Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher speak for the first time since their STRONG title wins
Aussie Open are the best kept secret in tag team wrestling no longer. A breakout 2022 has seen them explode into mainstream wrestling consciousness as part of the United Empire. With appearances on AEW Dynamite and soon IMPACT Wrestling to their credit, it’s NJPW STRONG where they’ve had most material gains. There the duo of Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher have become the first ever STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions, and now they hope to become AEW’s first trios champions en route to Royal Quest II on October 1 & 2.
We both clicked straight away
–First of all, to both of you, congratulations on becoming the first STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions.
Fletcher: Thank you.
Davis: It’s all been a long time coming.
–2022 has been a real breakout year for the two of you since you started teaming in the UK in 2017. Can you give us the origin story for Aussie Open? How did everything start?
Fletcher: Well, I first met Davis when I was about 14 years old. I’d started training with a local promotion in Sydney, and Davis was wrestling there. We would meet in passing then.
Davis: But then I got injured, and after that I decided to move to the UK.
Fletcher:…So he was away for a couple of years. I turned 18 in that time. I knew that when I finished school, I was dead set on making wrestling my career and the UK was the best place for that.
–What made the UK the destination for you rather than any other country?
Fletcher: Just because of the regularity of work. This was early 2017, and the eyes on the scene in the UK were much greater than in Australia.
Davis: It was also much easier from a visa perspective; because the UK and Australia are both in the Commonwealth, if you’re under 30 you can very easily move on a youth mobility visa that makes it easy to head over there and start working.
Fletcher: So we both independently got into the UK at about the same time, really within about a month of each other. So it was cool that there was someone I kinda knew there. We wrestled in singles matches a couple of times, and then we got a tag match booking as ‘the two Australian guys’ basically (laughs).
–That makes sense (laughs)
Davis: And we just filled a gap in the market at the time.
Fletcher: There weren’t any really good tag teams at the time in the UK, and we had both had so many common people in both our pasts. Like Robbie Eagles was my trainer, and he used to team with Davis in Australia before. So we both clicked straight away, pretty much.
–So Robbie Eagles was your trainer? What was your path like, Davis?
Davis: Well, I started when I was 18 in 2007, 2008. I went to America for a bit and trained with Claudio (Castagnoli) and Chris Hero. England was something I’d always wanted to do, but after I suffered an injury, I decided to commit.
–So you came back hungrier.
Davis: I had been wrestling on weekends while I had a day job. When I had an injury and surgery, it threatened to take it all away, so I felt like I wanted to just throw all I had into this and try and make it happen. Then Kyle and I came together and it clicked.
–So the chemistry as a team was there right away?
Davis: I think it was yeah. We were opponents first, we had a singles match in the UK, and then we started wrestling together as a team. It was all in built, and we just started pushing things harder from there. Best buds travelling the world, is pretty cool.
The plan was to work hard, get noticed and end up in Japan]
–Robbie Eagles still is a key player in the Australian scene; can you talk about how important he has been for you?
Fletcher: Well, we’re on opposite teams now, with him in CHAOS, but I can’t deny how important he is, nobody can. When I started training in 2013, he had already wrestled in Japan for Zero-One and the US in Chikara, so he was the guy in Australian wrestling at that point. Every opportunity he gets, he tries to get eyes on the Australian scene, and a lot of opportunities for a lot of guys have come from his work. I definitely looked up to him when I started out.
–Was it intimidating for you to move to the UK at 18 to wrestle?
Fletcher: I get asked that a lot, but looking back, I didn’t even really think about it. I was always going to do what I could to make wrestling my career and my life. I remember being in the kitchen and saying to my mum ‘I’m moving to the UK’
–Telling her, not asking her!
Fletcher: She laughed in my face! But then she saw that I was serious. It really wasn’t even been a decision. Maybe I should have been more wary as an 18 year old, but it all worked out for me really. It all fell into place.
–Was Japan on your agenda even at that point? RevPro has long been an NJPW partner, and as you were growing over in the UK, Robbie Eagles and Will Ospreay were becoming more and more established in Japan.
Davis: Yes. If I’m 100% honest, the UK was never the end goal. Before I went to the UK I had the plan to work hard, get noticed and then end up in Japan. It just didn’t seem real until we had the chance to wrestle EVIL and SANADA just after they’d won the IWGP Tag Team Championships at Wrestle Kingdom (13). We got a taste and that just made us hungrier.
–2019 was set to be such a big year for you. You wrestled Guerrillas of Destiny at Royal Quest, but then there was an injury, and then the pandemic…
Davis: Well, the pandemic sucked for everyone. The last match we had together was September 2019 though, then I injured my knee and we didn’t wrestle as a team again until January 2021. But in a way everything happens for a reason. Having that forced break just gave us a bigger chip on our shoulders. It just fueled us, fueled me certainly.
Ospreay has done so much for us, and stuck his neck out for us so many times
–Then you came into the United Empire in the autumn of 2021. Can you speak to how significant Will Ospreay has been to your careers?
Fletcher: Us joining the United Empire came about during the pandemic. We were stuck in Australia and couldn’t travel. Ospreay reached out to us and suggested the whole idea.
–He’s quite the recruiter.
Fletcher: We can’t say enough good things about Ospreay. He’s done so much for us and stuck his neck out for us so many times. He’s let us live in his house, and use that as a base, and when we had nothing going on, he suggested joining the United Empire and given us more chances. So joining UE in RevPro really made everything click.
Davis: Like a light being switched on.
–It really seems like the light has been switched on this year; maybe not how you had imagined it initially, but through NJPW STRONG, and then AEW as well.
Davis: It’s crazy. I don’t think anyone else is working on the level we are. I don’t want that to sound arrogant, but we’re working harder in more places, than anyone right now.
Davis: Exactly. We’ve come from a scene that didn’t have the publicity or the ability to make a full time living. We had to find that overseas and we’ve had all these obstacles. So now the opportunities are coming our way, we’re just attacking everything head on. We’ve been working for it for so long now. Now is our time, so we aren’t going to waste it.
–The work the two of you put in really shows visibly with Kyle. Obviously you started in the UK as a teenager, so it’s not unlike a Japanese Young Lion; you’ve literally grown in front of people’s eyes.
Fletcher: It’s been a blessing and a curse in a lot of ways. I think as I was getting bigger, I literally felt a change in perception for me and Davis. It went from Davis and this skinny little kid getting beaten up to now a switch being flicked. Now it’s two big dudes that are able to control the ring. It wasn’t quite overnight, but it felt like as I put the work in, there was a definite change in how we were perceived and how I was perceived.
We’re hungry, we’re confident in what we can do and we’ve been doing it for so long now
–Has it been a challenge to keep up that regimen while you’re travelling worldwide this year?
Fletcher: It has been hard travelling so much and wrestling four and five times a week, while still getting the protein and the workouts in, but I’ve been putting in the work and we’ve both been able to see the benefits of that.
–You were introduced to AEW audiences before Forbidden Door as part of the United Empire. It was a challenge for a lot of people to really establish who they were to a big TV audience in that time, but it seemed like as soon as the bell rang, the US fans were impressed by the two of you.
Davis: That whole experience came about really quickly. We had about a week’s notice before that first Dynamite, so we didn’t have the time to be nervous. There might be times where we’re a little anxious, but we’re hungry, we’re confident in what we can do and we’ve done it for so long now. So getting the opportunity to wrestle in front of all those people wasn’t nerve wracking, it was something we’ve been waiting for for a long time. And to do it with two of my best friends in Kyle and Ospreay, there was no issues with chemistry. It felt like a home game for us, not overwhelming at all.
Fletcher: We were just ready. Just like we said about the pandemic, we were waiting and frustrated for so long not able to get those opportunities that when it finally came around we were screaming and ready to go. We know we’re the best tag team in the world and it’s just a case of showing everyone.
–A big part of that has been capturing the STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championships.
Fletcher: Nobody can take away that we’re the first. We’ll always be in the NJPW history books now and the first STRONG Tag Team Champions, and now we’ve added STRONG to the list of tag divisions we’ve dominated.
–You defeated Christopher Daniels and Yuya Uemura in the finals in Charlotte; can you reflect on that match?
Fletcher: When we saw the brackets, I think we were like a lot of people that expected TMDK to make it through. There’s a little bit of pride there when it comes to proving we’re the best ever Australian team, but I’m sure we’ll get that match sooner or later. When it comes to Daniels and Uemura though, Daniels is one of the biggest names in independent wrestling history, and getting in the ring with him was a huge deal.
–How do you appraise Uemura on his own excursion journey?
Fletcher: Daniels was great at bringing the best out of him, but it made it difficult for us. There wasn’t much tape to study with the two of them, only two matches. It was hard to prepare for the two of them and Uemura was extra unpredictable because he’s coming up with new stuff all the time in the Dojo.
Davis: Plus it was a tough weekend.
Fletcher: We wrestled in Ireland on the Friday night, then Manchester, then got on a 10AM flight to make it to Charlotte. So three matches in three countries in 24 hours basically, but we came out on top.
We’ll defend the titles anywhere in the world and make them mean something
–Tom Lawlor helped really build a base for STRONG as singles champion, and now you guys are tag champions. Is there a sense of responsibility for you to further the brand as tag champs?
Davis: A million percent yes. Kyle and I always want to be the best wherever we are. That’s just us as people and professionals. We’re proud of our work and our abilities, and we’ll prove to people now that we can carry those torches. It’s on sight, we’ll defend these titles anywhere in the world and we’ll make them mean something.
–You have more of an opportunity to make history as the first ever AEW Trios Champions. You and Will Ospreay will be facing Death Triangle in the first round on August 24. How are you feeling heading into the tournament?
Davis: Good. Really good. We haven’t seen Ospreay for a while since he’s been killing it in the G1, but I know he’s as hungry as we are. The other side of our bracket, if the Young Bucks’ partner is who we think it’s going to be (interview conducted before 8/17) then he’s going to be working extra hard to try and wrestle them in the second round. After all he did for us, we’ll jump on a grenade for him to make that happen, win the tournament and take those titles.
–Finally, at Music City Mayhem in Nashville, Kyle, you issued a challenge to IWGP Tag Team Champions FTR, who responded that they wanted to have that fight in Japan. How do you react to that?
Fletcher: It doesn’t surprise me knowing FTR. They want to create a legacy and they haven’t been to Japan yet, so they want to take those titles to Japan. Me and Davis, we’ve thrown dates back and forth between us, but it doesn’t matter when. Those IWGP Tag titles are belts we’ve wanted since we wrestled EVIL and SANADA back in 2018. We decided then that one day we will hold those titles. Royal Quest in 2019 only made us hungrier for those titles, and after having it all taken away from us, we’re more determined than ever. Whenever, wherever, we don’t care, we’ll be there and we’ll take them.
–You just touched on Royal Quest in 2019. Now Royal Quest II is official for Crystal Palace on October 1 & 2. What does Aussie Open have in store for us on those nights?
Davis: Like Kyle said, we’ll wrestle FTR wherever they want to go in the world, and if they want to go to the UK, on our home turf as a tag team, then we’ll be there waiting for them. If not, we’ll put the STRONG tag titles on the line. We’re fighting champions and all we want to do is keep proving we’re the best.