“I love wrestling. It’s the best. People try to make you feel stupid for liking it.
They are always saying, ‘hey, you know the thing you love. With the pageantry
and the fireworks and the golden belts… it’s fake.’
“Of course it’s fake. What kind of psychopath would I have to be if I wanted it to be real?”
Comedian and pro-wrestling aficionado
It’s a packed room in the Pavilion. The Far East Square property now sees an unlikely item in its space—a wrestling ring and the wrestlers in it.
It’s a house show and it’s a Tag Team Championship. Sixteen minutes into a match, Alex Cuevas, aka Quicksilver, slides out of the ring. His opponent, CK Vin, lies splayed on the ground outside the ring. Mere seconds earlier, Cuevas’s tag team partner, ‘Blue Nova’ NYC, had introduced CK Vin’s face to his shin, knocking him to the ground.
Cuevas tells the audience to clear out from their seats. They comply, scrambling away, not out of fear but anticipation. Blue Nova grabs CK Vin and places him on a red plastic chair. Cuevas takes his spot, about six metres from CK Vin, who is close to feigned unconsciousness. It’s evident what is about to happen. Smartphones are whipped out, ready with the record. Breaths are held.
Cuevas sprints and ends with a flying double side kick into CK Vin’s chest. The impact sends CK Win hurtling into the neighbouring chairs as both wrestlers collapse to the ground. The crowd bays and chant, ‘holy shit’. One of them gives a thumb’s down to CK Vin, another—a woman in a floral sundress—stands agog at the scene in front of her.
The match isn’t over yet. Cuevas and Blue Nova still have CK Vin’s partner, Prince Khaleed, to deal with. A running clothesline, a 450 splash (front somersault with a one-and-a-half twist from the top rope), an uppercut and Prince Khaleed goes down. Cheers erupt from the crowd and the Singapore Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championship is awarded to Cuevas and Blue Nova.
And this is only the first match of the evening. The audience’s fervour bubbles throughout the evening with the next few matches and wrestlers. It’s no secret that professional wrestling is performance art. The moves may be choreographed, but the reactions are genuine. The paying crowd at the Pavilion laps it up.
They jeer and hoot; they partake in impromptu chants. Spectators do not withhold from screaming their opinions throughout the rounds. It doesn’t matter whether these notions are unmaliciously negative or otherwise; they just have to be funny enough for the rest of the crowd to chant to.
“For UFC or other MMA competitions, you can pay the fee and wake up in the early part of the morning to live stream the match, but it can sometimes just end in a minute because it’s a real fight,” says Andre Frois, creative director of Singapore Pro Wrestling (SPW) and the ring announcer for all the matches, “but for pro wrestling, you know you’re going to get your money’s worth.”
Grown men in tight, flashy spandexes; high-flying manoeuvres; fights between good and evil… And the drama… Oh, the tales of honour being besmirched and the demand for satisfaction. It’s like watching a soap opera, but with punching and bumping. You buy into the grandeur in the ring and for that moment in time, you’re in. Watching the action live, it’s a reason to get excited. For the night, you want to buy into the thrown elbows and body slams. For that moment, you, the wrestler and the rest of the audience are on the same page.
The world is governed by stories. Histories passed down through glyphs or text; tales ferried through songs and recitation. All stories follow a common structure, one that stirs the human imaginings and attention: the three-act structure.
The first act is the set-up; the establishment of the world and rules, the introduction of characters. The second act is the confrontation, where we build the narrative; each brick adds to the rising action. Here our protagonist tries to resolve the problem set up in the first act. This is where the bulk of the character arc occurs. The final act is the resolution: where all narrative threads converge into a climax that leaves our hero or anyone else utterly changed since starting in act one.
You can find this basic structure in many things: The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy landing in Oz (act one), embarking on a journey to return home (act two) and accomplishing her task by clicking her heels three times (act three). You are looking to bid on an item on eBay (act one), you make an offer only to discover you’re bidding against someone else (act two) and you either win or lose the bid (act three).
The same structure applies to pro wrestling. The question of whether wrestling is fake is moot. The real question is: will the audience be entertained? So, there must be a story and it needs its players.
SPW was formed in 2012 after Andruew Tang and Vadim Koryagin bonded over the love of the sport. Tang trained under Koryagin, who opened Moscow’s first pro wrestling school and has trained over 300 wrestlers. Calling himself The Statement, the name is self-explanatory.
“It doesn’t matter what I do inside or outside the ring, I just want to make a statement on everybody’s mind,” he declares. Tang is one of the few local pro wrestlers who has achieved enough recognition to update his appearance without fear of inconsistency. “I’m a very fashionable person so I constantly want to innovate my attire. Pro wrestling is like a first date. You have to make an entrance and create that first impression.”
Tang began as the wrestler people hate to love and love to hate, but, over the years, gained enough goodwill and popularity to evolve into the face (the ‘good guy’ character). Currently, he’s happy returning to a full heel (the ‘bad guy’ character). Regardless which side he’s on, pro wrestling is about getting the reactions and Tang is confident enough to state that he’s one of the few wrestlers who gets the biggest reaction in Southeast Asia.
“Character,” Tang says, “is indispensable to wrestling. That’s where you start from before inventing your moves. You can do the same simple moves, but fans buy into it when there’s a character behind it. Just look at The Rock.”
Tang’s behaviour in the ring is an amped-up version of himself. Tang confesses to longing for the limelight. “I’ve always wanted the attention on me.” It doesn’t just end there; reality intertwines with the plot across the shows: one where The Statement underwent depression, that was when Tang was dealing with the demise of a four-year relationship. “For that storyline, I lost my title, which led to the boiling point where I snapped.”
These bear the hallmarks of fame. The similarities of the excessive partying, late nights and possessing a level of acclaim comes with its own set of temptations. Real life seeps into an angle. For Tang, his body takes a toll from the time in the ring. He cites the many WWE cases of wrestlers felled by trauma and long-standing injuries. “For them,” Tang adds, “if you don’t take care of yourself, you have problems sleeping and that’s where you turn to pills, alcohol, drugs.”
Selling the drama
“Wrestlers don’t really ever come out of character,” Frois tells us. “If you think about it, Terry Bollea—the man behind Hulk Hogan—that man no longer exists. Neither does Richard Fliehr; only Ric Flair.”
Frois goes on to explain that the development of a gimmick (wrestling parlance for the character portrayed by the wrestler) often stems as an exaggeration of a personality trait. “Some of the wrestlers are so proactive that they keep adding dimensions to their characters, though none of them is as fully thorough as say, Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters. Y’know, like Ali G, Borat, Bruno.
What Cohen does is method. It’s a deep dive into the characters that encompasses everything he does, even when the camera is off. (If you need proof of how committed Cohen is to his work, here’s an example: Cohen turned up to an Oscars ceremony as Admiral Aladeen from The Dictator).
A similar practice in pro wrestling is called kayfabe—maintaining the illusion of the feuds, the gimmicks, keeping the suspension of disbelief over pro wrestling intact. Yes, the Undertaker has powers over life and death; Papa Shango is an actual voodoo doctor; The Mountie is actually a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In the golden age of pro wrestling, kayfabe was strictly maintained even outside the ring. If an angle calls for a feud between two wrestlers, these same wrestlers cannot be seen fraternising outside of work. Kayfabe extends beyond just gimmicks, it’s an omertà; the magician’s code: you who are close to the pro wrestling industry shalt not talk frankly about the nature of your work to outsiders.
But these days, that veil has lifted. “Pro wrestling,” Frois says, “is extreme in its theatrics and in its honesty. If a piano recital sucks, you can’t boo the performers because of gentility or social standing. But in wrestling, if a botch were to happen, everybody will be vocal in their displeasure. That’s the beauty of it.
“Picking your character is important, as that is what sells your brand.” Frois cites examples like Hulk Hogan because he represents strength, stature and American resilience. Or The Rock because people want to live vicariously through a charismatic and muscular man.
One such devotee is Kenneth Thexeira, aka The Eurasian Dragon, who was drawn to the magnetism of The Rock. Frois recalls that Thexeira had no sporting background. “A lot of people come to us with nothing. They are blank canvases. The hardest thing for them to grasp is entertainment psychology. People want to go up there to be someone like [Dave] Bautista, but they don’t get that there’s more to it.”
The writers' room consists of Frois, Thexeira and Danial Alias, aka Da Butcherman. When Thexeira writes, he takes liberties with a gimmick; he’ll give a wrestler a new nickname or a new background. Sometimes, said wrestler won’t like it because it’s not what they envision for their character but they’ll try it out.
Frois says: “There are so many people who just want to walk out to fireworks and do huge moves. Almost all wrestling fans want to do that, but only one out of those 10 will understand that it’s just entertainment.
“Take The Rock as an example. Leading up to a big match like WrestleMania, The Rock is bullied by his opponents and his fans want to see him win, that’s how you sell tickets. The Rock doesn’t go on a winning streak all the way to WrestleMania. It doesn’t work that way.”
When it comes to planning the narrative, Frois can only do so much. Most of the wrestlers have day jobs and injuries could occur that would prevent him or her from fighting. It’s hard to plan a storyline that spans over many matches. For now, Frois works on their gimmicks.
“You saw guys coming out in boring things like black tights but it’s also a question of budget. Many of these wrestlers don’t have the resources to afford a better costume.
“An SPW character needs to be relevant to Singaporeans, to Asians… most importantly to young media consumers across the world. It has to speak out. Assume that I create a character called Laksa Boy, it will garner a great Singaporean reaction, but that will die at an international level. It has to be a good mix of general and local relevancy.
“When it comes to acting, some are natural at it. None are formally trained, but little things favour the audience. Emote more, shout more, just basic acting cues and I let them settle into what they are comfortable in.
“Let’s say a wrestler is an urban farmer in real life. Let’s play that up. You have a pair of gardening shears? Be a scary guy with shears. Pretend you’re obsessed with nature and you’re livid against people who are not environmentally friendly. Play that up.
“In a way, the Coloniser does that a bit because she is a marine conservationist so when she berates someone in the ring, it feels like she’s drawing from some part of her personal life of being angry at people who don’t respect eco-practices or sustainability.”
The Coloniser is the brainchild of Naomi Clark-Shen. When she’s not bumping or slamming her opponents in the ring, she is a freelance marine scientist. Born and raised in Singapore, Clark- Shen had always been enamoured with WWE. After her marriage to Mike Shen, they decided to try their hand at wrestling. They joined the SPW ranks last year and Clark-Shen’s gimmick garnered a grand reaction.
“The Coloniser came up with all the promotional stuff of her character,” Frois adds. “I thought her gimmick was really brilliant, how she played up the local/expat tensions in Singapore. That really hit the nail on the head.
“When she debuted her gimmick, Mothership picked it up and she immediately became the buzz of the local wrestling scene. It was just a great promo.
“The last show was supposed to be a tag team match—Alexis Lee and Luna Inez versus the Coloniser and Boy Toy Mike—but Mike sprained his ankle. When I arrived a few hours before the match, they didn’t know how to hide the injury so they suggested telling the audience that it was now a triple-way match. But that wouldn’t fly as we had billed it as a tag team match.
So, I came up with this whole angle to have the General Manager punish the Coloniser because of her behaviour by excusing Boy Toy Mike and making it a three-way match. And to heighten the stakes, we had a stipulation that if the Coloniser lost, she would be deported.
“Ring psychology plays into getting the fans invested in the spectacle. Angles like having the Coloniser—a heel, playing up the sentiments of ‘Singapore under British rule’—criticises Singaporeans and intentionally mispronounces ‘roti prata’; it’s an unconscious cue for the audience to feed into the narrative by directing heat at her.
When Da Butcherman has his cleaver confiscated, everyone gets automatically riled up. This cause-and-effect makes pro wrestling feel like one huge inside joke that everyone is in on. It feels like immersive theatre.
“I haven’t rejected anybody’s idea. The two things that I hate though is one, people who want to mimic an existing wrestler, and two, someone who wants to be that big, strong, cool, charismatic character. There’s no depth to that second one because that character is flawless.”
Her moniker came about from her adoration of Mickie James, who once wrestled in the independent circuit as Alexis Laree. “I’m sentimental,” the wrestler known in the circuit as Alexis Lee says. Her real name is Lee Xin Yi. She joined SPW in 2013 and with only a ring name and wrestling know-how, Lee’s gimmick seems to be that she was the only female wrestler at the organisation.
The hardest part about creating a character is standing out from everyone else. As the only woman in the Singapore wrestling circuit, Lee had to play up the ‘good girl’ image. “My character was generic. I didn’t have an idea of who she was. I just wanted to learn how to wrestle well. When I had my first show at Kampong Ubi Community Centre, there was no direction as to where my gimmick was going.
“It felt unnatural at the start. When I wrestled with Emi Sakura [in 2018], she taught me a lot, especially in shouting. It makes a big difference with the gimmick if the wrestler is loud. You have to exaggerate more when you’re in the ring.”
Lee’s Día de los Muertos face paint came about after hearing from people far too often that she was too skinny for wrestling. “Y’know, being bony and such,” Lee says wryly. “Plus, a skull detracts from the ‘cute-and-pretty’ act and it’s also a middle finger to previous matches where I kept losing. But I keep returning, right? I can’t really die.”
Her face paint was met with mixed responses. But Lee started to push out the naysayers’ negativity. That’s when the indifferent attitude came about. It’s reminiscent of that Stone Cold (Steve Austin) kinda vibe. As it is in the ring, so it shall be in real life.
Her personal life also bleeds into her gimmick. Her social media accounts detail her past relationships with women. She remembered kissing her girlfriend when she entered the arena. It wasn’t something that she needed to bring into the ring but it was great to have that transparency.
“Coming out as bi was hard but what better way to spread a cause you believe in when you’re in the spotlight and those words have weight. It’s just representation. People come up to me and say that they are also going through the same thing as I am or that they feel the same way.”
Compared to WWE or All Elite Wrestling, SPW falls squarely into the independent bracket. It doesn’t make money but it’s a decent living for Tang, who plans, negotiates with international pro wrestlers and sources potential sponsors. One of the biggest challenges initially was not simply getting people to join, but people to watch. “It’s not easy sustaining this business because it’s unorthodox with a very niche market,” Tang acknowledges.
And it’s even harder to recruit women to the fold. That’s the main reason why there’s only one or no female matches at each event that SPW organises. “We try our best to see to the training needs of our female trainees,” Frois says, “but as female trainees come and go, we’ve had as few as one female wrestler in our roster at certain times in SPW’s history.”
It’s a classic catch-22: Lee needs a better angle but to do so, she needs more female wrestlers to work with. SPW could bring in overseas talent but that costs money. And according to Lee, the female wrestlers she works with are taking a break. “Luna, the Coloniser—they can’t commit to SPW as much as they want to.”
Lee recalls an angle that was almost realised. “We wanted to work with Sayn RH, where I would tease about turning heel and then I do. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see the ‘good girl gone bad’, right? And then, we had to scrap it. Since then, I’ve zero idea about my angle. Honestly, there’s not much given to female wrestlers. I wish there was a clearer direction for my character’s evolution; what’s the next plan, what’s the next step?”
What do you think might help, aside from the addition of female wrestlers to the roster?
“Having a woman in the writers room might help but we don’t have the resources,” Lee says.
Frois disagrees. “It’s inaccurate to say that having more female writers in SPW will change the scenario as our committee cares a lot about our women’s wrestling story arcs. Like I’ve mentioned before, being proactive and receptive helps wrestlers a lot. Naomi and Danial are great examples of creative and enthusiastic performers whose characters flourished.”
In any case, it seems that if Lee is unable to form a story for herself here, she’ll look outside Singapore. A planned European tour is on the way for Lee, who is trying to get her name out there. Eventually, she wants to work outside Singapore. “It’s too small,” Lee says. “I need to look out for myself now. There are opportunities to learn from other wrestlers, to try out new things.”
Robert McKee once wrote, in relation to developing characters versus characterisation in films, that true character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure—“the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”
We’ll wait to see what sort of story Lee would be able to make for herself.
Given pro wrestling’s past for the usage of stereotypes, Prince Khaleed may come across as a little insensitive in this day and age, but Ashik Majid’s gimmick is based on the rich Middle Easterner.
“He does have that look,” Frois says. “I’ve never delved too much into how he came up with his character but he must have received some comments—whether positive or negative—that he could pass off as some rich Arab. He played into it and it has worked out rather well.”
Ashik has never been mistaken for an Arab, so it begs the question of Prince Khaleed’s origin story. It is calculated, but not in the way you would think. “I took inspiration from people’s general first impression of me as arrogant and snobbish,” he says. And in just the tiniest bit of irony, narrowed down the affiliation to royalty. “There’s the cliché of how royals can be obnoxious with all the power and money they have, so I weaved that into my narrative.”
“It’s like Broadway, but with body slams.” Ashik describes with a chuckle. With a trademark keffiyeh and igal on top of desert camo-print army trousers, the almost politically incorrect gimmick leaves a mark on the memory. Ashik addresses some of the common misconceptions most would have about pro wrestling, apart from the standard dismissal that it’s fake or easy.
“I think people forget that it’s a form of art,” he observes. “It’s obviously over the top. There’s the promo, the speech, a script.” Besides the storyline leading up to the show, it’s easy to overlook the conscious effort involved in simply conveying your emotions to the crowd during a match, while staying consistent with the character you portray. Even the little things like being aware of where the cameras are or where to stand in the ring, are equally vital.”
In honing the performance aspect of the craft, getting heat from the audience was something he had to learn along the way. Discerning the time to execute an action to effectively garner a response could only come with experience. “It does feel like trial and error,” Ashik admits, “because there are different crowds. You can rehearse your acts but you won’t fully know how it will be received until they see it and react.”
One experimented move included tying the opponent to the turnbuckle upside down and stepping on his groin. Needless to say, that raised a huge retaliation instantly. In his favour, nonetheless. It’s a clear sign of his success as a heel. Having played the antagonist in all his matches, Ashik continues to perfect his ‘heel factor’ to the point where he is jeered from the moment his entrance music begins.
But with visibly contentious gear and a matching role on stage, doesn’t he feel that he’s ticking off the boxes of cultural misappropriation and perpetuating hate on the implicated race? Especially in a landscape of political sensitivity and trigger-happy Internet warriors, how does he toe the line?
“I’ve had people chanting ‘USA’ when I enter,” he recounts, “but I want to challenge that stereotype.” One of the reasons Ashik, an Indian-Muslim, chose this persona was to show that not all Arabs are as negative as we’re often told to perceive. “I understand that there might be misinterpretations, but I hope the viewer learns to not associate Arabs with the prejudice as my character evolves and eventually becomes a face in the journey.”
What about the addition of the camo pants—isn’t that just spurring on the typecast? Nothing of the sort, apparently. “The story is that he’s not the favourite son of the king and was sent away to military school. I want people to know that even though Prince Khaleed is of royal blood, he’s not a weakling. You won’t want to mess with him because he’s trained.”
That’s another point where fiction and reality intersect. Having trained in Silat, Ashik, who works as a civil servant, was competitive in the sport before he made the switch to pro wrestling to fulfil the love he had for it since he was a kid. Even at that level of fitness, he soon realised the latter required more stamina than he had expected. “It takes a lot of air from you when you have to run around in the ring, evoke your emotions and stimulate the audience simultaneously. It definitely got me to up my cardio,” he laughs.
“There wasn’t any pushback on his gimmick,” Frois says. “But there have been incidents like Sayn RH, who was up against Rowdy Ranga [whose gimmick is that of the low-wage Indian migrant worker]. Many called Sayn RH a racist for his treatment on Rowdy Ranga. I feel those criticisms came from fans who think that this is real. Sayn RH is a nice, mild-mannered man in real life and he doesn’t want to offend people. He actually did a video where he produces his IC to show that he’s Indian, not Malay.”
Prince Khaleed wasn’t even the first gimmick that Ashik debuted with. In 2017, he and two others were known as KNS. Sadly not the local acronym we want it to be, Korean New Style was a parody of the K-pop scene in Singapore. The trio thrived on emulating an annoying temperament for their characters, but not unlike some real-life boybands, disbanded in six months.
Ashik remains dedicated in this pursuit, but emphasises that it’s not about competition between fellow pro wrestlers. “Having the title as champion is about how much you can shoulder. If you can showcase your talent and carry the name overseas, SPW will provide the opportunity.” For now, he enjoys the pseudo underhand deeds he is allowed to do within the ring. With the freedom of being a heel, it’s ultimately his favourite difference between being a participating pro wrestler and a spectator years ago.
It takes less than three seconds for Danial Alias to transform into Da Butcherman. He wields his cleaver—a real one that he uses for all shoots and promos because the authenticity can’t be faked— and the craze in his eyes is markedly different from his usual demeanour. But that transformative instant took months to master.
Introduced to wrestling by his cousins, Alias became a convert, enamoured with the showmanship since the age of five. “Initially, I was captivated by the slamming, the fireworks, but I became more invested in the story they presented.”
He’s lived in Singapore for a total of five years. Before arriving here, he had lived in seven countries, predominantly Qatar because his father worked for Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways. If he couldn’t be the first Singaporean pro wrestler, Alias issued a challenge to someone who already was: ‘The Statement’ Andruew Tang. It was done in good spirit, but the act had offended Tang who took it too seriously. Alias cleared up the misunderstanding and joined SPW when he returned to Singapore.
He had previously worked on his character, tried wearing a mask and speaking strangely, but Tang advised against it, saying that it made him sound incoherent, and, frankly confusing. The Butcher was then conceived in a brainstorm overnight. “I thought about what I would be like if I was fighting for real,” he recalls. “I’d want to be aggressive and want to slaughter my opponent.”
Surprisingly, the gimmick was so forgettable that Alias was close to giving it up. Until he came across a most unlikely source of realisation, Jason Statham’s Crank. Inspired by the film’s protagonist in having to keep his heart rate up in order to live, Alias re-enacted the cocaine sniffing with his cleaver, acting as if it were the trigger that caused him to go insane. “The audience saw that commitment to the character and reacted well. That’s where my character found its footing.”
But we’re missing something. Alias smiles as he recalls the match he had in Nepal in 2017. He had sent over his wrestling details as per the standard, but when the posters came out and the announcer called, The Butcher was introduced as Da Butcherman. Somehow it stuck. It also made for a more efficient search keyword on Google and YouTube, he reckons.
In a beautiful twist of irony, Alias is a first aid instructor by day. “It’s helpful,” he nods with a laugh, “It’s also good practice to hone my skills. Not the moves, but how to keep a bunch of people interested and engaged because they are usually not there by choice.” Still, being a medic doesn’t stop someone from having to make a trip to the hospital for stitches. He was once thrown over the ring as planned, but unintentionally broke his shin when he fell on the ring apron where a piece of wood was, unfortunately, jutting out. It bled profusely, but he doesn’t consider this his worst injury.
It was when his counterpart’s elbow accidentally collided with Alias’s head and caused a concussion. “I just remember a white flash, and though I have no memory of the match, I felt like I was operating on autopilot,” he continues. “I was unable to fully portray my character and kept repeating myself after the match. I was extremely dizzy and slurring. Now that was scary because I lost control over my speech.”
Outside the ring, Alias is recognised by fans who follow him on Facebook. “In my mind, I’m such a cool guy about it, but when they approach me in real life, I get caught off guard.” Thankfully, none have caused any trouble thus far. Alias’s wife, who he met at another local pro wrestling show, is also a fan of wrestling.
“What I commend about WWE now is that they’ve changed to produce a PG product,” he says, “Anybody who’s a fan of pro wrestling has surely slammed their brother on the table at least once. Now that the moves no longer look like they can kill a person, even if they are invariably replicated by kids, the consequences aren’t as dire as before.
“In fact, a lot of WWE faces are potential role models. They don’t swear, do anything obscene and fight for good.”
Alias chose to be able to play both sides of the fence. “There will come a stage in a performer’s life when they worry they’re going stale or the crowd no longer cares about what they’re putting out.” Having been through that a few times, he has emerged fervent to test the acceptance of Da Butcherman overseas.
“I’ll stop when I don’t feel anything when I wrestle anymore, even when the audience response is amazing. For now, I still have the passion that this is what I live for.”
Tang is proud of what he calls one of the top promotions in Asia, but insists on keeping the shows local and uniquely Singaporean. “I want to be the face of Singapore pro wrestling,” he maintains. “Even when I retire I want to be regarded as a legend for the sacrifice. Whether or not I make it mainstream, I want people to know I paved the way for others to do the thing they love.”
And to see something thrive, there needs to be the pangs of reinvention. Thus the introduction of Proving Ground.
Held a week after SPW’s show at the Pavilion, Proving Ground took place at SPW’s training room at Joo Seng; the place was a claustrophobic arrangement with the ring taking up two-thirds of the area. About 15 people were in attendance and the air was electric.
According to Frois, in the past, a storyline would be dictated but the wrestlers wouldn’t rehearse for it. Instead, they would call it in the ring (create moves and storytelling on the fly during a match). “Today, wrestling requires a full rehearsal in the day for the evening’s event. For SPW, some wrestlers have agents who help their wrestlers set up matches and plan storylines. The more seasoned wrestlers like Dr Gore, Eurasian Dragon, they don’t really rehearse.
“They will tell you what they plan to do and then execute it in the ring. The spontaneity of that elicits a certain excitement, which adds a naturalistic feel to the angle.”
Organised by Alias and Caleb Tan aka Dr Gore (the two men are part of the tag team called The Horrors), Proving Ground is where angles and moves are tested. If a match kills or shows potential, it is considered for SPW’s main billing.
In short, it’s an open mic for pro wrestling.
Given the nature of the show, it’s more loose with the execution (“Tonight’s budget for Proving Ground is ‘kosong, no egg’.”). Tan is playing host as he banters with the referee, Ryan Sheum.
The conversation starts off as a genteel exchange between two peers before it evolves into a trade of passive-aggressive barbs. (This would later boil into a match between Tan and Sheum.)
There is a lot of comedy involved. The evening had local stand- up comics like Jacky Ng and Qamarul Haziq in the audience, who deftly doled out a retort or quip. Old Boy Judas, with his signature kopi in a plastic bag, insulted the audience; The Trickster, Kyle Black from the Social Misfits, had an angle where he tried to draw the Danial Alias persona out from Da Butcherman.
It was as raw as it comes and some of the angles withheld the gleam of something entertaining.