Independent British Wrestler sentenced to 21 months in jail for causing GBH during event. (UPDATED)
Warning: Graphic content. The views and opinions given in this article are that of the writer based on the facts and what is known from court proceedings by persons in attendance.
Independent British wrestler James Riley, known professionally as Jay Knox, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after admitting to causing Grievous Bodily Harm to a trainee during a match at an event in Ferndown, Dorset in February 2020.
Over the last six months, we have tried to bring you the news and views from the wrestling world while also maintaining a fun and light-hearted approach.
Unfortunately, this particular article is a very serious one involving our very own contributor, Rob, and I myself personally witnessed the incident.
During the main event match of the 8th February 2020 (it was brought to my attention by an "anonymous messenger" that I had got the date wrong, as I typed March, instead of February. My sincerest apologies for this slight mistype when I was writing this at 2am!) at a Student Slam event for Fightstar Pro Wrestling. Rob, in his guise as Robin Giles, was facing Jay Knox for the Anarchy Rules Championship.
All started well, but as the match wore on and was coming to a close, an incident took place that shocked the entire audience into silence.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Knox sprung up and delivered a full force kick to Rob’s face, shattering almost every bone and causing him to bleed profusely.
Come the end of the match, Rob was taken backstage, while Knox took a mic and said that “accidents happen, and as pros they wouldn’t have stopped the match” or words to that effect.
Unfortunately, and in my opinion, and that of the courts, this was no accident, as the video footage can attest. As fans, we have all learned over the years to recognise the worked, or pulled, hits from a real strike. Well, please click here and watch the footage. Just as a warning, it’s pretty graphic.
Rob was taken to hospital, where doctors likened his injuries to that of a car crash victim. Several bones in his face were shattered. His jaw severely broken, teeth shattered, nose broken and eye sockets fractured. All from one kick. Rob has endured multiple surgeries since then to repair the damage caused.
The next day, at an open day that was held by Fightstar, Jay Knox addressed this incident, explaining how sorry he was, and that in that moment when he took the kick to the back, he “lit up like a Christmas tree and lashed out”. Once again, in my opinion, this is a 14-year wrestling veteran who seemingly cannot control his temper when working with a trainee of his in only their third official match.
According to court reports, Knox was interviewed under police caution and admitted that he kicked Rob on purpose, but claims he was “aiming for his chest”, though the video footage quite clearly shows this not to be the case. He messaged Rob, apologising, but stating that:
“When you done the kick in the back I just saw red, you hit the nerve in my back and pain shot up everywhere, it lit up like a Christmas tree and I was for that moment in pain and like an animal.”
Now, wrestlers deal with injuries every day, we know that, but yet they are able to control their emotions and not lash out at people. Knox did not do that.
With Rob on his hands and knees, Knox instantly sprung to his feet and in a second delivered the fated kick. You can literally hear the impact of it. Sadly, that isn’t all though, as while under police caution, Knox also admitted that during the match, due to being “unhappy with Rob’s performance”, he planned to “punch him in the throat to bring him back into character”. Fortunately, he missed, but still hit him on the jaw.
During this, another, now former, trainee who wishes to remain nameless informed police that during a birthday party that he worked with Knox, who also had a side business as a children’s entertainer, he had allegedly been punched in the face by Knox.
Now, as I have mentioned, I was at this event, as was my brother and my then 5-year-old daughter, and I will never forget the distress in my little girls face when she saw what was happening to her “Uncle Rob”. But this pales into insignificance with what Rob dealt with in the immediate aftermath.
Having gone for surgery, Rob ended up having his jaw wired shut for six weeks, made to endure facial reconstruction surgery, and now has metal plates holding his jaw together. For the first few weeks after the incident, he couldn’t see his children as they would have been emotionally scarred to see the damage caused to their dad. Rob was unable to work and provide for his family, and lost his job because he could no longer perform in a high pressure sales environment. And, seeing as two weeks later Covid-19 lockdown came into play, Rob was thrust into a position of having to deal with this virtually on his own.
By contrast, Knox had been released under formal police caution pending investigation, and went back to training students at his school. I attended two classes in this time hoping to gain some further information, but when it became clear that this was not helping my friend, I immediately dropped out. The school had been affiliated with Al Snow’s OVW/ASWA school, who upon hearing of the incident, immediately denounced the actions of Knox, and dropped all affiliation with Fightstar.
What then endured was almost a year of back and forth with the trial dates, as Knox pleaded “Not Guilty” and, after some delays, a court date was eventually set for 25th February, 2021.
The case never made it to trial though, as Knox, at the very last minute, changed his plea to “Guilty”. His sentencing was initially due to be heard on 25th-26th March, but due to delays brought about by Covid, this was delayed until 29th March.
In his victim impact statement, Rob said:
"What James did to me falls outside the parameters of a wrestling show. I was unrecognisable."
"He took the conscious decision to hurt me, he betrayed the trust I placed in him, I feel disgusted at what he did."
"He continued the fight despite the audience telling him to stop and children crying at what they were seeing."
Knox was sentenced to 21 months in prison as the judge threw the book at him. His defence team had used his mental health almost as an excuse, saying that the events of the last year had caused him serious issues, that he had shown remorse, and wanted people to learn from his mistakes. However, people in attendance at the sentencing noted that his defence team also stated that Knox had been extremely difficult to deal with during this entire process and “has a problem with authority.”
Judge Climie though was having none of this, stating:
"During the course of the bout, which is largely a fictitious event in the sense that it is largely scripted, you suffered a significant degree of pain because of a pre-existing injury."
"Your reaction to that was to lose your temper and effectively take revenge. That revenge was a single blow with the foot. The consequences are dramatic."
"It is aggravated in part because you were the person in charge of this situation. It was a blow by a professional wrestler, I cannot allow a suspended sentence."
Judge Climie informed him that the strain and distress he had put Rob under was far too great, and as such, not only did he impose a 21-month prison sentence, with no suspension, he also imposed a 10-year restraining order against him from contacting Rob or his family.
Since this news came out, some people have tried to defend Knox’s actions, saying it was “heat of the moment" and “out of character”. But the facts remain, and they show that, by his own admission, he had intended to hurt Rob.
Rob is now recovering. Many of the physical scars have faded, but the psychological scars remain. He suffers from PTSD, and is still undergoing dental work to repair his shattered teeth.
People can say all they want that “you know the risks” in wrestling, and to an extent, that may be true.
But in this case, and in my opinion, this was a man who had a duty of care as a teacher and a professional. He failed in both of these, and again, by his own admission, intended to hurt Rob.
I hope that he never again works in the sport of Professional Wrestling.
In the coming weeks, we will be holding a special podcast with Rob where we discuss this at length. Please keep an eye out for it and I hope you will join us for that.