Ex-Super League player Luke Menzies learning the ropes in WWE
"I've always been a fan of wrestling, even before I took up rugby league"
By Sky Sports Rugby League
Last Updated: 03/10/19 2:37pm
The path from the rugby league pitch to the wrestling ring is a lesser-trodden one, but that has not deterred Luke Menzies from pursuing a career inside the squared circle.
It is three years since the ex-Super League forward, whose former clubs include Hull Kingston Rovers and Salford Red Devils, took his first steps in the UK independent wrestling scene after leaving behind the sport he had been involved in for most of his life.
Having impressed at a WWE try-out in November 2016, the 31-year-old was signed by the organisation earlier this year and has now relocated to the USA to chase ambitions he has long harboured.
"I've always been a fan of wrestling, even before I took up rugby league," Menzies told Sky Sports. "My dad played, so obviously I got pushed in that direction.
"I got injured and I thought, 'you know what, I've always wanted to have a go at wrestling'. I sent an email to a famous wrestling coach, Marty Jones, and two days later I was in my first wrestling ring.
"Six months later I had a WWE try-out and here we are."
Menzies is not the first rugby league professional to make the transition. Most notably, Shirley Crabtree - better known to British wrestling fans as his in-ring persona Big Daddy - was on the books of both Bradford Northern and Halifax.
Now based at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and going under the ring name of Ridge Holland, Menzies is in no doubt his previous sporting life has set him up well for pursuing a career as a wrestler.
"It's worlds apart, but rugby league definitely served me well for the transition - the bumps, the bruises and everything you take in there," Menzies said.
"It's also the grinding and the grafting, but rugby league was definitely character-building and enabled me to put the right foot forward in my pursuit of a career here.
"We could be in here five days a week and we're on the road three days a week as well, so some days we're doubling up.
"It really is a grind but the guys love it, we knuckle down and we get better to entertain the fans."
He has not lost touch with his other sporting interest, though, and Friday's Super League play-off clash between Salford and Wigan Warriors is one Menzies will be keeping a close eye on.
George Griffin and Greg Johnson are among those former Red Devils team-mates still playing at the AJ Bell Stadium that Menzies remains friendly with, and he has backed them to reach the Grand Final, along with hoping they can pull off a shock at Old Trafford against St Helens if they get there.
"I've got to go with Salford all the way," Menzies said. "It's something they've worked hard to get through the year and I think it will definitely be a fairytale for Salford Red Devils.
"I would love them to go all the way, but then I've got people I know at St Helens like Alex Walmsley, from his formative days at Batley Bulldogs.
"But I've got to go with the club I know. I've got friends there and I hope they can pull it out of the bag and become Super League champions."