FOOTBALL cult hero Adebayo Akinfenwa is set for his professional wrestling debut next week, just five months after retiring.
Akinfenwa, 40, rolled credits on a 21-year career in May after the League One play-off final, which saw his Wycome Wanderers side lose 2-0 to Sunderland at Wembley.
The heavyweight athlete, most famous as one of the largest strikers in the EFL, has now crossed over to the world of wrestling and will appear on British promotion PROGRESS Wrestling on October 23.
The ex-AFC Wimbledon star will accompany Olympic boxing star Anthony Ogogo for his fight against Malik at PROGRESS Chapter 145 – Wrestling Witch Face – Trick or Treat at Camden's Electric Ballroom.
The former centre-forward has always been a fan of the sport and decided to give it a go because he is always open to "new experiences".
Akinfenwa told the Mail: "I was always asked when I was coming to retirement what I was looking to do and the response was always new experiences.
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"I was lucky enough to do the thing I love for 22 years but it was a profession. When you retire, it's just freedom and experiences. It's always been in the background because of my love for wrestling. I've known Anthony Ogogo for a while, years.
"We came across each other when he was a boxer and stayed in contact and the wrestling thing never went away. He unfortunately couldn't box anymore and he found that love with wrestling and he hit me up and said: 'Listen, you want to try a few bits?'
'When you find something that you enjoy it makes it a little bit easier. But then the mindset is to try new things and if it lands, it lands. I enjoy it, I've enjoyed the workouts, I enjoy that it's intense."
Akinfenwa trained with WWE superstar Sheamus last month ahead of the wrestling giants' Clash at the Castle event in Cardiff.
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And the former Wycombe star – famous for his toughness – admits the sport, although choreographed, is very "real" and it "hurts".
Akinfenwa added: "I tried it, and I ain't going to lie, it hurts. Anybody that watched me play football knows that when I went down it took me a while to get up, and it takes me even longer to get up in wrestling when I try to move.
"The training is training, but there are different body things that hurt. Normally I'm the person that pushes people on the floor, but I'm finding myself going on the floor a lot more now. I enjoy my weights, I still do the bike.
"I'm working for BT and they cover wrestling. They know I enjoy wrestling and he was coming over. I enjoyed the workout with him, it's funny because there's an element of entertainment but when you're in the gym it's real work, and that's what it was.
"I've talked to Anthony, I've seen him have surgery. It's real. Regardless of the entertainment that goes in, you get injured. You will see the statement: "Don't do this at home", and you have to practice, you have to work on it, you have to know that you are going to get injured somewhere down the line, that was a conversation we had.
"That's the thing people sometimes don't understand. Broken ribs, broken shoulder, broken eye socket, that's stuff that happens in the sport. Even me, you have to do your due diligence, it really isn't like anyone can do it and I am really seeing that."
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