Anyone who’s dreamed of standing on the ropes and body slamming a professional wrestler now has their shot.

Totally Arctic Wrestling is hosting a training camp slated for the Youth Centre from Oct. 18
to Oct. 22 with pros MAD DOG Marty Sugar and Ace Redmann Junior. It costs $100 for the camp, to help cover airfare, performance fees and accommodations for the wrestlers.

At the drop-in camp, the two wrestlers will walk trainees through the basics of microphone skills and how to create convincing performances.

Totally Arctic Wrestling founders Dez Loreen and Wade Blu Gruben practice a hold in front of the Friendship Centre on Monday.
Nick Pearce / NNSL Photo

According to Dez Loreen – co-founder of the group with Wade Blu Gruben – it’s the training required to meet the physical demands of selling every hit and hold in a wrestling match.

The camp will also help prepare Loreen, Gruben and the participants for a live wrestling show in November, where they’ll step in the ring as pro wrestlers.

Loreen, however, acknowledged the pair aren’t top-level athletes. That’s why production elements – the stage, the lighting and the characters – are vital.

For the two founders, the narrative of their characters will compensate. That’s because wrestling is closer to a dance than a fight, Loreen said. That said, while there’s safety precautions, wrestlers are thrown around as much as any fighter.

The training camp tackles both sides as it prepares residents to be performers and athletes.
To draw an audience in, Loreen said he wants it to “believe this guy wants this. I’m here, I’m seeing the emotions. What we’re going to learn from this minicamp … is how to convey that physically in the ring.”

Months in the works, plans for the November show have grown considerably to include several more local wrestlers and a boxing match.

Originally, Loreen and Gruben planned to simply film themselves competing in a wrestling
match and dubbing in commentary, complete with pre-match interviews. Afterward, friends
expressed an interest and the pair decided to expand it into a show.

Meanwhile, to bolster the storytelling aspect, they created a YouTube channel to develop the narrative of their pro wrestlers. “Here’s who’s wrestling and why they’re wrestling. Here’s why you should care,” Loreen said about establishing their characters ahead of the show.

For him, the overwrought drama of a wrestling show opens the door to discuss some of
life’s challenges. It re-positions social issues as entertainment and makes them approachable.

Loreen’s character in the show, for example, was incarcerated for non-violent crimes, but learned to fight in prison.

“We’re all struggling here and I think by creating a dialogue of some of the stuff here, we can actually get away with it,” Loreen said. “Now he’s out of jail and he’s just going to inflict his pain upon everybody. It just speaks to the whole ‘we’re not treating people in jail’ (element).”

The larger than life scale of a wrestling show takes on soap opera proportion and becomes
satire. With several youth expressing interesting in the show and next week’s wrestling camp, Loreen said entertainment training just as much as its physical
boot camp.

It applies equally to aspiring entertainers and athletes and lends the training needed to bring those skills in front of an audience.

“There’s no ceiling for anybody here, especially in the age of the internet,” Loreen said. “People can be at home and do things that they want. That’s what we’re trying to do here: create opportunities.”

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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