A professional female wrestler who grew up in Northern Ireland will return to these shores in her wrestling attire for the first time this Sunday.
Rhia O’Reilly, 32, grew up in Derry before moving to the Newtownards Road in Belfast. It was as a pupil at Hunterhouse College that she fell in love with wrestling.
She said: “After I finished university I was in a job I didn’t really want to be in. I had a friend who said, ‘didn’t you used to want to be a wrestler?’
“It’s like saying you want to be a movie star or a rock star. People look at you like, ‘as if’.
“It had been treated as a bit of a running joke, but then I thought ... why shouldn’t I?
“I went online and found a wrestling school in Canada, applied, got in, handed in my notice and away I went.”
Rhia, now based in London, is part of one of the fastest growing women’s wrestling company in Europe – Pro Wrestling EVE.
As a professional wrestler on the independent circuits she has come up against the likes of Bayley, Peyton Royce and Paige – all of whom have gone on to become superstars in the WWE.
Rhia said: “Before I went away at 19 the wrestling scene in Northern Ireland was pretty much non-existant. Now it’s flourishing. If someone wants to become a professional wrestler, either male or female, it’s within their grasp.
“I’ve wrestled across Europe, America and Canada. Japan is my next big target.”
Of the women’s wrestling boom she said: “When I started watching wrestling the women were there for their looks rather than their wrestling skills. People like Trish Stratus and Lita came along and opened the door for all of us. They were actually having high quality matches.”
Discussing the theatrical nature of wrestling she said: “Growing up as a wrestling fan you kind of know that matches are fixed and there is a certain amount of acting, but you don’t admit it.
“It’s sports entertainment – a live stunt show with storylines. We train really hard for it, but we’re not trying to kill each other.”
Rhia is at Pro Wrestling Ulster’s ‘Know Your Enemy’ event in the Europa Hotel on Saturday April 28 at 6pm.