By: Aaron James Robinson (Aaron O’Malley)
This is gonna be a rough one. This is my go to story if anyone ever wants to hear about how wild the world of wrestling can get. I’ve met wrestlers who’ve travelled to some of the worst places in the world who don’t have stories as wild as this. I’m wary of what socials I even share this on, since I know my family likes reading stories of my travels, but I don’t want them reading about this particular weekend. This will take three entries to get through, I hope you enjoy the ride.
With Christmas just gone, I figure this is the perfect time to write this. Let me spin you a tale of an “adventure” I had right before Christmas in 2018. Returning to the long defunct Asia Wrestling Entertainment. There’s a lot of backstory here, but I’ll give you a truncated version.
Many people know I moved to Malaysia for a short while for AWE in 2017 to be a full time wrestler. I did my best to vet the people involved, but I wasn’t aware that the money man behind everything was a complete con artist. He was an English businessman named Dave who claimed he’d sold quiz shows to Malaysian TV executives previously, and wanted to create a WWE alternative in South East Asia. A fake it till you make it type, who constantly talked about having money coming in any second now, a TV deal literally right around the corner. Everything was always on the brink of happening if we could just hold on, and we were all on the verge of hitting our big break. But we cottoned on pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to happen. After the payments stopped and the initial TV tapings were cancelled, those of us who’d moved to Malaysia all agreed we needed to get the hell out of there. The only one who stayed was Michal, a Polish wrestler who for some reason decided to stick around while the company collapsed around him.
After that whole ordeal, I decided to make my move to the UK to work the camps. I remember working behind the scenes on the new World of Sport tapings in Norwich, seeing other wrestlers getting their chance to work on a TV show, wondering if this was as close as I’d ever get to being a famous wrestler. As the years continue on, I’m honestly not sure. I just know I love performing and entertaining people, and I’m grateful to have been able to do it in as many places as I have. I remember talking to Michal about how things were going over there, it seemed like every week someone fell out with AWE, and I honestly had no idea how it was still going. Even the fans thought the whole thing was a joke.
When my first trip to the UK ended, I thought my time of trying to make it as a full time wrestler had ended too. Until I got a Whatsapp message from Dave. The actual texts have long since been deleted, but I’ll paraphrase:
Dave: I want you to do a show in December.
Me: Isn’t the ring broken? Didn’t all the local talent leave? What about the back pay you owe me?
Dave: I’m getting the ring repaired. I’m flying in all international talent. And I’ll pay you a flat $500 US fee for your services. That’s on top of the flights and accommodation, and it won’t count towards what I already owe you. That will all be paid in due time. And I’ll make sure that money is in your account at least 3 weeks before the show.
Me: If that money gets into my account, I’ll do the show. I’m not getting on the plane if it’s not.
It all sounded too good to be true. And it was. Two weeks before the show was scheduled, I hadn’t been paid a cent. My flights weren’t booked. I messaged and emailed Dave, but it was all in vain. I was convinced the show wasn’t going to happen, until I got a message from Michal.
Michal: Give me your paypal details buddy. I’ll make sure you get paid. We’re putting Juventud Guerrera on the show, do you want to be the one who wrestles him?
How could I refuse? The money went into my account, and I found myself flying to… Singapore. Why Singapore and not Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, with a growing interest in wrestling? Because Dave had pissed off the wrestlers and fans in Kuala Lumpur. He was convinced he could make the show work in the city of Johor Bahru, a Malaysian city that borders Singapore, with the hopes of bringing fans from both countries to see his show. We’d done a show in Johor Bahru previously for AWE, it didn’t draw at all and felt like one massive money sink, but hey it wasn’t my money that was being wasted.
I met fellow Aussie wrestler Wam Bam Bellows in Singapore, who’d also been booked on the show. We were both part of the original run of AWE, and had some wild adventures together living in Malaysia. He’d convinced Jonah Rock, shortly before he was set to debut in WWE as Bronson Reed, to come do the show as well, but he’d be getting picked up from the airport at a later date. Before travelling across the border, we caught up with our Singaporian wrestler friends, including Kenneth the “Eurasian Dragon”. Due to their friendly relationship with the Malaysian wrestlers, none of the Singaporians agreed to do the show either, and were just there to hang out with us and help us get across the border. Kenneth explained to us that there were bus services we could catch that would let us travel across the border easily. So we drank, chatted, and eventually made our way towards the busses.
And that, my friends, is where things really started going wrong.
Continued in Part 2.