Conversation with a wrestler
Dick was always the comedian. In the mid-nineties this meant he would run through the shopping centre erratically with a can of Pepsi Max clenched in his raised fist as he recreated one of their television commercials. And other times he would launch himself, fully-clothed with inline skates on, into the Redcliffe public swimming lagoon. He may have had us in hysterics, but the city-funded security guards were not as impressed. In any case, I was not completely surprised when I recently learned – through social media – that Dick had started wrestling. I sent out an email asking friends and family if they were interested in watching Dick wrestling. My sister showed the most interest until she realised that she had misread the email and it wasn’t in fact dick-wrestling – but that Dick, as in Richard Atterbury, would be wrestling. She must have thought it was something not unlike the notorious Puppetry of the Penis. Undeterred, I pressed on and got a small crew together to watch Richard wrestle. Ladies and Gentlemen, Richard Atterbury.
How did you get into wrestling?
I watched it regularly as a kid, and then as a teenager. I stopped watching for a few years, but then ended up with cable and access to the big tv shows. The internet opened up access to a lot of stuff I’d never seen before, like wrestling in Japan, Mexico, the UK so I was watching it pretty regularly.
In regards to actually training, there was a little bit of luck involved to be honest. I travelled down to Sydney to watch an international wrestling tour. Through a lack of numbers in the actual crowd, I ended up moving from the 10th row to the second. The entire row in front of me was a group of wrestlers from Queensland and they gave me the contact details for the wrestling school. Coincidentally my future wife was actually travelling with that group in front of me, but was sitting elsewhere.
I called the wrestling school the next week, and started training two weeks after that. I had my first match about two-and-a-half months after starting training.
You spend a lot of time in Canada. How does the wrestling scene there compare to the Aussie scene?
It’s very similar in the regards that there’s a handful of excellent companies with great wrestlers, and then there’s the rest which are a step down in quality. Wrestling is an odd business in that no matter where you go, it’s essentially the same beast. I guess one main difference between the two is the proximity to the USA. I equate it to acting. The top tier of successful Australian actors have moved to the States at some point due to the opportunities that are available. Wrestling is not that different. If you’re in Canada, the US is a simple trip over the border and if you’re willing to make the sacrifices, then it’s possible that you’ll be very successful. More and more wrestlers from Australia are making regular trips to the US or Canada now for training and opportunities and conversely are bringing that knowledge back home which is improving the Australian-based product.
What persona do you take on in the ring? How did this persona develop?
Trial and error. With lots and lots of error. It’s evolved every year I’ve wrestled, as I’ve learned new things or gained an understanding of how to better react to a live crowd and then it’s also varied depending on where I’m wrestling, if I’m a “good guy” or a villain.
You played a bit of a villain in the ring. Did people hold that against you outside the ring?
Absolutely, but then I don’t view that as a bad thing. If an audience member has genuinely disliked or even hated me, then my job as an antagonist or the villain in the match has been done well. It’s easy to get someone to not like you, but to get them genuinely hateful and angry at you takes hard work. As for other wrestlers, I don’t believe anyone has carried a grudge out of the ring. I could be wrong of course and someone out there hates me.
Do people completely understand that it isn’t a real fight?
In 2013, I think that everyone over the age of 12 knows that there’s a scripted element to the matches. But like any form of entertainment, it’s the job of the performers to engage the audience enough that they can suspend disbelief and emotionally invest in whats happening in front of them.
Real fights have broken out in the middle of a match, but that’s not that common.
You decided to stop eating meat. Is that rare in the wrestling fraternity?
Rare enough that everyone I know took the opportunity to haze me about it. Due to an illness however, I started eating meat again this year after two years as a vegetarian.
What are some of the sacrifices you have made for wrestling?
Time with my friends and family. As soon as I started it became a huge part of my life, be it training in the ring, training in the gym, watching wrestling or travelling to wrestle. Of course, you never see that as a sacrifice because it simply becomes something that you do. Plus, wrestling has blessed me with some of the best friends I’ll ever have.
What does your wife think about your dedication to wrestling?
She spent seven years wrestling herself, so she totally understands. She gets a little frustrated at me if I push too hard through an injury and worries when I’m away from home but that’s it. I’d have never met her if we hadn’t had mutual friends in wrestling and it’s been a huge bonus to be able to wrestle and have someone completely understand the motivation behind it.
Do you see it more as a sport or a theatrics?
In my mind it’s an amalgamation of the two. You can’t have one without the other. I certainly train for it like a sport. The physicality has to be present, but you also require the ability to perform in front of a live audience and be able to tell a story in the match. I guess a modern day superhero morality play is one way of looking at it. There’s good versus evil, there’s guys in Spandex beating each other up and it’s being told in a way that encourages active and loud audience participation.
Your response to this comment on Facebook? (added after publication)
Prior to starting wrestling I lived in the UK for a year, worked a couple of jobs that I didn’t enjoy whatsoever but were a means to end, studied some varied subjects and spent a lot of time partying. I can’t say that I was really heading in any one direction. Wrestling was a big unknown at the time, but through it, I’ve had some amazing experiences that can’t be replicated.