By: Aaron James Robinson (Aaron O’Malley)
As showday arrived, it quickly became apparent that one member of the company wasn’t ready for the big event: The Ring.
I can’t tell you how, but when the re-welded frame was put into place, both the boards and the ropes no longer fit the slightly larger frame. We had a few hours to try and make the damn thing work. Initially I kind of stepped back and watched, but with enough years of putting up rings across different countries, I found myself taking charge of how to make the damn thing last for at least this show. I went downstairs and bought a bunch of tape to hold the boards in place, I helped create a new board to replace the one that was broken, and I used the ratchet straps to try and bring the posts in to allow us to hook on the ropes.
But it wasn’t enough.
Even with the posts pulled in, the ropes still wouldn’t reach. As the bell time drew closer, I wondered how we were going to make it work. Out of nowhere the circus owner rocked up, durry in hand, overlooking the situation. The magnificent bastard used the ratchets in a genius way, jerryrigging them over a concrete bollard to bring the posts in even further, allowing us to finally get the ropes on. But this created a bigger problem. With the ropes being super tight, we could only ratchet underneath to a certain extent, the whole thing was tight up top and loose underneath, lifting the corner posts off the ground and making it unstable. The circus owner shrugged, pushed some pallets underneath the raised posts, and the thing was somehow stable enough to last the show.
We had to delay the show about half an hour, but we’d set the ring up at least. We made sure everyone knew about the dodgy man-made board, and after finding out how stiff the ring was, we all agreed we’d probably limit our bumps. Before the show I’d asked Michal how many we were expecting. The venue was set up for at least 600 or so. Michal shrugged, “I think we may actually sell the place out, we’ve been pushing the show hard locally”
We had about 40 in the audience. Including the circus performers who’d come down to watch.
For everything I could say about the show, it seemed like everyone worked hard. The audience reacted loudly any time you worked to them directly, but they’d quiet back down as soon as you turned away. My match with Ho Ho Lun was perfectly cromulent. I doubt he’s telling everyone in Dragon Gate about the time he wrestled the most amazing wrestler he’d ever seen from Australia, but we both had fun.
The show went along swimmingly until the end. During the closing tag between Wam Bam Bellows, Jonah Rock and two of the Chinese wrestlers, that dreaded board finally gave way. While taking a neckbreaker during the big move exchange to end the match, Jonah’s foot was trapped by the board, potentially hyperextending his knee. This was Jonah’s final booking before heading to NXT, and I was terrified that he might potentially miss the biggest opportunity of his career, and that I might be responsible for it. Luckily it was a minor strain. He was walking slowly the next day, but it seemed like he’d be fine to wrestle soon enough.
With the show done, those who hadn’t got paid yet were (surprisingly!) paid by Dave, and a group of us packed into the circus van to go back to the accommodation. We were all starving, so we all went to hit up the nearest McDonalds. We pulled into a paid parking lot only to find that the McDonalds was just closing. Not to worry, we all got in the van and tried to exit, but the ticket machine ate our ticket. And that’s how we found ourselves at midnight, locked into a car park with no-one around to help. We tried to see if there was any security around, or a communication button to ring the car park office: Nothing. There we were, starving, tired and sore, trying to workshop ways to get out of this goddamn car park. We found short detachable ramps and pieces of wood and were genuinely thinking of ways we could use them to make a makeshift ramp over the raised curb to escape onto the main road in the circus van. Deep inside we knew it wasn’t going to work though. Finally, after an hour of mucking around a security car arrived and bemusingly helped us escape our concrete prison.
Just like how there was no solid plan to get all the wrestlers to the accommodation, there was no solid plan to get everyone home. I figured 5 hours would be more than enough time to make it to the Singapore airport. Jonah and I took a taxi to the border. Not wanting to waste time, I remembered Singaporean wrestlers telling me that there were always private drivers waiting around to take people from the border to the airport to save time, but they weren’t technically allowed to do it and so don’t advertise their services. But after a few minutes of searching around I realised I had no idea what the f*$% I was doing, or what I was really looking for, so I just told Jonah we’d catch the bus. Between the taxi, the Malaysian border, the bus and the Singaporean border, that 5 hour window was shrinking fast.
When we made it to the Singaporean border Jonah and I were split up, stuck in two lines moving at different speeds. I saw him cross to the other side and turn to wait for me, I waved at him to keep on moving, he looked at me reluctantly, but I think we both knew that time was running out. When I finally got to the line for the taxis to get to the airport there was now only a little over an hour left before I was due to board. My heart was firmly in my stomach. Was I gonna get home? The taxi was fast enough, and I got to the airport with about 45 minutes to board. Would they even let me through? Would I get stuck in a massive line? Was I going to have to tell my wife I was stuck in Singapore for another night?
Thank god for Changi airport being super efficient I suppose. I was through security in less than 5 minutes. After everything I was a sweaty mess. I messaged Jonah to see if he’d made it too. He had. He apologised for going ahead, but I told him I understood. No sense in us both being trapped here. When I finally got home my wife asked me how the show went. I told her it was a mess and I’d give her the full story later. I don’t think I ever did tell her everything. Truth be told, I don’t know that I’ve ever told the full story before. So much went wrong that I always forget something. Maybe I forget that we got trapped in a carpark, or the story behind Malik getting maligned, or the mad rush we made to the airport. Something always slips my mind.
I got a message from Dave using his burner account on Facebook a few days later, thanking me for doing the show and helping with the ring when I didn’t have to. I never did reply to him. In fact I never spoke to Dave again. AWE was clearly dead before we got there, but Dave’s last ditch effort to make things work was just a massive waste of money that nobody saw and nobody cared about. After that, the social media for the company never updated again, and the company disappeared off the face of the earth. The Malaysian wrestling scene eventually started to bounce back after everything that happened, but covid definitely slowed things down.
As much of a mess as AWE was, I made some good friends from it. I’m already starting to plan wrestling trips to Malaysia and Singapore this year once I make my return to Australia. For all the shattered dreams and broken promises, I can at least say I got a truly unhinged story out of it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the wild ride, because I’ve enjoyed finally writing this whole thing out. I don’t think my next article will be as crazy as this.