Where Are They Now?: Paul Burchill
When Paul Burchill began planning out his post-WWE career, the thought of getting back in the ring never really seemed to cross his mind.
“Having wrestled with the best in the world, I got my fix,” Burchill told WWE.com “I didn’t want people to remember me as the wrestler. I needed to do a little less for myself and a little more for others.”
That’s what led the former swashbuckling Superstar to become a firefighter-paramedic. Now, Burchill is aiming to become a registered nurse, with hopes of attending graduate school to get his master’s degree and become a family nurse practitioner. As one of the first recipients of the WWE Talent Scholarship, Burchill’s dreams are becoming a reality quicker than he expected. He’s hoping to finish his nursing degree at Excelsior College by the summer.
It’s a completely different path from what Burchill planned on doing while growing up in Cranleigh, England. Sports-entertainment didn’t cross his mind as a career choice, though he watched British wrestling every week.
“My favorite was Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco,” he said. “I liked him because he was just out of control, but he was still technical and aggressive.”
Watching Rocco and other British stars like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks was merely a hobby as Burchill excelled in other sports growing up.
“I was a middle distance runner, I played rugby and football, the usual stuff,” Burchill said.
After getting a degree in sports science and English, Burchill set his sights on becoming a professional rugby player, working his way up through the ranks as a center, until something caught his eye.
“It was The Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz,” he recalled.
Being a bigger man, with surprising agility, Burchill got interested in sports-entertainment and made the decision to leave his rugby ambitions behind and enter the squared circle.
“It was a decision that was not met with the most positive views, but what was I going to do?” Burchill told WWE.com. “Wrestling caught me.”
He began training with a British grappler named Mark Sloan at the FWA Academy in Portsmouth, England. Sloan’s stern, dojo-like atmosphere instilled a respect for the ring game in the young Burchill.
“It was strict,” he explained. “You set up the ring, you took down the ring. You definitely paid your dues. Eventually, I got to a point where I was wrestling in Italy or Germany every weekend, and later on, in Japan. I started off on the right foot.”
Burchill soon caught the eyes of WWE scouts, who invited him to tryout in Manchester. He seized the opportunity to impress.
“I got in the ring and did my thing,” he explained. “I was super aggressive, did some of my aerial moves, and I guess the right people were watching, because John Laurinaitis pulled me aside and asked if I was interested in coming to work for WWE.”
Laurinaitis and Tommy Dreamer, who worked closely with WWE’s developmental system, brought Burchill over from England to Louisville, Ky., and Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2005. The reality of packing up and leaving everything he knew behind to head to America didn’t set in until the last possible moment.
“It was only when I was in the airport that I was like, ‘I’m moving to a country with absolutely no one and I only have two bags. Oh crap,’” Burchill said.
Though he started off living in a bargain motel while he waited to get his Social Security info so he could get paid, Burchill grew to love his time in OVW, making friends with superstars like Shad from Cryme Time and learning the ropes from experienced trainers like Al Snow and Lance Storm.
Just a few months after his arrival in America, Burchill got the call up to WWE’s main roster. The tough Brit debuted as the henchman of the villainous William Regal. Not long after he became established on the main roster as a solid, reliable competitor, Burchill underwent a major character change, embracing the supposed pirate blood in his ancestry.
“I went to Mr. McMahon and he said, ‘You’re going to be a pirate, like from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Burchill remembered. “ I said, ‘OK, so you want me to be like Keith Richards?’ He said, ‘Yes, but dressed like a pirate!’”
With the WWE Chairman’s approval, Burchill set out to find the right look.
“You couldn’t just go to the store and find pirate stuff like now, where it’s everywhere,” he said. “My wife literally spent the whole week on the phone with museums and every kind of store getting all this stuff for me to be a pirate.”
With his Captain Jack Sparrow-inspired look nailed down, Burchill was ready to unveil his new persona. But while he was going through his swashbuckling entrance — where he swung onto the stage from a rope before heading to the ring — the unfortunate happened.
“I walked up on the top rope and stepped into the ring, just walking through it, and I blew my ACL and MCL out,” Burchill said. “Completely destroyed my knee. I ended up limping through the match that night, then competing with this bad knee.”
Burchill’s time as a pirate may be what sticks out most to the WWE Universe, but in truth, it only comprised about six months of his five-year tenure in WWE.
“It’s funny, that seems to be what defines my career,” Burchill said. “People are like, ‘Oh, the pirate,’ and some are like, ‘That poor guy, he had to do that.’ I would do it right now. I loved it.”
Eventually, Burchill transitioned away from the comedic pirate persona and back towards being a hard-nosed competitor. Though he had turned heads with his agility, Burchill’s knee injury forced him to adapt his style as he moved to the ECW roster, where he dropped the high-flying and became even more aggressive.
“I was in a spot where I could go in with the champion or the new guy and have a great match,” he said. “I started to get a reputation for being dependable on live TV.”
With Burchill gaining some steam in WWE, things were looking up for his in-ring career. However, a tragic event forced him to re-evaluate everything. His brother, a major in the British army, was killed in action in Afghanistan.
“It put into perspective a lot of what I was doing — career choice and everything like that,” Burchill explained. “I turned my attention around a little bit.”
He began to wind down his time on the WWE roster with a memorable rivalry with The Hurricane in which he competed under a mask as The Ripper. After ECW closed down in February 2010, Burchill asked for and was granted his release from WWE. He had been volunteering as a firefighter when he wasn’t on the road, so he was prepared for life after the squared circle.
“[Firefighting] suited my attributes of being physical, being able to use tools and getting to do cool stuff,” he told WWE.com.
His time in the ring and on the road also helped him as a firefighter, where the schedule can call for 24-hour shifts.
“When I interviewed for the fire department, I said I could live around many people,” Burchill explained. “I had traveled with the same people, we shared rooms, went to the gym together, ate together, did everything together.”
Today, Burchill works as a firefighter-paramedic with the Jeffersontown, Ky., fire department, in addition to being a member of the Jeffersontown police department’s SWAT team and for a paramedic with Yellow EMS in Louisville. When he’s not working, Paul enjoys spending his free time with his two sons, 10-year-old Haven and 4-year-old Valen.
If that doesn’t sound like a full enough plate, add in the fact that he’s studying constantly to finish his RN program. Though he was ready to do more to finish the program at a slower pace, the WWE Talent Scholarship has allowed him to speed up his plans.
“I [figured I was] going to work a little more and things [were] going to be tight,’” he said. “And then I got this scholarship. Oh my God, it was amazing!”
“It’s literally meant I can quickly go through this degree,” he continued. “I have four more exams to take, some clinical stuff and I should be done by summer. That’s because of the scholarship. I could not do it without it. It’s made such a difference for me.”
Burchill knows how much work he has ahead of him if he wants to earn a master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner, as his wife Jasmine is almost finished with her post-graduate studies in the same field.
“It’s kind of a joke around the fire department that I’ve always got my nose in a book,” he said. “It’s true, but it’s okay. I watched my wife go through graduate school and seen how hard she’s worked. It’s work upon work upon work, but that end goal is worth it.”