Professional wrestling is an intricate dance that tells a story – a combination of sports, comedy, music and drama that forms a show to keep audiences of over 50,000 on the edge of their seats.
Wrestling has never been seen as a stable career path, and certainly not in Australia. If anything, it’s more fantastical. There is no company like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to aspire to nationally, and only a handful of wrestlers from Australia have even made it to WWE. Meanwhile, rather than crowds of 50,000, there is more likely to be a few hundred at most.
Yet there’s still over 40 wrestling promotions in Australia that continue to put on shows every month. So, is there a way for wrestlers in Australia to earn a living at home?
Connor Foutras and David Yang, known by their character names Ricky Gilmore and Big Dave respectively, make up the tag-team Big Dude Energy. Current Professional Championship Wrestling (PCW) tag-team champions, the pair wrestle Australia-wide. In September they were a part of the Ascension event for Melbourne City Wrestling (MCW). But unlike most Australian professional wrestlers, their dream is not the WWE.
“I’m a professional wrestler for fun,” Foutras tells upstart. “It’s f—ing cool.”
The pair don’t recall having large ambitions when they started wrestling. While Australian wrestlers like Buddy Matthews and Indi Hartwell have made the jump to AEW (All Elite Wrestling) and WWE respectively from Australia, both Foutras and Yang acknowledge that while it’s a great dream, it’s hard to accomplish.
“I think some people get so caught up on this is my dream and ‘my dream is to be WWE Champion’, and not everyone is going to be WWE Champion, right,” Foutras says. “So inevitably, when people fall short of that, they’re disappointed.”
“My dream now is just to keep having fun with my mate.”
The pair always knew they wanted to be a tag-team and wrestle together. An Instagram ad popped up for a new wrestling school in Melton, and the rest was history.
“We sent it to each other like alright… if we’re going to do this, we gotta f—ing do it now,” Foutras says.
Yang says he has “zero aspiration” for singles wrestling, because it’s about the two of them doing it together.
“Because it’s not the main reason I even heard about wrestling, or even started wrestling, because I started with him,” he says.
In one of their first sessions, Foutras and Yang were asked by their trainers what their goals were.
“We were probably the only two that sat back and said we don’t want to main event WrestleMania. We don’t want to be WWE Champion,” Yang says.
Foutras confesses to much smaller ambitions.
“I remember my aspiration was I wanted a thousand followers on Instagram, that’s how silly it was,” he says.
But the pair also say that if the right contract was offered, they wouldn’t say no.
“If we were genuinely presented and sat opposite someone from WWE or even All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and they put down a genuine contract,” Yang says.
“We’d have to consider it right? We’d be stupid not to.”
“We’re also very like, ‘that’s never happening’,” Foutras adds.
Their “pragmatic” approach, as they call it, stems from their ages and starting in the business later than the average wrestler. Both are 29 and have only been at it for two years. Both also work nine to five jobs outside of their wrestling hobby.
“We kind of got into it a bit late,” Foutras says.
Although its popularity has grown in the last 10 years, it’s hard to make a full-time living from wrestling in Australia. Yang believes that the definition of a successful pro wrestler is someone who makes a living solely from the sport.
“I don’t think you can do that just in Australia at this point. I don’t know how far we are from that, we’re in the right direction, but we’re not there yet,” he says.
“Probably the thing that’s lacking at the moment is the mainstream exposure.”
“Realistically,” Foutras says before MCW’s Ascension, an all-ages pro wrestling event that the duo performed in at Thornbury Theatre in September. “Right, we’re in a fun little spot in Melbourne where we have 90,000 people going to the MCG on a Friday night, we got 300 people probably coming here.
“We probably need to get to a point where we’re consistently drawing maybe one to two thousand people I think before you hit that point.” Eighteen-year veteran wrestler Carlo Cannon agrees. He says that if a company like Foxtel or Netflix were to have MCW available on television, for example, that might be the catalyst the Australian wrestling scene needs.
“Wrestling is a big world, but also a very small world,” he tells upstart.
“At the moment, if you want it to be a career path, you’re going to have to leave and travel … go around different countries and build that name.”
Like Dave and Ricky, wrestling isn’t Carlo’s only job. He works as a personal trainer, massage therapist, bouncer and wrestling trainer.
“I’m a hustler, I like to work hard,” he says.
Deciding at 16 that he wanted to become a professional wrestler, Carlo moved to Canada when he was 18 and was veteran Lance Storm’s first student at Storm Wrestling Academy. Unlike the Big Dude Energy duo, Carlo still holds onto the dream of making it to WWE.
“I think having a contract and someone investing time in you saying that this is who we want is a big, almost a nod to ‘hey we see you, and we acknowledge you’, and I think that’s what we all strive for as wrestlers,” he says.
Carlo’s wrestling school, Vicious Pursuit, has had students come through that have made it to WWE, and he knows all it takes is the right people to see you in action.
“All it takes is for that one person to believe in the magic and it’s game over.”
Photo: Provided by author.