(Bump in the Road is a multi-part story detailing my attempts to get into wrestling school and the wrestling business. Part 1 details my personal background, why I loved wrestling growing up, and things I did before wrestling school, including backyard wrestling. Part 2 describes my brief attempt at a burgeoning school in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Part 3 dwells into my life’s lowest point, which is still wrestling-related. Part 4 begins my time at a legitimate wrestling school in Toronto. Part 5 is a side-tangent on the creative process.)
My wrestling fandom began shortly after WrestleMania III. I’m not exactly sure when, but I know it was before WM IV because I remember being angry at the infamous screwjob perpetrated by Ted Dibiase during a Hogan/Andre the Giant match on Saturday Night’s Main Event, which culminated in WM IV’s tournament. So I was around 9 years old when I started. I remember I wasn’t interested at first. A neighbourhood friend would stay overnight sometimes and want to watch Superstars on Saturday morning. To get me interested, he got me a Hulk Hogan action figure for my birthday, which I hated at first because I didn’t watch wrestling. But then I gave it a try and I was hooked.
Growing up on wrestling from there, it became an almost religious experience for me. Not only would I ensure I watched Superstars every single Saturday, but I’d get upset if I missed a show. I remember even being angry that CBS dared interrupt my wrestling for some stupid news broadcast about Iraq invading Kuwait. Who cares about tanks rolling into another country? I needed to see that Hacksaw Jim Duggan match, dammit! It was about priorities.
My obsession grew as I incorporated wrestling into my playtime. Not just the action figure collection that slowly grew, but wrestling in my basement living room, which was basically my domain as an only child. Using a previous year’s Halloween costume, I dubbed myself The Executioner, complete with a flying knee drop finisher by jumping off our beat up lounge chair (it had a good, strong spring to it). My victim? A My Pet Monster. Unfortunately, my flying knee drop was far too devastating, ripping open the throat of the stuffed toy. Time after time, my mother dutifully sewed the blue monster back together, only for my devastating finisher to rip the stitching again. Some time later, I acquired a giant plush Smurf from I believe a yard sale because I remember it didn’t have all its stuffing. The Smurf was not only three times as large as My Pet Monster, but also tougher. Gone were the days that Mom had to sew up my wrestling victims.
Living in Sydney, Cape Breton at the time, live wrestling didn’t occur very often. I recall the occasional Grand Prix Wrestling show (a Maritime wrestling staple). Dad drove me all the way to Halifax a few times for a WWF house show. I remember one main event was Dusty Rhodes vs. Macho Man Randy Savage in a cage. And Dad noted how the match time was shorter than cage’s construction during the break. But I still loved it. I remember getting souvenirs like a foam championship belt and a foam Hacksaw Jim Duggan 2×4. These became props that would go into my playtime.
As time went on and I got older, I met like-minded friends who loved wrestling, too. One of my oldest and best friends, Mitchell, was much more knowledgeable of the business than I was, introducing me to WCW, something I’d never even heard of before. In High School, Mitchell also created a home-brewed tabletop wrestling role-playing game in the same vein as Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, I know, we were huge nerds. But the game was a lot of fun for us and it still holds fond memories for me. To go even further into nerdiness, I was also a part of several online e-wrestling federations, such as NLWP with Kid Canuck and SCRA with Chase Hunter. They were a great way for me to hone my writing and creative skills.
By the time I made it to university, I was a full-on wrestling fanatic. All other interests, like my growing enjoyment of comic books, took a backseat to my fanaticism. This was around 1997, when WWF was about to break out into their hugely successful Attitude Era. Around the same time, a small group of friends of mine decided we wanted to do some wrestling of our own. We all lived in the same residence in Harrington Hall at St. Thomas University (in Fredericton, New Brunswick), so we created…The Harrington Wrestling Alliance.
Before moving there for university, a friend of mine had given me a homemade championship made of cardboard, electrical tape, and tinfoil. It was hilariously cheap looking, but it also gave the HWA a belt we could fight over. I went as far as adding some cheap brass letters bought from the Dollar Store.
Our first bout was meant just fun for in the university courtyard one Sunday afternoon. Surprisingly, though, we gained a small audience in our three-way match. Turns out, everyone still hung over after a Saturday night were awake just enough to come out and watch. Our basic booking plan was, “If one of us hits something really cool, that’s our finish.” Turns out, that cool thing was me hitting a Stunner on my friend Dube (pronounce doo-bee for all the pot he smoked). While I fell back, giving him the double deuce, my friend Murray fell on him and pinned him, stealing my belt. Son of a bitch!
We had another half-dozen “shows” (really, just one match), which I started promoting by printing out a little explanation of the story. I was the first HWA champion The Canadian Mammoth Kid Canuck, who was robbed – robbed, I say! – of his championship. Murray – imitating his favourite wrestler Sean “X-Pac” Waltman – was Mr. HWA and Dube was…well, Dube. A fourth friend, Darrin, was our referee but had some Rock-like mannerisms.
One hilarious moment happened during one of our more exciting shows. We’d brought on another two or three people to help us with shows, which turned into 4 or 5-way free for all elimination brawls. At one point, Murray disappeared. We kept wrestling. Suddenly, I heard a rumbling off in the distance and here came Mr. HWA with a giant, plastic recycling cart, heading in my direction. My plan was to flip right into it, but when he struck me, I keeled forward and looked inside to see a very wet and disgusting inside. Instead, I sold it by flying backwards. People told me afterwards that it looked like I didn’t expect it all. Murray was by far the most insane guy I knew, doing some insane kamikaze moves, like jumping off a barbeque that toppled over as he jumped. How he didn’t break his neck doing those kinds of things, I’ll never know.
During another match, we had invited a guy who it turned out had no clue what he was doing. See, we had been looking into wrestling’s background a little (not easy with 1998 internet technology), including the Secrets of Pro-Wrestling Revealed documentary, which taught us some bumping. For example, I could take a mean and totally safe piledriver, where after being piledriven, I’d roll away, sit up and then flop down with a dazed look. This guy, though – we’ll call him Brian since I forget his name – had no idea how to be safe or careful. We had a folding chair, for example, which Brian used to accidentally cut open Darrin on the forehead. When I realized this, I said to myself, “Okay, screw this guy,” and walloped him as hard as I could with the folding chair. Mind you, I did it as safely as I thought possible, hitting him with the big, flat end where you sit down. He stood there, dazed for a second, before dropping straight down like a tree falling. To add insult to injury, Murray came flying over with a Senton. Then Darrin came over…and did an Irish jig near Brian’s prone body. Apparently, Brian spent the rest of the day bed-ridden with a huge headache and crying. At the time, I had no empathy for him because of the danger he could have caused, but in retrospect, I really hope my chairshot didn’t give him a concussion.
Our best show, however, came at a cold February talent show in St. Thomas’ cafeteria. Everyone else was singing, reciting poetry, etc. Us? We booked and planned our match with every minute detail for hours before the show. I planned too hard, as I was exhausted and blown up early into the actual match. But for the first time, we had entrance music. Darrin came out like The Rock, music and promo included. Murray came out to X-Pac’s music, including mannerisms. Dube came out to The Brood’s song, complete with fake blood that he bit down on. And I, as champion at the time, came out last to Stone Cold’s music.
Usually, we wrestled on the courtyard grass. Here, we took several residence bed mattresses and used them as cushioning…which kept sliding all over the waxed, wooden floor. I was the first one eliminated as everyone teamed up on me. Darrin and Dube double suplexed me and Murray came off one of the tables for a “top rope” splash. Soon after, though, I returned to screw Murray over by throwing talcum powder in his face. Enraged, Murray and I brawled. We hadn’t planned an escape, though. A quick look around and I saw a side-door, so I grabbed Murray by the head and threw him out into the cold, following him. Darrin eventually won, but there was so much chaos (including an unplanned, impromptu post-match brawl with Murray and I returning) that I don’t think the audience knew who won.
I think we had one more show in the courtyard after that, but I don’t recall much. It was an insane, hilarious time for all of us. I honestly wish we could have taken more pictures or even filmed the matches, amateur and dangerous as they were. I look back now, at 35, and just roll my eyes at how ridiculous we were. I’m honestly surprised none of us got seriously hurt, like when Murray kicked me right in the face with a dropkick. Still, I can’t help but fondly remember the times. We did get an article about us in St. Thomas’ local paper, The Aquinian. I still have the clipping in my memory box, as a matter of fact. They even dubbed me the “legendary” Kid Canuck.
However, one thing was certain: I certainly didn’t give a damn about school. I had continued on the same habits I had in High School, which were barely paying attention, not putting much effort into the work, and barely passing. At 18, I had no idea why I was even there. I was seriously considering dropping out and maybe actually trying my hand at wrestling school. It’s not like there was anything in academics I was interested in at the time.
Around the same time, though, I came into contact with Devin Chittick, a Halifax-based guy a few years older than me. He talked about starting up his own school and was even in contact with a Maritime indie wrestler by the name of Sledgehammer Spike (and his son). The idea was far too tempting for me.
With no other ideas of what to do with my life, I dropped out of school early into my second year and moved to Halifax. Which is where we’ll continue with Part 2.