Weekender: Burger brawl served up at Annie’s

Picture shows: Annie’s Burger Shack founder Annie Spaziano (centre) meets the wrestlers from Aspire Wrestling Academy (from left), Eddie Cross (Archie Brown), Bam Bam (Brett Barton), Kiel Gibson and Roarke (James Morley)

Annie’s Burger Shack is set to break new ground this weekend when it hosts its first-ever live wrestling event.

The company’s Friary Street outlet in Derby is playing host to the sport on Sunday (26 March) when Nottingham-based House of Pain’s wrestlers pull on their lycra as part of the restaurant’s bid to attract a new audience.

House of Pain is one of the most highly regarded professional wrestling academies in the UK. Its appearance at Annie’s will be followed a month later by Derby’s own Aspire Wrestling Alliance, which is taking part in a Wrestling Burger Brawl on 30 April.

Based in Cornwall Road, the Aspire Wrestling Alliance is the only club of its kind in the country and provides a place where young people can come together to learn a new sport to help them deal with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

It also operates its own food bank and runs a children’s activity club in the school holidays.

Will Bailey, promotions and events manager at Annie’s Burger Shack, said: “We can’t wait to see wrestling taking place at Annie’s in Derby. It’s the first time we’ve ever hosted these kind of events and it’s all part of our campaign to get people who may not have visited us before to come in and enjoy the Annie’s experience.

“What’s exciting to us is that behind the characters and the costumes, both clubs bring their communities together, especially young people, while providing great entertainment for audiences, so both these events really are not to be missed.”

Aspire’s head of wrestling training, Paul Brand – who wrestles under the pseudonym Malicious Paul Malen – says everyone at the club is looking forward to appearing at Annie’s.

He said: “Our show is going to be two hours of non-stop action under the lights with our best wrestlers on display, so it’ll be a great event and a real experience for anyone who’s never see it before.

“We’re unique in the UK and I’ve seen with my own eyes the difference it’s made to the young people who come to us. It’s very physical and they train really hard, and that gives them a huge boost in their self-esteem and self-confidence that is genuinely life-changing.

“When you talk about wrestling, people think about American WWF or the World of Sport Days with characters like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. It’s moved on since then but it’s a really big sport again, so we’re really looking forward to showing people what it’s all about.”

Annie Spaziano, who established Annie’s Burger Shack in 2009 and opened the Derby restaurant in 2017, said: “Wrestling takes me back to being a kid growing up in America watching the likes of Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan on TV in the 1980s, so I’m really looking forward to seeing wrestling taking place live at Annie’s.”