[Content note: the article discusses signs of abuse within friendships and relationships.]
“It’s a love story,” Eddie Dennis tells me, on the 27th October, 2019, when talking about my previous piece on his friendship with Mark Andrews imploding, pre-Wembley, the tables, ladders and chairs match that was meant to make everything clear, make it all make sense, and finally prove who was right. Eddie staggered out of that match the winner, with a contract for a title match – and then in April 2019, he tore the opposite pectoral to the one he’d torn previously. He had twelve months to cash in that contract, and make his match – and he’d just admitted that half of that would be spent rehabbing.
Though injured, Eddie did show up on Day 2 of Super Strong Style 16 2019, Progress’ annual 3-day tournament, to help out Mark against the team of Do Not Resuscitate (Spike Trivet, Drew Parker, Chuck Mambo, and William Eaver) and cementing himself as standing firm with the old guard of Progress. This moment, where he extended the hand of friendship back to Mark, seemed to put him in good standing to continue wrestling with his best friend, and it seemed like all their issues were over. Which is why it was such a shock when Eddie declared that, due to injuries and other commitments, he was no longer going to wrestle for Progress – or any indy company – and would be focusing solely on NXT UK.
And yet, in September 2019, at Ally Pally, where it all began, Eddie stepped out and into a title match between David Starr and WALTER. He smirked as he reminded the two competitors that making the match a triple threat meant that it was now a no-disqualification match… as Mark appeared, with a chair. He helped Eddie cement his victory, and stood with him as Eddie held the title aloft, and declared that FSU (Friends Stand United) were back. The crowd may have cheered him, glad to see a charismatic man back in the ring, but once the dust had settled, they realised that Eddie and Mark had just declared exactly what side they were on, and that it was the one opposite David Starr and his INDEPENDENT movement. The boys of Defend Indy Wrestling were turning their backs on the ground that made them, and throwing everything in with their new corporate masters.
So how is this a love story? Well, it reads like half the stories on r/relationships, which is a bad start. “I (m27) have joined my long-time on-again-off-again partner (m33) on the side of evil, to cement our relationship” would make a reasonable title for it, with the older partner making constant demands on the younger, the gaslighting and the taunting, stalking behaviour, and insisting on being right, rather than reconciliation. As Agatha Christie said, “that’s why most great love stories are tragedies” – and this one is no different. It started off sweet, young and innocent, and grew into a deep obsession, where you get two people who can’t cope with being together, but when they try to be apart, find themselves drawn back like moths to a flame, and with a similarly dangerous intent.
Eddie’s never cared what happens, that’s something you can see clearly throughout the last two years; he made the first move to attack, he made the first move to intimidate Mark, he was the one airing all their grievances. He’s also the one who, while saying that the band is back together, has given no apology or explanation for his behaviour. In the meantime, Mark has got quieter, to the point that on the Sunday Eddie told me about their love story, he didn’t speak at all in the ring. Eddie did all the talking for him, and Mark was the silent partner, doing what his other half wanted. Mark left early, wasn’t at merch, and headed off to wrestle elsewhere, without Eddie, without that controlling figure standing by him.
Now I’m not saying that Mark didn’t decide that he’d spent enough time alone, that he was prepared to remove his principles for another chance at his best friend, his tag partner, his everything. He may have got an apology in private, he may believe that he’s not going to be betrayed again, but remember – Eddie attacked him from behind before. Mark had no idea it was coming. Mark wants to trust, wants everything to go back to how it was, only now they’ve got their dream job, they’ve finally made it. That Sunday, on the train home, we sat with a guy who, when we mentioned wrestling, said he used to do gigs with someone who was now a WWE wrestler. “He always said his band were gonna play WrestleMania,” he said, “and now it could really happen.” That’s all the proof we need that Mark Andrews doesn’t give up on his dreams, and if his dream has always been Eddie beside him when he gets there, then he’ll sacrifice no end of things to make sure that happens.
But is this a love story, then we have to consider how it must have felt recently, when Mark and Flash Morgan Webster have been out dominating the NXT UK tag scene as “South Wales Subculture”, winning the NXT UK tag team titles. That’s something Mark’s doing without Eddie, something Mark’s succeeding at without Eddie. To Eddie, it must look like Mark’s successes all come along when he’s not there, when he’s with other people. Mark went to the US first. Mark got a run with a big company first. Mark got WWE attention first. Now Mark’s winning titles for NXT UK, debuting on RAW – and Eddie has to remember, every time, that his first WWE tryout wasn’t successful. Even if he tells himself that Pete Dunne put in a good word for Mark, he has to wonder whether Mark ever put in a good word for him.
Even taking wrestling out of the equation, it probably stings more to know that there are all these friends Mark’s got who will help him out when he needs it. Eddie knows this, because he used to be one of them. To be replaced with Flash, whether we’re talking as a tag partner, a friend, or anything else, has to be hurting him, and maybe even more so that Flash debuted after Eddie, but is managing to usurp his potion at Mark’s side. To lose out to another Welshman may have been the final straw, may be why Eddie came through that curtain at Alexandra Palace, decided to cash in that contract everyone assumed would be forgotten about, refused to truly give up his place in Progress. He said he’d stepped away, and maybe he really meant to. Maybe he was going to focus on wrestling for WWE, try to hit career goals, forget about following Mark around… but he couldn’t stay away. He’s never been able to stay away from Mark.
And perhaps that’s why Mark finally went along with it, and turned his back on the idea of fairness and decency – or perhaps that’s the WWE influence, telling him that as long as something’s profitable, it doesn’t matter if it’s morally ambiguous – because he knew there was no getting away from Eddie. That no matter what he does, no matter how often they might argue, they’re bound together, in wrestling and out of it. Eddie might sit in Mark’s shadow professionally, but now, with Mark so quiet as he obeys Eddie’s commands, Mark is in Eddie’s shadow morally. Maybe that’s easier for him, to stay meek and follow Eddie’s orders – after all, we all saw what happens when Mark doesn’t do what Eddie wants, at Ally Pally in 2017.
When relationships break down inside friend groups, there’s the one who goes all out, claiming they were the wronged party, that the other person never treated them right, that keeps demanding their ex stops turning up where they’re going to be, and gives back that hoodie they borrowed and never gave back, and that’s what Eddie was. He was happy to air his grievances and ensure that everyone knew he wasn’t to blame. The mixed reactions he got proved that he was at least partially successful, that people were at least partially on his side. My previous article proves that, too. But there’s the other partner, the quiet one who just tries to get on with their life, who tells mutual friends that they don’t need to pick a side, and just wants everything to be done with. The one who smiles tightly at mentions of their ex, and leaves parties early, and doesn’t make a fuss. Who only snaps and argues when they’ve been pushed to their absolute limit. Who has to apologise for causing a scene, when they’re not the one who started it.
Mark might have decided that Eddie had a point, he might have come around to Eddie’s way of thinking, but it seems more likely that he just got tired of fighting. Tired of being followed around and harassed and everyone treating him like the bad guy, even though Eddie was the one who hit him with no warning. It wore Mark down, enough that he decided that maybe, if he could just make Eddie happy, he could have his life back. That if he took Eddie back, if he apologised for all the things Eddie said he did, maybe he could go back to how it used to be. How they used to be.
Whatever the case, this Sunday, the newly reformed FSU face Destination Everywhere (Connor Mills and OJMO) at PROGRESS Chapter 98: May I Play Devil’s Advocate For A Minute? and it’ll be a chance for everyone to see just how strong the bond between Mark and Eddie still is, after two years of fighting against each other, rather than as a team. Whether they’re still in sync, or if the cracks in their relationship really are too deep to pretend that the break up never happened. Whether Mark only jumping when Eddie says, rather than off his own initiative, is going to cost them matches – and just how long Eddie will tolerate mistakes before he decides, once again, to get rid of everything holding him back. Right now, Mark is still a part of Eddie’s success plan – but how long will that last before Eddie believes he’s good enough on his own, and doesn’t need Mark’s protection?
It’s a love story. That’s what Eddie said, but eventually, he’s going to have decide what he loves the most. Mark? Or winning?