Grab hold of mayhem

JXT (Josh Fikret). (Jacob Pattison) 393644_01

Liam McNally

According to its devoted fans, pro wrestling is about telling a story and taking the audience on a “emotional rollercoaster”. Reporter Liam McNally caught up with Josh ‘JXT’ Fikret ahead of the MayhemMania Championship in Bacchus Marsh.

When Jab ‘The Prophecy’ walked into the ring draped in religious iconography at Relentless Wrestling Gym in Melton he gloated that there were “no rivals willing to face him”, sparking a confrontation from someone he was once the disciple of – his former trainer JXT.

In his trademark black sports-fit accented in white and pink flames, JXT stared down his opponent, and proclaimed “you have peers, and you have challengers”.

“You need to wake up and smell the roses, and realise, that at the granddaddy of them all – MayhemMania, March 16, for the Mayhem Pro Internet Championship it will be – Jab against J.X.T,” he trumpetted to applause from dozens of spectators.

Australian professional wrestling had its heyday in the 60s and 70s, with thousands turning out to weekly World Championship Wrestling matches aired on Channel Nine, until it lost its television deal to World Series Cricket.

In the 1980s the American product, WWF, became a cultural phenomenon. However, Australian professional wrestling has still been simmering beneath the surface through independent leagues, waiting to Powerbomb its way back into the mainstream culture.

One of the foremost indie leagues in Australia is the Mayhem Pro promotion, which is based out of Melton’s Relentless School of Pro Wrestling, owned by Josh Fikret.

Josh’s passion for wrestling began in a way familiar to a lot of people who were young boys in Australia in the 1990s – learning what’s cool from an older cousin.

“You look up to your older cousin and he thinks wrestling is the coolest thing ever because it’s 1997 and wrestling was the coolest thing in the world at the time,” he said.

“He introduced me to WWF Attitude on Playstation and I was like, ‘whoa, this is everything’.

“And then that was it. I said I was going to be a wrestler and that was that.”

As a teenager, Josh messaged Australian wrestling legend KrackerJak, and following his recommendation lied about his age to be admitted to George Julio’s Wrestling Gym in Sunshine.

In the years following JXT was born.

Josh describes the character as beginning as a young party animal who “brings the vibe” – clad in dreadlocks and black and pink flames.

As the years have gone on he has become more of a proud figure – one that works hard to be the best wrestler and trainer, but he also isn’t afraid to tell you that, especially after demonstrating his signature moves like the JXPress, the JXPlex, the Melbourne Dungeon or the Sesh-Shooter.

JXT has wrestled at promotions all around Australia, and had four tours in the United States including being the first Australian to wrestle in Alaska. He’s even flirted with the WWE, performing as an extra but was held back during proper tryouts by an ACL injury, visa issues and COVID.

Despite the blood, sweat, tears, and spray tan that goes into indie pro wrestling, there’s not a lot of money in it until you break into the major leagues like the WWE.

Josh said he has eased off on his American dream, and is now focused on being one of the best in Australia, as well as providing a world-class school for the next generation.

Josh opened the Relentless School of Wrestling in 2020 with Relentless Gym owner Jake Males.

They currently have about 40 members, and teach everything involved with professional wrestling – how to punch, roll and take slams, as well as how a show works, how to build a wrestling character and how to promote yourself.

“We want to keep making wrestling better where we live, because we love and care for it,” he said.

Josh said it’s a proud moment seeing students in a match for the first time.

“It’s awesome seeing the smiles on the students’ faces that are getting this experience and getting to feel what I’ve felt for a long time – having these awesome shows with these amazing moments,” he said.

When discussing how a show comes together, Josh said the planning isn’t as detailed as people often assume.

Instead of a series of choreographed moves – it’s more about having a series of dot points about where the story should lead, responding to the crowd and trusting your opponent is trained enough to perform the moves with you.

He said sometimes wrestlers haven’t even met before a match.

“Planning something that’s based on crowd reaction doesn’t really work,” he said.

“It’s not about moves and punches, it’s about telling a story to the audience – taking them on the emotional rollercoaster.

“We’re live stunt-actors, but our movie isn’t on a screen, it happens in real life.”

As JXT prepares to face of against the current champion, Jab, he said he’s excited for a chance to take the title in front of his home audience, but it adds a layer of nerves.

“It’s more nerve wracking because friends and family that wouldn’t normally go to a show are going to be there, and this might be the only time they come to a show,” he said.

“They know that you put all this time and effort into something. This is what their perception of what you do is going to be so you really want to make sure it’s good and it’s worth it and it makes them go ‘oh, that’s actually what you do, that’s actually really cool’.”

Despite the nerves Josh said he’s never had a first-timer at his show say they didn’t enjoy it.

“When you come to a show in real life, especially a local show… the ring’s right in front of you, wrestlers come out and will mingle and you can take photos with them and talk to them and see their gear and see them up close, it is such an experience especially for a kid,” he said.

“You literally ride every bump, every punch, and every single move. You go on the emotional roller coaster…I think that’s what I’m proudest of most.”

Josh said for the wrestlers and organisers setting up a show, especially in an independent format, is stressful, but it’s the crescendo of a show that keeps them coming back.

“Once the match finishes and the crowd loses their shit – whether they start booing or the crowd erupts in a massive roar because they’re happy with the result… that 30 seconds is worth it all every time,” he said.

“It’s the best feeling in the world… if you could bottle that feeling up and sell it, you’d be a millionaire.”