They Call Me…High Octane

Get ready to rumble with a small-town pro-wrestler grappling with big dreams

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Getting thrown onto 3000 thumbtacks, elbowed in the face, or being on the receiving end of a “stone cold stunner” are not the obvious career goals for a kid growing up in rural Australia; but when James Lanham first laid eyes on the sweat and glory of WWE’s WrestleMania as a teenager, his heart was set on dedicating himself to professional wrestling.

Director Rob Farley returned to his quiet hometown of Cowra in New South Wales to reconnect with school friend James ‘High Octane’ Lanham to create this show-stopping documentary about his life and ambitions.

“I came across him on Facebook, clad in shiny spandex and brandishing a makeshift wrestling belt”

“I hadn’t seen James in over ten years since he dropped out of high school,” says Farley. “Then one day I came across him on Facebook, clad in shiny spandex and brandishing a makeshift wrestling belt promoting an event that he was hosting for the fourth time in the town I’d long left behind.”

The event which the director references is Cowra’s very own wrestling extravaganza, ICW Central West: Western Warfare, founded by Lanham in 2012. For a town that Farley describes as “conservative” and “rugby mad”, he was surprised by the community’s ready support of Lanham’s dream to put Cowra on the pro-wrestling map.

“James spends the entire year working towards a dream that puts his health and wellbeing at risk”

“Going into the project I had many preconceived ideas about what we were going to make,” says the director, “full of negative connotations about a backward country town and a young man’s pursuit of community through pro-wrestling events.” But what Farley ended up capturing in High Octane is a life-affirming portrait of dedication, represented by the costumed figure of a man who seeks no glory, money or fame, but lives for the pure love of the sport.

Reluctantly, Lanham has had to postpone the fifth edition of Western Warfare till 2021 due to coronavirus precautions. Though his body may be grateful for this year’s break, recent social media activity only shows his anticipation for the next event. “James spends the entire year working towards a dream that puts his health and wellbeing at risk, for no financial gain,” says the director. “His determination and ambition towards something he finds true joy and purpose in is nothing short of inspiring.”

September 21, 2020

Marley Hansen

Marley Hansen

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