Two wrestlers dive out of the ring.

'I’ll Bet On Myself And Wing It': How Australia's Independent Pro Wrestlers Back Themselves To Make It.

Some of the best grapplers outside of Vince McMahon’s WWE empire pack their suitcases and take a gamble in hopes of becoming Australia’s next star pro-wrestling export.

When WWE rolled into Los Angeles for WrestleMania 39, it brought with it the eyes of the entire professional wrestling world. Over 133,000 crossed the turnstiles at SoFi Stadium over two nights, seeing stars like John Cena, Becky Lynch and Roman Reigns in action.

But for many, the appeal of WrestleMania weekend was away from the pyrotechnics and arena rock of the WWE empire. Instead, they were drawn to everything around it: a pop-up constellation of smaller independent wrestling shows from promotions based all over the world, bringing together the best talent not signed to WWE.


WrestleMania weekend, and the days leading up to it, is always a variety-filled feast of dream matches and wall-to-wall special events, like Coachella inside a squared circle. It presents an unparalleled opportunity for wrestlers to perform in front of the most diverse pool of fans, promoters and talent scouts. 

As Kyle Fletcher from the tag team Aussie Open puts it, “WrestleMania weekend is a great way for every pro wrestler to gain more notoriety.”

Fletcher knows firsthand: the last time he and tag partner Mark Davis did a WrestleMania weekend, in 2019, Aussie Open were underground sensations – two Australians based in the UK garnering renown for their symbiotic wrestling styles: Davis, a barrel-chested bruiser, and the athletic  Fletcher, a prodigy who moves around the ring at lightspeed They wrestled in nightclubs and hotel ballrooms in front of small but devoted crowds.

In 2023, Aussie Open are headline attractions, holders of one of tag team wrestling’s most prestigious championships, and were booked in basketball stadiums and theatres with some of the biggest wrestling companies in the world. They performed on Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor pay-per-view, a crossover event with New Japan Pro Wrestling and Impact Wrestling, and on the fittingly-named WrestleCon Super-Show.

“This trip feels very different to the previous ones because we’re coming in with expectations,” Fletcher said ahead of the weekend. “In a sense it’s easier when you’re coming in and people are seeing you for the first time.”


Sydney-based tag team The Velocities, Jude London and Paris De Silva, were supposed to be seen by US audiences years ago. Their acrobatic style of wrestling made them a word-of-mouth sensation, helped by a viral clip of De Silva’s spectacular Shooting Star DDT finishing move in which he backflips from the top rope towards a standing opponent, catches them in a headlock mid-air and spikes them them onto the canvas in one fluid motion.

In February 2020, The Velocities’ break came: they were invited to wrestle for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, the iconic Californian promotion that WWE stars Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn paid homage to in their WrestleMania main event. A month later, as COVID-19 upended the world, the PWG booking was off and their plans in tatters.

“It was devastating, especially when there was no timeframe of when everything would be back to normal,” said De Silva.

De Silva and London refocused their efforts at home, and wrestled industriously across Australia whenever pandemic restrictions allowed. They had a scintillating trio of bouts with Aussie Open in their hometown promotion Pro Wrestling Australia, as well as two lauded matches with The Natural Classics in Melbourne City Wrestling, and travelled to Newcastle, Canberra and Adelaide for more competition. 


“It’s all about taking a chance on ourselves and seeing where it leads. At times, it does require you to fly yourself out, but that can lead to other opportunities of being flown out by companies,” De Silva said.

“Prior to COVID, we were originally scheduled to be a part of WrestleMania weekend. So for us to have that taken away… we were set that, when the world opened up, we were going everywhere we can.”

As travel abroad started to resume, The Velocities set off for their second shot at making a name for themselves abroad with a European tour in 2022. De Silva and London won championship gold in Ireland and Italy, and took out the Great British Tag League tournament in the prestigious Revolution Pro Wrestling.

On their maiden US tour as a team, De Silva and London faced off with Top Flight, a pair of brothers who are part of All Elite Wrestling, the closest rival WWE has had since the halcyon days of Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. 

“It was a real test, as we both have a very similar style of high pace, high octane tag team wrestling. But the major thing for us was to show our brand compared to theirs as well as the brand of the Australian scene,” De Silva said.

WrestleMania weekend shows are a strange hybrid between dream holiday, work conference and a series of job interviews in spandex for performers from abroad. Adelaide’s Matt Hayter, who performed in his first WrestleMania weekend, stressed the importance of “looking the part”. 


“You’re going to be tanned, you’re going to be shaved up if that’s your thing. You’re going to look like you genuinely care about what you’re presenting. What you’re presenting is your brand, you’re trying to sell yourself to someone and if you half-arse it, they’re not going to buy it,” he said.

“Why would anyone pay money to see that if you’re not going to even invest money in yourself?”

Hayter bills his character as the “extremely pretty boy that you want to punch in the head but kiss at the same time” and looks precisely as you’d expect a pro wrestler to: tall, golden skin, muscular and with flowing bleach blond hair that runs past his shoulders. 

In January 2023, Hayter announced his “Official Ego Tour” on social media with a sleek poster and a declaration that it was “time to take my sweet juicy cheeks on tour”. Like a band hitting the road, it seemed Hayter had meticulously lined up a set of matches before publicly announcing his intentions to be in the US during the most competitive period for wrestling bookings of the year. 

In reality, all Hayter had booked was his flight to Los Angeles and a seat at WrestleMania, ticking off a “bucket list” item.

“Wrestling was always a goal, but it was pretty much like, let’s see what happens. I’ll bet on myself and wing it,” he said. 

Hayter’s gambit paid off: he wrestled three times in the lead-up to WrestleMania, including twice for Millennium Pro Wrestling, a promotion which he first got a look in with because of two friends from back home. This sort of collegiality among wrestlers may not be universal (Hayter says every locker room has some who “sniff their own farts”), but is common among Australian wrestlers when they’re together abroad.


“Because a few of us have travelled across the world, everyone sort of understands it. Regardless of the confidence that I have or the face that I’m showing, it’s genuinely a little bit scary. Like, I can’t drive myself anywhere if I get in trouble. I’m across the world, you know? So, everyone’s trying to look out for each other.”

When Melbourne’s Aysha took her first tour of the US early in 2023, she benefited in part from the legacy of other Australian acts who are further ahead on the road.

“I ran into people who were like, ‘Hey, do you know this person?’ and I would always know who they were talking about because we’re all pretty well-connected,” Aysha said.

“They’d be like, ‘Oh, do you know Charli Evans? Or Backman? Or Shazza [McKenzie]', everyone knows her there. It helps, because everyone likes them. I had one friend who said, ‘I haven’t met an Australian I didn’t like so don’t fuck it up’.” 

Aysha is already seven years into her professional wrestling journey, having started at Professional Championship Wrestling’s Ferntree Gully training school at 16. She’s a rising star on Melbourne’s scene, wrestling at the famous Corner Hotel for WrestleRock, winning a championship in Renegades of Wrestling, and performing in matches up the east coast as part of Knotfest in March 2023. 

In January 2023, Aysha embarked on an eight-week excursion to the US to train at Flatbacks Wrestling School, a Florida gym run by former WWE tag champ Tyler Breeze and AEW’s Shawn Spears. She saw the trip as a “test” of how she’d handle the rigours of full-time wrestling, committing herself to at least four days of training per week and matches each weekend across the US.


“It was really good to just focus on wrestling, meet all these people and make all these connections. It was life-changing,” she said.

“Going into it, you have all these doubts and fears and anxieties. It’s a big life experience with a lot of build up, but I felt like it paid off the way that I wanted it to.” 

The experience fortified Aysha’s desire to chase a full-time career in pro wrestling, with her sights set on the next WrestleMania weekend in Philadelphia. 

“From what I hear, that’s where there’s a lot of scouts. I think some of the Australians that have been signed were signed because they were on those ‘Mania Weeks. So, that’s the goal next year.” 

In an industry as volatile as professional wrestling it’s impossible to know what the landscape will look like by the next WrestleMania weekend, but it’s a safe bet that Australia will remain well-represented across every corner of the map. 

Follow Reece on Twitter and Instagram.