For nearly eighty years, Alberta has been known as one of the world’s hotbeds of professional wrestling. Some of the industry’s biggest stars of the past 50 years have called the province home, including Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie, Gene Kiniski, and, of course, the seemingly endless graduates of the legendary Hart dungeon.
Since 2003, that legacy has been carried on by Michael Richard Blais. Known through the wrestling world as “God’s Gift to Wrestling,” Blais’ resumé more than speaks for itself. He’s been touted by the likes of Cody Rhodes as one of the top free agents in professional wrestling, wrestled Samoa Joe is his final independent match before moving on to the WWE, was name-checked by WWE following their 2019 Canadian tryout, and has carried championships across nearly every promotion he’s worked for.
Frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find an individual who’s contributed more to the Albertan wrestling scene over the past decade than MRB. Blais has done it all above the 49th parallel, whether it be training, booking, or wrestling against the best of the best in Canadian professional wrestling. However, unlike many of Canada’s greats, the man formerly known as “Chucky” doesn’t come from a wrestling family, a privileged background, or as the beneficiary of a well-timed resumé submission. Conversely, it’s the distinct lack of advantages that have helped inspire Blais’ journey to the apex of the Canadian wrestling scene.
The journey from an unathletic 13-year-old into one of the world’s top independent wrestlers has been anything but linear. It is, however, one of perseverance, determination, and grit.
This is the story of God’s Gift to Wrestling.
As is the story with so many Albertans, Blais’ introduction to professional wrestling came courtesy of Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
“My first memory in life is watching Bret Hart make his entrance when I was three years old,’ he reminisces. “When I saw Bret Hart, I was hooked instantly. He was the man. I wanted to be just like him; I told my mom and my dad when I was three that I was going to be a professional wrestler.”
Though Blais was immediately intrigued, it was still a few years before the future God’s Gift to Wrestling was sold on stepping inside the ring himself. In fact, it was only after attending his first live wrestling show – Stu Hart’s 80th birthday show, to be exact – that the then-five-year-old MRB made the decision to train in the art of wrestling. While the in-ring action itself was certainly enough to sell Blais on learning the sport – “Bret Hart versus Davey Boy Smith was the main event, which is one of the coolest matches I’ve ever seen still,” he says – it was a chance encounter with a future wrestling legend that he remembers as his tipping point.
“During that show, I run away from my mom and I end up backstage. X-Pac – the 1-2-3 Kid at the time, Sean Waltman – he finds this poor little kid looking for his mom crying and whatever,” Blais states. “(He) takes me to lost and found. He stays with me. For some reason, I remember that as the moment where it really clicked, where it’s like, I’m going to do whatever I can to see as much of this as I can.’”
“I didn’t want to be a doctor. I didn’t want to be an astronaut. I did not want to be anything else but a pro wrestler.”
Stepping Inside the Ring
By the time Blais turned ten, whatever spark there had been to step inside the ring had developed into a full-fledged wildfire. After months of fruitless searches, it was an encounter with Diana Hart that provided his first opportunity to dip his toe in the waters of pro wrestling.
“I started constantly looking to get into professional wrestling training actually in the year 2000 when I was 10 years old,” chuckles Blais. “Diana Hart came out with a book about the Hart Family and wrestling, and I went to get the book signed because I was obsessed with going to signings all the time.”
“Diana wrote down the phone number for Matrats,” he continues. “I tried getting in with Matrats. That fell through, because it ended up right around the time I was calling them, that was when Matrats closed. So that just never materialized.”
However, it was evidence enough for Blais that training in Calgary was a viable option.
“From that moment on, I knew there was local wrestling, and I knew there was training, and I knew there was something for kids somewhere, so I was constantly on the computer, anytime I could searching for stuff.”
Yet again, it was a Stu Hart birthday show that catapulted Blais to the next step in his wrestling career. In 2003, Blais attended the Hart family patriarch’s 88th birthday show, where he was introduced to a man who would not only train the future God’s Gift to Wrestling but become his mentor.
“[At] Stu Hart’s 88th birthday show, TJ Wilson and Harry Smith versus AJ Styles and Black Dragon (was) the main event. After the show, I get to talk to Teddy and TJ and I find out BJ’s Gym has a wrestling school for kids still. Literally, three days later I was training.”
TJ Wilson and Brandon Van Danielson
While Blais had made his first foray into the world of pro graps, his introduction to training certainly wasn’t a glamorous one.
“When I first started wrestling training in 2003, it was through Teddy Hart, and there wasn’t really a ton of structure to it,” Blais reminisced when asked about his introduction to the squared circle. “The training happened in BJ’s gym and the idea was that it was going to be a kid’s camp, but there was no actual trainer. Every so often I get like Pete Wilson (who) will come, who’s the man and he’ll show me a couple of bumps. (Later), a guy by the name of Ravenous Randy (Myers) took an interest in a couple of us and figured he’d teach us how to do the bare basics of bumping, headlocks, things like that.”
Though his first year of in-ring training wasn’t perhaps as glamorous as expected, that all changed with an introduction to Brandon Van Danielson.
“He’s the yin to my yang, I guess,” says Blais when asked about Van Danielson. “(It’s an) ‘I’m not there if he’s not there’ sort of thing, because when you look right down, like when you pull everything back and go right to the moment. If Brandon’s not at BJ’s gym working his ass off with me, TJ doesn’t take an interest in me, TJ doesn’t start training me. If I’m not there with Brandon, TJ doesn’t take an interest in Brandon., (and) TJ doesn’t start training Brandon.”
“Without both of us, we’re not anything that we are now.”
TJ, of course, is TJ Wilson, better known throughout the world as Tyson Kidd. The final graduate of the legendary Hart Dungeon, the then-Stampede Wrestling star was in the early days of his own professional wrestling career, traveling around the globe and making a name for himself as one of the top in-ring technicians in the world.
“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,” Wilson commented in a recent interview. “You started seeing these guys were these young sponges that just 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.”
“He just kept telling us that day what do to and we kept doing it.” Blais interjects. “Eventually, he had to head back to England for a month, but he told us that when he came back from England, he would start training us.”
Eventually, that’s exactly what happened. However, there was no easing into Wilson’s training as both Van Danielson and Blais learned all too quickly.
“So he comes back from Japan, he sees us and he’s like, ‘hey, I want you to do this many squats.’ I think he said 50. And we were like, ‘well, can we just do a hundred? (Because) isn’t that what you do with Tokyo Joe in the morning?’ And TJ is like, ‘okay, if you want to do a hundred squats, do them right now.’ So we did a hundred squats and we were dead afterward, but we did them and he was like, ‘okay, I’m training you’. That’s when it happens.”
“From May of 2005, Brandon van Danielson and myself, we’re TJ Wilson’s guys now. And we’re training with him, it starts as two days a week. It turns into three days a week, four days a week. Suddenly we’re going five days a week because TJ is having fun training us. And that’s just like, yeah. Off to the races at that point.”
“I’d come in and I would do stuff,” Wilson reminisces. “Chucky had been around for a while, he’d been around since he was a kid. 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. Then, you fast-forward, like six, seven months, the most over guy on our shows was Chucky.”
“TJ wasn’t supposed to be our trainer,” finishes Blais. “(He did it) because he’s the man, and he’s the greatest guy I know.”
First matches, Stampede, and becoming God’s Gift to Wrestling
Mere months after beginning his formal training, Blais – along with Van Danielson and fellow trainee Alex Plexis – were scheduled for their first match for the legendary Stampede Wrestling.
“(So) TJ starts training me, Brandon van Danielson and Alex Plexis in May 2005,” remarks Blais. “October, 2005, the opening match of the first Stampede Wrestling show after it got rebooted… is myself versus Brandon van Danielson versus Alex Plexis.”
While the booking may have taken Stampede management some convincing – ““You don’t have to use them all the time. You don’t have to do this, you don’t have to do that, but I promise you if you just give them an opportunity every so often, they will come and they will do whatever you ask them to do, just so they can have a chance,” Blais remembers Wilson stating at the time – it was an investment that paid dividends hand-over-fist for the promotion. Within months, Blais had become the most popular member of the Stampede Wrestling roster.
“Within like six months people were chanting, like, ‘(we) paid to see Chucky,’” he laughs. “It was kind of an adult sort of show at that point, they were chanting like, ‘fuck ‘em up Chucky,’ and shit like that. I was legitimately the most over guy on the show. It was wild.”
Though perhaps the final iteration of Stampede Wrestling isn’t as highly-regarded as it’s mid-century heyday, it’s a time Blais remembers fondly.
“That was the last official reboot of Stampede Wrestling,” Blais reminisces. “I have so many cool, weird history things from Stampede. Like I’m legitimately the youngest ever British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Champion. Nobody else in the world can say that. I was the first ever Young Lions Cup Champion for that company. Nobody else in the world can say that.”
The Prairie Wrestling Alliance
Despite featuring names like Blais, Van Danielson, Duke Durrango and Chris Steele at the time, Stampede Wrestling closed its doors for good in 2007. Unfortunately, the promotion’s closure left both Blais and Van Danielson looking for a new home base. Luckily, mere hours away in Edmonton, the Prairie Wrestling Alliance was quickly earning a reputation as one of Canada’s top independent promotions.
It was the perfect location for a rising star like Blais. However, much like his first booking with Stampede, it took a little convincing.
“What happened with that is TJ gets signed to WWE in December of 2006,” states Blais. “Him and Nattie leave in February, 2007. Stampede closes in March, 2007. So me and Brandon, we don’t have anywhere to wrestle. We’d been trying to get on with the PWA for a year at this point. Kurt’s thing was like, ‘I don’t want kids on my show. They don’t look like wrestlers this, that.’”
However, yet again Blais’ persistence paid off – with a little help from his friend and mentor. “TJ though, because TJ has always been the guy for us, sends Kurt a message around May, 2007, and he’s like, ‘hey, these are my guys. They want this more than anything else. So, if you do anything for me – I’ll still always put over your company, you were always good to me, but if you do anything for me, book these two, you have to book these two.’ And, to Kurt’s credit, he booked us the month later and he has been the man and treated us well ever since then and put us on every single show. Even when other people didn’t want us booked on shows, Kurt put us on shows.”
It was an investment that’s provided more than it’s fair share of returns. In his now-13 years with the Prairie Wrestling Alliance, Blais has earned a reputation as one of the world’s finest independent wrestlers. His decade-plus run with the promotion has earned him three runs with the PWA Heavyweight Championship and matches against the likes of Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe in the latter’s 2nd-last independent date before signing with WWE. Even some of professional wrestling’s most powerful executives have gone out of their way to praise the abilities of Michael Richard Blais.
“The best compliment I’ve ever gotten in wrestling was the first time I wrestled Cody,” Blais comments as his eyes light up. “Afterwards, he came up to me and he said it was just like being in the ring with TJ and like, I swear, I gave him a big hug and I thanked him, and nobody knows this, but I went off into a room afterwards and I legitimately like cried for a second. I texted TJ and I was like, ‘this is like mind blowing.’ It does mean a lot for my peers to say that stuff to me because they know. It’s cool.”
The Big Leagues
As one of Canada’s top independent stars, it was only a matter of time before the WWE came calling. However, his debut for the world’s biggest wrestling promotion was all but glamourous.
“The very first time I worked for them (WWE) in any form or fashion was February 2015. They did house shows in Calgary and Edmonton and I was a Rosebud. If anybody was there, you’ll remember a Rosebud got thrown to the ground after Adam Rose’s match. That was me. That was the first time I did anything for them.”
While it may not have been the sexiest WWE debut out there, it was a foot in the door and one that Blais took every opportunity to utilize.
“After that, it was almost like off to the races where I just constantly kept trying to do more and more with them all the time,” he comments. “So now I’m becoming that annoying guy who just is constantly emailing them like ‘hey, is there a spot here? Hey, is there a spot here? Hey, how do I get to try out? Hey, how do I do this? How do I do that,’ until eventually I got an email one day where it (was) like, ‘hey, we’re in Seattle and Portland. How close is that to you?’ I’m not going to be like, well, actually it’s like a 20 hour drive.’ I’m not going to say that to them. I just replied with like, ‘oh, that’s very close. I’ll be there.’ So like I was booked on the Seattle and Portland RAW and SmackDown then.”
It was Seattle that Blais made his Monday Night RAW debut, teaming with two other men to take on the fledgling Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman. Evidently, Blais’ performance was enough to impress those in the back, with matches against the likes of #DIY and Hideo Itami checked off of the proverbial to-do list for the man known as God’s Gift to Wrestling.
Despite his appearances for the WWE, including a prominent spot in WWE’s Canadian tryout in August 2019, a contract with the monolith is still something that’s evaded Blais’ grasp thus far. Though disappointing, it’s only served as motivation for Blais to continue to impact the Canadian wrestling scene at every possible touchpoint.
“Yeah, it sucked. I’m not going to lie. It sucked,” he admits. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. That first day, I was like, ‘this is the worst thing of all time.’ But then, this is where it comes into mindset and stuff like that, is I very much – I’m not a fan of wallowing in self pity, and I’m very much about looking for positives and everything.”
“Sure. I could sit here and be upset that I didn’t get signed right now. Or, I can act like it’s almost like a weight lifted off my shoulders, where I’ve been trying all these years, all these years just to get this tryout, just to get this tryout, I’m going to get signed off as tryout, and sure, I didn’t get signed off the tryout, but I got the tryout and I know another one will come.”
“At the same time, thankfully for me, we started doing training in Edmonton and we got a new building and there are people coming to training. That was the moment where I realized like, ‘shit, I have like a lot to give here still.’”
Ironically, it’s Blais’ time spent training that has not only served to keep him grounded, but reignited his passion for impacting the next generation of Canadian wrestling superstars. These days, Blais can be found training damn near every day at the Top Talent Wrestling Academy in Edmonton, Alberta as he bides his time awaiting his official return to the ring.
So: is there anything left in Alberta for God’s Gift to Wrestling?
“For me specifically?” Blais remarks following a long draw of his ever-present coffee. “No, I don’t. And that’s just being honest. For me specifically, selfishly, I don’t have anything left to accomplish here. I just have keep to going and keeping being me, and keep working my ass off, whatever, but I feel like I have an obligation, and what I want more than anything else is to make the next generation better. What I have left to accomplish here, when it comes right down to it, is training people and teaching people.”
“Until I’m – until that moment comes where I move on from here, making every single person better than they were before is what I want more than anything else. Being able to have somebody that says ‘Michael Richard Blais trained me,’ and everybody thinks they’re the best wrestler around here. (That) they’re the best wrestler in Canada, and they’re saying that about me: that’s like what I have left to accomplish. Passing on what I have and making everybody better. That’s what drives me now. That’s my motivation while I’m here.”