Siren Collaborator Mary Konstantopoulos speaks to Chantelle McTeare AKA Shazza McKenzie about wrestling with who she is, in and out of the ring.
If you asked Chantelle McTeare to describe herself, she uses words like quiet, shy and timid.
But when McTeare becomes Shazza McKenzie in the ring, it becomes a completely different ball game.
McTeare discovered wrestling when she was 15 years old. Her boyfriend at the time had an interest in the sport.
“I was very reluctant in wanting to watch it,” said McTeare.
“My initial reaction was ‘eww, that’s gross, I don’t care about that’”.
“But then I watched it and from the second I started watching I was hooked; that was it for me.”
That discovery led to McTeare googling ‘how do I become a professional wrestler in Australia’ and by 19 she had discovered a school that she could attend. McTeare has been wrestling ever since.
In a career that has spanned over 13 years, McTeare has seen many changes in the sport.
“When I started there were probably only about five female wrestlers and you would wrestle the same people over and over again. Those people would become your best friends,” said McTeare.
“But now, in Australia alone we probably have about 30 to 40 female wrestlers.”
Some of those wrestlers including the likes of Rhea Ripley who has now been signed by the WWE. But it’s not just about the number of female wrestlers. It is also about the opportunities that these women are given in the ring.
“There’s now an understanding that we can take women’s wrestling seriously and that we can give women ring time,” said McTeare.
“When I started you used to get three to five minutes in the ring, maximum. Now we are given the chance to do so much more.”
Like many other women who make the decision to become pro-wrestlers, for McTeare the real drawcard was the ability to combine a physical pursuit with her interest in acting and singing.
“Growing up I was always singing and in dancing classes. I was always a performer; I wanted to be the next Britney Spears,” said McTeare.
“I never did martial arts or any contact sports, so I shocked myself with my dream of becoming a wrestler. It’s now just so much of who I am.
“Wrestling is action and drama all at the same time. It’s like a soap opera with fight scenes. It is this crazy entertainment thing that is like nothing else.”
Then there is McTeare’s character in the ring, Shazza McKenzie.
Most pro-wrestlers will tell you that their character is a reflection of them, just dialled up to the extreme. This really resonates with McTeare. She might describe herself as shy in real life, but that’s not how she feels when she is in the ring.
“When I am in front of a crowd, I am larger than life,” she says.
“I am in control and it is so powerful. It is the most incredible feeling.”
The persona that McTeare is so in control of in the ring is a character she developed, initially with the moniker the ‘HEARTcore Shazza McKenzie.” McTeare describes this character as very happy and upbeat. But the name represented more than that.
“It was about me putting my whole heart and passion into everything I did in wrestling,” said McTeare.
“That’s how I found a way to express myself and that’s how I performed, with my whole heart.”
But the pandemic posed challenges for all of us, including the HEARTcore Shazza McKenzie.
“The pandemic happened and there was a shift in my character,” said McTeare.
“My heart got broken and now I am feeling a bit sad about life. It’s been a process in the ring to work through my heartbreak, so I have evolved into the ‘HEARTBREAKcore Shazza McKenzie.”
While her character might be working through some heartbreak, McTeare’s longevity in the sport and her commitment in the ring have won her plenty of fans across the world. But there’s one in particular that stands out in her mind.
“The part I never thought about when getting into pro-wrestling, was the audience who would be watching and who would really respect that I put my whole heart into everything I do in the ring,” she says.
“The young kids that come to the shows and idolise you; it’s such an overwhelming feeling.
“There’s one girl who comes to every show and her mum made her my costume and it’s just the most adorable thing. It’s too much.”
McTeare may be ‘larger than life’ in the ring, but she still admits to me that there is plenty of fear associated with what she does. There’s not just the fear of the movements in the ring, but there is also plenty of stage fright. But her love of her sport pushes her forward.
“The 10 minutes before you come out to wrestle you think about every worst case scenario that could possibly happen,” said McTeare.
“But when it’s all over it’s the best feeling in the world and I wonder how soon it is before I can get out there again.”