Damian Slater – Anthem for the Year 2000

Anthem for the Year 2000

The Australian independent Pro Wrestling scene is undoubtedly one of the best going today.
In terms of producing exceptional talent who have made waves overseas, the production
quality of live and recorded events as well as the large, passionate audiences who attend
regularly, you just can’t deny the world-class efforts coming out of multiple promotions
across a range of states and territories.

These success stories are easy to see with the age of social media but what about the eras
that preceded the present? In my first article I spoke about Professional Wrestling almost
disappearing in Australia during the 90’s, particularly in South and Western Australia.
However the early 2000’s saw a ‘Big Bang’ of sorts where the Attitude Era lifted all boats
and small groups of dedicated young Aussies with limited resources, banded together in
pockets of the country to create something special.

This was a DIY scene kept alive by late night A5 flyer drops, hard-working futons and cheap
Tiger Airways flights (or greyhound buses!). Though even without the use of the internet,
we also saw hundreds, sometimes thousands of people gathering in some of Australia’s
most historic arenas, to watch unknown locals live out their dreams. In Adelaide, it was
Thebarton Theatre (the former stomping ground of Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski,
Andre The Giant and the greats of the old World Championship Wrestling) that became our
semi-regular home. There was no money to be made. The rosters were scant. The wrestlers
were also the ring crew, the marketing team, the production guys and even amateur chefs
from time to time. 2-hour shows became full weekends of manual labour, financial stress
and performance anxiety, but everyone walked through the trenches together as a team.
In those early 2000’s, there was no obvious way to make it overseas. Few had even travelled
internationally. Of course you’d hear through the grapevine about a couple of Australians
flying over to the USA and mingling with some smaller independents, but it was nothing like
the successes we see regularly today.

For us, wrestling at the local town hall once every month or so, was the best it was going to get and so we attacked it with everything we had. There were very few veterans around to lead the way. Our main sources of knowledge were grainy over-dubbed VHS tapes and each other, so showing up to training sessions to try and figure out how to keep moving forward was the highlight of our week.
Naturally we see plenty of the ‘old guard vs. new guard’ debates popping up and it always
makes me think about whether I look back on my early memories with rose-coloured
glasses. While I believe that standards of training quality and talent we see today on the
Australian circuit are the best it has ever been, I also feel that the aura of some of the
events of past were simply magical and will remain with those involved for a lifetime.
We all create our own interpretations of the world around us but I have a suspicion that the
types of environment I’ve discussed breeds a work ethic and love for the journey like no
other. The grass isn’t greener on the other side, when you don’t know of another side.
Although some of the talents of the 2000s are still performers, trainers and mentors today,
many have slowly faded away into relative obscurity. However let’s not forget that the
current generation were the kids who grew up watching them and wishing to one day walk
in their footsteps. The Shane Hastes, Robbie Eagles, Adam Brooks & JONAHs may not have
had their talents recognised without the efforts of Hartley Jackson, Davis Storm, Spike
Steele, Jimmy Payne, Steve Frost, Lobo, Steve O’Neal etc.

I’ve always said it’s hard to force ‘family’ but it was hard not to feel a special bond with your
brothers and sisters during difficult and uncertain periods like the 2000’s. The recent passing
of legendary Australian ring announcer and great friend to us all, Bassem Abousaid, had me
reminiscing on so many of the good times of past. I often wonder if I would have seen more
overseas success had I been born 5-10 years later. However writing this article has reminded
me of how grateful I am to have lived through a period of time where Pro Wrestling was and
had to be a true team sport. Not to discredit the Professional Wrestling landscape of 2022
but there’s something remarkable about achieving things far beyond expectation with no
road map or precedent to follow.

R.I.P. Bass, and the ultimate respect to everyone else who came up during those early days
and without anywhere near enough recognition, built the scene into the thriving hot spot
that it is today.

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