When he arrives at the Belmont Memorial Hall for NZWPW Over The Top tonight, Curtis Castlewood won’t consider it a triumphant homecoming to the area he began his wrestling training, but rather a reminder of the hard road he has travelled since he was last in Wellington.
“The last time I set foot in an NZWPW ring was the worst day of my career,” he told NZPWI.
It was a Tuesday night in October 2012 at the He Toa Gym in Petone, NZWPW’s training facility at the time. Castlewood, still known to most as KPW referee Zach Corona, was running a drill with a fellow trainee in preparation for his first match. He’d been learning from the likes of Charlie Roberts and Shane Sinclair as well as studying his potential competition as close as humanly possible from behind the safety of a striped shirt. His future looked so bright, until he had his lights turned out.
“I was this close to making a name for myself when due to an unfortunate injury I shattered my orbital bone and I was out for a year,” he said. “This isn’t some grand return for Curtis Castlewood, this is my redemption. I’m going to go from an injured trainee to the new NZWPW Champion.”
After a trip to A&E, Castlewood returned to training as soon as possible. He graduated from Wellington’s Victoria University and moved north to Auckland. During 2014 he honed his craft with the Hughes Academy, training under fellow-Brit Graham Hughes. By the start of 2015 Castlewood had bookings coming in from all over the country – Whangarei, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch.
“I go up and down this country every single week and I take on the hometown boy,” Castlewood said. “I give the people the match of the night but I always leave them wanting more, because their hometown boy, nine times out of 10, just doesn’t make the cut.”
Tonight, the hometown boy’s name is Ben Mana, the three-time NZWPW Champion and perhaps the odds-on favourite to retain his title in what will undoubtedly be Castlewood’s biggest opportunity to date.
Britain’s Uncrowned Prince and the Modern Maori Warrior appear to be polar opposites in a tale of the tape (a weight difference of more than 70kg being the most glaring statistic) but they may have more similarities than either would care to admit. Just like Castlewood, Mana has also endured a career-threatening injury but came back better than ever to achieve his greatest success.
“I was there when Ben Mana won his first NZWPW Championship,” Castlewood revealed. “I was there in his moment of glory but it was also a moment of sadness. As he raised his hand with the belt won, his leg was giving out under him … and that is exactly what I’m going to focus on tonight.”
Curtis Castlewood challenges Ben Mana for the NZWPW Championship tonight at NZWPW Over The Top at the Belmont Memorial Hall in Wellington.