Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – Damian Slater

Written by Damien Slater (World Beater Wrestling)

My previous articles looked at the early rise of Australian independent wrestling from the late 90’s through to the 2000’s. Naturally it makes sense to now write about the current era.

For what it’s worth, I believe that Professional Wrestling in Australia may have never been better. From training standards to athletic ability to production to event marketing and everything in between. There was certainly a period of time in the early 2010’s where the Venn diagram of serious talent and a burgeoning fanbase looked more like a circle and made for some incredible live events around the country. Major international opportunities were still quite rare so we had an abundance of young Aussies who were starting to become well-travelled and thanks to dirt cheap Tiger Airways flights, could often be seen in the same buildings. In a random local recreation centre you might have caught a Shane Haste, Slex, Robbie Eagles, Buddy Matthews, Hartley Jackson and a murderers’ row of incredible athletes, mixing it up without the benefit of social media to let the wider world know. If you can find an old DVD of some of those Wrestle Rampage or EPW or PWA events, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well much of it holds up. There really was something special about this era and it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that so many would eventually make their mark on a grander scale.

The local scene saw a massive rise in legitimate overseas opportunities from around 2014 and while it’d be logical to think that a poaching of wrestlers would negatively affect what had been built, history shows that in many places, Pro Wrestling has only become stronger in a lot of ways. Is it because of the rise in social media marketing and reach? Or perhaps the new ease of finding mentors and training opportunities?

There’s definitely an argument for the former but as for the latter, I’ve often said that an abundance of available resources actually decreases the urgency to seek out said resources. I’ll admit that I’m approaching grizzled old man status on this one, but when all we had were a few grainy old Japanese VHS tapes and trainers who were themselves, really just rookies, you soaked in every bit of information you could get. ‘Analysis Paralysis’ is a real thing. Just take note of how much time you spend scrolling through the Netflix catalogue before settling on nothing at all and compare that to being in the 90’s glued to something on 1 of the 3 major free to air channels just because it’s all there was. I probably see less overall training consistency now than in my last 20 years as a Pro Wrestler.

For my 2 cents, it’s the higher expectations and higher quality of leaders that created the monster that is 2022 Australian Pro Wrestling. The group of aforementioned talent who sought out overseas training and clawed for every bit of help they could get, became the experienced trainers who built a new generation. They themselves had created a new standard for what Pro Wrestling could be while learning not to repeat mistakes of the past. They closed the gap between ‘us and them’ and broke through the theoretical ceiling of what a kid from Australia could become in this artform. There are now very deliberate and effective pathways laid out to help you lift your game and those who don’t utilise these resources, fall behind very quickly.

Just look at how world records in athletics have consistently been broken. When the expected standard lifts, you piggyback off successful formulas and try to take them a step further. Those who really want it, now have all the tools available to reach above and beyond those who have come before them and as we have been seeing, there are plenty who are taking full advantage of that fact.

I’ve read and heard some criticism that Pro Wrestling in Australia isn’t quite at the level of maybe 3 or 4  years ago. A poorly timed pandemic sure hit us and most entertainment industries hard, but with the high standards set in the lead-up and the high expectations always evident, I’m confident we’re about to see some phoenixes rising. Between some of the young crew I’m watching fight from underneath at EPW and the incredible talents I’ve had the benefit of training with at the Camps Davis Storm and I are running, it’s clearly only a matter of time. Stay tuned!

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