Written by JT Robinson
In April 1998 the Sydney Royal Easter Show moved from Moore Park to Homebush and one of the key attractions to me was that IWA Wrestling would be performing every night. My only experience of live Australian wrestling at this point was the first Sunday of every month at Ingleburn RSL and the Wrestle Riot events at the Horden Pavilion 5 years earlier.
I had heard about IWA starting up from TNT who I had known for about 4 years meeting him at a live event and striking up a friendship. He had talked about breaking away from the established company he was working with and starting his own company.
My first night at the Easter Show I remember watching as the arena started to fill. This was right in the middle of the Monday Night Wars and there were wrestling shirts everywhere. This was not the Ingleburn RSL.
I had met and befriended a number of regulars fans on the scene – Referee Fozzy Young, James Stanios, Drago who IWA fans would later know as Jackson Johnson, the legendary Ed Lock and the late Sandy aka Salam. They all had been watching Australian wrestling for years and invited me to sit with them and accepted me into their group.
I’d go on to attend at least 5 shows over the next 2 weeks and I was hooked. TNT had talked to me about training in wrestling before, I had even done a couple of lessons with him but I was focused on going to the Sydney Olympics for Tae Kwon Do and wrestling was something I’d be way too introverted to ever do. These shows changed everything.
After the Easter Show events IWA opened a wrestling school in Manly and I signed up straight away for the hefty price of $250. For my $250 I got to train in the ring with Greg Stekker, Gladiator Vulcan, Stephen Swan and Mark Mercedes – all of whom had just spent thousands to train at Malenko’s in the US and had been working dates in Japan. It was an unbelievable experience and well worth the two hour drive.
In addition to the training school they also started running regular shows in Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong. Central Cost shows were most memorable as I would jump into a car with TNT and Curtis Hughes early on the Friday morning drive up to the coast to do the morning radio show promoting the event that night. We would arrive at the venue and have over one thousand rowdy fans on hand.
By this point TNT had introduced me to IWA co-owners Tyrone Townsend and Mark Mercedes. I started receiving invitations to swing by Ty’s place where I got to listen in on Ty, Mark and TNT putting shows and stories together. I even got to contribute a couple ideas. This became a regular thing however I think it was really just an excuse to get together and shoot the shit as I don’t remember it being super productive and more about the laughs. Regardless these nights provided me with an education.
By this time crowd numbers were going off and it seemed like we were getting sellouts everywhere we went.
As January rolled around I’d been begging for a chance to get on the shows. Like every rookie I thought I was ready long before I was. The site was the Shell Harbour Workers Club and I would be part of the opening battle royal.
Almost 26 years later although I no longer work with them many of the students I’ve trained at the Pro Wrestling Academy do.
Who would known that company that I spent about 12 months in would be connected to so many of my life memories including starting AWF, lifting the profile of PWA, making great friends and most of all meeting the person that introduced me to the mother of my 3 children but that is a different story.