They’ve been watched on TV by millions of viewers, performed in front of thousands on the grandest stage of them all and can even count themselves as the second-ever duo to score the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship belts. Before all of that, though, Jessica McKay and Cassie McIntosh – AKA Billie Kay and Peyton Royce – were two kids trying to make a go of it at Westfields Sports High School. All the while they were studying, however – Kay focusing on basketball, Royce on dancing – their love of professional wrestling was always bubbling under.
“We share a very similar origin story,” says Kay, speaking to media at a press junket during WWE’s whirlwind Australian tour. “It was someone in our family that really got us invested in watching wrestling. For me, it was my older brother. For Peyton, it was her mum. When you’re at that age – eight, nine years old – the whole thing is just mesmerising. I was obsessed with The Rock. Peyton was obsessed with Eddie Guerrero. We just had this dream in the back of our heads, the whole time, that we wanted to be in the WWE.”
Royce laughs when recalling the pair’s school days, for although they’re inseparable besties now, that wasn’t always the case. “We were the two huge wrestling fans at the school, but it was always this kind of snarky rivalry,” she says. “We were always trying to one-up one another over who was the bigger wrestling fan, but we never just sat down and talked about wrestling. If we had, we would have been best friends a lot earlier.”
After high school, Kay followed through on a connection through her older brother as her entry-way into the world of wrestling. As it turned out, her brother’s friend Doug Ryan – AKA Ryan Eagles – owned a wrestling training academy. The Pro Wrestling Alliance (PWA) is now regarded as one of the premier pro-wrestling federations and academies in the country, and it was through this channel that Royce ultimately found herself drawn into pursuing wrestling in earnest as well.
“It was my 16th birthday,” Royce recalls with utmost clarity. “I was out for dinner with some friends and family, and I remember seeing a poster hanging up in the door of the restaurant. It was advertising the PWA training academy, and it caught my eye…” At this point, Royce points over at Kay, and reveals: “She was on the poster! It felt like fate. I’m so glad that I picked that school. They gave us everything we needed.”
Kay would go on to be a two-time women’s champion in PWA, facing a young Royce – then working as KC Cassidy – several times in title bouts. Although both have long since moved on, they still find themselves deeply connected and invested in the movements of Australian pro-wrestling. “The girls on the scene are all just killing it,” says Royce. “We talk to Shazza [McKenzie] all the time, she’s one of our closest friends. Madison Eagles, as well, is someone we’re obviously indebted to – she was the one who trained both of us.”
“I truly think that Robbie Eagles is one of the greatest wrestlers in Australia right now, too,” Kay adds. “Maybe even the world. No matter what Aussie wrestlers are doing, and where they’re doing it, we’re always keeping tabs on all of it and following along on Instagram.” Both Kay and Royce are acutely aware of the moment Australian wrestling is having right now – thanks in no small part to the likes of Mick Moretti pushing the #YoureGonnaNoticeUs and #NowWeConquer social media movements. “We just love that,” says Royce.
“There’s a real influx of talent arriving and making a name for themselves in WWE right now. It’s not stopping anytime soon, either. Since we were in the independent circuit here in Australia, the talent has just gotten better and better.” Kay agrees, adding: “It’s bigger, too. Everyone is really going out of their way in order to hone their craft and improve their skills to really get to the top of their game. We’re going to see so much more of Australian wrestling on a global scale, I’m sure – it’s only a matter of time.”
Interview – David James Young