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.

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.

* 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.

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.

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.

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


Ad Feedback
special offers

Delays after horse float crash

The jaws of life are being used to free the distressed horse after the accident close to the intersection of SH1 and ...

Jaws of life being used to free trapped horse after "horrible" accident south of Auckland.

Along came a little lump

Dylan Bowman, 21, wants to try motivational speaking, to share his story and his outlook on life.

It all started with a few clumsy stumbles in the kitchen. Now, chef Dylan Bowman has a "nasty tumour".

Truckie thrown from vehicle

Westpac Rescue Helicopter is airlifting the truckie to hospital.

Man seriously injured after crash near Wellsford in Northland shuts section of SH1.

$500k crashed super car driver charged

The rare and exclusive McLaren super car line is named after New Zealand motorsport legend Bruce McLaren.

His rare and exclusive super car flipped on an Auckland motorway.


Gunner Billy's high-seas adventure

Cigarette-card portrait of World War I hero William 'Gunner Billy' Sanders.

The VC winner lived and died in a boy's own dream.

NZ seeks military craft

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes will replace a fleet of retiring P-3K planes.

Four airplanes from US would replace a retiring fleet of P-3K maritime patrols.

Woman hit by car dies

Churchill Dr, Crofton Downs, was closed for a while after the collision on Saturday morning.

Fatality in Gisborne while nasty crash in Wellington closes road temporarily.

Perils of duck hunting

Forty-one per cent of injuries associated with game-bird hunting occur during the opening weekend of duck hunting season.

Almost half of game bird hunting injuries happen during the opening weekend of the season.


Theatrical climate change march

The People's Climate Parade march towards the Avon River.

Key messages were expressed on stage in a "family-friendly" protest.

Small town Chinese garden scandal

The West Coast town of Kumara has a population of about 300.

Westland council allows tiny town's "nest egg" to be used for a garden many don't want.

Used office furniture glut hits Chch

Faced with four floors of surplus furniture to dispose of, Canterbury District Health Board services manager Pauline ...

Christchurch is the place for a bargain as tenants in new office buildings get rid of cast offs.

Deadly love triangle

Those on the outside described the McLeans as a "role model family".

Invercargill rocked to core after a love triangle turned fatal. Where did it all go wrong?


Architectural wonders revealed

The new law and management building at Waikato University was designed by Opus Architecture.

A lot of well known Waikato and Bay of Plenty buildings - and spaces - have earned accolades.

It's our turn to fix this

A medical school backed by Waikato Hospital, pictured, and Waikato University  seeks to train GPs to fill a critical ...

OPINION: The old boys have failed to fix New Zealand's doctor shortage, now it's our turn.

Join the fight for our med school

Waikato University vice-chancellor Professor Neil Quigley and Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.

A proposed medical school in the Waikato has the Government interested.

Ref raids accounts

050711 NEWS. Robert Charles/Taranaki Daily News. Cheque/ cheque book. Money. Bank.

Colleagues blew the whistle on referee who swiped $13K and a video camera.


Faith in the future

Taranaki Cathedral of St Mary's, Bishop Philip Richardson, centre, blesses Dean of St Mary's Very Reverend Peter Beck as ...

New Zealand's oldest church is being strengthened and it's about more than bricks and mortar.

Mystery is solved 

An unusual search and rescue mission was launched on Mt Taranaki, after a backpack was left behind at Holly Hut.

Backpack sparked search and rescue mission after being left behind in mountain hut.

Campbell Lane opens

South Taranaki District mayor Ross Dunlop officiated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

New development in Hawera gets the thumbs-up from residents.

To Hollywood by motorbike

Todd Holland's work appears on motorbikes in Hollywood movie Ghost in the Shell.

A small-town car painting shop has made it big, with its work featuring in Ghost in the Shell.


Tourism tips in the 1920s

Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles' wedding day.

Memory Lane: How to attract more tourists? The Standard had the answer 95 years ago.

13 reasons to watch

"13 Reasons Why" Star Gets A Tweet From Her Idol Lady Gaga!

Come on kids, time to watch controversial show dealing with suicide.

New act counters cyberbullying

The Harmful Digitial Communications Act was passed in July 2015.

Act helps as more than 20 people prosecuted for posting harmful content online.

NZDF civilians take strike action

Civilian employees of NZDF are on strike about pay.

Union accuses Defence Force of intimidation.


Not a house, it's a croquet shelter

Athol Turner has a few home comforts at the Hinemoa Croquet Club shelter, including coffee and a biography of Alec Guiness.

As the Nelson City Council looks to implement a new law banning sleeping in the city we meet a man who has made a croquet club his home.

Housing crisis help?

David Barnes, right, with his son Samuel Barnes who needs medical care, pictured with the dwelling David built for him ...

A Nelson man built a home on his property for his mentally-ill son. Could this solve our housing issues?

Guilty of murder

Philip Quayle died after being attacked on a street in Cairns, Australia, about 100 metres from home.

A man who choked a Nelson man to death during a random street attack in Cairns has been found guilty of murder.

Taking a leaf out of the future video

Nelson Mail Journalist Tim O'Connell with the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle(EV) that the Nelson Mail has had on loan from ...

Tim O'Connell shares the thrills, trials and tribulations of driving an electric vehicle.


Ophthalmology waiting list halved

The ophthalmology service at Nelson Marlborough Health has been remodelled which has cut the waiting list for those ...

The health board has remodelled its ophthalmology service and cut the waiting list for those needing follow-up.

Pokies accused 'collateral damage'

The Department of Internal Affairs said Mike O'Brien was "unsuitable" to be involved in the pokie gambling business.

Inquiry into who was behind pokie machine operations was flawed, says lawyer.

Old dog with new tricks

Vincent the retired guide dog plays Sandy in the new production of Annie.

A retired guide dog is treading the boards as the furry star of Marlborough's newest musical.

It's the climb

Blenheim cyclist Andrew Bidwell, 16, is aiming for a podium finish at the upcoming Age Group Road National Championships ...

When another cyclist said he was going to make Andrew's race hell, he laughed it off and smashed the pack by five minutes.

South Canterbury

Parents remember 'talented' son

Rowan Yeager died following a crash near Lake Ohau on Anzac Day. This photo, supplied by friend Andrew Weatherall, shows ...

Man killed in crash near Lake Ohau was just a week off moving into house he built by hand.

Cleverley 'exonerated'

Former South Canterbury District Health Board chair Murray Cleverley has spoken out for the first time about his ...

Former SCDHB chair Murray Cleverley says decision to resign as chair was tough.

'We have got a lot of work to do'

SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor says the DHB is going try and improve low rates of HPV vaccination by providing more ...

SC has a 'poor' HPV vaccination rate, prompting the DHB to turn to social media.

Strong winds lash SC

Police were called to the scene of a camper van crash on Friday afternoon, thought to be caused by the wind.

Tourists escape with minor injuries after two campers blown off road south of Tekapo.


'They thought it was a dolphin' video

The French tourist arrives at Dunedin Hospital by helicopter after she was attacked by a shark while bodyboarding in ...

A French tourist who survived a shark attack wrenched its jaws from her legs, a local surfer says.

Deadly love triangle

Those on the outside described the McLeans as a "role model family".

A city's been rocked after a broken marriage ended in death. Where'd it all go wrong?

Ocean swimming 'sharks' territory'

Lydia Ward holds her wetsuit with tooth holes and the boogie board she used to fend off a 1.5m shark that bit her on the ...

A former shark attack victim has urged a tourist bitten by a shark to stay true to her passions - including ocean swimming.

Rugby's presidential change

Outgoing Rugby Southland president Donald Hay.

One Eastern Southland rugby stalwart goes, another one replaces him.

Ad Feedback