Jackson Kelly - Local NRL Prospect Turned Pro Wrestler
When you think about the Northern Beaches perhaps the last form of entertainment that would come to mind would be professional wrestling, however, as one young local found the region is flush with wrestling fans.
Growing up in Dee Why Jackson Kelly was your stereotypical Northern Beaches "beach bum" who also loved his footy. As he grew up Jackson's passion for footy became his driving motivation, so much so that he was recruited to the Manly Sea Eagles development squad, where he played alongside the likes of Jake & Tom Trbojevic, Clint Gutherson & Luke Garner - all of whom have since gone onto become NRL superstars. Reflecting back on his time within the Manly Sea Eagles system Jackson remains incredibly humble, "It was a pleasure to be a part of that system because, in all honesty, I was just one of the guys who made up the numbers in the squad & always knew I was never going to make it to the top level."
Although Jackson didn't ever feel like he could make it to the NRL his efforts certainly weren't helped when he suffered two very nasty shoulder injuries in quick succession, "I broke both of my shoulders & had quite major surgery on both shoulders within 3 months." Despite his football days coming to an early end Jackson still has a deep-seated love for rugby league & the Manly Sea Eagles.
"I look back fondly on those days. I'm so glad I had those opportunities because it kept me fit & gave me purpose at that time in my life," explained Jackson. "I still love the game. I love seeing the Trbojevic brothers, Clint Gutherson, Luke Garner & a few other guys that I had the privilege of playing with now playing in the NRL & I still love going to Brookvale Oval to support the Sea Eagles."
With his rugby league career over Jackson found himself searching for a new passion & direction in life. After a year travelling the world with mates, Jackson turned to his childhood passion, professional wrestling.
"In 2015 I wasn't sure what I was going to do but I knew I had a bit of a desire to still remain athletic. I still wanted to train, be physical & use my body but I just needed a purpose," said Jackson. "As a fan of wrestling growing up, I always thought that maybe one day that could be me, so in 2016 I set out to make that the year I focused on becoming a professional wrestler."
To embark on this journey into the world of wrestling Jackson ventured over to Iowa in the USA to train under WWE superstar Seth Rollins at the Black & Brave Wrestling Academy. Despite his rugby league background & the gruelling training in the Manly Sea Eagles system, Jackson explained that the transition to wrestling training was still far from easy.
"I definitely had a leg up on some other students at Black & Brave. I also feel like rugby league helped me, but it still wasn't easy. I honestly compare the 3 months I did at Black & Brave with an intense 3-month pre-season with the Sea Eagles"
Wrestling isn't simply physical though. As a pro wrestler, Jackson also had to develop a character, so rather than reinventing the wheel he tapped into what he knew - the Northern Beaches!
"My hair is a bit shorter now but when I first started I had long blonde hair & a beard, so I was a caricature of the Northern Beaches, I was a beach bum! It has been super handy to be able to lean into the stereotype of the Northern Beaches. That character has pretty much written all of my wrestling stories for me in the last few years because whenever I'm outside of the Northern Beaches I get a lot of heat just because of how we're perceived."
On the flip side whenever Jackson & his home promotion, International Wrestling Australia (IWA), return home to the Dee Why RSL he receives a thunderous reaction.
"The crowd at Dee Why blew me away the first time we ran there & then each time since they have maintained the noise & passion for wrestling," Jackson said proudly. "Performing at the Dee Why RSL was super special for me because I grew up 5-10 minutes away. I grew up going to the Dee Why RSL when I was 18 & have had plenty of nights out there. So to be told that we were going to run a show there & that I was going to be featured as a large part of the show was super fun."
In regards to what fans can expect from an IWA show at the Dee Why RSL Jackson explained that, "IWA is a really fun show... Our show will typically go for 2 hours & people will generally grab dinner beforehand... We get a lot of families coming along but there's also a lot of energetic young adults who are there to have a good time as well. As performers that allows us to have a really good time as well so it's an all round fun evening. When IWA does return to Dee Why RSL in the not-too-distant future I recommend everyone heads down there!"