Inside NZ’s pro wrestling scene: ‘Step in the ring if you think it’s fake’

Pro wrestler Te Raukura Hawke, aka Tee Hawke, admits a lot of people think what he does in the ring is fake. 

The 25-year-old, who fights for Warrior Wrestling NZ in Tāmaki Makaurau, has this message for those people: “I just want you guys to step in the ring and see how you feel”.

Whatever your view, there’s no denying the athleticism needed to be a pro wrestler.

“We’re doing all the exciting stuff; the flips, the big bumps, the big moves - to kind of take you away from the average day life,” he told Re:’s reo Māori series Ohinga. 

Earlier this month, Te Raukura took part in Warrior Wrestling’s Last Warrior Standing Rumble event in Glen Innes. When he burst through the curtains to make his way to the ring, the large crowd erupted in chants, yelling: “Tee, Tee, Tee”. 

“Adrenaline just takes over,” he says. “You kind of become another person - a superhero of some sorts. Once my music hits, I’ll get that feeling in my body - get the jitters - because I know it’s time to get ready to go.”

Te Raukura faced his arch enemy in the ring, James Shaw, who arrived wearing a cassock followed by a man dressed as a priest. 

“A lot of people go with different names, they try and do some different gimmicks,” Te Raukura says. “I’m tūturu to myself. The Hawke name is pretty synonymous in Auckland in Tāmaki, so it’s kind of living up to that reputation. It’s a big name around here and I’m just gonna make it a big name here in the wrestling scene.”

Te Raukura says he became interested in pro wrestling from a young age. 

“When I was a baby my parents would watch the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) all the time. That’s where my love for pro-wrestling really started. Everyday I’d talk about pro wrestling. I’d act out wrestling moves and have play fights at school.”

He says it’s an incredible feeling being in the ring facing down your challenger as people scream from the sideline. 

“You can feel like Iron Man in the middle of the ring because as soon as you take those bumps you just don’t feel it,” Te Raukura says. “You just feed off the crowd; feed off their energy - and that’s what kind of gets you over the line.”

He says pro wrestlers feed off two different kinds of energy from the crowd: being loved or being hated. Te Raukura is pumped up by the crowd cheering him on. 

“If I can hear my cousins, if I can hear my fans calling out - then I want to do it for them. I want to do it for myself, for my whānau, my iwi - everyone,” he says. “It’s a drug you just can’t get rid of.”

Te Raukura says his mum is a bit apprehensive about him doing pro wrestling over fears he might get hurt. She’s yet to watch him fight.

My mum wants me to give up wrestling because she doesn't like me being involved in this type of sport,” he says. “The big league is obviously WWE where everyone’s trying to reach for... if I can finally make it there somehow, I want one of (mum’s) first matches to come watch me is to be over there on the big stage.”

This is part of our reo Māori series, Ohinga, created by Mahi Tahi Media, with funding from Te Māngai Pāho and the NZ on Air Public Interest Journalism Fund.

Stay tuned for a new episode every week.

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