Featured Image via CoryLockwood.com
On match day, Melbourne-based wrestler, Erika Reid, makes sure to pack the essentials: Her voodoo dolls, pet rats, a vial of poison, and rocks to throw at spectators.
‘Wrestling was always something that I could escape to and put all my creative energy into. If I was happy I’d watch wrestling, if I was sad I’d watch wrestling. My sisters and I bonded over it, and it always brought the house together,’ Erika reminisces.
Her earliest memories of wrestling are with her Pop, who used to show her and her sisters an impressive archive of matches. ‘Whenever we went to my Pop’s, we would chuck on a random tape. It was always bits and bobs, sometimes it was WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and then it was ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) and then it was WWF (World Wrestling Federation). But we always watched Ric Flair.’ Erika recalls two posters flanking her Pop’s bedroom wall – One was of Elvis Presley, and the other was Ric Flair, his two idols.
Originally from Penrith, Sydney, Erika began training at Pro Wrestling Australia in Sydney for a year, before she was offered a “squash match” at Newcastle Pro Wrestling against Harley Wonderland. She recalls her first match at 19: ‘I was shitting myself, but it was pretty fun… All I can remember is doing my entrance and I was super gassed because I ran around the ring a couple times.’
Erika changed gyms and moved around, and eventually had her first good run with International Wrestling Australia. ‘Mark Mercedes really took me under his wing. Mark Williamson and Alex Titan as well, and all those guys, they really pushed me. They threw me in the deep end so I could learn from my own mistakes.
We went on tour with them, and wrestling every night of the week was so sick. I was so sore by the end of it, but man, I felt like a gypsy. I was just travelling, finding wrestling and taking my “Magik” with me.’
Now 21, and a mainstay at Melbourne City Wrestling and Battle Championship Wrestling, Erika continues to stand out, evolving from the “Twisted Gypsy” girl next door, to the “Dreamtime Voodoo Witch”. She has flourished in the company of stable mates “pAnic” and the “Prehistoric Death Cult”, including Syd Parker, who she credits for his tutelage in her understanding of the business and character.
‘He’s a wonderful little dinosaur. I never know what ideas he’s going to come up with next. I’ve learnt a lot from him as a wrestler. I’ve learnt how to listen to the crowd, how to show emotion. People forget that wrestling today isn’t just flips or moves…Wrestling is telling a fucking story, being able to emotionally invest in your story, and getting the fans to invest in your story. If you can’t do that, then you’re not fucking over.’
Erika is a strong believer in the importance of characters. ‘Even Hulk Hogan, he had the shittest leg drop you’ve ever seen. But you knew when he hit it that was business. Wrestling’s a fight, you’re not going to do flips in a fight. You’re not Bruce Lee. But if that’s your character, fuck yeah, go for it,’ she says.
As a Wiradjuri woman (New South Wales), Erika strives to bring a huge piece of herself to her work.
‘Erika is Indigenous, she’s one with the land, she’s connected to the land. We all have a unique connection to the land that we’re born with. It’s just something inside us that we can’t really explain,’ Erika reflects.
‘I was raised by my sisters,’ Erika explains. On her right wrist, lies a cursive tattoo that reads “Rebekah”, who taught her how to box, inspiring her knock-out punch finish. ‘If I ever got bullied at school, Rebekah would always tell me, “Just punch them in the face”.’
On Erika’s left wrist, in the same cursive font, reads “Elyce”. Erika calls her eldest sister and her left hand a source for her creativity and spirituality. ‘Elyce is a White Witch. I was raised on, “You’re sick, go have a bath with some cinnamon and salt and rosemary.”’ Now, she brings her “Magik” to the ring and shares this with others. ‘If we have an injury I’ll rub some oils on it, if there’s a headache I’ll rub some oils on it. I hate taking medicines, so I’ll use lavender and other alternatives.’
‘That’s where the “Magik” of the witchcraft comes from for Erika. That’s where she has the most control. She can control any situation, see what they’re thinking, or predict their next move. She can use her poison at any time, like a blue tongue lizard she just spits that shit out. The “Magik” is where she feels most comfortable and without it she wouldn’t be Erika. Without her dolls, there would be something missing. Almost as if she had lost her soul. That’s just her culture,’ she stresses.
Erika lays a piece of herself out on a table at intermission, adorned with her voodoo dolls and props, sharing stories with those brave enough to approach her. ‘Erika’s a bit wild. She just doesn’t really have a filter, and I don’t think some fans like that… But then there’s those awesome people who get it. They open up their imaginations and put it all on the table, asking me about the dolls and the mist and the rats. Everything has a story, and they come back every single time and ask for another story.’
‘I like to try and teach people about the Dreamtime stories, because I don’t think a lot of people know about it. So I like to teach people, but I think some people get a bit intimidated, maybe because I have rats on me or because I’m staring or screaming,’ Erika laughs.
She lights up recalling a particular interaction with a young fan: ‘I remember I had this one child come up to me, and he was Indigenous. And he asked me, “are you Aboriginal?” It turned out we were both from the same mob. The kid picked up a voodoo doll, and said “Iisn’t voodoo bad?” And I said, “nah man, voodoo’s good, if you use it right”. He goes “alright I’ll get a doll”. And when I came out and made my entrance I’m like to him, “hold the dolls up and you’ll feel the “Magik”, and I went up to him and licked his head! He squealed and everything, and now he’s like my number one fan. He’s totally invested. Now, whenever I see him, I tell him a story, because I feel like I’m doing a good thing, passing on knowledge from my culture to his culture, or anyone’s culture, really.’
Recently, Explosive Pro Wrestling took a step towards breaking down barriers in Australian pro wrestling, as Noongar woman, Nerelle McKinley, delivered an Acknowledgment of Country at their February 3rd event in Perth. This touched Erika. ‘I think it was extremely emotional. I have the utmost respect for them, and I think a lot of promotions should consider following in their footsteps. It’s a blessing, that acknowledgement, is an elder from that land coming to that venue for that event and blessing it. It’s so much more than a couple of words. An acknowledgement is my anthem, that’s an Aboriginals anthem.’
‘I just love art, I feel like if I can’t express myself then I’m suffocating.’
Among her other interests and artistic pursuits – music, crafting her own ring gear – Erika believes that wrestling is a place to let your imagination run wild, a place where fans can let everything go when they walk through the doors. ‘You’re at a wrestling show. You’re not supposed to be anyone else. You’re supposed to be yourself.’
‘I want to share my story. Erika fights. She fights for what she thinks is right.’
Erika’s Wrestling Idols:
‘I love Taya Valkyrie. I think shes a brutal motherfucker. I love her stuff.
Saraya Knight was one of the first indie female wrestlers I loved. I could relate to her, she’s a shoot gypsy. She’s brutal, she’s been through shit, she has a character and she brings that all together in the ring. She has a reason to be there and to fight.’
‘I enjoy working with Harley Wonderland. She chops the shit out of me. Vixsin, she throws me around and beats the shit out of me. It’s so much fun. Sofía Moralez is a lot of fun, too.’