Pro Wrestling Pioneer Ayez Shaukat On What It Has Taken Him To Represent M'sia In The US
Last month, when Malaysia's Ayez Shaukat-Fonseka Farid became the first-ever Southeast Asian to debut in a professional wrestling TV show based in the US, the news did not make waves in his own country
To Shaukat — a pioneer of professional wrestling in Malaysia and who coaches Nor 'Phoenix' Diana, the world's first Hijabi pro wrestler — it wasn't surprising, given his own reluctance to be in the limelight.
However, it wasn't just any ordinary debut for a Malaysian, who has spent his entire life wanting to make the combat cum entertainment sport a thing here. This time, it was different. It was big. So big, in fact, that Shaukat let go of his own reluctance and took to social media to make some noise about his debut.
He shared how he is representing Malaysia on the Reality of Wrestling (ROW) TV show, owned by one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time and two-time WWE Hall of Famer, Booker T.
For his debut in the TV show, Shaukat donned a traditional green songket together with a majestic Tanjak designed by Paul Carling Rahit, a fashion designer from Kuching, Sarawak.
Following his social media post, this SAYS writer sat down with Shaukat for an hour-long freewheeling interview where he shared about his life's journey and what it has taken him to represent Malaysia
Below is an edited excerpt from the interview with Shaukat talking in the first person.
My name is Ayez Shaukat-Fonseka Farid but, in the pro wrestling world, I'm more fondly known as Shaukat, the Prophet of Pain/Nusantara Prince and I've been pro wrestling for seven years
Pro wrestling is something that I've been obsessed with since I was a child. I remember very vividly how my elder brother used to always rent out those VHS tapes of WWF — back when WWE was known as such.
We would watch the tapes together, all of us siblings were just obsessed with pro wrestling.
Even now, out of the five of us siblings, three are very much in love with it. And growing up, I've always wanted to be a pro wrestler. Back then, I would wrestle with my brother and with friends.
In primary school, when the teacher would ask me, "Ayez, what do you wanna do when you grow up?" I would always say pro wrestler". And, of course, everyone in the class would laugh at me because for a Malaysian to dream to become a pro wrestler is kind of a "silly dream" given there's no such industry here.
It was the same in high school, too. Teachers would ask what I wanna become in life and my answer would always be the same — "a pro wrestler". And then getting laughed at. Even when I was in college.
Sounds ridiculous, I know. But I kept my dream alive.
It was 2013 when I finally decided to drop everything — I've graduated, I got my diploma with first degree honours in Medical Laboratory Technology — and told myself that it was the time to chase my dream.
The lack of an actual pro wrestling industry in the country was an issue, but I did not let it stop me.
I brought pro wrestling to Malaysia
In fact, I started a pro wrestling school in 2014 and for a year, we only had four students. After struggling for a while, we did our first show in 2016, which is when I made my debut in Kuala Lumpur.
And it was all made possible after my fortunate encounter with Booker T, who had come down to Malaysia in September 2013. TV3 ran a contest with the winner getting a chance to have lunch with him.
I was the lucky winner and when we sat down together, I asked the legendary WWE superstar for guidance, and he told me, "dude, if you want to become a pro wrestler and if you cannot afford to go out to the US to achieve your dream, then you must be the one to start pro wrestling here in Malaysia".
That was when I combined all my skills as an actor, filmmaker, and stunt director to start pro wrestling here. We used a syllabus developed by Dr Tom Prichard, who trained Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.
(For the record, Shaukat founded Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW) but parted ways from his former partner in 2020 after having a different vision for growing the scene to start APAC Wrestling.)
Speaking of obstacles, the biggest one has always been financial
Honestly, there are a lot of obstacles, when you want to try to become something that is not readily available not just in Malaysia but in the Southeast Asia region as a whole. There's no pro wrestling industry. There are underground scenes but nothing huge that one can just go into to make a mark. So yes, finance has been the biggest issue. At one point in my life, I had to do seven freelance jobs simultaneously just so I can support the pro wrestling business that I was running, pay my bills, and feed my family.
Then there's this weird perception among our own people. They kind of make fun of us because they think that the pro wrestlers are trying to imitate mixed martial arts (MMA). For example, one of the negative comments I get on social media is that "pro wrestling is fake. Why should we support you? Why should we be proud of you? It's a whole different story if you did MMA, which is an actual sport, so on and so forth".
But here's the thing, though, comparing pro wrestling with MMA is like comparing apples and oranges. They are two separate things. Pro wrestling is sports entertainment, while MMA is an actual combat sport. We, pro wrestlers, are not fighters, we are performers. So such comparisons are funny to me. It's like telling Zul Ariffin, an actor, from Sangkar, a movie based on MMA, to go and actually participate in UFC.
It's funny that people think of it this way when we ourselves as pro wrestlers — even Booker T himself — never claimed that we are real fighters. We are performers and we are very open about this.
I'll be honest, though, back when I started pro wrestling, such negative comments used to affect me to the point where I felt like giving up. While people may not realise it, such comments can break our spirits.
But seven years later, I'm still here.
My biggest achievement is my debut in the Reality of Wrestling, becoming the first Malaysian pro wrestler to make it to an American TV show. It's something that haven't been done before and I'm very proud of it considering you don't see a lot of Malaysians in Hollywood.
I also take pride in the fact that by being part of the Reality of Wrestling, I'm able to represent something that has always been a dream – who would have thought that a Malaysian boy, born and brought up in Pandan Jaya, Ampang would eventually make it to Hollywood, in front of a whole bunch of crowds.
But more than anything, I'm most proud to represent our own culture on an American TV show. Because people over there have never really seen the Malay culture, the Nusantara culture. They know about the Filipinos, they know about the Indians, they know about the Chinese, they know about the Koreans, but our own race — the Malay race — is rarely talked about. So the fact that I get to represent a brown Asian, and introduce the Malay race, and the Malay culture to Hollywood is something I'm very proud of.
In the show, I've been given the creative freedom to be myself, to represent my character — the Prophet of Pain/Nusantara Prince. I get to play one of the good guys. And the response so far has been amazing. The children there look at me as some sort of superhero, what with my Tanjak and my songket jacket.