Interview: Damian Slater, Champion in the Making

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(L-R) Wrestlers Damian Slater, Rocky Menero and Jonah Rock

(L-R) Wrestlers Damian Slater, Rocky Menero and Jonah Rock

Celebrity, President or royalty – everyone dreams of being something better than they are.

For Damian Slater, one moniker he will be fighting for on 1 August 2015 is the right to be called Champion at the Australian Wrestling Allstars event in Mawson Lakes

Flashback to 1999, where a young Damian Slater sat on his living room couch watching the stars of the then World Wrestling Federation. Slater remembers being “obsessed with WWF during the Attitude Era” and this would be the beginning of his dream to lace up his boots and step into the squared circle to trade punches, suplexes and cutting barbs with his wrestling heroes, The Rock, The Undertaker and Y2J Chris Jericho.

His first step on the road to wrestling immortality began at the ripe age of 15 (the legal age for training). He was lucky enough to be trained by Australian wresting royalty: multiple-time champion, Col Devaney.

“That kicked off everything, for sure,” he recalls. “Without him I don’t think there would be wrestling in this State anywhere near the quality it is.”

Slater soon found his wrestling style, being “more magnetised to the technical style of wrestling,” where he has continued to hone this style over his now twelve-year-and-counting career.

In 2012, Slater wrestled in Japan for three months with a company called Pro Wrestling Zero-1, living and training in the Dojos and wrestling some of Japan’s biggest names. What struck him the most about Japan was not just the respect shown by the fans to the wrestlers, but also the way wrestling was treated. Slater explained that on any given night of the week “there can be up to 3 shows running on the same block all of which will draw between five to six thousand people each.”

In fact his first day in Japan set the surreal tone that would follow:

“Before the show I was in one of the 7/11s just getting something to eat. I walked outside and there were about 6 fans who had gifts for me, and they’d never seen me wrestle before. They just knew me from the Internet. But being that they knew I was about to wrestle for a pretty well known promotion and being that they’d heard of me, they just though ‘okay, here’s someone from a different country, let’s welcome them’ . They treat you like more of a superstar in Japan.”

The night was capped off by Damian Slater wrestling a match in Japan’s revered Korkuen Hall (host of the 1964 Olympic boxing matches).

Slater’s Japanese legacy follows him, even back in Australia. In 2014, at an event here in Adelaide, he wrestled one of the biggest names not only in Japan, but in the world, Shinsuke Nakamura.

Slater claims this as one of his greatest personal matches because he felt comfortable “going toe to toe with one of the best in the world” and was able to match “not only Nakamura’s skills, but his athleticism as well.”

Discipline, training and dedication run Damian Slater’s life whether it be his daily hour of weight training, “two to three nights of pro wrestling training, two to three nights of jujitsu training”, the ever present cardio training, or “the odd night of kickboxing to mix things up”. There is only one word that describes Damian Slater’s workout regime: intensity. He is also the head trainer for Adelaide’s Wrestle Rampage dojo, where he trains the stars of tomorrow.

In 2014, the opportunity of a lifetime came around for Slater when he participated in a multi-day tryout with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment – the biggest name in wrestling) at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Day one included an epic, six-hour cardio-conditioning seminar involving running the stairs from the bottom to the top, in-ring conditioning tests, and squats. The WWE talent scouts also headed to Adelaide to watch a wrestling show.

“They were blown away by what they saw… they came backstage and thanked everyone for putting on the show”.

Despite rave reviews, Slater was unsuccessful that time, however, he’ll be heading to Florida to the WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Centre later this year to try out on their home turf.

Meanwhile, on 1 August, Slater will be challenging long-time rival Robby Heart for the Australasian Middleweight Championship which has not been defended for over 25 years. This is the same belt that was retired around the waist of Slater’s own mentor, Col Devaney.

Two of the biggest names in Australian wrestling, Rocky Menero and Hartley Jackson, will also go toe to toe on the night; Adelaide’s Chris Basso will go one-on-one with Victorian fan favourite Mr Juicy; Rafael Sanchez will take on the newly crowned Melbourne City Wrestling champion, Elliot Sexton; an inter-promotional tag team match will feature Havok and John E Radic battling it out with SMASH (Super Mega Action Super Heroes!); and the main event for the night could possibly be the biggest match of the year in Australian wrestling when Jonah Rock, the champion from Wrestle Rampage, takes on the champion of Riot City Wrestling, Big Brodie Marshall, to become the first ever Australian Wrestling Allstars Champion.

Interview by Adam Gerard
Twitter: @awordwithadam

Australian Wrestling Allstars #2
When:
Saturday 1 August 2015. Doors open 6pm; First bell 7pm
Where: The Denison Centre, Garden Terrace, Mawson Lakes
Tickets: $14 – $25
Bookings: Book online through the AWA website or tickets at the door if not sold out

UPDATE: Read our review of the event

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About Author

Adam is a freelance filmmaker, writer, audio engineer and podcast host. In his spare time he studies criminology at university. Adam enjoys films, video games and overall awesomeness of any genre.

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