Cherry Goes To Hollywood – Cherry Stephens

It’s everyone’s favourite student of wrestling (and Soul of PWA champion) Cherry Stephens here, with the first instalment of a three-part series of articles focused on being an Australian professional wrestler.

Come with me on a journey to Los Angeles!

Part 1: Cherry goes to Hollywood

I stepped out of LAX into the frigid morning Los Angeles air and drew a deep breath, the
smell of weed and opportunity stinging my nose holes.
‘We made it boys!’ I said to my immediate travel companions; The Rapscallion Mick
Moretti and that bastard Will Kiedis (we would link up with 8 other PWA wrestlers the
following day), our group was there with a mission.

First mission of the trip: the famous Comedy Store

Perhaps as a wrestling fan, you have made the horrifically long journey to the so-called Land of the Free to partake in the age-old (ahem since 1985) ritual that is Wrestlemania. Overpriced beers, overpriced hotdogs, overpriced merch but you get to see your favourite pro wrestlers in the flesh! Until your eyes are invariably pulled from the teeny tiny wrestling ring, with even teeny tinier wrestlers, to the giant screens because you spent all the money to get to the United States but didn’t fork out for good seats. The ‘you’ in these statements is me, to be clear, and I was actually very happy to be five stories up standing against the balustrades, because the thing about Wrestlemania is it’s all about the atmosphere. The cheers (what is a Brood Edge, by the way? I dunno, but I was into it), the boo’s (Omos was robbed), the botches (Snoop Dogg calling a match on the fly, a historical moment). The Hollywood theme gave a warmth to the stadium, bathing everyone in hues of red and gold. One thing viewers at home miss out on is that collective feeling that anything was possible at any moment, the same breath caught in tens of thousands of throats, hanging on the precipice of the potential for something magical to happen and to be there to witness it. That’s Wrestlemania, baby.

But back to the mission. I’m not here to write all about Wrestlemania, there’s enough gosh darn content on that. There’s another side to Mania Week that we lowly indy wrestlers put ourselves through. And it involves some metaphorical kowtowing for that next big break.

Our work ethic at PWA is astounding. Our veteran coaches have taught us to help out in any way we can while we train to become professional wrestlers: ring crew, production, refereeing, promo assistance, even days spent cleaning the academy. Not only do we learn every aspect of what it takes to keep a wrestling promotion running, the idea is that the more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities may come your way. Sometimes you may feel like you just got a lucky break, and a lot of this industry is very much ‘right place, right time’ – but I also firmly believe that you make your own luck. So we all have this mindset when we travel overseas, especially for Wrestlemania Week. It’s our chance to show that PWA wrestlers are true workers, and if we display that outside the ring, we may be afforded the opportunity to show what we’ve got in the ring (Wrestling Rule #37: Always bring your gear). We could be just one great match away from planting that Aussie wrestling flag.

The great COVID pandemic of 2019 really knocked Australian wrestling back, and we were all determined to recover it as quickly as possible. What better way than to showcase our talent on US soil to remind everyone that we once conquered, and fiercely believe we will do so again?

The only problem with that is, you may simply be taken advantage of and become free labour. Our group of 10 PWA wrestlers, through Coach Moretti’s connections, arrived at the IMPACT Wrestling Multiverse taping and got assigned our jobs – selling merch, unloading supplies from cars, helping with the meet & greet, packing chairs after the show, whatever they needed. There were definitely some cool moments, like being backstage where Tanahashi was peeking through the curtain at guerilla, or seeing Aja Kong chilling and chatting. But duty called as the first bell rang. I worked merch where, before killing it on the show, Aussie Open’s Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis walked past and did a double-take at me at the table. I got me a big hug and it kind of made me laugh internally at how far apart we were in the actual game of pro wrestling – even though we were all PWA-bred. At the end of the day, we want to show our team spirit by helping, which could hopefully lead to an opportunity to showcase our wrestling skills (which I believe more and more after two back-to-back trips to the US, are truly the best in the world). But the fact that that has to involve saving for a year just to buy a plane ticket to the US (and current cost of living will make this even more difficult to do in the near future), only to get zero to very minimal opportunities (especially when you see those same US wrestlers pop up on each and every indy show) is somewhat demoralising. But as they say: that’s showbiz baby!

I got the opportunity to be in a 10-man rumble at a tiny show for Circle 6, held in the courtyard of a bar called the Knucklehead.
“You’re from AUSTRALIA?”

The American wrestlers on the show were initially aghast at the hella long flight we took to get there. But myself and Jimmy Townsend showed them what PWA is all about, if only for 5 minutes or so. And that was worth the 15-hour trip for me. Maybe next time it will be 10 minutes, or more bookings on other shows. The grind never stops. Do you have what it takes?

Read more about what it takes to be a professional wrestler at Cherry Stephen’s
Substack PU・RO

Read our interview with Cherry at the link here, or listen below.

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