Ottawa wrestler set for next bout after winning fight of his life

Ottawa wrestler Devon Nicholson, whose dream of wrestling in the WWE was crushed when he contracted hepatitis C during a match in 2007, is getting another chance to make his big break this Friday.

Devon Nicholson, a.k.a. Hannibal, contracted hep C during wrestling match in 2007

Hannibal talks to Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco on the eve of his televised Lansdowne Park fight. 1:44

Ottawa wrestler Devon Nicholson, whose dream of competing with the big boys was crushed when he contracted hepatitis C during a match in 2007, is getting another chance.

Nicholson, 35, known in the wrestling world as Hannibal, fights Friday at Lansdowne Park's Aberdeen Pavilion in a series of matches to be filmed by IMPACT Wrestling. 

IMPACT is the closest rival of World Wrestling Entertainment, the organization Nicholson had hoped to one day join, so Friday's fight is a big deal.

IMPACT broadcasts in such major markets as the U.S., U.K. and India, so this appearance could lead to bigger opportunities, Nicholson said in an interview with CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"Their YouTube channel that has over a million subscribers. It's a lot of recognition to have a match with them," he said. 

Friday's fight certainly won't be the biggest of Nicholson's life, however. His fight to overcome hepatitis C, and the subsequent court battle against the wrestler responsible for him contracting the disease, far outweigh Friday's smackdown.  

A judged ruled in 2014 that wrestling legend Abdullah the Butcher gave Devon Nicholson hepatitis C during the 2007 match.

Bloody bout led to court battle

"I was actually offered a WWE contract in 2009, and it was during the pre-contract testing that they discovered the hepatitis C was in my system," Nicholson said. 

In court Nicholson claimed he contracted the disease during a 2007 match against Lawrence Robert Shreve, the WWE hall-of-famer who wrestles under the name Abdullah the Butcher. Nicholson told All In A Day that during the match Shreve, who had hepatitis C, cut himself with a razor blade, then cut Nicholson with the same blade.

Nicholson sued Shreve for $2.3 million in damages, and won in 2014.

He said the fight to collect that money has been long and difficult, but setting the record straight in court still made it worthwhile.

Warning: Video contains images some viewers may find disturbing. 2:21

Thought career was over

After contracting hepatitis C, Nicholson said he thought his wrestling career was over. 

He went through two rounds of treatment. The first, a standard treatment, wasn't successful and put him through hell, he said. The drugs left him feeling depressed.

"I'm a wrestler, I have tough skin," Nicholson said. "But I think someone under the same treatment, that maybe [didn't have] such a thick skin as I do, it could have gone very bad for them. Considering suicide is one of the potential side effects."

Then former WWE champion Billy Graham, who also had hepatitis C and had just undergone a liver transplant as a result of the disease, put Nicholson in touch with his doctor at the Mayo Clinic who suggested a new experimental treatment.

It had terrible side effects including insomnia and weight loss, and Nicholson said those weeks of treatment were the hardest of his life. 

But it worked. Nicholson was cured of the disease, and is living to fight another day — literally. 

The wrestling series at Lansdowne Park wraps up Saturday, Nov. 11. 

He's wrestling Friday night at Aberdeen Pavilion as part of Impact Wrestling's international tapings called "Bound for Glory". 12:42