Watch Vancouver pro wrestlers teach Matt Galloway how to run, grapple and bump in the ring
'Wrestlers are the closest thing real life has to superheroes,' says wrestler Scotty Mac
Just off the King George highway in Surrey, B.C., an unassuming brick warehouse sits, giving no hints to the unusual work environment inside: a cold, stark room dominated by two wrestling rings.
This is the Lion's Gate Dojo, where professional wrestlers from Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW) train and prepare for their shows across Western Canada.
The Current's Matt Galloway laced up his sneakers and stepped into the ring for a crash course in how wrestlers run, grapple and bump around the canvas, guided by 20-year wrestling veteran and ECCW co-owner Scotty Mac.
ECCW opened in 1996, and over the years grew to become one of Canada's most recognized independent wrestling organizations.
Some performers currently in the U.S.-based juggernaut World Wrestling Entertainment, including Kyle O'Reilly, Tyler Breeze and the Singh Brothers, either got their start or spent parts of their early careers with ECCW.
Mac says that independent wrestling has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to smaller companies' ability to promote their shows to a wide audience online.
In years prior, "it was really, really difficult to make a living in pro wrestling if you weren't working for Vince McMahon," he said, referring to the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Now, promotions like ECCW enjoy a healthy regular audience performing in venues with audiences of a few hundred to 1,000 people, including at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.
"It's like the difference between … seeing U2 in the Rogers Arena, or Coldplay or Nickelback — you know, the guys with the machine behind them, or seeing your favourite indie band at the Commodore [Ballroom]," he said.
Mac's love affair with pro wrestling began on his eighth birthday, when he went to see his first live show. The evil foreign tag team of Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik faced off against the heroic British Bulldogs in the main event.
"I think it was the combination of the the big personalities and the theatrics and the costumes," he recalled.
"Wrestlers are the closest thing real life has to superheroes because we intentionally suspend our disbelief and get emotionally invested into what most people are seeing as someone doing something that most people can't.
"And it's a magic that you can't find anywhere else."
Mac bristles somewhat at comments about wrestling being "fake" — because, he says, most fans have long moved beyond that debate.
"The people that hate wrestling, it's like they really think that all those people sit in the audience are all stupid and are believing everything they're watching. They don't love it because they believe it. They love it because they appreciate the performances," he said.
"You want to put on a performance that even if every audience member has watched every 'Secrets of Pro Wrestling' video ... they're so emotionally invested … because of the two characters and the believability on our faces and in our reactions, that they completely forget about it."
Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Matt Meuse.