AJ Istria: Q&A With The Champion of Australian Wrestling

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Pro wrestling Champion of Australia AJ Istria talks fitness, compares Australian and Japanese wrestling, who to look out for on the Australian wrestling scene, and much more! Check it out!

Just to get started, for those who may not be aware, could you tell me a bit about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?

I’m 26 years old from Brisbane, Australia. Currently, I wrestle mainly in South East QLD and South Australia.

I’m interested in your ring gear. You sometimes wrestle in maroon trunks. What made you choose that colour?

Whenever I wrestle out of my hometown, I realised pretty quick that fans have a tendency to get territorial and support their hometown guy. So I adopted the maroon colours as they represent my home. As it turned out nobody else was wearing maroon and white around Australia so the colours stayed.

A lot of being a wrestler is looking the part. Not everybody needs that famous McMahon bodybuilder physique, but as an athlete you do need some level of fitness. I’m always interested in the different kinds of workouts, training and diets of pro-wrestlers. Can you tell me a bit about your training regime and diet?

I could bore you for hours with this question. Training and nutrition is the same in any sport/physical activity. It has to be tailored towards your goals in your given sport. I’d say I’m a lot more specific with my training than most as I do want to leave myself open for other aspirations outside of Professional Wrestling. Everything I train has a purpose, and if it isn’t going to help my body serve a purpose, I don’t really care for it. This obviously differs from the aesthetic bodybuilder mentality. It’s a fine line between the both with Professional Wrestling as it’s all about entertainment.
Without getting too specific, a given week consists of at least 5 weight sessions, 3 cardio sessions and ring time/catch wrestling training varies. As far as nutrition goes, I try to get towards 4000 calories a day in my body. Eating enough food is my biggest weakness in putting on size.

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Are you a currently studying at University or have you graduated?
What did you/are you studying?

I graduated with a Business Major and still work for the University.

So what got you interested in business? Are you planning for life after wrestling? Or life while wrestling?

I became interested in wrestling throughout high school. I wish I had a more humble reason as to why I started wrestling, but the truth is I saw an absolutely awful wrestling event and said to myself, “I could do better than that.”
After I got over that teenage chip on my shoulder, with the help of a few friends in Newcastle and Melbourne, I went to The Pro Wrestling Dojo in Adelaide to get serious and train under Hartley Jackson and Damien Slater.
As far as life after wrestling goes, I haven’t given it too much thought. I enjoy marketing and advertising, but ideally I’d be doing it for a brand I could be proud of. At the moment I’m happy with how everything is going balancing the two careers.

I saw a match you had in Korakuen Hall, Japan with Rionne Fujiwara for WNC earlier this year. Really great stuff. These days Japanese wrestling is my favourite wrestling. New Japan, Dragon Gate, DDT. I love it all. What was it like working in Japan? And how do you compare Australian and Japanese wrestling? The styles, the fans, the industry?

Japan is always a different ball game to work in. The style, the culture, the respect. Japan wrestling culture brings out a lot more of what I love about pro wrestling.
I also enjoy the challenge of communicating to an audience where they either don’t speak English or their understanding is minimal.
In ring and dojo training is my style. I love to get hit and I love a hard days training session. I also love how Japanese wrestling incorporates a lot of Jujitsu and strikes. I do not recommend pursuing a match on a big stage in Japan if you don’t like squats and getting hit in the face.

Do you have plans do more work there? Or any other countries?

Doing more work in Japan is not entirely up to me sadly, and like anything requires timing. Hopefully we can make something happen soon. Outside of Japan isn’t a priority for me at the moment. I’ll probably give America a shot one day I guess.

Congratulations in getting into the PWI 500 this year. It’s a pretty great accomplishment? How does it feel?

Always nice to get recognition. I think it’s my second or third time appearing in it. Believe it or not one year they said I was 290. I’m not sure what they were smoking at the time.

So you’ve already achieved some pretty great things in Australia. You’re current AWA Heavyweight Champion and Pacific Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, and you’ve had title matches with guys like Adam Pearce and Jag Hartley Jackson. What else do you want to achieve in Australian wrestling?

My goals are becoming fewer in Australian Wrestling. Obviously I want to continue pushing the boundaries as far as putting on amazing performances but right now my attention is turned towards helping a couple of guys fulfil their goals.

Are there any guys you’ve worked with in Australia who you think have the tools to make it in the big leagues? Guys that you could see doing well on WWE TV or even other international companies like New Japan or CMLL/AAA in Mexico?

Anybody from Wrestle Rampage or who has come out of The Pro Wrestling Dojo in Adelaide. It’s a league of their own that crew. Damian Slater, Robby Heart, Hartley Jackson et. al. Any one of them could slot into any major company right now and look like equals.

Do you think professional wrestling has a certain stigma attached to it in Australia? I know in my case, I can count on one finger how many friends and family I know who watch pro-wrestling, and that’s including myself. So just me, basically. Having said that, when the WWE comes to visit, there are plenty of fans at the show who look to be having a good time. Maybe I’m just hanging out with the wrong crowd.

I’d say it’s the wrong crowd, my man. Chances are slim I’m going to meet a fan of Usher at a death metal concert. The WWE live experience is something else to the point where non-wrestling fans can go to events and enjoy the show. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to replicate that in Australia with tight budgets and an even tighter talent pool. So in a way there is a stigma attached to local events that makes it tough to expand that audience.

With that said there are many promotions who are making great strides into becoming local hot spots.

Finally, do you have any upcoming shows to plug? And how can fans support/follow you?

This weekend I’ll be at Pine Rivers PCYC for AWA. November 15th I’ll be out at Acacia Ridge for PPW. November 22nd I’ll be back in the Valley at Grindhouse hopefully closing out my year in QLD successfully.

Also right now a close friend of mine is going through bowel cancer. She’s stopped responding to chemo and is doing a million and one different costly attempts to save her life. I’d appreciate any donations if it’s at all possible. Read the full story here.

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