In the ring with Massive Q

Massive Q vs Shane Saw in Aussie Mania 3 at Blacktown PCYC. Photo: Amy Oxford
Massive Q vs Shane Saw in Aussie Mania 3 at Blacktown PCYC. Photo: Amy Oxford

BY SEREIMA TAROGI

The room smells like sweat and soft drink, people in the crowd are shifting restlessly in their seats, and the show was supposed to start half an hour ago. It’s AWFs’ Aussie Mania 3 at the Blacktown PCYC and at some point this afternoon the 14 wrestlers backstage will be giving us a show. Hopefully.

All of a sudden the music fades and the first fight of the afternoon, Aussie Ozbone Vs Tristan Slade, kicks off. It’s a good fight, but it’s the second match that I’m here to see. More specifically, one of the wrestlers in the second fight: Massive Q.

Better known to the tax man as Matt Sforcina, Massive Q had his first pro match in early 2006 after spending a year, every Saturday in a hot dojo at the AWF wrestling school.

That was eight years ago. Today his music is exploding out of the speakers to announce his entrance. At a towering 202cm and weighing in at 165kg, Massive Q is usually the bad guy at these shows. In his black and blue costume (it’s usually black and red), with manager Lord Mark Williamson at his side, he swaggers on past the crowd to the ring as if the audience may be a little bit below him. His opponent Saxon Bruce wouldn’t be considered a little guy in anybody’s book (198cm and 131kg) but as soon as the bell rings Massive is tossing him around like a child with a rag doll, winning the match in no time.

For the uninitiated, AWF stands for the Australasian Wrestling Federation. Formed in 1999 by Greg Bownds and Robert Jones, the AWF doesn’t just put on pro wrestling shows with championship titles. They also have a wrestling school for would-be fighters, and all events are conducted under safety guidelines set out by the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Every wrestler in the AWF universe has a character, back story and a gimmick that they use to entertain the audience along with their skills. The inspiration behind Massive’s character was a collaborative effort. “The back story is pretty just me turned up to eleven, my natural laziness and arrogance turned way, way up, as part of the overall package, which is me amplified,” says Matt. “I always wanted to be called Q because I was, at the time, a huge Star Trek fan, and also I thought it would be easy for move names and puns. The gear, which I designed myself, had Q’s and ‘QED’ on it, as I thought that would be my finisher name. But I’d vastly overestimated the nerd level of the average wrestling fan, and so I became Massive Matt Q and then just Massive Q, and that’s stuck.”

Going back to where it all began, Massive grew up watching guys like Mick Foley, Andre the Giant, Vader, and Big Boss Man but it was one match in particular that really ignited the fire. “I was just a fan for a few years until one specific match, Triple H defending the WWF Title against Cactus Jack in a street fight in MSG at Royal Rumble 2000. The match was awesome and told an awesome story, and it was the first time I remember thinking that I wanted to do that, I wanted to be in front of a crowd, and lead them through a story and at the end crush their hearts, as Triple H did that night.”

Now a wrestler himself, he has a new appreciation for different styles of fighting. “Now I tend to appreciate the guys who never got to the top but who were just really solid, great workers, guys like William Regal, Tully Blanchard, and Arn Anderson.”

Wrestlers do two types of training, wrestling training, drills, free wrestling, move practice, as well as general training, mostly cardio and weights. Every wrestler has their own training schedule they’ll happily tell you about and Massive is quite happy to open up about his. “I’m probably the wrong guy to ask, my gimmick needs me to be a big fat guy so I can’t get too slim.”

All jokes aside, the wrestling may be fake but the injuries can sometimes be very real. “In terms of injures in matches, I’ve been bruised a fair bit, got a bloody nose once or twice, had my bell rung once or twice (which is no laughing matter) and got a nasty cut over an eye once.”

In the ring Massive says he isn’t a fan of big guy versus big guy matches, preferring to wrestle small guys where the storyline is simple but always works. “In terms of specific guys, I think the best match I ever had was with Sonjay Dutt on a tour he did with us, but I always love wrestling Concrete Davidson. He’s just a great gimmick and such an easy guy to work with.”

At all of his AWF fights Massive Q is always accompanied through the crowd by his manager Lord Mark Williamson, and when things are looking to go sour for his talent Lord Mark also has a bad habit of turning the match to Massive’s favour. Lord Mark hails from the Blue Mountains, styles himself as “Manager, Announcer, Prophet” and likes to wear suits. Unsurprisingly any interrogation regarding Lord Mark’s underhanded tactics is quickly shut down by Massive. “Lord Mark Williamson is a wonderful human being who I won’t hear a word against.”

Massive Q is just as entertaining outside the ring as he is in it and AWF is first and foremost entertainment. So who writes the script and how much control does he have over his image and the direction that his character is going in the AWF context?
“There’s the booker, who in AWF is Greg the owner. He’s the guy who decides the matches, who wrestles who and what the finish of each match will be, as well as the general way promos and the like go. We have input, we can pitch ideas and such, but at the end of the day the booker is the guy in charge and he gets final say.

“Obviously I have my own ideas in how a wrestling show should be booked but at the end of the day the company isn’t mine, so it’s not my place to pass judgment. That’s up to the fans.”

Outside the ring Massive Q has a weekly wrestling Q&A column, a blog for creative writing, and he is also part of the Super Wrestling Heroes, which is a wrestling themed kids entertainment company set up by a fellow wrestler.

During his few years with the AWF Massive Q has been steadily amassing a dedicated following who come to every event. Now after eight years of being a pro wrestler he still looks to be enjoying what he does, but how much longer does he think he will still be at it? “As long as I’m physically able to do it, and it’s still fun, and there’s still fans that come to see me, in roughly that order of importance.”

Follow Sereima on Twitter: @sereima49

 

Treasures in the trees

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JAMES DIRICKX-JONES

It’s a cool spring day in Robertson, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. As I walk along the rows of trees, even though the sun is shining I’m glad to be wearing extra layers. My friend Jet, the Blue Heeler, is also having a great time scrounging around the tree roots. However, we’re not here just for the exercise and fresh air. We’re actually on the hunt of something surprisingly valuable.

I’m walking through a truffiere, or truffle farm, planted by retirees Ted and Barbara Smith, who decided to enter the truffle industry eight years ago.

“I thought I’d like to do something that could be done with a small amount of area, because even though we’ve got 75 acres, I’m not a farmer I’m a city slicker,” said Mr Smith. “But I thought it would be nice to get into something concentrated, prospect of reasonable return but knowing that it’s basically a hobby interest.”

It took them five years for their first truffle to appear. However, their hobby interest suddenly became a much bigger deal when earlier this year, they discovered the largest truffle ever grown in Australia.

Ted Smith and his record-breaking truffle. Photo: Barbara Smith
Ted Smith and his record-breaking truffle. Photo: Barbara Smith
 

“It took me 30 minutes to get it out of the ground because I didn’t realise how big it was,” explains Mr Smith. “When I started excavating around it, you’ve got to be so careful because you can break pieces off. But it takes patience and you do get impatient – you want to get this thing out of the ground.

“Got back to the house, washed the dirt off, and I could see it was in perfect condition. Then it went way off our scales. Our scales only went to half a kilo. So I went to the local post office. It was 1.172 kilos. I was absolutely astounded. I checked with the Truffle Growers Association and they verified that they didn’t know of any others that had been produced anywhere near that size. So we knew we had the Australian record.”

Whenever I’ve thought of truffles, my mind has always turned to some Parisian restaurant – an accent to a three-course meal being consumed by some European aristocracy on the banks of the Seine. Of course this image hides the truffle’s much more humble beginnings. It is, after all, nothing more than a fungus slowly growing from some spores on the roots of a tree until it is disturbed by an enthusiastic hog or dog. What has been known as a rare delicacy in Europe since ancient times is now one of the world’s ultimate culinary luxuries, with growers chasing prices of more than $2000 a kilo.

Australian farmers tried to enter the industry over 20 years ago, with the first attempts made in northern Tasmania in 1993. Six years later, the first ever Australian truffle was discovered at Deloraine. By 2010, an estimated 600 hectares of land were under cultivation right across Australia.

But not everyone who has entered the industry has enjoyed success. Truffles are notoriously difficult to cultivate. Growers must attempt to exactly replicate European growing conditions in order to have a chance – for example, the Smiths added 50 tons of lime per hectare when preparing their truffiere to change the pH of their soil.

“The way you’ve got to look at truffles [is] if you’re looking for a guaranteed return – don’t do it,” says Ted Smith. “Or if you’ve got to borrow money to do it – don’t do it.

“The majority of growers are not producing. I know that sounds funny, but the growers are growing trees. The number that are actually producing truffles is relatively small, something like ten per cent. I know people who have had trees for 12 years but haven’t had any truffles. For some reason we’re doing something right, conditions are right. [Robertson] just seems to fit the parameters. Cold winters, frosts, good rainfall, good rich soil, all these things fit.”

But the uncooperative nature of the truffle is not dissuading people from entering the industry. From their beginnings in Tasmania, truffieres can be found in every state of Australia, with some of the largest operations in south-western Western Australia. The massive increase in supply has not gone unnoticed, with the price for truffles falling by almost a third in the past decade.

However, growers are optimistic that the growth in supply can be met with new markets, both overseas and in Australia. Being a winter crop, growers in Australia can export their truffles to northern hemisphere consumers during their summer, where demand is much higher. Australian truffle producers can now have their product shipped to Europe within 48 hours. Feedback from consumers has been positive, praising Australian truffles for their quality and similarity to the European original.

Jet the truffle hunter. Photo: James Dirickx-Jones
Jet the truffle hunter. Photo: James Dirickx-Jones

However, increasing Australian demand is a priority too. The Smiths are doing their part, holding truffle hunts throughout the winter to allow locals to experience what I did, and be educated about truffles.

“We have groups of people from the Illawarra, Sydney, Canberra and the Highlands come on truffle hunts,” explains Mr Smith. “This year we had over 300 people. We greet them with a nice roaring open fire, they get hot drinks, give them a lecture on truffles and then a demonstration with our dog ferreting out truffles. We have truffle treats, so the visitors can smell, taste and buy fresh truffles. We’ve been inundated and the feedback has been phenomenal.”

But the vagaries of prices and ‘supply and demand’ have never been Ted Smith’s priority.

“We’re in a prestige sort of business. But there are a lot of unknowns and no assurances or guarantees that you’re going to be successful. There’s a whole aura of mystique, romance and mystery associated with this whole business, and that was one of the attractions.”

Our Culture, Our Compass

Women at campsites, by May Hinch. Photo: Sereima Tarogi
Women at campsites, by May Hinch. Photo: Sereima Tarogi

BY SEREIMA TAROGI

“Tradition and culture create an integral part of who we become and how we pass this narrative to our children. It links us to our past and transports us to now, today. Bringing the old ways to a contemporary forum that speaks to our link to our Ancestors, bringing it to an evolutionary viewpoint. ” – Artist Kim Healey

Hidden away in Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’ in Leichhardt, the Boomalli Artists Co-operative is one of Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal owned and operated art galleries. The word Boomalli is derived from three different language groups in NSW and means ‘to strike; to make a mark’.