20 April 2014

Wrestling with make-up

30/06/2010 10:47:00 a.m.

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ANYONE who rings the National Bank call centre might be greeted by with Matthew Wilson, aka Max “the Axe” Damage.
Last year Wilson became the NZ Kiwi Pro Wrestling champion on the TV show Off the Ropes, and will defend his title at Wellington High School in two weeks time.
Surprisingly, the 1.95m (6ft 5in), 119kg, Te Aro monster went to Victoria University to study a Bachelor of Commerce and is the good guy in the rink.
“I’m the people’s champion, the biggest man in NZ wrestling, the face paint powerhouse; I could go on and on,” laughs Wilson.
Max the Axe Damage looks like a giant demon with blood streaming from his eyes.
It takes Wilson half an hour to do his face paint, and he is working on getting into the world’s top earning competition, World Wrestling Entertainment, so an assistant can do the paint job.
“At the moment I’m like a musician, I do everything myself. I just go town-to-town making scraps to live from; I do it for the love, not the money.”
Wilson travelled to Los Angeles earlier this year, where he tried out for the WWE on their worldwide televised shows Raw and Smackdown.
“It was a fantastic experience; I got to meet people I’ve looked up to for years, like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.”
The last New Zealanders to wrestle for WWE were Luke Williams and Butch Miller – the Bushwhackers – 14 years ago.
Wilson’s signature move is the Damage Gauge, a jackhammer move where he lifts his opponent vertical, then rotates them as they fall. To finish, he body slams them into the canvas.
The television show where Wilson made his rise, Off the Ropes, was organised by NZ Kiwi Pro Wrestling CEO Rip Morgan.
“New Zealand wrestling has not been on TV since On the Mat in the 1980s, but we were lucky enough to have a 13 episode run on TV last year,” says Morgan.
NZ Kiwi Pro Wrestling is based in Lower Hutt and draws its largest audiences in Wellington, Wanganui, and New Plymouth.
Morgan launched the company four years ago and says Wellington has had a long association with the sport. In On the Mat days, champions like Steve Rickard, John Da Silva, and Robert Bruce hailed from the capital city.
As a professional wrestler, Morgan has travelled to Japan, the Americas, and Europe.
He says Latin America has the most extreme competition.
“A match in Puerto Rico was totally wild. Security guards escort you to and from the stage. It’s the most intense place to wrestle,” Morgan says.
He has lost five teeth and broken his tibia and fibula wrestling, but that doesn’t slow him down.
“Wrestling goes back many years, to the old gladiator days – men have always fought like this,” he says.
The Wellington High School competition will include an eight man Battle Royal Match, with the winner taking on Max the Axe Damage for the title.
Make or Break, Wellington High School, July 16
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