Welcome to the Australian Underground of professional wrestling.
There are many things Australians are known for. Our beautiful beaches and sun-kissed skin. Our strange colloquialisms and overall friendly demeanour. We love to crack a tinnie with an ol’ mate around the barbie, but arguably more than anything, we love our sport.
From Aussie Rules football, to backyard cricket, sport is engrained in the culture of Australian living. But something is missing. My dinner party conversations are lacklustre at most. Why? No one is talking about wrestling.
First off, to anyone who wants to argue that professional wrestling isn’t a sport, I don’t care. Moving on.
Australian professional wrestling is practically unheard of on a global scale, and regrettably less conversed among the locals. I myself am admittedly a new-comer to my own country’s indie scene. Of course most have watched or at least heard of the juggernaut that is World Wrestling Entertainment. However, there is no reason that our local guys shouldn’t get the push they deserve.
Australians make bloody good wrestling, right on our doorstep. World Championship Wrestling Australia ran from 1964 to 1978, and gained prominence through the Nine Network. The first title change in the promotion saw Dominic De Nucci (who trained Mick Foley and Shane Douglas) defeat heel legend Killer Kowalski (who popularly trained Triple H, and our Saviour Damien Sandow). These are just two of the colossal names that were affiliated with the promotion, but I might just add a bit of Nature Boy to the mix to get your taste buds tingling.
The International Wrestling Alliance was created as a governing body for WCW’s original championships, and would later be merged out with the National Wrestling Alliance. An ever-fluctuating economic situation forced Nine to cease broadcasting of WCW, and a 2007 documentary “Ruff, Tuff N Real” relives the golden years of pro wrestling down-under, followed by its marked demise.
But we wouldn’t lie down and die. Despite an atrocious dip in the 90’s, Australians weren’t backing down.
Here’s some numbers and stats from a WWE Australian tour event in 2002. The “Global Warning” Tour Melbourne was the company’s first visit to the country since 1986 – the tapings drew stadium attendance records at 56,734 people, and grossed approximately $5.7 million Australian dollars in ticket revenue ($7,412,223.67 adjusted). Thanks to broadcast partnerships with FOX 8 TV, Mainevent and Fox Sports, we have all the wrestling in the world at our fingertips… and more.
The avid hardcore fan knows that there is more out there; Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground, Combat Zone Wrestling, and TNA Impact (if you so choose) just to name a few. For those who seek to explore beyond the WWE’s clutches, it simply takes an active decision to scour for the best wrestling in the world, and you will be rewarded. Living on an island definitely teaches you to hunt and gather.
Some of these promotions may be out of reach for some viewers, even then, there is still no reason to ignore wrestling is Australia.
Community television broadcaster Channel 31 runs weekly Outback Championship Wrestling shows out of Ashwood, Victoria. Melbourne City Wrestling does regular tapings for their website. Professional Championship Wrestling puts on live shows every week, and are negotiating a deal with Foxtel subscription television. And still, Aussies live blissfully unaware of the wealth of underground wrestling, just yearning to be uprooted and see the light of day once more.
These events do not happen in isolation. Australian promotions work hard to secure some of the best talent in the world for their fans. It was just last month that I felt privileged enough to see OCW presents Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore, just an hour from home. With hearts in my eyes, I watched my childhood idols Mickie James and Victoria, plus a fatal four-way with Guinness-drinker Andy Phoenix, local madman Krackerjak, that cool apple guy Carlito who I’m sure you’ve seen around, and the Innovator of Violence himself. Swoon.
To reinvigorate the Australian scene, a couple of blokes and sheilas have taken the next step.
The legend lives on. In 2008, former NWA and IWA wrestling veteran Mario Milano appeared on Australian TV for IWA’s Main Event Wrestling on the Aurora Community Channel, working an angle with at the time resident heel champ Mark Mercedes.
Some might remember Nathan Jones, who was contracted with WWE from 2002-2003. He was the Undertaker’s protégé in a feud with A-Train and the Big Show (never forget), and later came under the wing of Paul Heyman as a member of Brock Lesnar’s team at Survivor Series. But where did it start? In World Wrestling All-Stars (founded by Andrew McManus in 2001), where he was accompanied to the ring by TV personality and comedian Rove McManus in their first pay-per-view. Here, he rubbed shoulders with Jeff Jarrett, Brian Christopher, and Scott freaking Steiner.
Just this past week on NXT, Aussies appeared in 3/4 match: TM61’s Shane Thorne and Nick Miller, PCW Alumni Buddy Murphy, and the Femme Fatale Billie Kay. Gracing your televisions on the WWE Cruiserweight Classic was “the World-Beater” Damian Slater, who was defeated by Tajiri in the first round of the CWC, not to discredit his performance one bit. Slater has been in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 list a total of three times, and has become one of the most highly respected cruiserweights in the world. He has performed in promotions all across Australia, including Zero 1 Australia, Melbourne City Wrestling, Warzone Australia, Pro Wrestling Alliance and more.
Moral of the story, wrestling exists. It’s on our screens in the form of Monday Night Raw or Wrestlemania pay-per-views. Yet what many don’t know or refuse to accept, is that it lives and breathes in the hearts of our major cities and in outer suburbia. It boasts an outstanding variety of sporting entertainment outlets in a range of promotions around the world. It’s a mind-boggling and pleasure deriving enigma.
Pro Wrestling isn’t just a spectator entity. It doesn’t end when the fans go home and the wrestlers take off their boots. Wrestling is a community, an extended family that interweaves talent and brings people together. It’s an entertainment form of escapism that transcends into a better reality. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are; close your eyes and listen to the sound of bumps in the ring, the “ohs” and “ahs” of the crowd, and you will realise that wrestling is something taken very much for granted.
Whether you’re into Lucha Libre high-flyers, slapstick comedy acts, Women’s wrestling, or hardcore “garbage” wrestling as some would opt to label it, there’s something in this wide world for everyone.
But the unique flavour of Australian wrestling is something worth seeing. Like our people, our food and our way of life, Australian wrestling is a melting pot of diversity and multiculturalism that demands to be seen. I have decided to embark of a journey to discover Australian wrestling, discover exactly what it’s all about, and share it with the world, in all its glory. Aussies are making a comeback, and in a big way.
I’ve always been proud to be Australian, but now and forever, I’m proud to be an Australian wrestling fan.