KENTVILLE, NS - He had planned to ride off quietly into the sunset but that’s not exactly how his last professional match played out.
34-year-old Mike Reid of Winnipeg Manitoba, perhaps better known as midget professional wrestling star Prince Akeem, decided prior to his April 28 match at the Kentville Centennial Arena that it would be his last. Reid said an accumulation of nagging injuries led to his decision.
Following the match against long-time opponent Short Sleeve Sampson (Daniel DiLucchio), Sampson got on the microphone and – much to Akeem’s surprise - announced that his opponent had just wrestled his final match.
Sampson paid homage to Akeem’s contributions in the ring and bowed to his opponent. The entire Ultimate Championship Wrestling (UCW) roster emptied the dressing room and surrounded the ring, joining the fans in a standing ovation for a visibly surprised and emotionally moved Akeem. The wrestler said he would never forget it.
“I appreciate it more than they will ever know because I wasn’t expecting something like that,” Akeem said in a backstage interview immediately following the in-ring celebration.
He said that although he’s worked hard to make fans detest his “bad guy” persona, he figures he must have done something right to have them stand up and thank him as they did in Kentville. Akeem said he didn’t realize that he’d made such an impression that everyone would feel the need to say goodbye in such a public way. Akeem said the show of respect illustrated what wrestling has meant to him – having a second family – and he loved it.
“The fans in Kentville blew me away,” he said. “The fact that they stood up means so much to me. I do it for them.”
Akeem started training to become a professional wrestler in 2000. After a couple of years in the ring, he decided to return to school. However, the lure of the ring proved to be too strong and, four years ago, he began touring with Sampson.
With Sampson as a mentor, he said he went from being afraid of being in a room with 12 people to travelling the world and performing in front of thousands of fans. Akeem said Sampson took him under his wing and taught him how to become a success.
The experience meant making a lot of friends in the wrestling business and getting to visit places he never would have otherwise seen. Akeem said he had fun the whole time and he couldn’t ask for more. Although he recognizes that you “never say never” in wrestling, it’s time to start a new chapter in life.
Akeem said he has encountered people who don’t think it’s right for little people to engage in the entertainment genre known as midget wrestling. However, he considers this ignorance. He has found that those who have a problem with it and who have the most to say about it “have no dog in the fight” and have little insight.
Akeem said he’s proud to be a midget wrestler and he isn’t insulted by the term. It was his dream come true, not something that he was forced to do.
“It’s midget wrestling,” Akeem said. “If anyone should be offended by a midget, it should be me. I’m a midget and what we do is we promote midget wrestling.”
He said that, like their larger counterparts, those involved in midget wrestling are highly trained professionals. They put their bodies on the line and wrestle every night to entertain the fans. Akeem said, “it isn’t midget bowling.”
A fan’s perspective
19-year-old Tyler Langille of Black Rock was among the fans on hand for the April 28 show in Kentville. He said his dad got him interested in wrestling when he was a little boy, some 15 or 16 years ago. Langille said the Maritime wrestling scene is growing and UCW in particular has improved a lot over the past couple of years.
“Maritime wrestling is bringing in some of the best talent in the world,” Langille said.
His favourite UCW talent is “Badness Personified” J.P. Simms, former UCW champion. Langille said he likes that Simms is a family man and he believes that Simms is “probably one of the best wrestlers UCW has.”
Langille said that perhaps his favourite part of the April 28 show was the inter-gender championship match where former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar James Ellsworth successfully defended against Maddison Miles. Following the match, Ellsworth told Miles that he believes that she’s a future WWE superstar. Miles is regarded as one of the fastest rising female stars in Canada today.
Returning in July
The April 28 show in Kentville featured the top independent pro wrestling talent from across the Maritimes and WWE Hall of Fame inductees Bushwhacker Luke and Tony Atlas. UCW owner, promoter and CEO Chuck Martin said everyone around him is saying that UCW has put Maritime wrestling back on the map.
He said the current product and talent is resonating with the fans. Martin described the shows put on in Moncton, Spryfield and Kentville in late April as “an ace tour.” There were great crowds and the promotion signed a local TV deal while in New Brunswick. The show in Moncton was a first for UCW.
Martin said the success is a testament to all the hard work that he and everyone associated with the promotion has put in. He said that it’s quite remarkable in this day and age for an independent Maritime pro wrestling promotion to draw approximately 1,800 people over three nights. Martin plans to bring UCW back to Kentville in late July as part of the promotion’s next tour.