by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Joel Bateman is the current PPW Light Heavyweight Champion. Bateman started to train to become a pro wrestler at the incredibly young age of 11 and debuted in 2003. More recently Bateman won the PPW Light Heavyweight Championship in March in a match with Criss Creed. Since that time Bateman has been undefeated as champion and is hoping to perform in the recently announced inaugural PPW P-1 Tournament in 2014. In addition to working in his native Australia, Bateman hopes to work more abroad in the future, particularly in the United States and Japan. This interview was completed on December 5, 2013. In this interview Bateman and I talk about the PPW Light Heavyweight division. This is part two of the four part PPW Interview Series.
Daniel Johnson: Before I get into the meat of the interview I wanted to ask just a few background questions. First, how would you describe yourself as a performer in a nutshell?
Joel Bateman: Until the last 18 months or so, I was very wrestler based. I didn’t have a great deal of character, just went out and put on the best matches I could. Recently, some very strong influences have got me working on a lot more character stuff, essentially throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, for readers unfamiliar with you where and when were you born and how long have you been wrestling?
Joel Bateman: I was born in August 1989, in Melbourne, Moorabbin Hospital to be super specific. I began training in August 2001 and had my first match in March 2003.
Daniel Johnson: Since I wanted to focus a lot on light heavyweight wrestling for this interview, I was curious who was the first light heavyweight to really grab your attention?
Joel Bateman: When I was growing up and watching wrestling? Billy Kidman was incredible as I fell in love with wrestling, as was Chris Benoit, Ultimo Dragon, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Chris Jericho.
Daniel Johnson: Have these wrestlers gone on to inspire you as a performer and if so how?
Joel Bateman: To an extent, yes. I started watching wrestling around 1997-1998, so the WCW cruiserweights were all the rave. But I was very much in love with TV wrestling, not seeing pay-per-views, indies, etc. But just before starting my initial training, a teacher at school put me onto ECW. From there I discovered all these new flyers and juniors, like Kid Kash, Super Crazy, Jerry Lynn, RVD and Little Guido. That really opened my eyes to this whole new style. But to answer your original question, yeah, I guess. Kidman and Benoit especially, early on I patented a few things after them, studied a lot of their work (whatever I could get my hands on pre-YouTube), and the career path of the international traveler, which still pushes me today.
Daniel Johnson: When you knew you wanted to become a wrestler how did you go about finding a place to get trained and what did a regular day of training look like for you?
Joel Bateman: Even though I was in love with wrestling, I didn’t have a clue local wrestling existed. My mother tried to get me to take up several different sports (to get the wrestling “bug” out), and whilst playing all these sports, mum found an add in the paper for the WWX Powerhouse (now the PCW Slam! Academy), with Lord Odin and a barbed wire bat; she called them, organized for me to check it out, and it went from there. I started training at 11 years old, super young, so a general day of training was going to school, coming home, getting changed for practice and heading to the academy. Fundamentals were key in the beginning, bumps upon bumps, as well as a solid cardio regime (all set up by my trainers), then heading home to bed and crawl to school the next morning.
Daniel Johnson: Before we get into your more recent work I just had one more question about your early days. You already kind of touched on this, but you started training before you were even a teenager and started wrestling when you were just 13. What are the challenges that come with starting out so early and what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting that early?
Joel Bateman: You know, hindsight is 20-20, and my body now is saying, “Whoa, you should have started at 16,” but that being said, I was treated with nothing but respect when I probably shouldn’t have been. But now, at 24, I’ve been wrestling for a long time. Anyone who asks now I just say, “Awhile,” because anything older than about 18 months was the shits. Anyone who does start around that age, they should shut their mouth, keep a stiff upper lip and keep your ears open.
Daniel Johnson: Getting into your more recent career how did you first come to work for PPW?
Joel Bateman: My entryway into PPW came from Lord Mark Williamson. We had caught up in a 39 second meeting at a Warzone show in Melbourne and I sent him a follow up message on Facebook with the question of improving my reputation. I’d been working regularly, but for some not so reputable promotions. I asked dubbs who he believed were the good places to get booked, to improve my standing in the country. One of the places he mentioned was PPW (which was gearing up for its first show), so I sent Chris Dalgleish an e-mail, and as it turns out he’d seen me work about six months prior at another Queensland promotion and enjoyed my work. The first card was full, but the second show was scheduled the same day as I got off the plane from the US. So we booked it in and away we went.
Daniel Johnson: What were your first impressions of the promotion when you wrestled on it’s second card ever and does anything from the match you had stick out?
Joel Bateman: Shit house! No, the complete opposite in fact. In Queensland there is a big split in talent, based on loyalties, morals, ability etc. The places in Queensland I’d been working had all been on one side of that split, and coming into PPW, finally getting to share a locker room with the top guys in that state, was a huge eye opener. Like going from black and white to full color. The match itself was alright; Criss Creed is a great young worker, and it was a shame he chose to walk away from the business after that match. I also remember that Rohan Herbstreit and Nate Dooley were in attendance and it was great to get their feedback on my work. I had just finished my short trip to the States, where I learned more in three weeks there than I had in my entire time in Australia prior. So it was good to employ some of those new things in that match.
Daniel Johnson: For readers who have never seen a PPW Light Heavyweight division match before how would you describe the division in a broad sense?
Joel Bateman: The division is a fantastic mix at the moment. A mixture of homegrown guys who have really come into their own in PPW, combined with some of the top talent, both local and interstate, who have conquered the country.
Daniel Johnson: As you mentioned in March you defeated Criss Creed to become only the second ever PPW Light Heavyweight Champion. What do you think the importance is of having strong champions for a title early on?
Joel Bateman: In a word: Vital. I think that the title can make the champion, or the champion can make the title. Samoa Joe made the ROH World Championship as an example. Even though I’m not the most reputable guy going, I feel that since March, I have put my best work into raising the prestige of the championship. I suffered a severe concussion defending in June in Victoria, only to jump on a plane and defend it again less than 24 hours later. It’s the most defended title in Pacific Pro and the only championship in PPW to be defended outside of Queensland.
Daniel Johnson: Although you have only had five defenses as PPW Light Heavyweight Champion so far, one thing I found interesting about two of your defenses is they happened in the same weekend when you took on Ryan Rollins and then Mystery the next day. What challenges are there in having two title bouts in such a short span?
Joel Bateman: That was the most hectic weekend. Obviously you need to prepare for both matches individually, but the fact is I worked twice, Mystery had not. During the Rollins match there was a freak accident that caused me to crack my head off the concrete floor outside the ring, lacerating my head and busting up my mouth and nose. So going into the Mystery match I was nowhere near 100 percent. Both matches, though similar competitors, were drastically different paces, styles and each took an extremely different toll.
Daniel Johnson: This is a little off topic, but was that the worst injury you’ve had so far or have you had worse?
Joel Bateman: I have had worse. Early on I had a very bad back injury, that required about six months off. Otherwise I’ve been lucky, nothing super long term. Lots of strains and sprains, a few sets of broken fingers and the occasional concussion. Currently I’m working through, what has developed into, tendinitis in my left shoulder, so that’s a joy in itself.
Daniel Johnson: Ouch. Getting back to PPW your most recent title defense came against Lucas Gold. What are your thoughts on working with Gold and who would you like to wrestle next for the title?
Joel Bateman: I had worked with Gold once previously, and it was good. He’s still quite new, and there were a few things I wasn’t happy with. But in our title match, he really stepped up his game. He brought the intensity from start to finish, and I was really happy with the end result. There’s a few people I’m really interested in wrestling for the title. I’d love for Robbie Eagles to drop down to Light Heavyweight for a defense. He is without a doubt one of, if not the undisputed, best high flyers in the country, and is someone I really want to test my skills against and learn from. Lynx Lewis, Jr. and Renegade have been under my wing for a little while now in PPW, and eventually will garner a shot too. But wrestlers outside the PPW bubble: Adam Brooks, Brad Smyth and Bee Boy amongst others. In short, the top light heavyweights on the east coast.
Daniel Johnson: What would you most like to accomplish during your PPW Light Heavyweight Championship reign?
Joel Bateman: I would eventually like to see the Light Heavyweight Championship equal, and even surpass the Heavyweight title in terms of prestige and eventually be able to headline a PPW event as the champion. Other than that, continue to be performing at that top, sixth gear level with the best and brightest in the country.
Daniel Johnson: Since PPW is a new promotion I was curious how do you expect the company will grow over the next year and how do you think the Light Heavyweight division can help contribute to that growth?
Joel Bateman: I think the move to [Queensland] Lions [Club] will do great things for PPW in 2014. The management team and promoters are working hard and fast to make the move payoff and with our first event being the P-1 Tournament, I think we’ll really draw the new audience into what we are doing as a promotion and keep them with us moving forward. The Light Heavyweight division is very much a wildcard for PPW, where the Heavyweight, Women’s and Tag Team divisions have stuck strictly to their singles and tag formats, on the debut PPW event, the Light Heavy match was a fatal four way. I think being that “high flying” title, the potential to explore outside of the constraints of the other divisions, along with the crop of guys in the division coming into their own and the belt becoming more and more prestigious, I think we (the division) can become a focal point and staple in PPW in the next 12 months.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of PPW more generally, what, if anything makes PPW unique from some other promotions you have worked for?
Joel Bateman: As I mentioned earlier, PPW are that awesome “middle ground,” where the top guys from both sides of the proverbial fence can come together. Light heavyweights like Gold, Jr., Mystery and Renegade can share the locker room with established heavyweights like AJ Istria, Mason Childs and Mark Davis. On top of that, their commitment to having one of the premier women’s divisions, not just in Queensland, but in the country is incredible. They use their resources to bring in the top talent from all over the east coast (and the world with Rionne McAvoy coming in for the last show), to showcase them in new matches, in front of a new crowd. I sit at the back of the building every show and watch people like Rionne, [Kellie] Skater and Madison [Eagles] work and love every second of it. I think that PPW’s two Women’s Champions have both held championships in Shimmer. I’m fairly sure Skater still does. It speaks volumes of the level of talent they try and deliver every show.
Daniel Johnson: You mentioned the recently announced PPW P-1 Tournament. Any idea who you will first be wrestling at that event?
Joel Bateman: I’ve been speaking to the matchmaking committee regularly since the idea was in its infancy. The plan is for it to be a strictly heavyweight tournament, but I have no number one contender for the Light Heavyweight Championship, so I have laid all my cards on the table for February 22, I’m interested with what they take and what they leave.
Daniel Johnson: I also wanted to ask some question about your broader career. First off, who is your dream opponent and why?
Joel Bateman: Wow. That’s always a tough one. This second? I’m going to say Eddie Edwards. He is everything I believe is great about pro wrestling and a true master of his craft. Ask me again in three weeks, I’m sure the answer would change.
Daniel Johnson: Haha, cool. What is the furthest you’ve ever wrestled from home and would you like to travel further in the near future?
Joel Bateman: The furthest I’ve ever wrestled from home was Bangor, Maine, USA. In a family restaurant for Independent Wrestling Entertainment (IWE). It was the most surreal and amazing experience, and as long as I live, I will never forget it. I’m saving all my pennies right now, with both the east coast of the US and Japan in my sights. As far as what opportunities come up which push me either one way or the other is a mystery at this point in time.
Daniel Johnson: Where does 2013 rank for you among all your years as a wrestler?
Joel Bateman: The very top. I was able to see the world, join new promotions, but I was also not only able to meet my heroes and idols, but perform on the same level as them as an equal. 2014 and beyond will need to be mighty impressive to top that.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of random, but I’m always interested in ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you could share?
Joel Bateman: Tons. I love a good rib, and usually escalate it to the “way too far” level. The one that pops into mind was in mid 2012, Ryan Rollins was making one of his last appearances for New Age Wrestling (NAW) in Melbourne, and made an off the cuff smart ass comment. My retaliation (naturally), was to steal his ring gear and put it on underneath my own. Rollins (naturally) lost his complete and utter shit, stressing out and trying to borrow someone else’s tights. I had gotten away with it until someone (who shall remain nameless for fear of reprisal) ratted me out (that fuck), sending Rollins to find me, spear tackle me on the stage and strip me down to retrieve his tights. That’s fairly tame, but the rat will get me incarcerated.
Daniel Johnson: Haha, cool. To make interviews a little more fun I like to ask five short non-wrestling related questions as well. First, outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Joel Bateman: I’m only just getting into the swing of Breaking Bad (way behind the times), but I have to say I love The Newsroom, I urge anyone to check it out who hasn’t seen it.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Joel Bateman: Did The Dark Knight Rises come out this year or last? If this year; that. If not, Grown Ups 2.
Daniel Johnson: Yeah, I think The Dark Knight Rises was last year. Anyway, what is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Joel Bateman: Philly cheese steak, hands down.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Joel Bateman: I don’t think I’ve listened to any music that was released this year, it’s all dog shit.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Joel Bateman: Re-read both of Chris Jericho’s books, [A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex and Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps] and God yes.
Daniel Johnson: I wanted to wrap up with just a few more wrestling questions. First, what is the weirdest part of being a wrestler?
Joel Bateman: The constant chore of having to shave your legs and armpits and apply fake tan every week or so.
Daniel Johnson: Aside from yourself who is one wrestler 25 or under that you think readers should know about?
Joel Bateman: I don’t know the individual ages of the boys, but if I had to name one it’s Josh Shooter. I’d be suprised if the readers hadn’t heard of him because he’s an evil genius of getting his shit out there, but he is making incredible strides, surpassing dozens who came before him, and doing some of the best work around at the moment. Adam Brooks is up there too; but I’d be even more shocked if no one knew about him.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Joel Bateman: It sounds cliche, but don’t give up on your goals and dreams. You’d never know how close you were to achieving them if you finally throw in the towel.
Check out Joel Bateman in action! Bateman defends the PPW Light Heavyweight Championship against challenger Ryan Rollins in this bout from PPW SURVIVAL:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews