Prior to a very serious accident on July 23rd 2004 I was a very fit bloke who lived for the Gym, I`d competed in several body building competitions, worked full time as a truck driver (HGV1 here in the UK) driving what I believe is reffered to as 18 wheelers over there. At the weekend I worked as a doorman at the local bars and nightclubs. I was very proud of the body I`d worked hard to achieve for 16 years. That all ended that afternoon, as a result of the accident my legs were smashed very badly. Initially it was thought that my left leg would have to be amputated. Thanks to the work of the limb reconstruction unit at the hospital and two great orthopaedic surgeons they put me back together. The entire process took over 9 years and my life as I knew it ended….full stop.
I spent the first 18 months in a wheelchair, and that really is when my problems started. I began to pile on the pounds…lots of pounds. The body I`d worked so hard for began to waste away and I soon sank into a very dark place. I was taking Morphine daily for the pain, meds for depression and at one time even found myself contemplating suicide. I had no job, little chance of ever returning to the job I loved and no interests apart from the TV. I`ve always loved motorsport so anything on the TV that had wheels and an engine, I`d watch. I loved Orange County Choppers, Paul Teutul Sr was a bit of an icon for me, big guy, takes no prisoners….awesome `stache !!!
So I decided to emulate him and grow my own Teutul`esque `stache. Then by chance I noticed Whisker Wars in the TV listings, as I was so so proud of my new facial furniture I set a reminder…. I was hooked. The `stach was growing at a pace, I joined one or two beard groups on Facebook, chatted with one or two people, made friends. Hell, I`d found something that I could still do even in my battered, disabled body. I planned to attend the British Championships in Brighton but due to family problems that didn`t happen. Over time the `stache evolved into the Muttonchops and I`d entered myself into my first competition down in Yeovil, Somerset. When I competed in body building events I`d always trained hard and dieted well in preparation, turned up in the best shape possible and this Beard comp was treated in the same way. Obviously the body was nothing like it was but I wanted to turn out looking as good as I could, so I trawled the internet looking for an iconic character, one who`d “fit” the new me.
That`s how Michael John Bull Wallage was born, my size made it impossible to buy clothes off the peg so a friend modified a suit I had, made me some breeches and a union flag waistcoat. I had some period riding boots made, bought a top hat to complete the job…WOW !!! The first comp was traumatic, I had “body issues”…I used to strut my stuff painted brown in a pair of Speedo`s in front of hundreds of people but getting on that stage at Yeovil was the hardest thing I`d ever done. If not for a pep talk from the wonderful Muriel lavender (one of the compares) and Mrs W I`d have gone home. The sideburns category was well represented, in fact the reigning British Champion was there. I didn`t expect to win, I was happy that I got on the stage….but I did, I won at my first competition, not only won but beat the reigning champion.
I then went on to win several titles at various events all over the UK culminating in the British title last tear at Bath. My first World Championships in Stuttgart saw me place 8th in a very competitive section (partial beard freestyle) as there was no chops category. Those guys were masters, if I`m honest I was awestruck, so to place 8th I was over the moon. I literally owe my life to my chops… if not for the new focus, the new friends then I truly believe I would not be here now. To be given the chance (thanks to you guys and your support) to compete at world level, to share the same stage as those guys I watched on the TV brings me to tears as I`m writing this bio.
That`s why you can count on me to give this 100% and more. I owe my life to my beard !!! That`s my story so far…my goal ? To grow the best Mutton chops in the world.
PS: sorry if this was a bit to long/rambling…it`s been an emotional journey, but one I would not change. It`s true, every cloud has a silver lining