Damian Slater – My Trainer Col Dervany

My name is Slater and I love to write! Alright then, that sounded hideously less cool and tough than Finlay’s catchphrase of old but kickstarting a brand new article was always going to have an awkward take-off. Anyway, the ice is now broken!

For those who aren’t familiar, I perform under the moniker ‘The World-Beater’ Damian Slater and have just reached 20 years in the squared circle. I’ve wrestled in 6 countries, with a couple of macchiato’s in the WWE and NJPW and am a veteran of 2 nationally televised game show appearances that will never see the light of day again due to [redacted]. They didn’t pay me royalties for the re-runs anyway.

I’ve been asked to put together a regular piece for this new website on whatever I feel you may want to read. I obviously have no bloody idea what that may be, so I guess this will be a collection of rants that I would maybe, sorta, kinda enjoy reading if I had an interest in the inner-workings and history of Professional Wrestling, particularly in Australia.

I am no historian but I certainly have an interesting, albeit likely exaggerated, tale or two from my couple decades in the game so let’s start at the very beginning.

Right after The Big Bang that was the resurgence of independent Pro Wrestling in Australia in the late 90’s, a freshly 15-year-old D. Slater decided to take his obsession with the game to another level by enrolling into The Monster Factory in Adelaide, South Australia. I’d heard many stories, usually brutal in nature, of the Monster Factory’s head trainer, an elderly ex-Australian Middleweight Champion by the name of Col Dervany. Forearms covered in prison tattoos with a demeanour that screamed ‘this is gonna hurt you MUCH more than it’ll hurt me,’ Col was every bit of the term ‘Grizzled Old Vet.’

On my arrival to this humid little tin shed located in the backstreets of one of Adelaide’s more daunting suburbs, I was led into an even tinier office where I held out my shaking, teenage hand to introduce myself. Col continued to stare down at his paperwork. “Have you done any of that S%#$?” I had heard of his disdain for less-than-professional wrestling which I, guilty as charged, had plenty of experience with. I anxiously rambled “I have learnt karate and played soccer and cricket and basketball and….” until I was cut off with “NO! THAT BACKYARD S%#$!??” It took every fibre of my being not to turn around and Gump run the 20km home.

Col Dervany – Australian Heavyweight Champion

If it wasn’t plucking your leg hairs out as you waited in line for your turn at whatever drill was happening in-ring, it was calling you over to innocently stretch you in ways you never thought imaginable. ‘The Small Package’ was his magnum opus FYI, and you’d tap before you were ever pinned for a 3-count.

I remember after a few weeks, he told me the only way I’d get out of being stretched was to call his co-trainer an expletive. Despite being a shy young lad, I was intelligent enough to recognise the lesser of two evils so I ripped the Band-Aid straight off without hesitation and mouthed off at the other guy. I was then told to get into the ring and was promptly hip-tossed for what felt like 20 minutes. I could barely pull myself off the mat by the end of it but I looked over to Col, and he gave me a single wink and a smile. That moment told me everything I needed to know. He knew your limits and would push you beyond what you thought you could do. Never too far though. If you showed that you would work hard and trusted his expertise, he had all the time in the world for you. I know that in the modern era this story will likely leave people feeling uneasy and claiming bullying, but I never for a second felt that way. Times have changed but that one expression of approval from Col gave me all the affirmation I needed to keep pushing forward in one of the toughest sports on the planet.

In the early 2000’s, most major cities of Australia were lucky to have just one Pro Wrestling school. Some, such as Perth, had none at all. Col was responsible for not only training the likes of South Australian wrestling pioneers ‘Jag’ Hartley Jackson and Havok, but he also single-handedly created a new Western Australian scene by training Davis Storm, Tyler Jacobs and many others who made the trek across the Nullarbor. He was known for painfully drilling the fundamentals until they were perfect and you can still see this influence today. If we look at some of the proteges of the aforementioned, we find internationally successful names such as JONAH, Duke Hudson, Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls and a myriad of the Australian independent scene’s most polished athletes.  

You certainly had to earn Col’s respect, but once you did you realised what an incredible heart he had. Col was a selfless man who dedicated a lifetime to Pro Wrestling and enjoyed nothing more than to see his students succeed. When I was selected for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, Col called me up to express how proud of me he was. He wasn’t well at the time but you would never have been able to tell by the excitement in his voice. It’s something I will never forget. He taught me every bit of discipline and respect for the art form that I will forever carry with me and hopefully imprint upon the next generation.

We recently saw the 5-year anniversary of Col’s passing. I miss him very much and hope that this article helps to either remind or educate some on the legacy that he has left on Australian Pro Wrestling.

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