Mark Mercedes has combined a full-time career in the wrestling ring with his behind the scenes duties of organising and promoting matches. He tells us why wrestling is such a major drawcard for audiences world-wide …
What have you been up to since the International Wresting Australia (IWA) last toured to the Manning- Great Lakes in 2010?
IWA has been very busy since last year … we have been touring in North Queensland and appearing at some major agricultural shows. We also signed a big contract with the Mounties Group, performing every school holidays at Mounties in Sydney. On the talent front, we have some great new wrestlers working for IWA. Puerto Rican sensation, Esteban Molina, is a crowd favourite and is popular wherever we go – he has high energy and always puts great matches on.
You’re a pro wrestler, organiser and a performer in the IWA … what is required to be an organiser?
I’ve been a pro wrestler for 20 years – it’s gone so quickly. I have been very fortunate that not only has this been my full-time job, but I’ve also travelled the world. I started promoting on and off back in 1993 and then formed IWA in 1997. For most of my career I have had to juggle being behind the scenes, plus being out on stage. Sometimes it’s incredibly stressful and at other times, very easy. These days now that I am 40 years old, my body doesn’t bounce back like it used to when I was 20, so I spend more time behind the scenes promoting and organising things. Touring is a sometimes stressful business, as not only do you have to keep 15 ‘talents’ happy, you also need to work with venue managers, stage hands and the media. It makes for long days, but it’s rewarding.
Being a pro wrestler takes a lot of dedication. How often are you required to work out, and how strict is your diet?
Back in the day when I was working in Japan, America and Europe, training and diet were everything! It is very hard to keep a routine of diet and exercise when you’re travelling in planes and hire cars to new towns every night. But you just need to find time to fit it in, as the job can be physically demanding. A good combination of diet and exercise keeps you fit and strong, like in any sport.
The show is billed as being “bone crushing, back breaking, body slamming and adrenalin pumping”. What draws people to this form of entertainment?
Wrestling has always been a high-energy show dating back to the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s heroes versus villains – the good, the bad and the ugly. We stage our shows to be family fun with lots of different characters. When you are up close to the ring and you hear the sounds of the guys hitting the canvas, along with the crowd cheering, it creates a great atmosphere. People are drawn to wrestling because it’s larger than life entertainment – essentially, it’s a soap opera with a punch!
Tell us about the main ‘characters’ in the wrestling line-up?
We have Esteban Molina, along with long-time crowd favourite, The Birdman. Another crowd favourite, the Apache Warrior, is also on the tour. We also have two new very talented rookies who are making their debut … the Xclusive and Luke Knight are ready for some big matches. The Xclusive was born and raised in Forster, so it should be a big night for him there.
Who have been your inspirations?
When I grew up in the ‘80s, I watched wrestling on Channel 10, loving the likes of King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, Macho Man, Ric Flair, Legion Of Doom Hawk and Animal. I never would of thought that years later I’d be working with some of these guys and be on the same shows as them!
What did you think of Mickey Rourke’s performance in The Wrestler?
I loved the movie and I saw many wrestlers I know wrapped up into one character. It was gritty and on many levels, true. Just like Hollywood, there are many starving entertainers out there! Some trying to make it, and some clinging on to whatever little fame they once had. Unfortunately, many old time wrestlers never saved for a rainy day or thought their day on top would stop. It’s a hard, cruel business.
You’ve been performing full-time for 19 years. How much longer do you have in the ring?
Well, these days I am no longer in the ring full-time. I like to jump in a tag match here and there and still get involved, but my main job is backstage directing the show.