Edmonton

Edmonton wrestling super fan to be honoured after losing fight to cancer

An Edmonton woman who loyally attended Prairie Wrestling Alliance events despite living with an oxygen tank is being honoured by the wrestling community.

'We're going to really remember her as the great person she is, not just the great fan she was'

Kay Johansen (centre) takes on pro wrestler Nizar Watfa, a.k.a. Shiek Ackbar Shabazz, outside the ring at the Northgate Lions Rec Centre in 2015. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

An Edmonton woman who loyally attended Prairie Wrestling Alliance events despite living with an oxygen tank is being honoured by the wrestling community.

Kay Johansen died Oct. 8 after fighting cancer for eight months.

PWA co-owner and promoter, Kurt Sorochan, said he was informed of Johansen's passing a few hours after she died.

He refers to her as family.

"For me, it was pretty devastating," Sorochan said. "A special person like that only comes along once in a lifetime."

In 2015, CBC News reported on Johansen's connection to the Prairie Wrestling Alliance. Johansen had been waiting for a double-lung transplant for more than a decade. 

She credited wrestling for keeping her hopeful. Even on days when her lungs bled, she still showed up cheering on her favourite wrestlers and booing the heels.

"PWA saved me, because I got to yell; I got to argue; I got to cheer. All that frustration and hope and that was put into yelling back at the show," Johansen said in 2015.

In close to 12 years of attending PWA shows held every two months in Edmonton, Sorochan estimates Johansen missed only a dozen, mostly due to health reasons.

"She was unique in that she shared her life with us.

"She shared her struggles with us," he said. "She just became a part of the family she became like a sister to us."

A 10-bell salute

The ringside seat where Johansen always sat, will remain empty forever as a tribute, Sorochan said.

"She just kind of became a champion to us and then on top of that having to battle cancer, she became our champion," he said. "She was special to us. She was our number one fan." 

"We're going to really remember her as the great person she is, not just the great fan she was."

At PWA's next event on Oct. 26 — in wrestling tradition — a ringside bell will be rung 10 times to honour Johansen, Sorochan said.

@Travismcewancbc

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

About the Author

Travis McEwan

Videojournalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist, who has not won any awards. Originally from Churchill, Manitoba, he's spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

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