Joey Axl was a young kid of 14 years old when he first met Rob Van Dam.
The youngster went to a Comic-Con in his native Melbourne to meet his idol RVD.
Now 10 years later the ‘Pop-Punk Powerhouse’ of Australian wrestling has signed for 5 Star Wrestling’s historic arena tour and live TV series.
Once again he will rub shoulders with Van Dam only this time not as a teenage autograph hunter but instead sharing a dressing room with the former WWE Champion as both men tour the UK as part of the 5 Star roster.
Ironically it was at that same ‘Armageddon’ Comic-Con where Axl’s passion to become a pro wrestler was ignited.
“I went there to meet RVD but they also had local independent wrestling on,” he said.
“I thought it was amazing. I got some advice from a wrestler called Krackerjack so I went to a local show, helped them as ring crew, got a free ticket and watched it. That’s how it all started.
“I started training with a guy called Mike Burr. He’d been trained by George Julio, who basically kept wrestling in Australia alive after it lost its TV deal in the 70s.”
Axl credits the eccentric Julio with helping to lay the foundations for the Aussie scene’s revival in recent years.
“Julio was from Malta and came over to Australia when he was 25. He is a real character.
“He is a former bodybuilder, he didn’t speak much English, couldn’t read or write, but he wrestled until he was 73, only stopping a few years ago. He still trains people at his home gym and wrestling ring.”
The young Axl turned out to be an excellent student of Julio’s prodigy Burr, and one of several Australian talents who have all come up through the ranks at the same time.
Many of them have formed the foundations of Melbourne Championship Wrestling (MCW) where Axl was one of the top names.
“We’ve got Adam Brooks, who is from the same company as me. Peyton Royce in NXT was known as KC Cassidy in MCW. NXT’s Buddy Murphy also came from MCW.
“There’s also Dowie James, Krackerjack, Alan Payne and Elliot Sexton – all notable wrestlers who are yet to break out.
“(Former UK wrestling commentator/referee) Andy Coyne now lives in Australia and he’s MCW’s commentator. He’s a good mate of mine.”
Alongside the likes of Brooks, NXT’s Royce, Murphy, Billie Kay and TM61, Mae Young Classic competitor Toni Storm, WWE Cruiserweight Classic entrant Damian Slater and PWG’s Jonah Rock, Axl and his fellow Aussie breakout stars are putting their home nation’s wrestling scene firmly on the worldwide map.
“We were drawing crowds of around 100, 150 people. 250 would be a sellout. But over the last few years, it’s boomed. We had (IWGP Champion) Kazuchika Okada on an MCW show recently.”
More exciting times are ahead for the Aussie scene as New Japan is planning an Australian tour, and Axl himself is no stranger to the Far East. While wrestling in Singapore he experienced his strangest moment to date as a pro.
“I was wrestling at a pop-up shop that was sponsored by Hublot watches as a part of a tour with Lucha Fantastica – a collection of luchadors brought over from Australia.
“I even had the chance to brush paths with Star Wars Rogue One actor Donnie Yen. I put him on his shoulders without realizing he’s a martial arts expert. If I’d dropped him that would have been the end of me!”
Having survived his meeting with the Hong Kong combat king, last year, following in the footsteps of his Oceania contemporaries Brooks, Storm, Mark Davis, Kyle Fletcher and Travis Banks, Axl decided to travel to the UK to gain more experience.
Now based in London, the Pop-Punk Powerhouse caught the eye of 5 Star Wrestling and now finds himself part of one of the most exciting rosters ever assembled.
With his distinctive blond haircut, combination of explosive power moves and agility, and his tall, muscular frame, the man formerly known as Josh Shooter may become one to watch on the live FreeSports TV series.
Axl hopes to eventually try his hand at wrestling in other parts of Europe (his parents are from Italy) or maybe Mexico as this world traveler is keen to experience a range of styles.
But for now, he’s focussed on making an impact in 5 Star Wrestling.
“I’d like to wrestle Kid Fite, Jack Jester, Zack Gibson, Brian Cage or maybe Eddie Ryan. Damian Slater has recommended his work to me and if that’s coming from Australia’s greatest wrestler then that speaks volumes.
“And of course it would be a dream to face RVD. Then everything really will have come full circle.”