A lot of people think that professional wrestling doesn’t hurt, and what those athletes do somehow has little-to-no effect on their bodies. Basically, they think that wrestling is fake. But how fake is it really? I had a chat to Canberra pro-wrestler Andrew Croft, 35, to see what drove him to become a professional wrestler, and what he thinks of the stigma attached to it.
When and how did you get into wrestling?
I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t into wrestling. I’ve always just known myself to be into wrestling. In fact, I don’t really think there is a specific time that someone gets into it. I think it’s just one of those things that you are either into or you aren’t.
When did you first realise that it was scripted?
I was quite young actually. I remember being told in my early teens that it was all scripted and then I kind of saw it myself.
How did you feel?
It didn’t matter to me. I always kind of knew deep down that it couldn’t be 100 percent real, I mean you’re not going to get on top of a cage and backflip off it onto someone. But to be honest, I wasn’t watching it for the fighting, I was watching it for the stories, the drama and the entertainment value. I’m not going to stop watching Terminator because that’s not real and terminators don’t exist. It’s the same with wrestling, you watch it for the entertainment value, most things you see on TV and film are scripted.
When did you get into doing pro-wrestling yourself?
I wanted to get into amateur wrestling actually, but there was nowhere in Canberra that offered it without me having to pay thousands and train my arse off at the Australian Institute of Sport. I was quite young at the time, 18 or 19, and couldn’t afford it. I told a friend of mine, and he said that his workmate trains in pro-wrestling in Turner and that we should check that out instead. So I got boots and knee-pads as instructed by the trainer and it all started there. Eight months later I found out that there was an olympic amateur wrestling school right upstairs, but I was enjoying pro-wrestling so I stuck with it.
When was your first match and what happened?
It was November 2002. I was just one of the men involved in the rumble and I got eliminated by someone, can’t remember who now. My name is Crofty the Kambah Klepto, so my gimmick was basically going out there and stealing people’s chips and drinks and stupid stuff like that. With my first match I went out there hugged the announcers and hi-fived everyone, and when I got in the ring the referee wanted to check me. He found a watch in my pocket and the announcer just got up and yelled “THAT IS MY WATCH”. The announcer came storming in and got his watch back, and that moment got a bigger crowd reaction than the entire card. At the end of the match the man who won it had a manager at the time who carried a briefcase. While they were celebrating I ran out and stole it and ran out the building, the crowd loved it.
You’re still going today. How has your body held up?
It hasn’t been too bad. Sometimes my back gets a bit sore. In the morning I have to some extra stretches just to get myself going properly. I’m very much feeling the effects on most days.
What is the most dangerous spot you have ever done?
A few years ago I needed some time off. My plan was to end my match, and pick up a microphone and tell the crowd that I needed a break for a while, thanking them for coming to watch me perform. The promoters wanted to do an injury angle instead. I was against it, but told them if they wanted to do an injury angle they had to do it my way. So after my hardcore match against Blakestone, I was hoisted up by my opponent and thrown over the top rope, through two tables with barbed-wire on them. Only one of the tables broke and I kind of slid down the back of the other, but it was an amazing spot. The crowd went crazy, it felt amazing. When I limped off backstage, I was going crazy, in that moment I didn’t want to leave, but I knew my body needed the time off.
How do you friends and family react when they see you do something like that?
Everyone has always been really supportive. Although, when the referees were checking on me after the barbed-wire table spot, I had to tell them to go tell my mum, who was in the audience, that I was fine.
Finally, how do you feel when someone says ‘wrestling is fake’?
I don’t like using that word to describe it. It’s not ‘fake’ the way other things are fake. Star Wars is fake, Game of Thrones is fake, most of the stuff people watch is fake, so I don’t get why people feel the need to say it about wrestling and nothing else. We are athletes and we are putting on a performance. The show is scripted but the moves, the athleticism required, the pain we go through whenever we take a shot or a bump, it’s all real. It’s not everyone’s thing, but I love what I do, and so a lot of other people.