A former teacher aide at Stratford High School is calling for local support as he puts up a fight in his pro-wrestling debut in Taranaki next month.
Paul "Bobby" Hartland says he is pleased his first fight will take place in front of a home crowd.
"I moved to Auckland to train with the very best, but am still a Taranaki boy through and through. Having the home crowd to cheer me on will certainly spur me on."
Paul moved north to train at the Impact Pro Wrestling (IPW) training school two years ago, fulfilling a lifelong dream to train as a wrestler.
"I grew up loving wrestling, and always said I was going to be a wrestler. Getting accepted into IPW was a dream come true, as they really are the best of the best."
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Growing up in Stratford with his four siblings, Paul loved watching wrestling matches on television, he says.
"I was a big fan of World Wrestling Federation (WWE) wrestler The Undertaker, as well as CM Punk, and watched them a lot. In New Zealand, my hero would have been Dallas Jackson, better known as Dal "The Deal" Knox. He was from Taranaki as well, and that really inspired me, made me realise it was possible for someone from here to become a professional wrestler."
About seven years ago, Paul went to watch Dal Knox defend take on, and beat, Vinny
Dunn in a Taranaki Turmoil live event at Bell Block Hall.
"I remember siting in the front row, watching the fight, and just wanting to be in the ring, to do it myself."
From that point on, Paul worked towards his goal, and two years ago was accepted to train with IPW. Since then, his focus has been on getting ready for his first fight.
"It's been a long two years, away from family and home, and just training as hard as possible. I still work as a teacher aide, and then travel about two hours across Auckland to train. Coming home and fighting in a Taranaki Turmoil event next month is the result of those two years of dedication."
Making his first match even more meaningful, Paul says one of his fellow fighters on the night will be Dal.
An IPW spokesperson says Paul is known for his dedication.
"He is always the first person at training each week. Paul has shown a heart and passion for pro-wrestling we see in few rookies. It's clear that this is a childhood dream of his and we are more than excited to feature his very first match in his hometown."
Paul says pro-wrestling matches are good family entertainment.
"It really is. It's like super hero movies, you have the good guys and bad guys, and the audience cheer on the good guys. As fighters, we actually drawn on that energy from the crowd. Having been in the crowd myself as a kid, I know how exciting it feels, and how cool it is knowing you may be making a difference to the outcome of the fight by your reactions and support."
With his first fight in front of a home crowd, Paul says he is hoping to hear plenty of support from the crowd on the night.
"I am going to be wearing Taranaki colours and have a few more Taranaki themed surprises coming hopefully. I really want to hear that support from the crowd on the night, pushing me to do my very best."
If being from Taranaki isn't enough on its own to get the crowd to support him, Paul says another reason for them to cheer him on is that he is "definitely one of the good guys, I'm not a baddie!".
Impact Pro Wrestling New Zealand will be at TSB Showplace for Taranaki Turmoil on Saturday, November 23.