.Â
Looking back, Andy, now aÂ strapping 34-year-old who goes by the wrestling name Andy Boy Simmonz, is overjoyed that he is living that dream and gets to travelÂ the world doing chokeslams and piledrivers.Â
By night, clad in tight redÂ lycra shorts and white shiny boots, Andy, from Fareham, plays to the crowds as he takes on the persona of either the good or the bad guy in the theatre ofÂ wrestling.Â
But by dayÂ he isÂ plain old '˜dad' to his children, Finley, eight, and Poppy, 11 months.Â
And wife Lindsey, 28, says he's just aÂ '˜big softy'.Â
He inhabits a strange world of devoted family man and professional wrestler, who has performed in front of thousands with WWE '“Â the premier league of wrestling '“Â at Wembley Arena.Â
'˜People sometimes think we go out to main each other' laughs Andy. '˜But it's theatre, physical theatre. I love the performance aspect of it. Â
'˜I wrestled on Saturday night at the Revolution Pro Wrestling match in Portsmouth in front of 400 people and I was the bad guy.
'˜All the kids were shouting at me, 'Boo! You suck!' and I'd shout back at them.
'˜I love the audience interaction. It's pure entertainment. It's like having a superhero alter-ego.'
It all began for Andy when his brothers brought home a WWEÂ videotape.
He was desperate to hang out with his cool older siblings and was soon hooked on watching the American wrestling megastars.
'˜I knew then I wanted to pursue wrestling in some way but I don't think anyone realised that more than 20 years later I'd be a professional with my own school.
'˜I started training when I was 16 at FWA in Portsmouth. I was lucky that my parents had their own newsagent where I worked while I built up my career. They were very supportive.'
Andy has had more than 2,000 wrestling bouts and has performed all over Europe and Africa.Â
And the dream of joining the ranks of WWE was within touching distance.Â
He says: '˜I was invited along for a trial,Â which is the wrestling equivalentÂ of having football trials with Manchester United.
'˜I had three matches and everything went really well but they did not call me up. But it was an incredible feeling to perform in frontÂ of 12,000 people at Wembley.'
Meanwhile Andy and his now-wife Lindsey were set up on a blind date by Andy's business partner, wrestling promoter Andy Quildan.
And Lindsey admits she was surprised when she found out what her date did for a living.Â
'˜All my friend told me about Andy was that he was 'interesting', but I didn't realise just how interesting!'Â she laughs.Â
'˜I found it very unusual and a few of my friends were a bit shocked when I told them I was dating a wrestler.Â
'˜The first time I went to see him in the ring was so exciting, I got a real adrenaline rush watching him up there.Â
'˜Everyone thinks of wrestlers as mean and tough but all the guys are lovely. Andy's just a big softy. I find it all really funny. I love watching the faces of the children in the audience. It's a great atmosphere.'
Andy says after 20 years he still gets a huge thrill out of performing in the ring, pulling on one of his many brightly coloured lycra outfits and goading the audience as he hits the ring and bodyslams his opponents.Â
But he decided he needed something for when he can no longer throw himself around and in 2012 opened the Portsmouth School of Wrestling, in Rodney Road, Fratton.Â
Andy says: '˜Everything was going really well for me but when I got to my late 20s I realised my WWE dream wasn't going to happen.
'˜So I opened the school in Portsmouth because FWA had closed down. It was at the time of the Olympics and people really wanted to get fit and athletic.Â
'˜We train kids and adults who are pursuing theirÂ dream just as I did all those years ago.
'˜At the moment Fin says there's no way he wants to be a wrestler but I'm hoping he'll change his mind!'
To see a video of Andy go to portsmouth.co.uk