📸: Featured Image by Lauren Molton Designs
In this episode, Erin chats with 19-year-old Warrimay and Gamilaraay woman, Rochelle Rogue. Rochelle has been wrestling across New South Wales and Queensland (Australia) for three years.
Rochelle talks about the Black Lives Matter movement and her experiences of racism, both in wrestling and in real life. She also touches on the Speaking Out movement, where allegations of abuse and sexual assault in wrestling worldwide have exposed the need for systemic change in the industry.
This interview was recorded in July 2020.
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- QLife – 1800 184 527
- National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 737 732 or https://www.1800respect.org.au/
International Mental Health Resources: https://checkpointorg.com/global/
Erin Dick 0:00
Hi, I’m Erin, and welcome to the first episode of Bronco Busters, a podcast sharing the stories of women and LGBTQ+ people in pro wrestling.
On this episode, I chat with 19-year-old Worimi and
Gamilaraay woman, Rochelle Rogue. Rochelle has been wrestling across New South Wales and Queensland for three years. Originally from Walgett, New South Wales, she now resides in Newcastle. We talk about the Black Lives Matter movement and Rochelle’s experiences of racism, both in wrestling and in real life. We also touch on the Speaking Out movement, where allegations of abuse and sexual assault in wrestling worldwide have exposed the need for systemic change in the industry. If this brings up anything for you, you’ll find relevant support in the show notes of this episode and on our website.
Joining me today over video from Newcastle is the wonderful Rochelle Rogue. She’s 19 and she is a proud Worimi and
Gamilaraay woman woman. Hello, Rochelle. How are you?
Rochelle Rogue 1:08
I’m good, thank you. Thank you for having me. This is awesome.
Erin Dick 1:23
When did you first come across wrestling?
Rochelle Rogue 1:25
So, I’ve been a massive professional wrestling fan ever since I was like a little kid. My parents used to watch it. When I was 16, like just a little bit over 16 my dad saw a tryout and he’s like, well, “I’m too old for this, but you know why don’t [you] do it and if you don’t get in, well, how cool would it be just to say that you’ve even done the tryout?” And like about three years later, here I am [laughs].
Erin Dick 1:58
I love that his first idea was that he wanted to go do the tryout but then he was like “Oh no maybe you should try it.”
Rochelle Rogue 2:04
[Laughs] It’s great. It was a great time.
Erin Dick 2:11
What did you like about it growing up? What kind of drew you to it?
Rochelle Rogue 2:15
I just thought it was like so cool. Like all the characters and the way they did all these moves, and it was just so inspiring and it just left me in awe because I didn’t know how a person could do this and still be okay? It was like, I used to boggle my mind because like I was like only a little kid. I didn’t realise that it was like a work half the time.
Erin Dick 2:44
Yeah, yeah, I think some of us will still feel that way when we watch our favourite wrestlers. We’re like “How are they doing that?”
Rochelle Rogue 2:50
Erin Dick 2:53
So yeah, you kind of like got straight into the the training and correct me if I’m wrong. Did you get your started at the House of Free Fighting up in Newcastle?
Rochelle Rogue 3:02
No, I started at Suplex Professional Wrestling.
Erin Dick 3:06
Cool. Okay, so you started your training at Suplex. What was that like?
Rochelle Rogue 3:13
It was good. For the most part.
Like I was really – I created family connections there which was really good, but sometimes you just kind of need to let those things go and realise what’s best for you.
Erin Dick 3:30
Yeah, yeah, I understand. And how long did you train and before you broke in?
Rochelle Rogue 3:37
So, I was about 16 months before I had my first ever, rumble match as Rochelle Rogue. I was on-and-off for a few months after that. And then in September was my singles debut at Suplex.
Erin Dick 3:56
You mentioned your your name, Rochelle Rogue. Could you describe Rochelle to someone who’s never seen her perform before?
Rochelle Rogue 4:04
So, Rochelle is she’s [the] rogue warrior. So the whole idea of that is she’s “take no sh*t”. She’ll stand up for what she believes in, she’ll stand up for others. She’s kind and caring and like someone that’s just easy to talk to and tries to be friends with everyone because she wants to make wrestling a better place for everyone and yeah.
Erin Dick 4:36
Hmm. That’s really special. That’s a really cool character. Um, in terms of your moveset and your performance, what’s your style?
Rochelle Rogue 4:47
Oh, that’s, I’m still learning that.
Erin Dick 4:50
Rochelle Rogue 4:51
Like, um, I’d say it’s more of a strong – it’s more Japanese strong style at the moment, but I’ve really wanted to incorporate more British style wrestling and like Luchadore stuff into my moveset which is what I’m working on at the moment.
Erin Dick 5:13
Who are your kind of influences around that style? Is there anyone that you look up to that you’d like to take and choose from?
Rochelle Rogue 5:22
So, I absolutely adore Charli Evans and the way she wrestles.Asuka, Natalia and Beth Phoenix like, all of those types of women. And Rey Mysterio and Matt and Jeff Hardy like I find them so cool with all like the flippy sh*t and like, ah, so cool!
Erin Dick 5:59
You mentioned obviously a very few very influential women, Beth Phoenix is one that stands out to me as someone who I really looked up to growing up as a fan watching wrestling. And one of your kind of catchphrases or your slogans that you run with is fight like a girl.
Who are your favourite women’s wrestlers, ever?
Rochelle Rogue 6:19
Oh, so… Oh, this is so hard. I have a fair few. So definitely would have to have Chyna, Lita, Trish Stratus in later years, Natalia, Beth Phoenix.
Taya Valkyrie is so cool. Jessica Havoc. I’m just trying to think… Kellyanne and Vixsin. Erika Reid. Charli Evans. And Shazza, Shazza… Shazza is someone I really do look up to especially now since all the Speaking Out movement like…
Erin Dick 7:02
Yeah, she’s been super vocal along with other women and survivors. So I guess who have been your favourite women to work with so far in the Newcastle scene?
Rochelle Rogue 7:13
In the Newcastle scene? Um, it’s a very good question because I’ve never really – like only in recent months have I’ve gotten to wrestle other women. I was very intergender wrestler for a lot of my career so far.
But some of the most – people that I’ve absolutely adored working with in my very short career was Shazza Mckenzie, Lena Kross, Xena and Kingsley.
There’s more. Tarlee, Jasmine, Edith Knight and I’ve also gotten to wrestle Lucille Brawl and I’ve got like a very special place in my heart for Stella Nyx and Candy Lee, yeah. They are all amazing people and I cannot rate them high enough as like people. They’re all very, very lovely, very genuine.
Erin Dick 8:17
Yeah, we’re pretty lucky here, hey? There’s lots of incredible women in our scene across the country.
Rochelle Rogue 8:23
We really are.
Erin Dick 8:25
Speaking on that you obviously alluded to the Speaking Out movement. And that’s been you know, really big for a lot of people in our industry. I know that, especially women and survivors of abuse. And I think that this time in wrestling, I think the interesting thing for me is the fact that you know, people like Shazza, who’ve been around for a long time and yourself. You’re still very young and new to the scene, but it’s still, it’s having an impact on everyone in the scene because the industry is changing as we know it. How do you feel about that? The fact that, you know, we’re all kind of bunkered down right now in quarantine because of the pandemic, but soon enough wrestling will come back and do you think it’s going to look different when we all do come back?
Rochelle Rogue 9:16
I feel like wrestling is going to like, it’s had a really rude awakening, like, with the Speaking Out movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. Wrestling is going to have to evolve and change because there are a lot of us that are not gonna let that like that type of sh*t slide. There have been companies now that even though we’re in quarantine, they’ve been shut down because of stuff that their promoters and stuff that they’ve [been getting] away with and they’ve been shut down straight away. And I feel like a lot of companies are going to have to really bunker down and, “what are their code of conducts?” And all of that stuff and they’ve really got to work hard to see, “what are their problems? What are their faults? And how can they fix that to make it like a safe place in wrestling?” Not just for the people that are in here now, but for the people that are going to come in, what five years time. We’ve got to make wrestling a safe place for not just us, for the people that are going to come in and going to be the future for professional wrestling.
Erin Dick 10:35
Hmm, totally. And I think people like yourself, really are, you know, as much as it’s about, we need promoters to take action because they’re in those positions of power and authority right now. I feel like people like yourself, young people and people who are from diverse backgrounds are going to be the changemakers who lead the way in a lot of ways. Do you feel any sort of pressure in that sense? The fact that, you know, the fact that as the industry changes, people who have been affected or people who feel really strongly towards these issues, there’s a lot of emotional labour that goes into that in having to support victims and to speak out for people who aren’t yourself even. How do you feel about that?
Rochelle Rogue 11:21
It is so hard, like, I’ve had my own personal experiences in wrestling. And it is very hard emotionally. But the way I think about it is if I can be the voice for someone else, I can not only help them, I can help other people that may or may not be comfortable enough to speak out about their assaulters and abusers in the industry. And I like my whole thing is I just want to wrestling to be a safe place. I don’t want to have to hear that another girl or another guy or any other type of person… I want everyone to feel like they don’t have to, they don’t have to worry about even going to a show. I don’t want people to feel the way I felt when I was, when I was younger like in the scene You know, wrestling has no place for those types of people, the ones that are assaulting and abusing people and all that. All of that sh*t. There is no place for them in wrestling. There is no place for them in general society.
Erin Dick 12:48
Totally. I hear you. Thank you for sharing that. It’s all a lot for a lot of people right now. So yeah, I really appreciate you being open and forward about how you’re feeling. On the Black Lives Matter movement, you, obviously you wear your, your Aboriginal flag really loud and proud on your gear. What does it mean for you to be able to do that?
Rochelle Rogue 13:12
It’s kind of like a, honestly…
because I’m very very light skinned, I’m a very pale person, I know this. But it’s moreso a big f*ck you to everyone who has ever said that “Oh, you’re not Aboriginal.” Do you know what I mean? Like all of those things. “Oh, you’re too white. You’re just pretending to be Aboriginal to get like benefits.” And it’s a big f*ck you to them and it’s like, well, I am who I am. I know who I am. My family knows who I am. Like, spent, what, the best part of four years in a very highly populated Indigenous community. I went to a primary school where it was like a 99% Indigenous children rate? Like, it’s me, it’s my culture, it’s who I am and I don’t give a damn what anyone says. And I’ve, yeah, like, I’ve called out promoters on it. And I’m of the opinion, I don’t care if I don’t get booked on shows because I am who I am. I’m proud of who I am. And if people are going to use that against me, then it’s their loss like,
Erin Dick 14:33
Yeah, I was going to ask that because I guess some of the other people who are really proudly Aboriginal or Indigenous in the wrestling community who have been around for a lot longer, have only just started to feel comfortable to wear their flag or to express their heritage loud and proud in that way. And I guess it means a lot to some of those people, and to all of us to be able to see you taking that and yeah, giving that big f*ck you to anyone who says that you’re not allowed to do that. I guess the sense of community that that inspires in our industry, I guess what does it mean to you to be a part of that community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous people in pro wrestling in Australia?
Rochelle Rogue 15:23
It means so much to me like I never knew that was like that there was that many Indigenous people in the Australian wrestling scene and Torres Strait Islander. I never could even fathom because when I started, there were Indigenous people, but they weren’t necessarily proud of their heritage and they didn’t really want to accept the fact that they were. And now I was supposed to be involved in wrestling show called Stomping Ground…
Erin Dick 16:05
I was so looking forward to stomping ground before COVID I was like, “I’m getting on a plane and I will be there in a heartbeat.”
Rochelle Rogue 16:12
Like I was so excited too and though I may not have met a lot of the people on the roster I now have a family there now. I have family in the Indigenous community Australian professional wrestling. With all the Speaking Out and I’ve had a lot of issues come up within wrestling. And I’ve always had them there to support me because they know what it’s like as a Indigenous person in professional wrestling and they always check up on me and they want to make sure that I’m doing okay. And I haven’t felt that sense of community since I was since I was living in Walgett when I was like a little kid. It’s really good to see and I honestly hope that more people like more people become proud of who they are and want to express that Yeah, I am. I am this person. This is my culture. This is my heritage. And I don’t give a damn what any of you bigoted piece of sh*ts think.
Erin Dick 17:18
That’s so powerful.
I guess there’s lots of conversations happening now around change in pro wrestling. And I guess a lot of those conversations have been about Speaking Out. But there’s also the conversations happening about, you know, racism in the industry, because we know that that exists and off the back of Black Lives Matter, what do you think needs to be done in Australian wrestling to address racism experienced by workers, fans, anyone who’s involved to bring about racial justice?
Rochelle Rogue 17:50
Honestly, it’s all about education. A lot of these people with these bigoted mindsets, it’s because they were raised that way they were taught this. Racism is a learned behaviour. Like, you never see a little like toddler hate on someone because of their skin colour. You know what I mean? And if we want change, we need to educate people.
Like I’ve had people talk to me about the Black Lives Matter movement and say it’s just a leftist agenda. And I did get very, very emotional about it and I literally told them, I’m like, I have family that have become a part of the Aboriginal people in custody, like, I have family that become part of that statistic. I have family that can’t even go to the shops without being followed by security because they think they’re going to steal something. I haven’t spoken to her in years, but every time sh*t happens she messages me. And she’s like, “I was followed out the f*cking shops again.” And this girl, she’s the first ever kid in her family to go to uni. She finished like she finished high school, she’s going to uni. She is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. And like she’ll, she literally can’t do anything wrong because she’s so against being a part of the statistics. She wants to be like, yeah, I may be dark skinned. Like, I may be very dark, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to go and steal all your sh*t in your shop. I’m not going to go f*cking sniff petrol. I’m not going to be the f*cking stereotypes that you put, like, put on me. And yeah, like I’m fortunate enough that I don’t get that because I am very light skinned. But like, it’s so bad because if I went out with my family who are of dark skin, we’d all get racially profiled. We’d all get that same – “We’re gonna follow that group of people because they’re black. They’re, they’re gonna f*cking steal sh*t” and all that like, yeah.
So it’s all about educating people and it’s all about not having that bigoted mindset, which is what we’ve got to get people out of. It is very hard. And I was talking to Joel Bateman about, I had a particular experience with a certain company, not saying any names because I don’t want to cause any drama. They had people on their roster talk sh*t about me because I called the promoter out on being a racist because he was being a f*cking racist. Yeah, they were talking sh*t and they were saying that. yeah, um, I don’t know what I’m fighting for. I don’t know what I should be fighting for, all this sh*t.
And I’m like, sent it off to Bateman and I’m like, “What do I do about this?” I’ve tried educating this person, and they just wouldn’t listen. And I’ve had other people who are not Indigenous, they’re like, “Well, we’ll talk to this person try educate them ourselves.” But the unfortunate thing [is] some people just can’t be taught. Yeah, and I’ve been targeted when COVID was really bad in New South Wales, like the first wave and the BLM movements were big and all the marches and all the protests and stuff.
I literally had someone message me, this was before House of Free Fighting: “Don’t come to training if you went to the BLM movement, marches and protests.” …But it was more of a, “You’ve directly talked to me. You haven’t talked to any of you other Indigenous people in your roster or in your training school.” And I just messaged the person back I’m like, “Yeah, I would have that I was working. Thank you very much.” And that was kind of my call to leave that certain place.
Erin Dick 22:16
You said something in there I guess about not being able to educate a certain individual. And I guess we have a lot of pressure right now happening in the scene where we’re pushing people out who don’t deserve to be here anymore. This all kind of falls under the same banner right? If we want true justice, and we want true reform, then everyone who’s bigoted, as you’ve said, and who has those opinions that hurt people, they’ve got to go.
Rochelle Rogue 22:45
They do. And it’s, it’s hard. It really is because like, there’s only so much like I can do. I’ve tried, I’m talking to people and Bateman literally said to me, he’s more than happy to have a conversation with said person. Yeah, it’s, yeah.
Erin Dick 23:07
Do you think that it should just be on – You know, myself I’m a white person of privilege like it should be on people like us to have to do that heavy lifting. But at the same time, I’m very much of the opinion that we need to make space for voices like yours people whose voices haven’t been heard. And what that looks like for me is to stepping aside and letting people who have been marginalised take the lead on the on conversations like, you know, putting people in positions of authority and power at wrestling shows and promotions. How do you feel about that as a step forward?
Rochelle Rogue 23:44
I, it would be amazing. Like having, like just someone that you can talk to and be like, “Well, this is what’s happened. I’ve experienced this with said person” and yeah, like a liaison officer or something like that. But it’s more of a, are company’s willing enough to do that?
Which is the unfortunate thing a lot of companies aren’t and like
it’s just a very tough time at the moment trying to think of what can work and what can we do about it? Because I’m very much of – my career is still very, very, it’s so short already. And I’ve been told by people “Don’t piss off other promoters, they talk, they talk to other people, and then that will get a bad reputation for you.” And that’s always been in the back of my mind because I’m very afraid that, well, yeah, I’m very vocal and I’m very, like very vocal about everything that has happened and everything that I’ve gone through and everything the Black Lives Matter movement means to me and my family. Yeah, it’s it’s very hard and being so young in the business to it’s, ah! [laughs]
Erin Dick 25:08
I want to ask, did you ever, at any stage did you ever just think this is too hard? And did you ever want to quit?
Rochelle Rogue 25:16
all the time? Like, wrestling is so hard. Oh, it was very hard for me. Like, I like recently it’s been so much better but the start of this year, and like a lot of last year, I wanted to quit. I didn’t enjoy anything to do with wrestling and that was because of, like experiences that I had and just the constant feeling like whatever I did in wrestling just wasn’t enough. And I always got told, like, “trust the process”, you know?
But it was just a very hard time just to be able to go ahead with that, but still putting everything that I had into the business and practically getting told that that wasn’t enough. And what I was doing wasn’t enough was a very, very big toll on me and my mental health. Before COVID I was contemplating quitting wrestling altogether. And now it’s like, I’ve gained this massive support network, like during COVID. And it’s very sad to think that I I did think that I wanted to leave the business that I’ve given some of the best time like, best moments and time of my life to and, yeah.
Erin Dick 26:53
Is that what made you stay that support network?
Rochelle Rogue 26:57
It did. I now have people that I literally call family that, you know, like, live in different states and I barely get to see, but they know for a fact that if they need to talk to me like I’m here and vice versa. And that’s the thing, even though there are so many sh*t things happening in wrestling at the moment, like, like we have each other, and we can talk to each other about things and we can, we can help each other find what is best for us and how we can improve ourselves and improve our mental health and improve the way we are looking at life. And I’m so glad that I do have this support network and I’m hoping that I can help other people grow their support networks and yeah, just being there fore people. Like, I tell all of my friends, I’m like, you’re stuck with me. Like, no matter what happens, they, they know for a fact, like, even if I’m at work, I’ll message them afterwards, they can message me they can talk to me, because I’m not going to judge them for anything that they’re going to tell me, you know?
Erin Dick 28:20
To kind of bring this to a sort of conclusion, who are some of your favourite I guess, Indigenous wrestlers at the moment that we should be watching?
Rochelle Rogue 28:23
Oh, for sure. Mako Hunter in the Northern Territory. Erika Reid. Oh, she’s so amazing. Michelle Hasluck, Joel Bateman. Um, there are some really good talent at Suplex that are Indigenous as well like you’ve got Ivy Algos and Miles Malice. There’s so many Indigenous people in this business that have much talent but don’t necessarily get the platform to show what they’re capable of and they are definitely people to look out for and keep an eye on because these, a lot of these people are the future for Indigenous wrestling in Australia and I genuinely hope that I get to see them all grow and see them f*cking knock out everyone in Australian wrestling and show that, you know, we’re not to be f*cked with. We are here and we are proud and we are valid members of this community as well.
Erin Dick 29:47
If you or someone you know needs support, you’ll find relevant helplines and links in the show notes of this episode and on our website.
Bronco Busters would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which these interviews and stories are recorded throughout the Kulin Nation. We pay our respect to their Elders – past, present and emerging. We also extend this acknowledgement to the Traditional Owners of the various lands on which our guests reside. Colonial violence is ongoing and the fight for justice resides with each of us.
To hear and read more from the women and LGBTQIA+ people of pro wrestling, head to our website: bronco-busters.com for more stories and transcripts. You can keep up with us on Facebook at BroncoBustersAUNZ and Instagram @broncobustersaunz. And don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.