Abuse, Beer and Chips: Wrestling in the Burbs

Abuse, Beer and Chips: Wrestling In the Burbs, by Dane Crandon

"Is there more?" comically asked a nearby woman. I'm not the only one, I thought, amusingly scanning the slowly growing crowd. A lively and expectant mix of mums and dads, children-a-plenty, footy jerseyed adolescents, beefy Uncle Festers and a hard-core "face-your-fear" t-shirted bunch, were grappling for my people-watching attention. Equally lively was the auditory entree. Belting out of the walls, loud and nasty and raw as a bulldog's dinner, the eardrum-hostile and adrenalin-charged music had the culinary-aware fans salivating into their schooners and over their mountainous plates of gravied hot-chips. I too drooled with main course anticipation. Logic told me, the upcoming was odds on a winner. The beer and gravy mob had parted with $15 of their hard earned, braved the winter chill on a Sunday evening and not even the collective might of 60 minutes and the dual home comforts of soft sofa and gas-fire warmth could keep these fans home tonight. No way.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to ringside at Woonona-Bulli RSL. Backbreakers, the sleeper hold, atomic drops, sunset flips…names that mean little to most but much to a select few. This was wrestling in the burbs. And boy did it take me back.

Impressionable and naïve, 1970's World Championship Wrestling drew me hook, line AND turnbuckle. Brutally entertaining, it was so…so real. Surgically attached to the TV every weekend, I was in awe of the harder-than-nails-bulletproof and mean-as- they-come ring indestructibles. The illegality and angriness of Steve Rackman, Killer Karl Krupp, Bruiser Brodie and Co imprisoned my pliable mind for a rapidly passing hour. God, I loved that hour. And then it happened. Bigger than Andre the Giant…it dropped. Shoulders pinned to the realisation canvas, immobile with despondency, this was the Armageddon of my childhood. No Father Christmas and now this! Wrestling is…f-f-f-fake! Battery acid was easier to swallow. Not long after, the show was axed (probably just as well for I was in painful denial) and my interest fell. Then along came Vince.

Vince McMahon. He brought it back. And how! Complimenting ring roughhouse with breasty beauties and powerful music, throw in soap opera scripts and you have a product that shouts "WATCH ME!" And like millions of others, I did just that. Yes, grown and worldly and having done all the mature things like ear piercing, vomit vodka excesses from the depths of a drunken stomach and French kiss in a nightclub, it was time to resurrect a dormant interest. I was a creature reborn. Fake or not, I lapped up the new and exciting brand with the renewed eagerness of a Viagra-enhanced pensioner.

I rode the wrestling wave for a couple of years, occasionally drifting out beyond the breakers to buy a few magazines. I know, I know. What was I thinking? "Get a life!" you say. Well…still searching for that, I moved on…eventually. Or so I thought.

The Australian Wrestling Federation (AWF) is a corner store compared to Vince McMoney's Wal Mart. But corner stores have charm and appeal. Let's hope they don't disappear. And so I went shopping into yesteryear. In the company of Greg "the Media Man" Tingle (Sydney PR and Promotions personality) and his lovely partner, Yvette, I went back to the beginning.

Unbelievably passing on the impossible-to-resist chips and gravy, we sat and watched the ring do its gladiatorial thing. Not quite the spectacular giant of its famous American sibling, this poor cousin is primitively run on a shoestring. Dollars don't mean everything. I had fun. These guys (and girl) put on a hell of a show of exceptional acrobatics and good old-fashioned guts. Lacking the financial clout of their American counterparts and the biceps and brawn of its 1970's Australian predecessors, the AWF amateurs performed like pros and thrilled with dangerous moves a plenty! And with combatants like Mad Tony Kebab, Billy Flyswat and PC Virus (according to the announcer's ringside commentary this multi-talented individual, armed with laptop, invented broadband and is headhunted by Telstra), how could you not be entertained and smile?

Warning! The AWF isn't everyone's cup of earl grey. If number 27 at the snackbar ain't your done thing then you may wish to pass on upcoming orders. But…and here comes the good bit… if steel chairs thudding into the back of unsuspecting heads, extravagant aerial manoeuvres from the top rope and a bearded bloke from Penrith bellowing "shut up idiots" to booing fans appeals to your caveman senses then this unpretentious night of good-natured abuse, beer and chips may well hit the sweet spot. Enjoy.

© 2004 Dane Crandon


Official websites

AWF Pro Wrestling

World Wrestling Entertainment

Woonona-Bulli RSL Club

Related websites

Tourism Wollongong

NSW Department of Sport and Recreation


Confessions of a wrestling fan - Cottage Industry or Big Business? by Greg Tingle

The Great Aussie Promoters, by Greg Tingle

AWF June 2004 Update


Greg "TNT" Bownds


Dane Crandon - web blog