Salem was a great bloke, but those of you who only knew his in-ring work might struggle to believe me. He cut an imposing figure at a legit 6’5, long black hair with a genuine mean streak, he had an incredible presence. A presence that I’m not sure even he was fully aware of. A true heel, a proper villain and one of the last of those 80’s influenced workers that saw the value in keeping kayfabe alive, even in the modern over exposed era.
Salem was a bastard; he genuinely loved the heat and wore it as a badge of honour. One of his favourite road stories (and mine) was the time he made the kids in the front row cry while ‘breaking in’ a couple of the rookies. After shows he would wait backstage peeking through the curtain to make sure there were no fans left before he came out, and he never signed a single autograph. For those of us lucky enough to know the Sandy behind the Salem, we knew the complete opposite. He was intelligent, charismatic, engaging and just an all-round likeable guy. His love of metal and wrestling was self-evident, he liked what he liked and rarely shied away from an opinion. He could be found backstage on a rant about an album or the state of the wrestling business, and his passion made it hard not to be persuaded.
I loved our run as a tag team, we had a lot of fun especially on the road. We worked a physical style that was heavily influenced by the Road Warriors and we had some great matches. Sandy loved working the new guys, he would stir them up with warnings about what he would do to them if they screwed up. He had a lot of the trainees dreading the thought of wrestling us and the relief on their faces during the post-match bro hugs and high fives had us entertained for hours. We both had stories of getting beaten and stretched as rookies and agreed it made us better workers, we took pride in passing the favour. His left boots to Scotty Dozer, those chops to Mat Wolf or the crazy bumps that tough little bastard H8tred took, he gave it out but could always take it. I was particularly proud of the match we had at the Australian Wrestling Supershow IV against the Blood Brothers. Salem’s Death Valley Driver off the top was brutal and from the noise he made on impact I’m sure Cleatus was glad that was the go home spot. We made a great team because I was the mechanic and he was the star, and that was never clearer than the night when we were on the Q&A panel at the premier of ‘Lovestruck’ the movie about superfan Sue Chuter. He was visibly nervous before hand which I found fascinating, and we shared the panel with Ed Lock, Fozzy, the Director Megan Spencer and Sue Chuter herself. As the questions came in, I was classic fish out of water but no not Sandy. First question directed at him he immediately went into an off-the-cuff promo on a few guys in the audience, it was like a comedy central roast. The whole theatre was left clapping and howling as I sat in awe.
I admired Sandy, he had the physicality most of us desired and talent to back it up. He had a huge personality that in my opinion could have had him working for Vince, but he stayed modest and humble. He had a massive influence on me with music and pop culture but more importantly, he helped me see wrestling in a new way beyond just the spots.
Australian wrestling has lost a legend and he will be missed.
I knew him better than most, and I didn’t know his age or even his real surname until the day of his funeral.
Kayfabe till the end.
Love ya brother.
Nate ‘Devlin’ Callaghan
The other guy in the 5-time tag team champs