by Erin Dick
She whips her opponent into the corner of the ring, tossing her fierce red hair from her face. Her opponent slumps against the turnbuckle, gasping for air. Anticipation simmers, as a fire fills her eyes. The crowd rumbles, and she sprints to the corner, tumbling into her adversary and performing her patented cannonball.
Australian professional wrestler, Kellyanne, has practiced her craft since she was 14 years old. Wrestling for the likes of Melbourne City Wrestling, New Age Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Australia, Battle Championship Wrestling, and due to make her return to Hunter Valley Wrestling next month, she is one of the country’s leading women wrestlers in 2017. Not to mention, at the tender age of 24, she is a graduate of the Storm Wrestling Academy in Canada, and has performed in Mexico and around the world.
The world is beginning to take note of the action south of the equator, with recent new recruits in Demi Bennett and Evie to WWE. Kellyanne now leads the pack of hungry Aussie wrestlers in a flourishing independent scene. She spoke to Steelchair Magazine about her thoughts on the current state of women’s wrestling and the Australian independent circuit.
Q: In your own experience, what’s the grind of a pro wrestler like?
A: It’s hard, especially as a woman, but as a man as well. The amount of training you have to go through to get to a level where people respect you, because you do have to pay your dues in a way as well… I started when I was 14. I’m now 24 and it hurts to bend over and tie my shoe laces up. (It’s hard) to get to a level where people respect you, and especially being from Australia, we don’t have that exposure, so we have to go overseas. It’s a whole different level overseas, it’s a whole different bandwidth. So yeah, there’s a lot of training, and if you’re not willing to put in that training it shows straight away. Even the fans know who’s been training and who hasn’t been, because it shows.
Q: Is it generally harder for women to break through in the industry and make a living?
A: You know what, today it’s probably easier. But yeah, back in the day I guess it was much harder. I’m just going by my experience, but when I first started there wasn’t really any other women (around me) and it was hard to get teaching seriously, especially being so young, and being a woman in a male dominated sport. It was hard to be treated seriously and not just as the girl backstage, but as a wrestler.
Q: On top of that, have you ever experienced any conflict with bookings?
A: Oh yeah, big time. I’m a really big advocate for intergender wrestling. I think it’s great and it promotes equality. I’ve come across a lot of promoters who refused to book me against men, and there was one promoter in Canada who just refused to use girls on his show because he didn’t think they were any good… But I really get offended when other male wrestlers think it’s not legitimate if I were to get in the ring and beat them up, just because I’m a girl. Even if I’m bigger and stronger than them, they still go, “Nah, I have to beat you, I’m a man. it doesn’t make sense.” Like c’mon!
Q: What are your overall feelings about the WWE’s “Women’s Evolution”?
A: I think it’s great. I grew up watching Lita and Trish Stratus, and Victoria and Molly Holly, and I loved them because they were wrestlers. We did have our Torrie Wilson’s and our Stacey Keibler’s, but I think these days it’s about promoting a much more positive view of women’s wrestlers. It’s all about the wrestling. It is a bit disheartening if you want to grow up to be in the WWE and all you see is these models – You think “well I don’t look like that.” But now you have girls who were wrestlers before they got to WWE and are now at the top, like Sasha Banks and Bayley, who went through Shimmer, who did all the indies, and they (eventually) got there. It makes for a much more realistic dream. And I think now with the upcoming women’s tournament, WWE have finally realised that fans want to see wrestlers. Especially the PG crowd. It was fine back then when they were (rated) M and we had Sable out there with no clothes on – that was fine then, but we can’t do that now. There are little girls who watch wrestling as well.
Q: You yourself are very experienced and travelled. Did the opportunities for women exist like they do today before the mainstream exposure WWE provided?
A: Absolutely not. As a female wrestler, there wasn’t many opportunities for you, especially to get into WWE. They wouldn’t even look twice at the female indie wrestlers. Whereas now, because the top women are independent wrestlers, it has definitely opened up a whole new world for all these other girls. There’s just been an influx of female workers – there’s been over 300 girls who have just started now, because of what they’ve seen on TV. I think it has created a whole lot more opportunities, and there’s women main eventing independent wrestling shows now, which is awesome.
Q: What capacity do those opportunities exist in in Melbourne (Australia)?
A: Well, I like to take me and Evie for example. MCW (Melbourne City Wrestling) really made our feud a main attraction for the shows. We could do Falls Count Anywhere, we could push the boundaries, we could use weapons. They put so much effort into us. I also main evented with Demi Bennett in RCW (Riot City Wrestling, Adelaide). They wouldn’t have even dreamt of doing that in the past. Because they (WWE) had, for example, the cage match with Charlotte and Sasha, it’s allowed all these ideas, where people are realising, “Women actually CAN do that. Well yeah, we’ll do it too!” Yeah, I think it has created a lot of opportunities in Australia.
Q: Safe to say Wrestling is all about performing a role, and with that I guess can come the expression of gender norms. Do you keep that in mind when you are performing?
A: Absolutely. If I am in an intergender match obviously I’m not going to be lifting these men and guerrilla pressing them above my head. And with the men, they’re not going to be punching me square in the face, because that’s offensive and I totally get that. You can’t go around punching women in the face. There is a particular way to do an intergender match without offending people and showing women are equal, while still respecting the man as a man. There is a way to do it but a lot of people take advantage of it, and then it becomes silly and offensive. I think if you have the right people in there who are professional and understand their role like in any match, then it should be fine. It really depends on the person that is in that match.
Q: Is it natural that certain roles are fulfilled as part of the storytelling element of wrestling in general? Is that just the way it is? You will take on a natural role per your gender, as will your opponent…
A: A lot of the roles that wrestlers take on, they like to think of it as an amplified version of themselves, so just like yourself turned up a notch. No one really gives you a role, that only really happens in the big federations like in WWE, they will tell you what they want you to be. But here with independent wrestling and in Australia, we have that freedom to be what we want and who we want. And with intergender wrestling, my goal out there is to show that I’m equal to a man. That’s all I want to do.
Q: We’ve spoken a lot about the kind of impact these things have on women, and likewise for men, there’s a lot of stigma around ‘big men’ in wrestling. how do you feel about this idea of hyper-masculinity represented and understood by viewers of wrestling?
A: When people think of wrestlers, they instantly think of huge muscly jacked men. Some of my friend that are wrestlers, I guess you wouldn’t think they were wrestlers. We may have a little guy out in the ring and people will instantly assume he is weak, but he might be fast ,and that’s how he takes all the big guys down, because he’s fast and technical. So, I can see that it would be hard for men coming in to it just like it is for women. Fans instantly gravitate towards the big guys because they look like the guys on TV! That’s what we want, but it’s the exact same as it is for men as it is for women.
Q: How do you hope that women can overcome any obstacles to success in wrestling in the future?
A: I hope that with WWE, the tournament gets taken seriously, and the people they use are the best, not judged based on their looks. That will highlight all these different countries and give everyone some exposure. Especially with independent wrestling, we’re doing so well now, that’s it’s kind of like us against them. That’s kind of how I see it at the moment. The fans support indie wrestling so much, because they want to show WWE that “this is wrestling” … I just hope that women keep at it, as long as they have the right attitude about it. I hope that we keep doing what we’re doing and we do it in the right way. Don’t think that you should go out there and kill yourself in front of the crowd just to get respect as a woman. Don’t go out there doing hardcore matches with men and bleeding everywhere to get respect. That doesn’t have to happen. Just train hard, go out there and perform. that’s all you have to do. That’s what I’m trying to do. All I’m trying to do is perform and entertain people.