Few Albertans have impacted the province’s independent wrestling scene as much as TJ Wilson has. Whether it be through his own exploits with the legendary Stampede Wrestling, the Prairie Wrestling Alliance or training some of Western Canada’s current top stars, Wilson’s influence on the province is not only immeasurable today, but will be for decades to come.
Wilson and I chatted recently about breaking in with Stampede Wrestling, as well as his training of Albertan wrestling stars Michael Richard Blais, Brandon Van Danielson, and Alex Plexis.
On breaking in with his home-town promotion, Stampede Wrestling
Spencer Love: “Now, let’s get back to yourself as a professional wrestler, and let’s take it all the way back. Obviously, I mentioned right off the bat (you) wrestling for Stampede Wrestling, wrestling for the PWA. Just right off the bat, as an Albertan yourself, as someone who grew up here watching the wrestling scene, did it mean a little bit extra for you to break in with Stampede Wrestling? I guess the comparison I’d make is it’d be like an Edmontonian getting drafted by the Oilers.
TJ Wilson: “That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. It was very interesting that – so, I loved wrestling. I really liked wrestling, I’ll take that back, I really liked wrestling when I was a young kid, but I was not – my cousin showed it to me, and then I wanted to emulate some of the moves on my sisters, and then wrestling got banned in my house at a very young age. Fast forward a few years, and I go to school with Teddy Hart, and we were in the same class. He kept inviting me over to his house, which he called a gym, and when you’re a kid, the only gym you really know of is like a gymnasium where you play sports in school. So, finally, I give in and say ‘okay, I’ll come over,’ and I go to his house and he lived in a – his dad owned a gym, BJ’s Gym. He lived, the family lived in (the) quarters above the gym. So, he lived in a workout gym, which was mind-blowing to see at that age. Next thing you know, I’m going up to Stu’s (Hart’s) for Sunday dinner, and here’s Bret Hart, and here’s Owen Hart, and here’s Davey Boy (Smith), and here’s Jim Neidhart. It’s like ‘wha – what? I see these guys on TV, what’s going on?’ I just became engulfed in all aspects of it, in wrestling and in the Hart Family.
TJ: “I mean, to wrestle in Stampede, and especially that one year that Stampede Wrestling was back on TV in ’99-2000, that was such a cool thing because Stampede had gone off the air in ’89, and now here we were ten years later in ’99 restarting Stampede Wrestling TV. Things like that were very, very cool milestones in my career.”
Being a part of such a talented group of wrestlers in Alberta at that time
TJ: “I tried to. I try to live in the moment. It’s obviously a little – sometimes we don’t always see exactly what’s in front of us and we’re always looking ahead. And that’s all of us, and I’m as guilty (of) that as anybody. But, I tried to immerse myself and slow down and enjoy what was in front of me. I remember, for example, you bring up Chucky, Michael Richard Blais, and BVD, I remember saying like ‘hey,’ – so, there was a little break, and then Stampede Wrestling restarted in the fall of 2005, and I remember saying ‘hey, I want these kids that I’ve been training, I want them at ringside almost like New Japan with the Young Boys.’ I’d been going to New Japan at that time, and I was like ‘I want them kind of down there.’
TJ: “In my mind I knew, I thought I knew what I was creating. I ended up creating (a) way bigger thing than I had bargained for.”
SL: “As usually is want to happen.”
TJ: “Yes. In my mind, I was like ‘okay. What I’m gonna do is I’m gonna sneak these guys on to shows here and there and get them that experience.’ And they were young, 16, 17. But that was the same – I had my first match at 15, so I understood that you could. If you’re a kid, I felt, and someone kind of helped you along and kind of gave you a bit of your first break, you will never forget that.”
TJ: “I remember telling the guys that I was meeting with about that, and I said ‘if we use these kids once in a while – we don’t have to put them on shows if you feel that’s going to take away credibility from other things, that’s cool. But, if we use them sporadically, these guys will never forget. And, you know, believe it or not, we don’t have a giant budget, so we need people to come set up the ring and do stuff like that. These guys will come down, and they’ll be in that Ogden Legion all day long doing whatever you want them to do. They’ll set up the ring so they can get in the ring in the day and get some reps in. They did agree, hesitantly, but they did agree and I had an idea that maybe it was a triple-threat with Michael Richard Blais, who was Chucky at the time, BVD, and Plexis. I think it was like a triple threat, and I said ‘hey, here’s the thing, it can go 30 seconds, it can go four minutes, it doesn’t matter, and then Duke (Durrango) and Rik Viktor come and attack these kids and get heat for beating up, bumping around these kids.’ That’s was what I kind of sold them on, and everyone was cool with it. But then, you fast-forward, like, this is going ahead, but then you fast forward six, seven months, the most over guy on our shows was Chucky. I had no clue what I was getting myself into, but I knew these guys were really good, and I knew they wanted to get even better, and I knew they would – I was training them at the time, so I knew how hard these guys wanted to train and I knew how serious, how serious they took wrestling and how much they loved it.”
What he saw in Michael Richard Blais, Brandon Van Danielson, and Alex Plexis
TJ: “It was something funny, I came home from England in 2005, and I was home for two weeks. I’d been in England for four months, almost five months, then I was home for two weeks and I was going to Japan for the Best of the Super Juniors tour. I had like two weeks in between, and I was like trying to just get in shape, and I was training (with) my Japanese in the mornings, and then I would come in at night, and these guys were there training. I was like ‘okay.’ I said ‘hey, guys. I have two weeks right now, but when I come back from Japan if you guys are still here – I see you guys all the time, and you guys…’”
TJ: “I’d come in and I would do stuff. I knew who they were, but I wasn’t essentially training them hands-on at this point. I’d see something and say ‘hey, try this. Hey, try it like this.’ Chucky had been around for a while, he’d been around since he was a kid. Brandon, I kind of knew online or whatever, now he started coming around, and Plexis as well. So they trained with me a little bit during those two weeks, and then I said ‘hey guys, when I come home, if you guys are serious about this, let’s seriously train.’”
TJ: “I came home from Japan, and I was like ‘okay guys, so this is what I do with my Japanese trainer. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m not gonna be – you guys are kids, I’m not gonna be super hard on you, but I’m not gonna take it easy also, so we’ll find that balance.’ Man, those kids showed up every day and they trained hard every day. Right away, I was like ‘okay, this is really fun,’ and I think at that time maybe, I think maybe we were training twice a week, or three times and we bumped it up to four or five, because I was loving it. You started seeing, like, these guys were just, they were these young sponges that just, they absorbed everything. Every day at practice, they would just be that much better, as silly as that sounds, they were just so much better every day. I loved being a part of that. It inspired me to keep getting better, too, and not just kind of stagnate.”
Please credit Spencer Love/Love Wrestling with any transcriptions used.