Move from Halifax set Shak Khan on path to top pro wrestling career
When Shak Khan's family moved from Halifax to the seaside town of Blackpool, he didn't know what was in store for him.
Khan, who lived in King Cross before moving to the west coast as a 14-year-old, soon became gripped by the professional wrestling shows at the Blackpool Tower.
It was watching these wrestlers in action that led Khan to seek a career in the sport.
He is the current Pakistani champion - where his parents were born - and fights in shows across the world, representing the land of his heritage and the United Kingdom.
Born in Halifax, Khan has made a name for himself on the professional wrestling circuit and in 2009 toured Kuwait with World Wrestling Entertainment - or as they are better know, the WWE.
“When I got to Blackpool I realised that they had wrestling on at the tower every Sunday,” said Khan.
“There was a local wrestler on all the time and his name was Road Warrior Dave Duran. ‘Bloodboots’ is what they used to call him.
“I saw the Road Warrior in a local shop, he was a big, massive mountain of a man.
“I told him I wanted to be a wrestler. He looked me up and down and said: ‘You are a schoolkid, you need to crack on with your schoolwork and need to go learn a bit of judo. You are not ready for it.’”
Determined to make it as a professional, Khan took Duran’s advice and starting to learn judo.
He continued: “I learnt judo and I did that for two years and got a few gradings.
“I started out as a white belt and became an orange belt and I thought that I could take the rough and tumble. I had been thrown around on the mats so I knew all about the ground work and stuff like that, so I approached Dave Duran again and told him I was ready.
“He said, ‘Fine, come down to the Pleasure Beach on Saturday and we will test you out.’
“I thought this was my big moment, I am going to get into professional wrestling, I am going to be a star.
“And then Dave Duran jumped into the ring and he absolutely annihilated me and said, ‘pop down next week if you are tough enough.’
“And basically for the next three to four months over the summer I would go down every Saturday and Sunday and just get beaten to death by him.”
In his early days wrestling at the tower, Khan was not taught many of the techniques by the other professionals.
After a number of months he finally became a regular competitor and went on to fight in Blackpool for 10-straight summers.
Khan became known as the ‘Kashmir Kid’ on the wrestling circuit and won the Pakistani title in 1998.
“I took on all comers, boxers, judo guys, rugby players and just anybody that wanted a go,” he said.
“They would get £10 a round, £50 for three rounds and £100 for a knockout. When I was around 24 I got a call from a wrestling promoter to wrestle over in Dubai. And in March 1998 I beat the English champion Marty Jones in the middle east and that was where I won my first championship.
“I was the heavyweight champion of Azad, Kashmir and since winning the championship I have been in over 20 countries representing Azad, Kashmir, Pakistan and the UK as well in professional wrestling matches.”
Khan’s career will come full circle as he prepares for his first-ever professional bout with Duran.
The pair will challenge each other in Azad in September where the ‘Kashmir Kid’ hopes to be the first man to beat Duran.
Khan said: “I am training at the moment and I have a show out in Azad next September, where I will be fighting Dave Duran.
“Because we never had a wrestling match together, it was always about him teaching me the ins and outs and when I first started we never actually had a wrestling bout, so that will take place out in Kashmir.
“Duran was the most feared wrestler on the British wrestling scene. Wrestlers would ring promoters looking for shows to compete on and the promoters would say, ‘Yes, we have plenty of work for you, you will be on with Dave Duran.’
“The wrestlers would then respond and say, ‘Oh, we can’t actually make that show, something’s come up.’
“There would always be a load of excuses, he was very vicious.
“He still is. He has never been beaten and I am facing him, next September. It’ll be very interesting.”