Tag Archives: “Jag” Hartley Jackson

AJ Istria Interview

by Daniel Johnson

ajistria

Photo Courtesy of Just Julie. Just Wrestling

Interviewer’s Note: AJ Istria is the current top dog in Pacific Pro Wrestling (PPW) having won the PPW Heavyweight Championship in November at PPW SHOWDOWN. Istria is a native of Australia and has been with PPW since it’s debut show, PPW FIRST STRIKE. Istria first got into wrestling by watch the WWF during the Attitude Era and gained a further appreciation for the industry after discovering Japanese wrestling. Before PPW, Istria first began to get really serious about wrestling in 2009 and has since worked for a variety of promotions in Australia and abroad perhaps most notably ZERO 1 in Japan and ZERO 1 Australia. This interview was completed on December 14, 2013. In this interview Istria and I talk about the PPW Heavyweight division. This is the fourth and final part of the four part PPW Interview Series.

Daniel Johnson: So before I get into the PPW questions I had some more general questions to start. My first question is how would you sum up yourself as a performer in just a few words?
AJ Istria: I believe I’m an all around performer and can find a way to excel in any situation that is put in front of me.

Daniel Johnson: For readers who you may be new to where and when were you born and how long have you been wrestling?
AJ Istria: I was born in Brisbane and I’ve been around since 2007. I try to pretend I’ve only been around since 2009 though as that is when a lot of my real training began.

Daniel Johnson: Early on who were some wrestlers who first really captured your attention as a fan and have these wrestlers influenced you at all as a performer?
AJ Istria: I generally didn’t watch too much wrestling as a kid but when I hit around 15 or 16 the first wrestlers to make me a fan were Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar. Soon after courtesy of the Internet I was able to watch some of the Japanese guys I saw in video games in the 1994 Super J Cup. Jushin Liger, Great Sasuke, TAKA Michinoku and Shinjiro Ohtani were like super heroes to me. I’d like to think I only take a little from each of these wrestlers, my style and tastes have changed over the years though. My work is more influenced by pop culture figures from sporting stars to actors.

Daniel Johnson: When you knew you wanted to be a wrestler how did you go about finding a place to get trained and what did a typical day of training look like?
AJ Istria: I’m just going to skip to 2009 here. When I decided I wanted to be serious about being a wrestler I shot off a message to “Jag” Hartley Jackson down in Adelaide requesting training. Multiple Japan tours, trained in the Los Angeles Inoki Dojo [Inoki Dojo USA] in the US and anyone that was a product of him were brilliant in their own way. A typical training session consisted of an hour of weights, an hour of cardio and just over an hour of basics and drills.

Daniel Johnson: Getting into your work for PPW how did you first come to work for the company and what were your thoughts when you saw who else would be on the roster?
AJ Istria: I was contacted directly whilst I was out of town by Chris Dalgleish to see if I would be interested. He said exactly what I wanted to hear as far as his vision for the product went but with me not being nearby I didn’t know what to expect until I turned up for the first event. I think the roster is one of the more unique mixtures of people for our area in Australia.

Daniel Johnson: For readers who have yet to check out PPW how would you describe the PPW Heavyweight division and who are some standout competitors in the division?
AJ Istria: The PPW Heavyweight division features a more diverse level of competition. With improvements in physiques, athleticism and knowledge from a large variety of guys I think nearly everyone is bringing a different style to the fights. I haven’t been present for all of the events so I can’t answer that question honestly. All I can say is that I intend on being the clear standout for as long as I am with PPW.

Daniel Johnson: You have been with PPW since the very beginning and wrestled on PPW FIRST STRIKE, the company’s first ever show. What are your thoughts looking back at the event and in particular of your match with Ben Coles, which was part of the tournament to crown the first PPW Heavyweight Champion?
AJ Istria: It seemed all about establishing a foundation and seeing who stuck. Obviously I was disappointed that I lost in the first round but I proved throughout the match that I was the better man and I just had an unlucky result.

Daniel Johnson: Although you lost in your match with Coles I don’t believe you have lost a match in PPW since and won a number one contenders match against Mark Davis to get another shot at the title. What are your thoughts on having this much momentum and have you had similar momentum in other companies you have worked for?
AJ Istria: I’ve had multiple winning streaks over the years. Eventually peoples heads turn and there ends up a big target on you to take you out. It becomes quite stressful really. I think with my confidence at an all time high I won’t be making any mistakes I’ve made over the years and I will be able to set a record for title defenses that will be unmatched in the years to come.

Daniel Johnson: At PPW SHOWDOWN you defeated Ben Coles to become only the second ever PPW Heavyweight Champion. What are your thoughts on this match and of your title win?
AJ Istria: I was incredibly sick in the lead up to the match and probably should not have even wrestled. But it’s like I said about confidence before, I believe in my abilities and because of that I don’t see anything stopping me in the foreseeable future. My personality may not endear myself to opponents or some of the crowd but I’d like to think everyone understands the hype now and can appreciate my title victory.

Daniel Johnson: Have you had the chance to be the top champion in a promotion before? If so how did that experience prepare you to be PPW Heavyweight Champion, if at all? If not then what it is like to be the top dog in a company for the first time?
AJ Istria: I’ve never won a major belt but I’ve often been a big match player on many occasions before. The Australian Wrestling Alliance (AWA) in Brisbane city have frequently given me top competition from around Australia and overseas just to see some of the best matches possible. For ZERO 1 in Japan on smaller shows I wrestled in many feature matches against top talent. I also once spent an entire week wrestling against one of Australia’s best pure wrestlers, Damian Slater, for ZERO 1 Australia and that prepares you for just about anything. The only thing that has changed is that I now have an official title proving that I’m the one you have to beat.

Daniel Johnson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe since winning the PPW Heavyweight Championship you have not yet had a chance to defend it. Who would you like your first title defense to be against?
AJ Istria: As cliche as it is, anybody. I don’t intend on losing it anytime soon so I’m going to be running through a long list of names eventually.

Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a broader question, but how do you think PPW can grow in the near future and what responsibility do you feel you have in helping with this growth as the promotion’s top champion?
AJ Istria: I try to stay out of the business end of things. What I will provide is a top level match every single time I’m in the ring. I truly hope my title reign inspires people to come back for each show. It’s a big responsibility but everyone should feel that no matter their placement on the card. Anybody that doesn’t think they are performing for the fans should start saying their goodbyes.

Daniel Johnson: What would you most like to accomplish as PPW Champion?
AJ Istria: Prepare myself to take on the world.

Daniel Johnson: On a different note PPW recently announced that in 2014 the company will hold the inaugural PPW P-1 Tournament. Do you plan to wrestle in the tournament and if so do you have any idea who you will face?
AJ Istria: I can’t confirm or deny anything at this point in time. Stay tuned.

Daniel Johnson: Talking about your career more generally is there anywhere you have yet to wrestle that you would like to? If so then where?
AJ Istria: I’d like to revisit Melbourne at some stage and wrestle in Perth as well. Returning to Japan is high on my priorities list. It’s all about timing though. Right now my focus is on Pacific Pro, ZERO 1 Australia and AWA and I’m quite happy with that workload. If any other opportunity pops up I’d jump on it if the pieces were in the right place.

Daniel Johnson: Speaking of your work in Japan I was curious are there any Japanese wrestlers you have yet to work with that you would like to? If so then who?
AJ Istria: The list is nearly 40 names long. It’s a different world over there man and they are a different breed. I wrestled a bunch of top guys but they were all in tag matches. The big dream matches I have that are probably shared by thousands of prospects across the globe are against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada and Kazushi Sakuraba. Obviously them all being in New Japan makes that possibility about as easy as being at Wrestlemania but it’s a dream.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, this is a question I always try to sneak in, but people love to hear ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you could share?
AJ Istria: Those incriminating stories aren’t meant to see the light of day unfortunately. Maybe sometime at a PPW show I’d share some when it isn’t cemented in writing.

Daniel Johnson: Winding down I also like to throw out five non-wrestling questions just to make the interview a little more fun. First, outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
AJ Istria: I don’t really watch too much TV. I’ll throw out a shout out to Louie from Louis CK though. Everyone should check that out.

Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
AJ Istria: American Hustle.

Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
AJ Istria: Absolutely no idea.

Daniel Johnson: No problem, what is your favorite song to come out this year?
AJ Istria: Rebecca Black, “Saturday” I was waiting years for that sequel!

Daniel Johnson: Haha, what is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
AJ Istria: Lance Armstrong, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. I have mixed emotions considering all of the official revelations that came out.

Daniel Johnson: I wanted to end with a few more short wrestling questions. First, who is your dream opponent?
AJ Istria: John Cena.

Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite type of gimmick match and why?
AJ Istria: I hate most gimmicks. I love the Royal Rumble though. Very exciting if you have an emotional connection with the match.

Daniel Johnson: What is the strangest part of being a pro wrestler?
AJ Istria: A large amount of idiots that seem to think they can call themselves pro wrestlers. Though that is the same as any field if you are close enough to it I guess. Just because I stand in a garage doesn’t mean I’m a car. Likewise for people that stand in the ring or do limited training.

Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler that is 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
AJ Istria: Wreckin’ Ball from ZERO 1 Australia – He’s done multiple Japan tours. He is one of the scariest heavyweights in Australia yet nobody seems game enough to bring him in. Grow some balls Australia!

Daniel Johnson: Cool, and my final question is just, is there anything you would like to add?
AJ Istria: One day I’m going to bring out merchandise. One day. Support it!

Check out AJ Istria in action! In this match from PPW FIRST STRIKE, Istria takes on the man who would become the first ever PPW Heavyweight Champion, Ben Coles:

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Elliot Sexton Interview

by Daniel Johnson

elliotsexton

Photo Courtesy of Elliot Sexton

Interviewer’s Note: Elliot Sexton is a wrestler from South Australia and despite being only 24 he has already had a tryout with WWE. Sexton grew up watching WWE Monday Night Raw and began training as a pro wrestler at the incredibly young age of 15. Sexton briefly trained at Australia’s Monster Factory under Col Devarney and John E Radic. He further developed at the Snakepit Wrestling Academy (SWA) and at a dojo run by “Jag” Hartley Jackson both of which were also in Australia. Sexton has wrestled for numerous promotions throughout his native country including Riot City Wrestling (RCW), ZERO 1 Australia and Snakepit Adelaide Pro Wrestling (SAPW). In 2009 he formed the tag team SEXROCK with Jonah Rock. The team has a Facebook page that can be found here and a YouTube page that can be found here. This interview was completed on August 25, 2013. In this interview Sexton and I focus on the topic of working as a young wrestler in Australia. 

Daniel Johnson: In a nutshell how would you describe yourself as a performer?
Elliot Sexton: In one word, arrogant. I’m tall, handsome and talented. Fans see that. People want to cheer me. But I do my job. I don’t let them.

Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with you when were you born and where are you originally from?
Elliot Sexton: I’m a 24 year old, born in Adelaide, South Australia.

Daniel Johnson: What is your earliest wrestling related memory and who were your influences growing up?
Elliot Sexton: I used to watch Raw every week, but couldn’t afford pay-per-views. I believe I started watching in 1999. I remember waiting for Raw to come on one night, waiting to see the results of the six person hell in a cell, and the power went out. I cried. A lot.

Daniel Johnson: When did you make the leap from being a fan of wrestling to wanting to actually become a wrestler?
Elliot Sexton: During high school I started doing what I’m sure most do. Watching pay-per-views with your friends and jumping around in the lounge room on mattresses. It just evolved from there, and eventually I became old enough to start training. I was told it wasn’t possible and there wasn’t any wrestling training facilities in Australia so I should just give up. But thankfully an opportunity arose.

Daniel Johnson: Once you knew you wanted to become a wrestler how did you go about getting trained and who was your primary trainer?
Elliot Sexton: At 15, I began training at the Monster Factory in South Australia, run by a legend in Australia, Col Devarney. He and John E Radic were running the beginner’s class at that time. I only stayed about two months before my mother asked me to stop going after I had a concussion, attempting to block a clothesline with both hands, causing me to fall backwards, onto the top of my head. I stopped for a year or two until I felt ready to take that next step again. That was at the Snakepit Wrestling Academy.

Daniel Johnson: What was a typical day of training like for you?
Elliot Sexton: At the Monster Factory, it was a lot of bumping on gym mats on top of concrete. Then we would be privileged to step into the ring for a short period of time and learn a few moves. I love that method of training, where you earn your way into the ring. Too many don’t earn their stripes nowadays. If they have to earn their stripes, they simply quit and find somewhere easier. At the Snakepit Wrestling Academy, we learned moves in the ring, but there was only so much to learn there under those trainers. It wasn’t run professionally due to those in charge and it become more of a social club. One time where we asked for more cardio, and the trainers told us that running the ropes was enough cardio, a friend and I thought, “We need to get out of here,” so from there we moved on to a dojo run in the city by “Jag” Hartley Jackson. Jag had more of a Japanese background and helped me a lot in taking the next step.

Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with the wrestling scene in South Australia how would you describe it?
Elliot Sexton: There’s too many politics. Especially for something that’s a hobby for 95 percent of the people here and there’s really no money to be made. This isn’t anyone’s career. It’s their hobby outside of their daytime job. People should be trying to put on the best show they possibly can, but too often politics or egos get in the way. I believe that stops us, or anyone, from taking the next step and making wrestling popular again in Australia. In South Australia, there are three main companies and I’ve worked for all three. There’s no real talent swapping in between the companies. They all have their own rosters, interstate talent and training facilities. It’s very interesting seeing how they all work, and I feel lucky to have seen how they all differ, rather than those who want to stick to one place for life and never get to experience other environments or learn as much as they could.

Daniel Johnson: What do you consider to be your first home promotion and do you still work there?
Elliot Sexton: There are two home promotions that gave me the opportunity to learn my craft, they were Riot City Wrestling and Zero 1 Australia, formally EPW Adelaide and NWA Australia, but I don’t work for either of those companies anymore.

Daniel Johnson: How many promotions have you worked with in total and which one did you enjoy the most?
Elliot Sexton: In Australia, I believe I’ve worked for seven companies. I enjoyed every company for different reasons.

Daniel Johnson:I first became aware of your work from Riot City Wrestling. How did you first get involved in this promotion?
Elliot Sexton: I started with RCW in 2006, but left in order to get better training. I returned to RCW in 2010 after seeing the RCW debut of an Australian star named Rocky Menero. I felt I could learn from him, and we went on to have a 12 month program together. Many memories.

Daniel Johnson: In RCW you wrestled in SEXROCK with partner Jonah Rock. What memories do you have of this team and what do you think made SEXROCK work as a team?
Elliot Sexton: SEXROCK actually formed in EPW Adelaide in 2009 but we reformed in RCW in 2011. Jonah Rock and I worked so well together and had a very interesting chemistry as a tag team. We had some fantastic matches with a young tag team named The Armstrongs. Unfortunately, our “program” was cut short, but we still got a lot out of it.

Daniel Johnson: Do you consider yourself a tag team specialist or more of a singles wrestler?
Elliot Sexton: I can do both. I absolutely love tag team wrestling, but am very happy taking more spotlight in singles competition.

Daniel Johnson: Is there anything else you would like to say about RCW?
Elliot Sexton: RCW could be more than it is, and I wish it was. But unfortunately as I said earlier, there’s far too many egos and politics around this country than there should be.

Daniel Johnson: Speaking more broadly of wrestling in Australia, who are some Australian wrestlers you think readers should check out?
Elliot Sexton: If you’ve never heard of TMDK (The Mighty Don’t Kneel) please look them up on Facebook. TMDK is a group of six professional wrestlers, SEXROCK included, from around Australia who are known as being the best in this country. TMDK founders, Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls are contracted in Japan’s NOAH and are the current GHC Tag Team Champions. There are definitely some talented individuals in Australia worth checking out.

Daniel Johnson: Are there any great Australian wrestlers you have yet to work with that you would like to? If so then who?
Elliot Sexton: Slex. new to TMDK, has always been on my list, and thankfully last weekend I had the opportunity to work with him and it went very well. I would love to work with Damian Slater who is also from South Australia and also trained me at EPW Adelaide from 2007 to 2009.

Daniel Johnson: What do you consider to be your best match to date? What made that match as good as it was?
Elliot Sexton: I haven’t had that one match yet where I’m 100 percent happy with it. I’m a perfectionist. But a lot of my best matches were tag team matches as apart of SEXROCK. My greatest singles matches have all been this year, due to my latest training under Booker T.

Daniel Johnson: Have you wrestled at all outside of Australia or have you just stuck to your native country? Also, would you like to wrestle outside of Australia?
Elliot Sexton: I’ve taken two trips to Houston, Texas this year to train with Booker T. Both were very interesting experiences and I learned a lot. On the first trip, I was able to work a taping for Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling (ROW) promotion. He didn’t want me to play an Australian though as there were two other Australian’s on the card too, so I was forced to go outside my comfort zone and had to play an English character. Very good experience.

Daniel Johnson: There is no bigger wrestling scene than that of the United States. Have you ever thought of moving to the United States to advance your wrestling career? Why or why not?
Elliot Sexton: I wouldn’t move to the United States without a WWE contract. I wouldn’t work the indies, as I can do that here and gain just as much out of it, as I learn a lot from match to match. I’m a big believer in watching your own matches. It’s a fantastic way to learn from your, and others, mistakes.

Daniel Johnson: Do you feel like Australia is a particularly tough place for a young, talented wrestler to get noticed? Why or why not?
Elliot Sexton: It’s very tough to get noticed here, but you’ll see there are a lot more Australians making their way over to America and especially Japan over the last few years.

Daniel Johnson: A lot of wrestlers have the ultimate goal of ending up either in WWE or to a lesser extent TNA. Do you consider this your ultimate goal. Why or why not?
Elliot Sexton: My goal was WWE. The reason behind my recent trip was that I had been invited to a WWE tryout. It was a great experience, but I feel that a back injury got in the way and stopped me from getting a contract that I’m most definitely good enough to receive. I won’t be trying again for another few years, if at all, depending on the condition of my spine. I’ve had a bad spine since I was a child, as I had bad posture and my spine didn’t grow correctly. So I’m rarely ever pain free. It’s one of those situations where I’m simply trying to prove to everyone, including myself, that I can do it. I really just wanted to see if I was good enough to get it. Unfortunately, the injury stopped me from giving it my all, and I believe that’s why I didn’t get the contract. You can’t stay down though. You have to get up on your feet straight away and keep moving forward. So I’m currently trying to find a new dream. I’m still wrestling and perfecting my craft though, but now that I only look at it as a hobby, I can stop stressing myself out over it so much and learn to enjoy it again.

Daniel Johnson: Which promotion do you think you would fit in better WWE or TNA?
Elliot Sexton: WWE for sure.

Daniel Johnson: Do you have any short-term goals you would like to achieve in wrestling? Anything in particular you would like to achieve by the end of the year?
Elliot Sexton: My goal was to get that WWE contract. That was the big goal. That didn’t happen though, so now I’m not too sure if I really have any true “goals” in wrestling, other than to continue improving, learn to enjoy it again and help those with a true passion to learn.

Daniel Johnson: Looking more long term where do you see yourself in five years?
Elliot Sexton: I hope to have a solid career in five years time with a lot of money coming in. Everyone’s dream, isn’t it? Wrestling wise, who knows, maybe a wrestling school.

Daniel Johnson: Who do you consider your greatest wrestling opponent to be and why?
Elliot Sexton: I think my recent match up with TMDK member Slex was definitely up there, as he’s someone I’ve always looked up to. And it was a pleasure working with him.

Daniel Johnson: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to be in wrestling to date?
Elliot Sexton: It would have to be the invite to a WWE tryout. This wasn’t a public event that you pay to get looked at. The weekend was paid for. I think that was a solid accomplishment, and one hell of an experience.

Daniel Johnson: I was wondering when your WWE tryout was exactly? Was it in July 2013 or earlier than that? Also, what was the experience like exactly?
Elliot Sexton: The tryout was June, in Florida. It was a great experience where I had the privilege of meeting a bunch of fantastic names with years in the business. Jim Ross, Bill DeMott, Billy Gunn, Joey Mercury, Gerald Brisco, Norman Smiley, William Regal and Steve Keirn were all watching the entire time.

Daniel Johnson: I also had five brief non-wrestling related questions I like to ask everyone to make interviews a little more fun. What television shows do you enjoy watching today?
Elliot Sexton: Falling Skies, Community, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Seinfeld and Modern Family.

Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Elliot Sexton: Wowee, I’m not sure. I really enjoyed Wanderlust, so I’ll leave it at that. Check it out!

Daniel Johnson: What food did you try for the first time this year that you most enjoyed?
Elliot Sexton: I’m horrible with food. I stick to pizza, chicken, meat, pasta and cereal. I’m not big on trying new foods! I like what I like!

Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite song to come out this year?
Elliot Sexton: I have an odd taste in music. A lot of stuff I love and get sick of, but I never get sick of hardcore songs that I can workout to. So I suggest the Sempiternal album by Bring Me The Horizon.

Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Elliot Sexton: I honestly have no idea what book I read last. It was probably Kurt Angle’s bio [It's True, It's True] for a high school assignment. Good book!

Daniel Johnson: I had just a few more brief wrestling questions. What is the weirdest part of being a pro wrestler?
Elliot Sexton: One thing I find strange, is that I’m so very comfortable doing any kind of spot, or queer thing, or any kind of anything, in front of a wrestling crowd, but as soon as I’m in a club or on a dance floor, I won’t move. Somehow, “Too shy.”

Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
Elliot Sexton: Ryan Rollins is 20- or 21 from Victoria, Australia. He’s heading to Mexico shortly and he’s definitely a very talented kid with a lot of potential.

Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to promote?
Elliot Sexton: I have “Dick Punch Academy” shirts available online through my Facebook page and hope to have an Elliot Sexton DVD on it’s way with a bunch of my best matches and including some of my best skits,including outtakes, from www.youtube.com/sexrockvstheworld. The DVD will be a great look into a bunch of the top workers and promotions from around Australia!

Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Elliot Sexton: All I ask is everyone keeps up to date with my Facebook page and YouTube channel. You’re guaranteed entertainment.

Check out Elliot Sexton in action! In this match from EPW, Sexton teams with Jonah Rock to take on Nick Armstrong and Jett Armstrong:

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