I spent a day immersed in Melbourne's wrestling scene and things got out of hand

Because of course it did. 

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Illustration by Stephanie Dimofski

Growing up during the golden age of wrestling, I was well into it as a kid. Saturday mornings featured free-to air WWF on telly, hissing at the bad guys, pondering how much André the Giant could eat, arguing about whether the action was real, discussing the logistics of a figure-four leg lock with my little bro and I re-enacting epic slap downs with our Hulk Hogan and Mr T thumb wrestlers. Then, I kind of forgot about it. Not even Mickey Rourke’s star turn in The Wrestler could reignite my wrestling glee (which is fair enough, because the film was as depressing AF).
Recently though, wrestling’s been back on my radar courtesy of Netflix’s GLOW, a loving retelling of how an eclectic bunch of broads made a DIY TV vehicle that morphed into a star wrestling attraction. Sitting on the couch three episodes in, I announce that I’m probably going to become a wrestler. But first things first – I need to check out the action. That’s how I find myself in a community hall on a bitingly cold night Saturday night for Melbourne City Wrestling’s (MCW) Fight to Survive.
MCW is only one of a bunch of independent professional wrestling outfits in Australia, but it’s one of the most popular. I’ve got to catch up on MCW lore quick splits: fans are discussing the form of this evening’s line up with reference to extensive back stories and the canon of previous matches. It’s another land out here, not the least because there are so many big beards and not a hipster in sight. Lots of families too, which makes sense, because it’s a damn sight cheaper than a night at the movies.
The first match is a tag-team showdown between the Fighting Taylor Brothers, two tiny units weighing in collectively at 165 kilos, and the bickering Fun Time Trouble duo, made up of Mike Burr and my new personal fave Funtime Phil (a dead ringer for Silent Bob who’s personal branding is “Big F’n Rig”). Phil goes AWOL before the match starts and has to be dragged into the ring by his ear and signposts his action by yelling shit to his partner like, “Get down, I’ve got a cool move”. Realistically, the Fun Time Trouble duo could dust their opponents just by virtue of size, but the action’s evenly paced with more aerials than a swing dance.
The second match features crowd fave and slack-jawed yokel Cletus Blood pit against one of the villains of the piece, Jake Lindo. Lindo enters the ring grinding to Ginuwine and humping the mat undeterred by a chorus of booing. This is pantomime for grown-ups in the best possible way, and I have an epiphany: I’m basically made to watch wrestling as a form of entertainment. I’ve spent a lifetime being bagged for involuntarily yelling out at the movies – take any movie in the Die Hard chain and I'm the crazy lady yelling out, "behind you Bruce” – but now, my inability to STFU comes into its own.
The next match, an unscheduled and all-bets-off debacle between MCW legend KrakerJak and delusional Perth outsider Davis Storm (he refers to himself as the Messiah), goes next level with props incorporating metal bin lids, a roadwork sign, a staple gun, and a cricket bat wrapped in barbed wire. In an unexpected turn of events, Storm takes down KrakerJak. Demonstrating how quickly I’ve become invested in the action, I’m actually shocked.
The penultimate match is between modern Amazon Kellyanne and Mortar, a built like a brick-shit-house Kiwi. Mortar’s unlike anything that’s entered the ring so far: painted like a zombie All Black she’s properly menacing. These two are warriors and the audience is all in. There’s some tit slapping that’s audible above the crowd, which has me instinctively shielding my chest. The kind lady behind me strokes my arm and urges me to breathe.
Finally, there’s the heavyweight match we’ve been waiting for and this is where it gets uncomfortable. Initially, the match is between golden boy Dowie James and Samoan TK Cooper, who is curiously sporting a romper suit covered in cacti. I’m assuming there’s a joke in there about pricks, but I’m not getting it. Cooper is accompanied by his missus Dahlia Black. Black’s a wrestler too, but she’s there ostensibly to pester Dow and make out with Cooper. The crowd, which to this point has been remarkably mannered, loses its shit over Black and the misogyny boils over. She’s called a whore, slut and a slag and blokes are encouraging someone to “show her a lesson”. What the actual fuck? Nothing even approaching this shit gets levelled at any of the blokes. But what tips it over the edge is when injured former heavyweight champ Mr Juicy gets in the ring to save the day. Cooper goes to punch him, Juicy sidesteps the swipe and Cooper belts Black in the face, knocking her out and to the ground. The crowd goes apeshit.
Ok, Cooper didn’t punch her on purpose (in fact, it’s choreographed, so he didn’t actually punch her at all), but still they’ve created a narrative where it's not just OK to cheer when a woman is knocked out by her partner, but it’s positively encouraged. Once again, I’m proved the crazy lady, launching to my feet and screaming against the tide, “You’re all a bunch of fucking animals”. It’s the only sour note to an otherwise corker of an evening. 

Interested in similar stories? Check out our feature on Melbourne's underground wrestling circuit here. 
Illustration by Stephanie Dimofski.