Getting a Grip

Published on 10 March 2018

We talk to Dominic Ng aka ‘The D’ on pro-wrestling’s challenges and artistry

By Jo Tan

“It’s been my dream to wrestle since I was a kid. I think it was the same with most kids I knew, growing up with World Wrestling Entertainment,” says Dominic Ng. “It was actually watching the matches that made me interested in theatre – I loved the high-drama of pro-wrestling and was never one of those audience members who thought the conflict was real. That interest in performance led me to be involved with theatre from secondary school, and later to study acting at LASALLE College of the Arts.”

After graduating, Ng became a freelance actor/drama-trainer, and in 2013, found his way back to wrestling. “There was this school for pro-wrestling that started here – at Singapore Pro Wrestling. I was extremely curious and excited and began training with them. It was all so new, and I realised that pro-wrestling was pretty much unheard of in my native country of Malaysia. I called myself ‘Malaysia’s First Pro Wrestler’ as a gimmick, and in 2015, I went to Malaysia to help a friend there establish a company that presents live matches. The company continues to be pretty healthy!”

These days, most of Ng’s training and matches are in Singapore, where he is also known by his ring name of ‘The D’. “It’s a character that I put on, invented when I was casually chatting with friends about possible names. Dominator? Dominatrix? Somebody suggested ‘The D’, which is cocky and irreverent. I liked it, and from there came the personality of someone who would have that handle – The D does stupid things in the ring to keep annoying his opponents until they let their guard down, and then he does this move called The Fameasser. It’s a challenge as an actor for me, because I’m not like that at all. But it’s also lots of fun to shock people because they don’t expect that kind of bad guy behaviour out of me.”

Ng has a leg up on creating an impactful persona because of his theatre training. He says, “Pro Wrestling is actually very much about characters and storytelling. You don’t need a large vocabulary of wrestling moves to put up a memorable match – two or three can be enough for a fifteen minute bout. But you need to grab the audience’s attention and get them to love you or hate you and be invested in what you are doing: By your stage presence, your character’s personality, how you comport yourself, how you interact with the crowd.”

His voice training as an actor also comes in useful. “You need to control your breath and use your voice in the ring, so you can pace yourself, and also so that you can clearly communicate to the audience what is happening, by using your voice for talking to opponents, or even just cries of pain. There’s no point doing stunts if people can’t clearly follow what is going on.”

It’s not hard to infer that Ng believes very strongly that pro-wrestling is indeed a form of theatre, and contains abundant artistry. “Pro-wrestling is an advanced, very gruelling form of physical theatre. It takes at least months of training and physical conditioning to learn wrestling moves and then adapt them for sustainability in the ring, and learning rolls and other moves to acquire the muscle memory to protect yourself in the event of a dangerous fall. And there is a lot of partner work to keep each other safe. But the core of it is the storytelling of characters in conflict. I think the reason why some people think it’s not an art form, is because pro-wrestling used to require this attitude called kayfabe, where you stay in your wrestling character 24-7, wherever you go, and that made some people think that wrestlers and people who liked wrestling were all these violence-obsessed barbarians with fighting constantly on their minds. But the group of people I work with at Grapple Max Dojo, and a considerable proportion of the younger generation of wrestlers, are actually called ‘the strawberry generation of pro-wrestlers’ precisely because we don’t practise Kayfabe. We see nothing wrong with making it very clear that the trash-talking and the fighting are not a lifestyle, they’re part of a really fun performance, part of an art form that has to be mastered rather than stemming from the wrestler’s personality.”

Ng says that is the reason why Grapple Max makes it clear in its materials that its matches are not just for wrestling or martial arts fans, but for anyone, even those who’ve never seen a match. The team have attracted numerous new fans who now recognise them on the street, and a good proportion of theatre practitioners enjoy turning up to watch the matches too. The artistic value of the performances has been further validated by their involvement in the Night Festival 2017, and also their collaboration with Sing Lit Station in Sing Lit Body Slam last October, where a spoken word poetry slam was accented by pro-wrestlers battling it out in the ring in response to the words and emotions of their respective poets.

“I thought it wasn’t unlike traditional Greek theatre where a Greek Chorus (albeit a chorus of one, or two) said evocative lines as a battle between two other performers took place in the middle of the stage (albeit a ring). I was thinking, this could go further. Why would the performativity of pro-wrestling look out of place during Shakespearean battle scene, for example? There are lots of possibilities to explore.”

Grapple Max Dojo’s philosophy is that anyone can enjoy pro-wrestling, whether for fitness or to get a taste of performance, with training customised to each person’s physical condition and/or hankering for crowd adulation. Check out their classes at, or catch the upcoming match between Singapore and Malaysia pro-wrestlers on 16 March at the Dojo. Tickets available here.

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