Feature: Cherry Stephens – The Soul of Australian Wrestling?

Click here for the full audio interview!

“I’ve always been very partial to the written word. I love reading, I love books, I think there’s a way of storytelling in word that we forget about a lot in social media because there’s so much content. 

The way that I write is a bit chaotic. I’m much more comfortable doing that than I would be recording a video or that kind of content. My home is in writing.”

The most enjoyable thing about speaking with wrestlers is rarely hearing about their matches. It’s hearing about their passions and their creative hobbies. Because I’m not sure many pursue wrestling as an athletic pursuit, but rather a creative one.

It was Cherry’s creative side that made me interested to speak with her, following the recent launch of her blog at cherrystephens.substack.com. I kind of appreciate that, as an artist, Cherry shares the same reservations as the rest of us. “It’s always nerve-wracking to put something out there that’s quite personal, especially cos it’s toeing the line between what’s real and what’s not real in wrestling,”

It would make sense that Cherry approached wrestling as a creative outlet after years of fandom. But that’s not the case at all. As she explains on her blog, she didn’t grow up a wrestling fan, and wrestling wasn’t originally a creative pursuit. “I had never seen a PWA match or show, I didn’t know any of the wrestlers, I was purely interested in the physical aspect of wrestling, so everything came backwards for me” Cherry says. “It has been quite a different journey for me, and I really fell in love with the wrestling, the pure wrestling, and then all of the other fun stuff kind of came later.”

That’s staggering to me – while Cherry is outstanding in the ring, her meteoric rise is due in large part to a character that originally wasn’t her focus. Until it was!

“I put myself into that character. I really think a lot of it is me and being quite genuinely who I am, which is kind of awkward, quite studious, a little bit silly… (I focus on) the storytelling and the technique and everything to have a match look good. Our coaches would teach us, especially Mick (Moretti), the importance of the storytelling and how you’re going to show your character through that.”

Why the character has become so wildly successful? “I think… they can see that there’s a genuine-ness to it, and so they’re going to believe it more.”

Cherry’s biggest achievement to date has been winning the Soul of PWA title, but before she got there, she embarked on a critical long-term storyline as Will Kiedis’ underling and personal ref, which evolved into a bet between Kiedis and Big Fudge over whether Cherry could be successful, and eventually resulted in Cherry beating both in a three-way match to become the #1 contender to Mick Moretti’s Soul of PWA title.

“That was a defining moment for my character. That was a switchover, from the nervous Cherry, the awkward Cherry who was just trying to get through the match, and then kind of came under Will’s wing – but not in a good way – and so I think all that struggle that Cherry kind of went through, out the other end was this kind of new and improved Cherry that’s ready to take on the next chapter, whatever that is.”

“Of course you don’t really get self-development by yourself, it happens through situations that you’re put in and the people that you’re around that are going to shape what happens next. So they were completely defining in my career, and my favourite storyline ever.” Cherry has just succinctly explained wrestling babyface psychology, and the importance of overcoming turmoil for the success to mean anything. (See also: Cody Rhodes losing at Wrestlemania!)

What came next for Cherry was her 27th match, at an event named in her honour, wrestling PWA’s top star in Mick Moretti for the Soul of PWA Championship. What happened in that match was magic, and I personally voted for it as Match of the Year in PWA’s end of 2022 awards.

Cherry tells me of the match: “The build up to that was the most intense preparation that I’ve had in my nearly 5 years of wrestling. I think that coming out of the bet story (with Fudge & Kiedis), and to get to that level of almost being a top student, the A-Grade student, and you’re going against your coach who is like A+++++ forever and ever ad infinitum.”

“You want to prove yourself, you want to prove that you can hang, and so the preparation for that in all aspects of my life was really intense, it was dieting, it was exercising, it was training as much as I could to be as ready as I could to step in the ring with one of Australia’s best wrestlers.”

“It (the Moretti match) was my moment of 2022.” In PWA? Mine too Cherry!

Of course, Cherry doesn’t appear the type to rest on her laurels, recently visiting Los Angeles for Wrestlemania weekend and becoming Australia’s newest international performer. “I got to make a debut at Circle 6 in a rumble style match. That was really cool, one of my bucket list items was to perform at a show during Wrestlemania week. So I managed to tick that off.”

And Cherry’s upward momentum continued just this week, with a dream come true for the Japanese-speaking wrestling prodigy whose wrestling goals lay in the Land of the Rising Sun.

“This is one of the really big steps, having this match with Jessica Troy at New Japan Tamashii. I was so excited to find that out, because I’ve got a bit of Japanese, I love Japan and Japanese culture, and so to be able to represent Australian wrestling on a platform like New Japan World that’s going to go out everywhere – it’s super exciting, and even more exciting to wrestling Jess.”

It’s just another massive opportunity for Cherry, with her first post-Wrestlemania match being against Delta for the Melbourne City Wrestling Women’s Championship at Thornbury Theatre on 8 April. It was a title opportunity earned in the Ballroom Blitz match at MCW 12 in November 2022, where Cherry eliminated all four opponents.

“That was really cool. I haven’t been in a lot of matches like that, so to get on top and manage to come out victorious, especially taking Steph de Lander out at the last second was a really good feeling.”

In a sport like wrestling, it can sometimes be difficult for performers to articulate why exactly an opportunity or an accolade might be important to them, but Cherry has no such issue – it sounds genuinely important to her.

“Winning the MCW belt, I think having that recognition interstate is really important to me – in a sense to represent Cherry, but also to represent PWA in a way. To have the Soul of PWA and Melbourne City Wrestling Championships would really mean a lot for my representation of my academy, and of my training and my coaches. I think that’s what it means to me.”

It’s not a new match-up for either performer, with Delta and Cherry Stephens facing on in a very good, competitive match at MCW Rite of Passage in early 2022. Asked how this match will be different: 

“You’re an idiot if you try doing the same thing over and over again. I’ve got my playbook, I’ve got my notebook, I’ve been filling it up, I’ve been studying it, I’ve been watching Delta’s matches trying to find what the weakness could be, what strategy I could use that’s going to be most effective, so that’s what I’m going to try and employ on Saturday.”

“And if that doesn’t work, we try something else, and we try again and again and again, and we keep getting up!”

Sounds exactly like what Cherry Stephens would do!

MCW Blood in the Water details:

MCW Blood in the Water is on 8 April, 2023.

MCW will stream Blood in the Water live on Fite TV – their stream costs 15 bucks, and the production quality is as good as any indy in the world.

Purchase the stream at https://www.fite.tv/watch/mcw-blood-in-the-water/2pcr7/ 

There are also some extremely limited tickets available if you would like to attend live, which is a great spectacle.

Purchase tickets at mcwtix.com.au

New Japan Pro Wrestling TAMASHII details:

The Sydney leg of the upcoming NJPW TAMASHII tour, featuring Cherry Stephens vs Jessica Troy, takes place on 15 April.

You can purchase tickets at https://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/njpw-tamashii-sydney/150459 

The upcoming TAMASHII tour also includes their debut show in Adelaide on 14 April and a show in Melbourne on 16 April.

Previous TAMASHII shows have become available on njpwworld.com approximately a month after the event.

Cherry’s details

Age 29

Height – 165cm

Weight – 55kg

Debut – 2019

From – Sydney

ChampionshipsCurrent Soul of PWA Champion

Current Promotions – Pro Wrestling Australia, Melbourne City Wrestling, SLAM! Pro Wrestling League

An intro to Cherry Stephens:

1. Mick Moretti (c) vs Cherry Stephens, Soul of PWA Championship Match, PWA: Cherry’s All That

This match can be found on Fite+

2. Cherry Stephens vs Delta, MCW: Rite of Passage

3. Cherry Stephens vs Kinglsey, SLAM! Pro Wrestling League 6

4. MCW Ballroom Blitz, MCW 12
This match can be found on Fite+

5. Will Kiedis vs Big Fudge vs Cherry Stephens, PWA University of Falling Off A 20ft Ladder
This match can be found on Fite+

Listen to the full interview below:

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