When people think of professional wrestling, names like Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin come to mind.
But on Prince Edward Island when wrestling is brought up, one name many people think of is Kowboy Mike Hughes.
Hughes was born on P.E.I., but has travelled all over the world in his 21 years as a professional wrestler.
"You can throw a dart at a map and I have probably wrestled there," Hughes said.
Hughes' career started back in 1998, when he was approached at a local gym by former CFL player Glenn Kulka, who needed a workout partner.
Kulka was in town learning the ropes with Grand Prix Wrestling and asked Hughes if he had ever considered wrestling professionally.
Hughes told him he was interested, but thought he was too small.
"At the time I was 6-5, like 280 [pounds] of solid muscle," he said.
Kulka told Hughes to send a picture to a wrestling promoter he knew, so he did.
"Next thing I knew, I was packed up and heading for Shediac to learn to be a pro wrestler," he said.
Hughes slams his rival Titus, who he meets inside a steel cage on P.E.I. Dec. 6. (Red Rock Wrestling)
Hughes has been to England, Scotland, Wales, India, Puerto Rico and all over North America.
But for the last 10 years he has been wrestling mostly in his home province with a company called Red Rock Wrestling that he helped form in 2009.
Hughes said RRW is a family-friendly wrestling company and that works well for the Island, because wrestling has been ingrained in the culture.
"Islanders will support Islanders and they'll support Islanders that are chasing their dream," he said.
Hughes said wrestling was one of the most entertaining shows when he was a kid.
"Pro wrestling was what you did on Saturday, with Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling and Grand Prix Wrestling used to come through here and do regular tours," he said.
I'm 45 years old and I feel incredible. — Kowboy Mike Hughes
Zack Doyle, who also wrestles with RRW, knows all about Maritime wrestling culture. He and his father were trained by Hughes.
"My father Rick Doyle, a.k.a. Trash Canyon, started wrestling when I was probably about nine or 10 years old," he said.
"Just being around the business and being around the professional wrestlers, I just kind of fell in love with wrestling. I think most kids do."
Doyle stuns his opponent at a Red Rock Wrestling event. (Red Rock Wrestling)
Wrestling is like a live-action comic book, Doyle said.
"I just never really fell out of it even though I am 27 years old, I'm still in love with it," he said.
Hughes loves wrestling, but has always had a contingency plan — something that came from some advice from his mentor Ángel Acevedo, better known in the ring as The Cuban Assassin.
He said Acevedo told him he should take time to go back to "the real world" and take a couple months out of the year to work a normal job.
"I would always go back and work in mental health and addictions in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here in Charlottetown. I would work in the emergency room as an orderly," he said.
If they sit there and they are quiet about everything, I am not doing my job correctly. — Brian Langille
Hughes still keeps his day job, along with many of the other wrestlers with the promotion.
Becoming someone else
Brian Langille works in IT at Holland College in Charlottetown, but at RRW events he morphs into character, playing the owner of the company determined to keep the top title from Hughes.
"It's kind of a release for me," Langille said.
In real life Langille is nothing like his character, but when his music hits, he becomes an obnoxious evil wrestling owner, he said.
"When I break that curtain and go through for the five minutes, the 10 minutes, whatever it is I am out there for, I am a completely different person and I love it. I think it is fantastic," he said.
Many people in his everyday life don't understand why he likes being booed by a couple hundred people.
"If they sit there and they are quiet about everything, I am not doing my job correctly," he said.
Hughes said his character is an extension of himself — community driven and striving to uphold the same values many Islanders do.
Friday night fight
Hughes still loves wrestling after 21 years, but he doesn't do it as much as he used to.
"For the first 12 years of my wrestling career all I did was wrestle. I just went from one territory from the next," he said.
There is a special kind of electricity, there is a buzz in the air the minute that cage goes up. — Kowboy Mike Hughes
Seven days a week all summer, Hughes wrestled in the Maritimes with Real Action Wrestling. Then in the fall he would head to England and work for a company putting on nine shows a week.
"I've broken or separated or dislocated everything in my body at least once," he said.
Now after helping start RRW and reducing his schedule — the company only runs about six shows a year — Hughes is feeling better than ever.
"I'm 45 years old and I feel incredible," he said.
He said it is amazing when fans, especially young ones, recognize and look up to him. He said he remembers the feeling he had watching wrestling before he got into the ring himself.
Both RRW and Hughes are still experiencing firsts. This Friday, Hughes will be part of the promotion's first-ever cage match on P.E.I.
"I've been in 12 steel cage matches over my career and there is a special kind of electricity, there is a buzz in the air the minute that cage goes up," he said.
Hughes will go one on one with rival Titus inside the steel cage at the Stratford Town Hall, Friday at 7 p.m.
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