Damien Slater, the Golden Boy of the Australian wrestling scene, NWA Pro star and current Warzone Champion has been wrestling since May 2003 and has wrestled all over Australia and in the United States. WPW’s Tez Himself got the chance to speak to the South Aussie as he prepares himself for the upcoming Warzone show on April 16.
WPW: You started wrestling as a teenager in South Australia for Joint Promotions Wrestling. How did you get your start?
SLATER: I’m not going to say that I was always a fan of wrestling because I wasn’t. I started watching back in 1999 and immediately became obsessed. I found out my Dad was playing Rugby with a local wrestler called Otto Von Hess in a company called PWSA. So my Dad took me to see him one night and I basically went to every local show after that. I had always wanted to go and train with PWSA at their Monster Factory with Col Dervaney but I lived about an hour away and my parents wouldn’t let me train unless I could find somebody to drive me. So eventually in 2002 at age 14 I talked a friend into picking me up a couple of times a week and that’s my story.
It was such a privilege to train with one of the only old timers left in Aussie Wrestling. I got beat up every night man. I remember having to try my best not to vomit in my mate’s Dad’s car on the way home from EVERY training for about a year straight. These days kids wanna take the easiest route but I never for one second, even as an immature 14 year old, thought that wrestling should be easy.
Col taught me so much about professionalism and respect that is missing from a lot of current Aussie Wrestlers. I have a lot of love and respect for the guy that I can never truly pay back.
WPW: EPW’s Survival of the Fittest in 2005 saw you make your WA wrestling debut, in the past five years what have been your favourite matches in Perth?
SLATER: My five or so matches with Shane Haste are at the top by far. We have a chemistry that has only been matched thus far by wrestling Davis Storm. Any time I’m in the ring with those two I definitely feel like I’ve been in a war, and I feel on top of my game. I’d also put a match I had with Hartley Jackson for Monday Night Wrestling in the same category. We were both tired, beat up, had already wrestled about four times over the weekend and had a great 20 minute match in front of probably only as many people. My match with Rocky Romero from the NWA 2007 Tour is probably my favourite just for what it meant to me, though far from my best effort.
Other than that, some surprise packages have been my matches with Dan Moore and Marcius Pitsonopolous. I love the challenge of wrestling up and comers rather than established veterans, and I think those two matches delivered when nobody really expected much from them.
WPW: You have made two trips to the States first in 2007 and then early 2009. On your first trip you took part in the King of the Summit Battle Royal, as seen on the NWA Fiesta Lucha DVD, and in 2009 you got the chance to take part in a Shawn Michaels seminar while you were part of the Empire Wrestling Federation. Can you tell us about these experiences and others you have had during your time in the US?
SLATER: The Shawn Michaels seminar was a let down. Don’t get me wrong it was cool to meet him and wrestle a match (and lose teeth) for him, but he was really only there as a social visit and it wasn’t much of a seminar at all.
The Fiesta Lucha was amazing. I was 19, had barely been in the States for a week and we were put up for five days in a beautiful Vegas hotel, on the NWA’s dime and had an opportunity to share a locker room with a ridiculous amount of talent and great names. It was an eye opening experience to wrestle in a building that seats about 4000+ and for such a rabid Lucha audience. I remember it feeling surreal when I was sitting next to Billy Kidman as we put our gear on. I had his poster on my wall as a kid Haha.
But my best experience wrestling overseas was my 2007 trip. It was just me, TJ Perkins, Rocky Romero and Karl Anderson (Don’t worry I’ll pick those names up later) training every day for 3-6 hours. I’ve never learnt so much about wrestling in my life. Often we would train, go work out, spend the day playing video games at Rocky’s house and then hit the bars at night. I miss those days so bad. Unfortunately TJ has moved to Florida, Karl to Japan and Rocky to Mexico, so those memories are well behind us.
WPW: Are you planning on making a return to the States in the near future?
SLATER: 2011 is the year. I don’t think I’ll be returning to California though. We will just have to wait and see where I pop up but I do already have something sorted. I’m basically finishing my Sports Science degree this year and then I’m free to give it my best shot at making it in this crazy industry. Education is the only thing thus far that has kept me from going all out.
WPW: The 2009 PWI 500 list saw you come in at number 343. There were quite a few Aussies on the list last year. How does Australian talent get on the list?
SLATER: My understanding is that you have to be recommended. I’m pretty sure there’s a guy up in Queensland who works for PWI who put in last year’s recommendations. So honestly it really isn’t much of a list, but always an honour to get a bit of publicity and to be a Top 3 Australian in someone’s eyes.
WPW: WrestleClash 2 supercard saw you become the first ever Warzone Champion. Now, at Warzone 4 in April you make your first Warzone Championship defense against Shane Haste in Victoria. You have had some classic matches with Shane in the past and. Is it a big thing for you personally, for a SA vs. WA match to be headlining at Victorian show?
SLATER: It’s a huge thing. I have a special interest in Warzone wrestling and am confident that they will be the breakout of all the mediocrity in Melbourne wrestling as of late. Every single guy on the roster is a great talent with a good head and the boss is about the most down to earth guy I know. As for wrestling Shane, I’ve been waiting over a year to get this rematch and it will be a war. Nothing less. I owe it to myself.
As far as I believe it’s one of the only shows in recent years that has been Main Evented by two interstaters, so I guess that counts for something too.
WPW: Who would you like to compete against on the Australian scene that you haven’t had the opportunity to as yet?
SLATER: I’ve been fortunate enough to wrestle almost everybody I’ve wanted to wrestle in this country. I’d put Ryan Eagles and the Fitness Maniacs as three guys who I haven’t had the opportunity of wrestling and who would all be a perfect fit in EPW.
As for local guys… Chase Griffin and Jimmy Payne. Any time I think about this question those two names always pop up first. Adam Banks and Alex Kingston would also be up there.
WPW: You are one of the most travelled wrestlers in the country, regularly making appearances in WA, SA, VIC and QLD. Are you hoping to one day make wrestling your full time career?
SLATER: I’ve spent most of my free time in the last 7 ½ years throwing my body onto a hard mat and reducing myself to gyms at stupid hours. If I wasn’t looking to get a payoff then I’m a fool who has wasted most of his life. I guess I’m too stubborn to live an average life, so always have my sights set extremely high and a full time Pro Wrestler has a nice ring to it. If I don’t make it to where I want to be, at least I can say I spent my best years seeing Australia for free.
WPW: Thank you taking the time to speak with Westside Pro Wrestling, Damian.
SLATER: I’ll expect my cheque in the mail.
Check out Damian’s blog at http://www.epwperth.com/commentary/index.html