Māori pro wrestler fosters new generation of sports entertainers

By Bronson Perich
Niwa (right) powerbombs his way to victory - Photo / File

Pro wrestler Niwa McIllroy (Ngāti Porou) has travelled the world as a sports entertainer.

He wrestled under the stage name Johnny Idol, until a friend in England suggested he use his real name.

“One of my friends knew that my real name was Niwa,” McIllroy says.

“He was like, why don’t you use that?”

McIllroy says it ended up being the perfect stage name because no one else has that name.

Niwa (right) launches a dropkick off the top rope - Photo / File

In England he found his stage name but Mexico was where he gained his fame. Pro wrestling is huge in Mexico, and has its own style of wrestling.

Highly acrobatic and fast-paced, orthodox grapplers like McIllroy have made a name for themselves on Mexican mats.

In McIllroy’s case, it put him in front of 16,000 wrestling fanatics.

But coming home after a long sojourn overseas seeing whānau and loved ones, and wrestling in a small local venue, trumped his international stardom.

"That was more important than wrestling in front of 16,000 people," McIllroy says.

"My family was there. I haven't seen them in so long. That was special for me."

Unable to return overseas, McIllroy wants to help the new generation of sports entertainers who are scrambling to the top rope.