What do you think of when you hear that term? Over-muscled guys dressed in spandex who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag, pretending to hurt one another on American TV shows, right?
Unfortunately, thanks to the WWE (formerly WWF) and especially guys like Hulk Hogan (and his modern day equivalent, John Cena), this is the image that has persisted for decades.
But what many people don't realise is that Australia has had a vibrant professional wrestling community, dating back to the 1950s. Many international stars in the days before the WWF/E dominance came to Australia, and the old Australian WCW show was a staple on television. But the rise of WWF/E saw the local scene fall prey to the American product which was on television. Australian performers could not match the look and size of the full-time American performers, many of whom were later shown to have been steroid abusers.
However, the 1990s saw the rise of professional wrestling in Australia, corresponding to the demise in quality of the televised American product. In every mainland state in Australia, wrestling promotions sprung up, of varying quality and varying longevity.
But arguably the most vibrant wrestling state in Australia is South Australia.
South Australia is the home to four wrestling promotions, all of which have been around for quite a few years. This then is a look at them and what they offer.
Riot City Wrestling RCW is, in my opinion, the best promotion in South Australia. With monthly shows and a fanatical fan-base, they have a consistently high quality product.
taken from their website
Positives: The skill of the performers is high. The wrestling they do, for the most part, looks realistic. The characters are not cartoons, but real men and women who look like they want to fight. They have a strong women's division. Their presentation – lighting, sound, video screen – is amazingly professional. Their range of merchandise, from t-shirts and DVDs to posters, key-rings and fridge magnets, is extensive. They also do shows in Mount Gambier and Victor Harbor, giving some regional fans a chance to see them.
Negatives: A high reliance on interstate wrestlers. The same guys at the top for a long time. But, really, very few negatives for this promotion.
Zero-1 was born out of NWA-Pro. The NWA used to be the foremost wrestling organisation (a loose collective of promotions from all over the world), but Zero-1 have now joined forces with Zero-1, a major Japanese promotion.
Positives: The skill of the performers is generally high. They have one of the very best wrestlers in Australia in Hartley Jackson. They have access to international stars, which they use very well. When they run a super-show, they bring in the best wrestlers from Australia, including from other South Australian promotions, which is something of a rarity.
Negatives: Not a huge number of shows through the year. The undercard matches have a habit of looking similar to one another. The presentation is a little underdone for such a big promotion. But, again, very few negatives.
Positives: Closest to the WWE in their characters. They have one of the best high-flyers in Australia in Blue Blood. They hold shows in the north, west and south of Adelaide. Good use of video screens.
Negatives: Some of the wrestlers don't even look like athletes. Some of the performers seem a little underdone in ring skill. Often put style over substance.
HRPW has a hard time being taken seriously by other wrestling promotions, although they have had more international athletes who could be called stars feature on their shows than any other.
taken from their website
Positives: International stars (Orlando Jordan, Raven, Steve Corino) making appearances. One of my favourite local heavyweights, Cannonball Chris Taylor, wrestles for them. They wrestle a lot of various country shows, giving regional South Australians a chance to see live wrestling.
Negatives: In-ring skill appears to be lacking amongst many performers. Small crowds make for a weird atmosphere. Too heavy a reliance on stunts and big names from elsewhere.
So there they are – the four main promotions in South Australia. Others have come and gone, some from interstate come over and occasionally do shows in Adelaide. But when RCW and Zero-1 sell out (or as near as dammit) on a consistent basis, the local fans seem to know what they like and where to go to get their live wrestling fix.
Positives: It's live. It's local. All of them offering training for anyone who wants to try (with certain age limits). It's cheap (especially when compared to purchasing a WWE Pay Per View). The wrestlers look like real people, not over-exaggerated superheroes.
Negatives: It does not look as good as the WWE. Some in-ring skill is lacking (though the same can be said for WWE as well). They are not as popular or as well known as they could be.
Recommended for anyone who wants a different night out, and definitely for fans of televised wrestling.