Joel Clementson: Pride of the South

130918_joel1Inside his family home in Nelson, a young Joel Clementson walked into the lounge. It was the late 1980s, and an image of Andre the Giant flashed across his TV screen; Clementson was instantly captivated. He asked his parents what they were watching. “It’s too violent,” they responded, “go back to bed, Joel.” He did as he was told, but that night would prove to be the beginning of a love-affair with professional wrestling that has lasted more than 20 years.

He wasn’t allowed to watch wrestling but that didn’t stop Clementson from collecting bubble-gum cards featuring WWF Superstars. Eventually, he began to sneak down to the local video store and hire tapes of the latest WWF releases, starting with King of the Ring ’93.

“I thought it was cool that Bret Hart won the tournament and I was really pissed off when Lawler beat him up at the end,” Clementson said. “That was the first actual proper time I’d watched wrestling.”

The memory is still fresh in Clementson’s mind but the days of hiding his fandom from the world are long behind him. Clementson is now a fully-fledged pro wrestler and a staple of the Impact Pro Wrestling roster in Auckland.

His parents still haven’t seen him wrestle a match but the Clementson family is a big part of New Zealand wrestling history. Joel’s brother, Luke – perhaps better known as Luke Joshua, LJ Lightning or The New Zealand Dream – is an IPW original, one of the founding fathers of New Zealand’s modern wrestling scene.

It was Joel who got Luke into wrestling, he says. After looking on the internet, Clementson informed his brother of the opportunity to train in Auckland instead of heading overseas, and Luke soon made the move north from Nelson.

Even though there was the opportunity to become a wrestler in New Zealand, Joel was content just being a fan, sitting behind a television or guardrail. He travelled to Auckland from Nelson to see IPW at Armageddon in 2003, complete with Luke in the ring. Joel describes the show as “one of the greatest things I’d ever seen because I hadn’t seen live wrestling before”. He continued to travel up to Auckland sporadically – Armageddon 2004, an IPW show in 2005 – and each time found it harder and harder to come back home.

The more he watched live wrestling, the more his attitude changed towards it: “I hated just sitting and watching; I really wanted to be in there.”

With work as a builder drying up in Nelson, there was no better time for Clementson to take a risk and join his brother in Auckland. Joel moved to the nation’s largest city in 2007 and began to train with his brother and the rest of the IPW roster.

“I just want to stay in New Zealand and get New Zealand wrestling big,” he said of his decision to move to Auckland instead of heading abroad. “I love wrestling but I don’t want to leave New Zealand and do it as a living. I want to stay here and get wrestling big.”

Clementson made his debut one year later at the Armageddon Pop Culture Expo as Miles Prower, a button-pushing, poetry-reading emo.

As fate would have it, an injury – his only to date – side-lined Clementson and put an end to Miles before the character had much of a chance to infiltrate the main IPW roster.

130918_joel2The silver lining to the cloud of having to sit out for a year with a hole in his abdomen was that Joel could now push the reset button on Miles, so to speak, and return to the ring with a character more akin to his own personality.

“It’s just kind of me,” he said of his current persona. “I don’t run around and crack munters in the face in real life but basically what I am when I’m out there is just kind of like… it’s me but the volume turned up, I guess. I just stick to what I’m good at. I’m not a real fancy wrestler … just brawling and power kinda, ‘cause that’s what I’m good at. I leave the actual wrestling to the guys who can do it.”

Clementson is somewhat of a throwback in both his look and style. Equal parts Bradshaw and Wal Footrot, Clementson’s no-nonsense style in the ring has seen him wrestle up and down cards up and down the country – from an IPW Championship match against Vinny Dunn to being part of the IPW Tag Team Championship tournament with Pirate Burns in recent months – his first storyline of significance within IPW.

The bond between Burns and Clementson goes further than the ring, he says. The duo once found themselves – along with other members of the IPW roster – on the streets of Christchurch after an Armageddon Expo, resulting in one of the more interesting nights of Clementson’s wrestling career.

None of the group were drunk but some of them were still wearing their wrestling gear from earlier in the day, Clementson said. Furthermore, Burns had a “pirate flute thing” with him. As such, the group decided to try their hand at busking.

“We actually got some good lil’ crowds who actually gave us idiots money,” Clementson said, “but Liam [Fury] made the most money because people started paying him to flip off of stuff. One guy said he’d give him, like, 15 bucks if he back-flipped off of a lamp post. So Liam climbed right up this rather high lamp post and we all thought he was gonna die, but he didn’t. He made the backflip and earned what was for him, a bloody easy 15. It was quite the moment as Liam and his payer of the 15 embraced afterwards.”

An entertaining story from an entertaining man – which is what wrestling is all about when it comes down to it, says Clementson.

“I just want to entertain those people who are there. I’m not just doing it for myself, selfishly; I legitimately want to entertain the people that are there. If they like what I do out there then I’m happy. I still feel like I haven’t done what I want to do in wrestling yet. I’m never satisfied with any of my matches. With my last match I’m always looking forward to the next one.

“What I want to achieve in wrestling is be a good entertainer, I guess. I want to entertain those people the way I was entertained when I was a kid, and I hope I do that.”