Interview With Slade Mercer
New Plymouth, located in the Taranaki region of New Zealand has been a strong breeding ground for professional wrestling. Slade Mercer is one of the names on the list of talent to come out of the region.
One of the biggest names on the independent wrestling scene in both Australia and New Zealand, Mercer was trained at 17 by WWE Hall of Famer “Bushwacker” Butch Miller and nephew former WCW wrestler Rip Morgan.
Spending over 15 years in the business since his debut in Wellington, New Zealand. Mercer has wrestled all across the globe. Won multiple championships, had tryouts with WWE, competed with the likes of Scarlett Bordeaux in a mixed tag match and has faced many notable names, such as, Nick Aldis, Mr. Anderson, Luke Gallows, James Storm, EC3, Shane Douglas and Tommy Dreamer over his career.
Growing up in New Plymouth, where did your love and passion for professional wrestling start?
“In New Zealand WCW was on really late on free to air television. As an eight year old, I’d go to bed at the set time that my parents gave me. Then I’d get up after my parents had gone to sleep just so I could watch WCW. The first match I ever saw had a masked luchador Super Calo in it. I was instantly hooked!”
Outside of wrestling, you have acted on television, adverts and theatre productions. Did you always want to be an entertainer?
“I was really shy until my teenage years, then I started to come out of my shell a bit. Don’t think I expected or planned it, always wanted to be a wrestler, but the acting always spun off of my wrestling. That said, enjoy the different challenges stage, television and film acting brings. Am always open to those avenues. I’d actually love to be involved in the Mortal Kombat remake that will be filmed in Adelaide. So will see what happens there.”
From your time training under “Bushwacker” Butch and Rip Morgan what was the biggest thing you learnt?
“They taught me what it really meant to work. Many focus on the physical aspect and the moves, which is a massive part, but all of that means nothing if it’s not done at the right time with the right reaction. Very fortunate to have learnt from those two who has reached the top of their game. Another aspect they taught, and I know for a fact this is something that several schools lack nowadays, is how to work to times and how to work to a hard cam.”
From your time training under “Bushwacker” Butch and Rip Morgan what was the biggest thing you learnt?
“Elated and nervous at the same time haha. Someone got injured so I was the one to be called up. I hadn’t even come up with a gimmick yet, face, heel, or anything. I was lucky to be carried through that match by Island Boy Si, who is a local pro wrestling legend in New Zealand.”
Starting out, was there a wrestler or a particular style you tried to base yourself around?
“Growing up I loved the cruiserweights, Rey Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon were two of my favourites. But, I kinda grew up to be 6’4” and 110kg (242lbs) haha. So I took inspiration from Ultimate Warrior, Goldberg and Kevin Nash starting out.”
Having wrestled for promotions worldwide. Are there any key differences you’ve noticed on your travels?
“There’s great wrestlers, and there’s bad wrestlers, no matter where you go. There’s this false belief that all british wrestling is fantastic, but just like any scene there’s promotions with under trained and unfit guys putting on bad stuff. It’s all relative; Britain is bigger, so there’s a larger quantity of quality, but also a lot of rubbish that people tend to overlook. The best thing about wrestling is its like a language, no matter where I’ve gone, even if there’s a communication barrier, you can (if taught properly) communicate with wrestling.”
Your first WWE tryout in 2008 at 21, just three years into your career. Your last was in 2013, at 26 and nearly a decade into the business. Was there much difference between the tryouts themselves and in the way you prepared for them?
“Every tryout was different, with different agents and different guys. The early ones were far less formal and regimented like now. Back then, you might just have been asked to work a match against another tryout guy or with one of their crew, with a handful of people watching. Nowadays tryouts are three day boot camp style with 30 plus people. I’ve participated at both ends of the spectrum.”
Your tryout in 2010 wasrwas in the middle of WrestleMania season. Do you have any fond moments that stand out from that time?
“Yes. Actually, Rip Morgan helped facilitate the tryout, and I stayed and trained with Jesse Hernandez who is a WWE affiliate and helps with their spanish speaking talent. I went in representing Rip and Butch. It was in the lead up to WrestleMania 26, so a lot of big names were there at the time. But, Butch gave me a list of names he wanted me to say hello to on his behalf and pass on his regards. This list had a bunch of names but three that were memorable to me were Teddy Long, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
Teddy was amazing to talk to, telling me story after story of riding the roads with Rip and Butch.
Approaching Undertaker was daunting to say the least. He arrived in catering, everyone stands as he makes his way around to shake hands, you don’t sit until you shake his hand. Then he gets his food, sits at his own table and the only person who sat with him was Michelle McCool. Other tryout guys told me not to do it, but I said “fuck it”. As I approached the table, a little nervous. Michelle turned and flashed me a massive smile. Instantly made me feel a little more comfortable, as i introduced myself and passed on Butch’s regards, which Undetaker seemed to really appreciate.
Shawn was the last one I saw that night. I was about to leave when I see Shawn leaning against a production box chatting. I stood aside and waited for the conversation to finish. Ended up having a great talk with him as we spoke about Butch and how he watched Shawn’s first match.”
What’s the best piece of advice you received from your tryouts?
“Stay the course! So many get rejected and I’ve seen many quit. Even known people who’ve taken their own lives from the resulting depression. It’s the highest of highs, getting that opportunity at your dream, and the lowest of lows, when they tell you they’re not interested. I learnt that for as much as I’d wanted to be in the WWE, I loved professional wrestling itself more. So the key to it is not to let it halt your momentum, not to let it manifest, just get right back to work to do what you can to give yourself the best chance for them to say yes.”
How was your experience working as an extra for WWE at the Super Show-Down PPV in Melbourne in 2018?
“It was incredible. Earlier that day I ran into Drew McIntyre, Sheamus, Big E and Kofi Kingston at Doherty’s Gym. Kofi and I chatted and he assumed extras are probably going to be druids for Undertaker’s entrance. Obviously that didn’t eventuate unfortunately, however standing on the MCG ground while watching Undertaker make his entrance was amazing. As you know from being there too, It was great to be a part of such a big event being on this side of the world.”
Is it true a show you wrestled on in Brisbane, Australia at a music venue, that worker from the venue said you all had to finish as soon as possible after only not long passing intermission because Prince was going to do secret gig?
“Yes, one hundred percent haha. Prince was in town doing a concert, but he decided last minute he was going to do this secret gig at the venue we were booked at. Naturally, Prince takes precedence over us local indy wrestlers, you’re not gonna tell Prince “no” cause you have wrestling show on haha. So, we hurriedly finished our matches so his crew could come in. The promoter offered us free tickets to the gig and we turned them down. In hindsight, I should have taken that chance to see him live. Later heard It was Prince and a piano on stage for over three hours, so no doubt it would have been incredible to watch.”
What’s been your favourite match in your career thus far?
“I’d say my matches with Luke Gallows. They’re on Youtube but film quality isn’t the best. He was someone whose work I enjoyed in WWE, as a heavyweight I admired his style and how well he moved in the ring. I remember he was booked for back to back matches on Friday and Saturday. I was booked to work with him the Friday then we were to work different people on the Saturday. We had a ripper on the Friday.
Next day, I got a text from him asking me to come to the Gold Coast (where he was staying) to hang and grab a bite. Whilst on the beach he asked about who he had that night, I told him, he said “Nah fuck that, I want to wrestle you again.” He rings the promoter and the match gets changed, and he and I worked the Saturday night too, this time in a street fight. The street fight got wild, the fans and staff from the bar got involved. Luke not knowing who was who, proceeded to just beat on anyone and everyone who got near him. After the match, the bar apologised and gave him a giant basket of alcohol, which a group of us finished fast. Learnt a lot from him that weekend, on what it takes to be at that level and how a real worker works. He even taught me how to do the Kane uppercut (taught to him by Kane when he was doing the twin Kane gimmick). I’ve kept that in my arsenal and still use it today.”
Whose some of your dream opponents?
“The Undertaker or Kane. But, neither will likely ever happen haha. But, definitely Jun Akiyama, Daisuke Sekimoto, SUWAMA, Zeus, Brody King and Brian Cage would love to work with them. Rey Mysterio, Ultimo Dragon and Chris Jericho are three others too.”
It’s obviously strange times at the moment, how are you doing through this whole situation?
“I’m doing ok, thank you. The rest has been amazing for my body. There were little injuries and pains I have been able to work on and truthfully I feel better than ever! Working out at home and getting outside is key, not just for the physical, but mental health too. My last show was in late March, which was touch and go then. I look forward to getting back real soon and hoping everybody is staying safe and healthy.”
Thank you to Slade Mercer for taking the time to do this interview and look forward to seeing him doing what he does best in the ring in the near future.
Slade Mercer is available for national and international bookings in the future. Contact via email email@example.com