Featured Image by Gilda Pasquil (Shimmer Women Atheletes)
Kellie Skater was there from the start; One of Australia’s most renowned exports reflects on her near-ten-year long career, and where it all began.
‘It would’ve been probably ’96 or ’97, I’m not even sure to be honest, but I was a young kid. I was hanging out with my cousin and we put on WCW [World Championship Wrestling]. From there, I went to the video store and rented all these WWF [World Wrestling Federation] tapes. I fell in love with it immediately.’ Kellie recalls seeing Rey Mysterio when she realised wrestling was something she wanted to do.
When Kellie started training in 2007, Australian pro wrestling was on the brink of a new genesis. It hasn’t been until the last few years that it reached, and then surpassed, the glory days of the 60s and 70s, when World Championship Wrestling ran regularly at Festival Hall. Skater adds, ‘There’s always been a lot of talented wrestlers in Australia. I guess at that stage [the 2000s] we were this big secret. We didn’t get much publicity, and it was even difficult for someone who was super interested in wrestling to uncover the Australian scene.’
‘It’s only been the last few years that I think Australia has been getting the recognition we really deserve. That’s due to the efforts of a lot of people.’
‘I had been training for about 2 months when I made my debut, which was quite quick. I came from a martial arts background, so I knew some things, like break falling and stuff like that,’ Kellie looks back at starting under the tutelage of George ‘the Hitman’ Julio at NAW (New Age Wrestling). It wasn’t long before Kellie Skater found her footing. ‘I guess it was an exaggeration of my own personality enjoying being as ridiculous as possible, taking a bit of my natural goofiness and just putting it out there. Initially I started as that generic clean-cut babyface.’ “The Rate Tank” really got going when she started playing the heel, as Skater explains: ‘I got a bit more of an opportunity to be really ridiculous and having a bit of fun, saying I was ten-foot tall and made out adamantium.’
As she started to travel interstate, Kellie met Madison Eagles at PWA (Pro Wrestling Australia) off shoot PWWA (Pro Wrestling Women’s Alliance), which was the only women’s company at the time. ‘When I first started, you could only wrestle people in your area. I do think for the Australian women’s scene, the catalyst for our success was Madison starting PWWA: She started pushing that ball down the hill and it gained momentum. She provided a platform for Australian women to wrestle each other. Then we were going to [North] America and starting to make a name for ourselves over there, which I think did make it easier for the next generation of girls to come through.’
‘The girls took their chances and just ran with it, and we’ve done amazing things.’
A lot has changed in such a short space of time, and pioneers like Skater are grateful to have been a part of the movement. She says, ‘Some of those core girls [from PWWA] are now in WWE and killing it, like Jessie McKay (WWE’s Billie Kay) was one of the first girls to start heading over there… Australian promotions have worked so hard to gain exposure through talented wrestlers, male and female, and it’s paying off huge. If you’re looking at MCW these days, or PWA, they’re just crushing it.’
From NAW and MCW, to the NHPW (New Horizon’s Pro Wrestling) in Perth and PWA (Professional Wrestling Alliance) in Queensland, Kellie’s done it all Down Under. Leaving the country was her next big challenge, at a time when international travel wasn’t guaranteed to be fruitful for Australian performers.
‘I’d never left the country before my first Shimmer show and I was heading over there with zero expectations.’
Kellie says, ‘I didn’t even know if I’d make the main roster. I just took a gamble on myself and said, “Why not?”’ Kellie became a Shimmer Women Athletes mainstay, one of the first Australian women after Eagles to do so. From Shimmer, she ventured all over North America, heading from the US, to Montreal in Canada.
Then, a regular spot in Japan popped up with her name on it. ‘When I was growing up, it was mostly Japanese wrestlers exposed to the American eye, like Bull Nakano and Aja Kong. As I got older and started to really get into All Japan Women’s [Pro Wrestling], Akira Hokuto became my absolute favourite.
It’s a draw between Illinois’ Shimmer and Tokyo’s Stardom for Kellie’s all-time favourite places to wrestle. With so many accomplishments to her name – a former Shimmer Champion and Artist of Stardom Champion (with Evie/Dakota Kai and Hiroyo Matsumoto) – she’s been fortunate to capture some memorable scenes and the hearts of fans along the way. ‘I love Shimmer so much, and Tokyo. In [Tokyo’s] Korakuen Hall, when the crowd bring their banners, and you get your streamers thrown in… the fanfare is just so special. It was a lifelong dream to wrestle in Japan.’
‘I just wanted to go over there and be like them: A tough, intense, charismatic wrestler.’
Kellie says wrestling in Japan was a life-affirming experience. She adds, ‘Living in a country where you don’t speak the language creates barriers that make you a better person. I had to try to learn the language and become very self-sufficient and hardworking. I couldn’t recommend [travelling to work] highly enough, not just for a wrestler to get that crucial wrestling experience, but for a young person to get that some valuable life experience, too.’
Kellie Skater had her last match in 2016, officially hanging up her boots at the start of 2017. She looks back at her proudest achievements, particularly, her Shimmer Tag Team Championship reign with Tomoka Nakagawa as the Global Green Gangsters: ‘I’d have to say my feud with the Canadian NINJAs [Nicole Matthews and Portia Perez] was probably the most fun I’ve had in my career. The Ninjas were just our natural rivals. I’m really proud of the matches we had and how that feud panned out.’
Kellie reflects on her last run in Stardom with good friends Evie and Hiroyo, as her career was winding down. ‘We were just having a blast. We were running around with giant party popper cannons and coming out to “Whoomp! (There It Is)” [by American hip-hop duo Tag Team]. We had a bit of fun and managed to become successful with it. Sometimes that’s what it’s about – You’ve got to enjoy yourself, otherwise, why are you doing it?’
Kellie leaves the business with no regrets: ‘I went out on my own terms and it was time for me. I’d done what I wanted to do, and I could look back happily and say, “Life well spent”. Now, it’s time to do new things and concentrate on other aspects of my life.’
Despite the business of everyday life, Kellie tries to keep tabs on where it all started, the local scene. ‘I try to get to as many shows as I can… If you look at the Australian style, you could say it’s always been a mixture of every style out there, with our own flavour. That’s why I’ve always believed the Australian scene was never getting the attention that it deserved. It’s awesome to see that the spotlight is finally shining on these guys that truly deserve it.’
‘I’m so proud of what everyone’s doing, and I hope [this scene] grows to the extent where people can just wrestle for a living in Australia.’
Kellie’s Wrestling Idols
I love Akira Hokuto; her charisma and her fire is just amazing. I look up to Madison Eagles, Bull Nakano, AKINO, people who are just hard working across so many generations.
The entire Shimmer roster. When I first came into Shimmer and I couldn’t believe how hard-working they all were. They were persevering and pushing the boundaries. Mercedes Martinez, Sara Del Rey, Daizee Haze, Homewreckers… and I think someone who doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit for women’s wrestling is Dave Prazak [founder of Shimmer Women Athletes]. He’s helped give women’s wrestling the attention it deserves – So many Shimmer girls ended up making it to WWE and travelling the world, and he gave them that platform to do so.’