Māori wrestlers compete for Toa Kaimamau o Aotearoa championship belt

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Warrior wrestling is providing wrestling fanatics from all over the motu a chance to experience the electrifying atmosphere of the sport, without having to go all the way to the USA.  

Antony Khan and Aaron Henare (Kuki Airani, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Takoto) started Warrior wrestling only two years ago, having two decades of experience between them mostly wrestling overseas. They wanted to bring the hype to the entertainment sport here in Aotearoa.

“When we started our very first event, it was at Onehunga Recreation Centre in a small gymnasium, and now October 15 we're about to do Westlake Boys High School, which is a big venue, with about $100,000 worth of equipment and cameras and everything. So just in that short time we have already grown exponentially.”

Te Raukura 'Tee Hawke' Hawke 

Te Raukura Hawke or 'Tee Hawke' of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, and Tainui has been wrestling for seven years, dazzling the crowd with his electrifying energy and acrobatic manoeuvres.

“I like the crazy stuff. I like the flips. I am a small guy in the ring. So I've got to get everything else to work for me," he says.

He works in retail but says everything he does out of the ring contributes to making his dream to become a professional wrestler, a reality.

“There were a few bumps in the road. I had injuries after injuries after injuries. But now, kua kati oku kēmu katoa, te whutu pōro, whutupōro pā, ka whai i tēnei huarahi (All my sports games like rugby and touch have finished, I will now pursue this avenue), and everything has gone well so far."

Bronson 'Maximillion' Burgess

Bronson Burgess of Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa is a criminal defence lawyer by day, but by night - he transforms into Maximillion - A tall, lean, athletic machine, ready to do some damage and make a name for himself in the industry.

“I had always wanted to express myself creatively somehow and this was the perfect avenue to do it,” he says.

He's been under the tutelage of Anthony Khan at Warrior Wrestling for 18 months now - training for a whole year before officially stepping foot in the ring.

“I had to prove that I Was ready to perform in front of people and there's a high standard of excellence that's expected at Warrior wrestling but they gave me the trolls that I needed to get on that level.”

Te Raukura Hawke (left) and Bronson Burgess

Toa Kaimamau o Aotearoa

The prize is a championship belt – engraved with “Toa Kaimamau o Aotearoa.”

Although Khan is not Māori, he felt it necessary to have a belt recognising the Māori language and culture.

“I looked around all of New Zealand sports and I never really see the Maori culture ingrained and about when I think it really should be,” Khan says.

“I appreciate the thought process behind Warrior Wrestling, behind the creation of the belt," Burgess says.

"Obviously they wanted to have a belt that demonstrated that someone is the best, and that they thought let's put a kupu Maori on it and embrace the culture, but also recognise the original name of our country,” Burgess says.

Toa Kaimamau o Aotearoa - Warrior Wrestling Championship belt 

The belt is currently held by Pat Schisk but Tee Hawke and Maximillion are confident it will be in their possession in the near future.

“Hopefully I can put that on my resume and then ka haere tāwāhi ki nga pitopito o te motu (travel internationally and nationally) to defend it, to retain it, otirā (therefore) to be the champ at the end of the day.” 

Khan adds his vote of confidence to the success of the two up-and-comers. "Bronson and Tee, they'll be ready to go overseas in no time. All they need to do here is sharpen their skills and they'll be ready to go abroad. I see a bright future for them."