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High Impact Wrestling has been putting on events across Canada for 20 years and is the longest continuously-running professional wrestling organization in the country. Photo illustration by Cory Coleman

Saskatchewan’s premier wrestling organization is celebrating 20 years of blood, sweat and tears -- literally.

 High Impact Wrestling (HIW) is one of the oldest continuously-active professional wrestling organizations in Canada. Known for its high intensity, hard-hitting, "Saskatchewan-style" wrestling, HIW was founded Regina, Sask. in 1998 and still puts on events around the country.

 Mike Roberts owns HIW and has been passionate about professional wrestling since he was five-years-old.

 “Wrestling is a pretty tough professional sport. It’s not the ballet everyone thinks it is,” said Roberts.

 “I’ve broken every finger, every toe,” Roberts said, listing his injuries.

 “I [wrestled] with a broken back for a short period of time. I have dislocated a rib, I have torn my pec muscles away from my chest. I’ve really banged up my body,” he said.

 “It takes quite a skilled individual to become a professional wrestler, it’s not just jumping around and waving your arms and screaming at the top of your lungs. There’s a great deal of work that goes into it,” said Roberts.

 Roberts, who also works in sales and has five kids, says most wrestlers on the independant level only make between $50 to $200 per show, despite the constant beatings.  

 “It’s definitely a labour of love,” he said. “Most [wrestlers] love professional wrestling and they’re very passionate wrestlers.”

 “They’re some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met in my life.”

 Roberts also cleared up some of the misconceptions around professional wrestling.

 “The word ‘fake’ is kind of a four letter word in the wrestling business and most wrestlers don’t appreciate that word, not because we’re trying to push the sport as an actual competitive contest, but more so because it doesn’t accurately describe what the guys do in the ring and the amount of abuse that the guys take,” said Roberts.

 “The word fake doesn’t describe it because none of my injuries have been fake.”

 Another misconception, says Roberts, is the ring itself.

 “The ring is not a trampoline. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions,” he said.

 “It’s basically some metal beams going across and then some wood overtop and a layer of material, and that’s pretty much it, so you definitely take a beating just hitting that mat.”

 Although wrestlers beat up on each other in the ring, and sometimes outside of the ring, Roberts says there is a high level of respect between wrestlers.

 “You kind of trust the other guy not to drop you on your head and stuff like that too, so there’s a big level of trust that’s involved,” said Roberts.

 Drew Dalby has been involved in the independent wrestling scene for about 12 years.

 He has done everything from commentary, ring announcing, managing and wrestling.

 "Wrestling is a brotherhood,“ said Dalby. "Some of my best friends in the world are people I've met through the wrestling business."

 Even with the risks and time commitments professional wrestling requires, Dalby and Roberts say it is all worthwhile when the proverbial curtain rises.

 “For a guy like me, it’s an opportunity to be a superhero,” Roberts said proudly with chuckle.

 “I love the pageantry of it. I love the show. Like, [it] really gets my adrenaline going when the crowd is out there and they’re having a great time and they’re loud and you get to perform in front of the people,” said Roberts.

 “It becomes an outlet, right, just like music, just like anything,” he added.

“Not to mention," said Dalby. "Being boo'd by 1000 people, not because you're bad at something, but because you're good at being the bad guy. It's the coolest feeling in the world."

Although wrestlers have different characters, names, costumes and wrestling styles, Roberts says they all have the same goal: show the fans a good time.

 “[Fans] can come out and they can just scream and yell and have a good time, do your thing and be yourself,” he said.

 “I really want to make sure that person’s involved and connected to what I’m doing because that ,in essence, is exactly what [wrestlers] do,” said Roberts.

 As for HIW’s events, Roberts says fans will experience a bit of everything.

 “You can expect all the action you can handle, a lot of drama, some comedy, and just about everything in between,” he said.
HIW’s next event is Feb. 16 at the Hungarian Club in Regina.

Tickets are available on the HIW website.