Kil­mac’s like­able queen of wrestling

RE­PORTER DAVID MEDCALF VEN­TURED TO KILMACANOG­UE FOR ELEVENSES WITH WRESTLER KATEY HAR­VEY, WHO CHAT­TED ABOUT LIFE IN THE RING AND THE IN­JURIES SUF­FERED ALONG THE WAY TO BE­ING ONE OF IRE­LAND’S LEADING GRAPPLERS

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - INTERVIEW -

KATEY Har­vey is Kilmacanog­ue born and bred – and very proud of that fact she is too, though she now spends much of her time in Dublin. Her rep­u­ta­tion has spread far be­yond her na­tive County Wick­low to wher­ever wrestling is ap­pre­ci­ated and en­joyed. Yes, the daughter of Siob­han and Paddy Har­vey has cho­sen a most un­usual ca­reer, blaz­ing a trail for women in the world of Hulk Ho­gan and The Rock.

The 29 year old has not quite aban­doned the day job work­ing in in a Dublin gym while train­ing for her ap­pear­ances in the ring. But her en­thu­si­asm for that most the­atri­cal of sports is relentless and in­fec­tious. Her only prob­lem is that she has plenty of time at the mo­ment to talk to any­one who will lis­ten to her about her cho­sen craft.

She has been on the in­jured list since the be­gin­ning of the year af­ter sus­tain­ing a cou­ple of bro­ken el­bows in a move which went painfully wrong.

So she sits in the kitchen of the fam­ily home back in Kil­mac and charts her rise through the wrestling ranks: ‘My real name is Catherine but no one has ever called me that,’ Katey in­forms the visit­ing re­porter over a steam­ing mug of cof­fee. She con­firms the spelling K.A.T.E.Y., which she adapted and adopted some­where along the way as part of her stage persona.

Brought up with two brothers – Jamie and

Patrick – she ac­knowl­edges she was a tomboy when grow­ing up. Kilmacanog­ue pro­vided the per­fect set­ting for her child­hood, not least be­cause it boasted a very ac­tive karate club. Later on, as a stu­dent at St Kil­lian’s in Bray, she played Gaelic foot­ball, while also be­ing on the school chess and de­bat­ing teams. But it was the karate which pro­vided her with the best out­let for her con­sid­er­able en­ergy, as well as putting her into the lime­light.

The sport was fos­tered in the lo­cal­ity by Kevin Smith and young Katey would turn up four times a week for train­ing at the vil­lage hall. She felt she was learn­ing to be­come a Power Ranger, fol­low­ing in the high kick­ing foot­steps of her tele­vi­sion su­per-heroes.

She had lit­tle time for some of the more thought­ful el­e­ments of the dis­ci­pline. She simply loved com­bat.

She clearly had a tal­ent for fighting, win­ning na­tional cham­pi­onships as a teenager. Her ex­ploits earned qual­i­fica

tion for the world cham­pi­onships in Canada – the trip of a young life­time. Then dis­as­ter struck: ‘I blew my knee out two weeks before I was due to take part – I went for a move and the knee just crum­pled.’

So Katey never went to Canada, stay­ing at home in­stead to un­dergo re­hab on the dam­aged leg and pon­der­ing her fu­ture.

The time off helped to nudge her out of karate as she sat her Leav­ing Cert and took a place on the tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion course at Bray In­sti­tute of Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion. And there the story of Katey the wannabe Power Ranger might have ended but for the fact that the BIFE cur­ricu­lum re­quired stu­dents to make a doc­u­men­tary.

She and class­mate Paul Scarfe racked their brains in search of a topic un­til in­spi­ra­tion struck. Katey, who had been at­tend­ing wrestling shows as a spectator from the age of ten, re­called that there was a wrestling school on the doorstep in Lit­tle Bray. It seemed to have po­ten­tial as a suit­able sub­ject, so they de­cided to con­duct some pre­lim­i­nary re­search, turn­ing up on a scout­ing mis­sion at the con­verted garage where Phil Boyd con­ducted the lessons.

The vis­i­tors de­cided to take part: ‘The two of us found that we loved the wrestling train­ing too much, and we never made the doc­u­men­tary. I was hooked, es­pe­cially when I found out that they had an all-fe­male class.

‘I ended up train­ing four times a week.’

The young film maker, by the way, focused her lens in­stead on Wick­low Gaol.

Find­ing her­self in the ring at the age of 20, Katey had hit on a pas­time which was at the time dis­tinctly un­cool– ‘wrestling was in its lull,’ she re­calls. The only way was up as a gen­er­a­tion raised on TV shows fea­tur­ing the likes of now dis­graced Hulk Ho­gan of Steve Aust be­gan to seek live en­ter­tain­ment. Yes, en­ter­tain­ment. The Kil­mac grap­pler makes no apol­ogy for de­scrib­ing what hap­pens as a show.

The wrestling she loves is theatre, the moves chore­ographed, the end prod­uct a show pre­sented by peo­ple work­ing to­gether. This is not the fierce, grim com­pe­ti­tion of an Olympic event but a char­ac­ter driven event com­plete with loud mu­sic, lav­ish make-up, comic-book cos­tumes and sim­ple story lines. Though there are rules and re­sults, she frankly can­not re­mem­ber after­wards whether it was her arm which was raised in vic­tory at the end of a bout.

While it may be con­trived, how­ever, it is ev­ery bit as de­mand­ing as any sport in terms of strength and skill. The train­ing is hard as Katey notes ca­su­ally of her early days: ‘I was al­ready used to be­ing phys­i­cal. You need to be fit and you need to be strong.’

The would-be film and TV pro­ducer found it dif­fi­cult to break into the movies af­ter grad­u­at­ing from BIFE, barely mak­ing it as far as Hol­ly­wood, County Wick­low – and never mind Hol­ly­wood in Cal­i­for­nia. She landed some stunt work in the ‘Vik­ings’ se­ries, which was great fun: ‘They give you a wooden sword and tell you to go fight. The work as a featured ex­tra is very like wrestling. You have to keep safe by fall­ing and rolling.’

‘Vik­ings’ never amounted to a reg­u­lar job and, with bills to pay, she be­gan work­ing at the West Wood gym in Dublin’s Tem­ple Bar, while also train­ing and per­form­ing as a wrestler. That has never amounted to a full-time job but has pro­vided a use­ful source of ex­tra in­come.

She was one of the first young women to make it on to the bill at shows around the coun­try.

Three of her friends turned up for her first ap­pear­ance when Katey’s de­but op­po­nent was Lucy Craw­ley in a fight that was scripted more or less from start to fin­ish. Sit­ting in the front row, the trio of pals mem­o­rably had one of the fight­ers land in their laps.

Their hero­ine bought most of her out­fit for the oc­ca­sion in Pen­neys, an en­sem­ble which included shorts, a black net top and boot cov­ers which she made her­self to cre­ate an eye-catch­ing persona.

‘It is theatre,’ she ex­plains. ‘It is sport at the same time but I liken it to action movies. It is story telling at its very ba­sic – good guy against bad guy. The most im­por­tant thing is the au­di­ence re­ac­tion.’

Katey has spent most of the past nine years be­ing the bad guy but re­ports hap­pily that the good guy does not al­ways win, while the rules of­ten go out the win­dow.

‘If you are good at the sto­ry­telling, then you don’t al­ways have to be ou­tra­geous’, she in­sists – but frankly be­ing ou­tra­geous of­ten helps, as does lap­ping up the boohs or cheers of the crowd. ‘The feeling is hard to de­scribe. I imag­ine it’s what be­ing a rock star is like.’

The the­atri­cal side of wrestling – which never elim­i­nates the mus­cly or ac­ro­batic as­pects – came eas­ily to some­one who had en­joyed be­ing on stage in ‘Cats’ and ‘Grease’ in lo­cal pro­duc­tions as a girl. Along the way, her train­ing venue has moved from the con­verted garage in Bray to be­come the Fight Fac­tory at Dublin’s East Wall and she now re­sides in Cabra.

As wrestling has grown in pop­u­lar­ity, other cen­tres have sprung up north and south of the border, in Ul­ster and Cork as well as Dublin.

Women wrestlers used to be a nov­elty but nowa­days all-fe­male pro­mo­tions have be­come more com­mon, with Katey first ap­pear­ing at one in Ger­many.

The busi­ness has al­lowed Katey Har­vey to travel, pop­ping up at shows in Eng­land, Nether­lands, Italy and France. She has ap­peared in front of 2,200 en­thu­si­asts who packed the Na­tional Sta­dium for an ‘OTT’ pro­mo­tion.

And oc­ca­sion­ally she has picked up in­juries. She broke her shoul­der two years ago ap­pear­ing in London where she was thrown from the 16 feet by 16 feet ring. She re­cov­ered from that set­back but then came a spec­tac­u­lar crop­per in Jan­uary dur­ing a per­for­mance at the Ring­side Club in Dublin.

She jumped from the height of the top rope and the land­ing went hor­ri­bly wrong, leav­ing her with both arms dis­lo­cated and a se­ries of frac­tures.

She was brought to the Mater Hos­pi­tal where medics did a dou­ble-take when pre­sented with a pa­tient wear­ing fish­net and Won­der Woman head-piece.

Af­ter an op­er­a­tion sched­uled to take three hours ac­tu­ally took eight hours, they told Katey she would never wres­tle again but she has sought a sec­ond opin­ion.

Re­cov­ery con­tin­ues with an ex­haust­ing com­bi­na­tion of Pi­lates, phys­io­ther­apy and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy. She is al­ready back help­ing to run the Fight Fac­tory and she hopes to be back in costume maybe next Jan­uary, though at present her left arm is held to­gether by sur­gi­cal plates and still does not straighten prop­erly.

‘Ev­ery day, I try to do a lit­tle bit more to get back where I was,’ says Katey Har­vey, one tough Power Ranger.

WRESTLING IS THEATRE. IT IS SPORT AT THE SAME TIME BUT I LIKEN IT TO ACTION MOVIES. IT IS STORY TELLING AT ITS VERY BA­SIC - GOOD GUY AGAINST BAD GUY

Katey Har­vey with one of her lurchers at her fam­ily home in Kilmacanog­ue.

Wrestler Katey Har­vey from Kilmacanog­ue.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.