Kiwi wrestler tells all about the blood, sweat and tears of professional wrestling video

Travis Banks

There are some eye-catching highlights from Travis Banks' career on Britain's independent circuit.

It's been 30 years since a New Zealand pro wrestler last stepped into a WWE ring, but Bulls man Travis Banks will enter the squared circle on the grandest stage of all, WrestleMania. Sam Kilmister reports

You don't have to be a wrestling fan to appreciate the gruelling punishment wrestlers put their bodies through. 

Travis Banks has torn his rotator cuff, broken his wrist, split his ear and cut his eye. Many sportsmen would need months on the sideline to recover but, through it all, the man from Bulls wrestled on.

Travis Banks slams his opponent into the canvas.
SUPPLIED

Travis Banks slams his opponent into the canvas.

"As they say, the show must go on."

Wrestling is Banks' livelihood, income and motivation, but more than that, it's an addiction. No job in the world can provide the adrenaline rush the way thousands of people chanting your name can, he says.

READ MORE: 
* Wrestler home to show skills

* ​Bligh comes close to pro title
Locals get tips from king of the ring

Travis Banks represents New Zealand during his entrance on the way to the ring.
SUPPLIED

Travis Banks represents New Zealand during his entrance on the way to the ring.

On the independent circuit, if you're not wrestling, you're not making money.

Indie wrestlers deal with the stress and mental pain of being away from home and family, and the backstage politics is rife.

Banks, now based in the United Kingdom, says there is a lot of backstabbing as the wrestlers jostle and turn against each other to move up the rungs of the professional ladder.

Travis Banks fly-kicks an opponent in the head.
SUPPLIED

Travis Banks fly-kicks an opponent in the head.

Above this physical and mental distress is an everlasting cloud of job uncertainty, knowing that wrestlers are recycled and forced to work through injuries without health insurance or proper job stability.

Ad Feedback

That's why Wednesday, March 22 was an extra special day for Banks – when it was announced he would fight at WWE Axxess​, a fan convention during WrestleMania week.

WrestleMania is the flagship event for the sport entertainment company. It is the most successful and longest-running professional wrestling show in history, and last year played out in front of a 100,000-strong crowd.

Travis Banks plants a kick.
SUPPLIED

Travis Banks plants a kick.

"To be able to wrestle in a WWE ring is pretty bloody scary and awesome, to be honest. I was pretty chuffed when I heard I'd be at WrestleMania – it's a little foot in the door. 

"In 2014 I had a WWE trial and I was unsuccessful. I was quite disheartened about it, but I said I was going to get back on the horse and try to crack it again.

"That's why I decided to come over to the UK. I just packed up, took the risk and came over – I had no bookings or matches waiting."

The move has paid off, with Banks winning the World Fight Club Pro championship belt last week. He describes it as the best moment of his life and the point he persuaded himself wrestling was a career, not a hobby. 

What has kept Banks going in such a demanding industry is an unyielding, longstanding love for wrestling that started when he was a child, and grew once he experienced the thrill of putting on a match in front of passionate fans.

He now feels indebted to those fans.  

As a young boy at Bulls School, Banks knew he wanted to wrestle but, in New Zealand, he just didn't know how to. 

"My sister had a boyfriend when I was 7 or 8 and he was watching WCW. I remember watching a match between Glacier and Mortis and I thought 'what the hell's going on here?'.

"That's when I was hooked, but I just didn't know how to pursue it in New Zealand."

After leaving Rangitikei College, he started wrestling around New Zealand but was always striving for something more, something bigger. 

He went to Japan to wrestle in 2012 before heading to the United States to train under Impact Wrestling stars Davey Richards and Kyle O'Reilly. 

He won the IPW New Zealand Heavyweight Championship in 2013 and then again in 2014. He says it was the moment he realised he wouldn't follow a conventional job path.

Four years later, he's never been able to shake his almost-childlike love for the sport. 

"That was the realisation of a dream. Leaving New Zealand was the best thing I could have done for my career.

 "Now here I am, a guy from a small town in New Zealand with a population of about 1000 who has wrestled in nine different countries." 

One thing that bothered him when he started was people slamming professional wrestling as fake.

"There's so much more than what people think. You've got to be tough – I played rugby for 15 years and that was easier than wrestling. If people knew what went on they'd know how much sacrifice goes into it and what you put your body through.

"A lot of people think it's like a choreographed dance. But, in the ring it's very team-based – you're always listening and talking to your opponent and you're feeding off the crowd. A lot of people think we're actors, but I like to think we're reactors – we react to what the crowd likes or what they don't.

"You can't fake some of the moves or jumping from the top rope. It's gruelling on your body. It doesn't bother me so much any more because I know what it takes and how hard it is. When I first started, and still now, I saw it as my role to change people's opinions on it."

At 175-centimetres tall and weighing 90 kilograms, Banks admits he's not the biggest guy on the circuit.

That's why he invented the motto 'New Zealand Strong Style' and markets it as his brand.  

"I'm known for quite fast-paced, hard-hitting matches. People sort of associate the New Zealand Strong saying with someone who strikes hard, but can take a beating and get up from it.

"I'm at that middle weight where I can fly off the ropes and do all that stuff, but also tough it out through the pain." 

He loves the thrill of essentially becoming a real-life superhero or supervillain. 

He fights alongside former WWE superstar Rey Mysterio and last week was in the ring with former WWE bad guy Alberto Del Rio. He says the opportunity to learn from guys who have been among the elite is invaluable.

At 30 years old he is aware he needs to be fit and injury-free to give the WWE a crack.

Banks says wrestlers undoubtedly accrue injuries, and knowing that they won't get paid if they're not wrestling, they stay wrestling.

Injuries go untreated, and addictions sometimes form. That's always been the case in wrestling, and things haven't changed.

One of the main differences today is that wrestlers are aware of the risks of brain injuries. Until a light was shone upon that, Banks says concussions were treated as if they were bruises. 

"I know when it comes to WWE they're strict on head injuries and it does concern me. This is my job, my income – I don't do anything else, I do this day in, day out." 

Throughout his career in the UK, Banks has always been an ambassador for New Zealand. He struts to the ring clothed in the New Zealand flag. His ring gear also represent the Kiwi colours.  

"I wanted everyone to know I'm from New Zealand. When I first came to the UK it was hard to get people to know what I'm about and what I could do, but I think I've got there now. I'm the current champion and I'm at the top." 

But he's not settling yet. He's committed to keep chipping away, keep bettering himself and one day, hopefully, crack the WWE.

Wrestlemania 33 will take place in Orlando, Florida, on April 2.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Schools go 'water-only'

Charlie, 5, and Jack, 8, make sure they take a full water bottle to school every day.

Two Auckland schools ban sugary drinks and adopt 'water-only' policy.

Botox is sooo last year, sweetie

The 24 carat gold facial luxury facial is growing in demand.

Golf is out, and 24-carat gold facials and McLarens are in for our local super-rich.

Kids wait to see psychiatrists

One-hundred and eight children under 12 had to wait more than eight weeks to be seen by a Waitemata DHB mental health ...

Hundreds of children in Auckland's north and west are waiting months to see psychiatrists, as the service comes under pressure.

Preventing the preventable

Christie Marceau's inquest concluded this week at the Auckland District Court.

OPINION: The one thing the Christie Marceau inquest never heard was the one thing which should be said - "sorry, we got it wrong".

Wellington

Yacht found, crew safe

Roger Foley, left, confirmed Havana Coffee's Geoff Marsland, right, was on the yacht.

Air Force spots Wellingtonians missing "miles from land in the open ocean".

Barred from rest home

A Hastings woman has been trespassed from her mother's rest home. (file photo)

Woman says she's been deprived of time with her mum, which she can never get back.

Jetstar says sorry to female doctor

Jetstar says a system error meant a doctor's gender was automatically selected as male.

Doctor furious after Jetstar flight booking system assumes she was a man.

Daughter's bill to parents soars

Colleen Warin was ordered to pay her parents $367,000, now topped off with nearly $14,000 legal costs.

Colleen Warin's $367,000 debt to her parents has increased by $14,000 thanks to a new court order.

Canterbury

Hairy Maclary artwork pulled

Milton Springsteen's artwork was removed from a charity auction at the request of Hairy MacLary creator Lynley Dodd's ...

Publishers argued a charity street art piece breached copyright, but then showed a kind side.

School shorts 'too cold'

School, generic, uniform, schoolbag, bag, books,

Mum pulls sons from school after it refused to provide warmer clothing options as part of its winter uniform.

Accused of Ponzi fraud

Christchurch manager of WorldClaim NZ Guy Sayers has been ordered to surrender his passport.

Quake advocate Guy Sayers allegedly pushed WorldClaim clients to invest in a Ponzi scheme.

Cancer 'shaped me as a person'

23062017 Photo: John Kirk-Anderson/FAIRFAX NZ

Jonny Schwass, Christchurch chef and restaurateur and cancer survivor.

The Cancer Society Ball is personal for prominent Christchurch chef Jonny Schwass.

Waikato

Razor-laced balls at dog park

Heather Gowans often throws a tennis ball for her dog at Day's Park and is horrified Peppa could have bitten into one of ...

Tennis balls containing razor blades have been found in popular Hamilton dog park.

Fraudster stole $1.9m

Tessa Grant at a court appearance in 2016.

Tessa Grant lived it up on stolen funds, but that luxury lifestyle has come to a crashing halt.

What a winning streak

The $27.3 million winning Lotto and Powerball ticket was bought at the Four Square in Thames owned by Sukhpal Singh.

Six $1m-winning Lotto tickets have been sold in the Waikato in as many weeks.

Teen dies at work

A man who died after a work place accident at Torpedo7 on Wednesday has been named (file).

Teenager Jacob Woods was killed while working at a Hamilton distribution centre.

Taranaki

Word to your mother

21062017 News Photo ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ.   Brittany Bourgoise runs her own nail technician business from home.  Kids ...

Brittany Bourgoise is a mumpreneur and reckons other mothers can become one too.

Activist joins council

Environmental activist Emily Bailey has been appointed as an iwi representative to the regional council policy and ...

Former Urewera raids activist looking forward to being part of making decisions on regional council

Marae dream over

The initial design of the Ngamotu Marae, which was to be located on Ocean View Pde site, was to cost $4.5 million and ...

Theft linked to scrapping of $4.5 million New Plymouth marae proposal.

A man and his kereru

Kereru like to flock but are usually only seen in ones and twos.

OPINION: Sometimes you get what you want and it just isn't enough.

Manawatu

No more limits

Cameron Holland, 20, had a brain injury after a car crash when he was 11.

A double blow robbed him of his father and gave him a serious brain injury.

Woman's web of lies

Nakita Sue will serve six months' home detention.

Woman stole man's life savings with sob stories and threats to post nude pics.

House fire shocks resident

Fire risk management officer Andrew Cotter examines a kitchen after a house fire.

Seeing flames tear through his home was the last thing a man from Bulls expected.

Sporting events stir memories

But what do we really remember about them?

Nelson

Doughnuts selling like hot cakes

Josiah Smits of the Smoking Barrel Cafe and Restaurant with some of his famous donuts at his High St, Motueka business.

A Motueka cafe is struggling to meet demand for its syringe-injected gourmet doughnuts.

Greens target Nelson

Nick Smith has held the Nelson seat for 21 years.

The Green Party is campaigning to break Nick Smith's 21-year grip on Nelson.

Meet the Kiwi helping Oracle

Boat Build Manager Tim Smyth with the saw blade used by the giant CNC Milling machine  used on America's Cup yacht Oracle.

If Oracle turn it round to beat Team NZ, it will be thanks in part to a boat builder from Nelson.

Acting chief's pay confirmed

David Hammond has been appointed acting chief executive for the Nelson City Council.

Interim NCC chief executive David Hammond will take on the role from June 26.

Marlborough

Diarrhoea outbreak closes pool

Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 will be closed for several days while it is tested for the parasite.

Seven swimmers have fallen ill after using a public pool in Blenheim.

Beached on an atoll

Havana Coffee's Geoff Marsland, right, was on the yacht.

The crew aboard a badly damaged yacht in the Pacific Ocean have been found alive and well.

Hunting the 'Kiwi way'

The Gunshack Blenheim owner Peter Watson says hunters are being left with fewer places to shoot because of poachers.

Poachers, and even some young hunters, have "no respect for anyone or anything, not even the animals they're hunting".

Once bitten, not shy

The Employment Relations Authority has penalised KRSVP Limited $25,000 for failing to keep proper employment records.

Marlborough vineyard contractor stung for the same employment breach twice in two years.

South Canterbury

Marking Matariki in Waimate video

Waimate Main School kapa haka group members are, from left, Summer Pay, 8, Maddison Longman, 8, and Ashley Guy, 7.

Attendee numbers have grown, and performances have improved, since Matariki celebrations began in Waimate six years ago.

RSA restructure looms

South Canterbury Returned and Services' Association president Greg O'Brien.

Restructure looms as South Canterbury RSA tries to improve its financial situation.

Clone sought for vet practice video

Stepping back after 40 years at the Veterinary Centre Waimate is vet Dougall McLachlan.

Dougall McLachlan's colleagues want his last pair of work gumboots to last a very long time.

$1.1m for new lights

Netcon chief executive Steve McCoy with an LED light of the type his company has already installed in Temuka. The Timaru ...

Work to replace Timaru's street lights can start next month thanks to boost.

Southland

Young performers face the music

Monique Clementson (Deloris), Annie Sherborne, and Rachael Scott (Sister Mary Patrick) at rehearsals for the ...

Young performers are gaining exposure and touring the country for Sister Act the musical.

Arrested after threats

08072016 Newsphoto. SIMON MAUDE / FAIRFAX NZ. Generic, stock, NZ Police, police car, The po po, police. 08-N-policeC

A 54-year-old man was arrested after threatening Work and Income staff.

Father 'evil', grief-stricken mum says

Police staff at the Riverton home where three-month-old Honour Ashworth was injured.

Grieving Southland mother says her soul was "ripped to pieces" when she found out her partner caused her infant son's death.

Green Party takes off

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Invercargill candidate Rochelle Surendran speaks at a Green Party Launch in Invercargill.

Green Party co-leader comments on Clutha-Southland MP resignation during Invercargill visit.

Ad Feedback