Written by: Wayne Little
G’day one and all and welcome to the weird and wonderful place that is my mind, my name is Wayne and you are now entering my World. Now I have been a wrestling fan for 30 years, since a 10 year old me was shown some WWF and WCW tapes by the teenagers who lived next door to me. From that time I’ve spent times casually browsing the top surface, just watching big past shows and/or some weekly content from major companies to diving as deep as I can into whatever I could get my hands onto around this glorious thing we call the internet. In all this content that I have watched, the thousands upon thousands of hours of matches, promos and other wrestling content that I have watched, there was always something that bugged me but I only realised what this was over the last decade what it was and just how much it affected me, that is the lack of Australian role models we have had in the mainstream wrestling world.
In those first 20 years of my fandom I was only ever offered up one wrestler who could be classed as an Australian role model, and in my humble opinion Nathan Jones was honestly never that good, so I never gravitated to him. Yeah a couple of other names did float in and out, but I would have only seen one or two matches briefly on a videotape and they were never there long enough to make an impact. The closest I could ever come to a local role model would have been The Bushwackers and that is only just because of how close a ties we have with our Trans-Tasman neighbours, but it is also ingrained in me as an Aussie that while the Kiwis are our friends they are also our bitter enemies on a sporting field, and of course Professional Wrestling is first and foremost a sport
This last decade however we have seen this change and now we have seen this oversight changed dramatically and we have a plethora of Australian talent wrestling in all the major promotions around the world, any one of which I would love for my children to take on as a home-grown role model, something myself as a kid just was never able to do in these circumstances. In my last article about The Fabulous Kangaroos I mentioned some Australian names that are making headlines around the world recently and while the males are going great guns it is the women who I am most extremely proud about, the ones proving just what an Australian can do.
The first name I want to shine a light on would be Tenille Dashwood, who most people would know better as Emma in the WWE. In 2011 she was the first Australian signed to the WWE since Nathan Jones nearly a decade before and while for a few years she was the only Australian in the company (Buddy Matthews would be the next to join in 2013) I have always credited her as being the groundbreaker, the one that showed the world just what Australians could do and opened the floodgate for her countryman to get a foot in the door. While to this day she has never won a championship in the WWE (she does have an Impact Wrestling Tag Title reign to her name though) that is not the legacy she leaves for me, instead it would be, what I guess you could call, being the Godmother of Australian Wrestling in the United States.
My second names however succeeded where Emma has failed and were major title holders in the WWE. The women I am talking about are of course Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, collectively known as The IIconics. By winning the WWE Women’s Tag Team Title in 2019 they became the first Australians to hold a major title in the WWE since the Fabulous Kangaroos were champions nearly 60 years before (I will mention that Buddy Matthews had held the NXT Tag Title but I’m talking about a title within the main company, not developmental). This history-making achievement further opened the doors that Emma had started opening with her signing showing that Australians are good enough to achieve the highest heights and hold an important belt, being the head of a division in a major company.
Those figurative doors I’m talking about have been fully opened this year however, never to be closed again by two women for as while Tag Team championships are good there is always a title that is going to be more prestigious, that is of course being a singles World Champion. This year we had two Australian women simultaneously holding a Women’s World Championship in the two biggest companies in the United States. Both of these women had held a World Championship before, and the only two Australians to have ever done so, man or woman, is enough to earn this write-up. Yet it is this simultaneous feat that makes me so proud to be Australian.
Rhea Ripley in the WWE and Toni Storm in AEW showed that they were not just flash in the pans but true wrestling stars and that Australia was finally ready to dominate the world of Professional Wrestling. Now the door is fully open I can’t wait to see who walks through it next.
While I have named five women here who would be great role models for any Australian to have, women who have made it possible for the next generation of Australian wrestlers to be taken seriously I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight those that I would consider as my role-models in terms of Australian women’s wrestling. Back in 2013 I was involved in the biggest deep-dive of Wrestling I have ever done checking out matches and shows from Indies around the world. One thing that bothered me at the time was the state of women’s wrestling, just like it did everyone else. The Divas Revolution in the WWE was still 2 years away so women were just not getting the respect they deserved on the major stages. One company that was helping change that perspective was SHIMMER but I had only ever heard of the company and had never got to see any of the content. An opportunity came about for me to watch SHIMMER’s sister company SHINE and I was hooked.
After watching a few shows (monthly PPV’s) SHINE 9 happened and the realisation of just how great Australian wrestling could be hit me. On that show 4 Australian women wrestled on that show and they all left an impression on me that I still feel today. After watching 4 matches involving major names such as Sweet Saraya Knight, Allysin Kay, Courtney Rush, Rain and Angelina Love the fifth match was a showcase of Australian talent when a six women tag match saw Australians Jessie McKay (aka Billie Kay of the IICONICS), Kellie Skater and Shazza McKenzie beat Mia Yim, Nikki Roxx and Santana Garrett. This was a fun match that showed just what talent Australia can produce against some of the biggest talent the US could show.
The following match however was what really won me over, and the one biggest regret that this lady never got a chance to shine in a major company due to the environment of wrestling at the time. The match in question was the match of the night for me and involved Madison Eagles, a name I only knew by reputation at the time with her having been a previous SHIMMER Champion. While this match saw her in a losing effort to Jessicka Havok, the match was as brutal as you would expect from those two names and made me a fan on the spot. Everything I have seen from Eagles then has only furthered the thought in my mind that she is one of the best female wrestlers that Australia has ever produced.
I will be remiss though if I don’t take a second here to signal out the Kiwi that lost the next match against Mercedes Martinez. The wrestler in question was a young Evie, who spent a long time perfecting her craft on the Australian circuit and I became a fan right then. Now in the WWE as Dakota Kai, the promise she showed in that match has been fulfilled and due to her time wrestling around Australia I guess we can claim her as ours.
So thank you Emma, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm, Kellie Skater, Shazza McKenzie, Madison Eagles and all the other women toiling away in the Australian wrestling promotions, you are all women that I could point out to my daughters and say look what you can do if you put your mind to things, you are all role models that Australians deserve.