Including the word “real” in the title of a television show about wrestling may be an oxymoron for some. But for wrestling fans and those involved in the Halifax-produced series Real Wrestling, it is an apt title for a show about a sport that has long endured the stigma of being called fake.
There is nothing fake about what these guys put their bodies through.
“There is nothing fake about what these guys put their bodies through,” says Real Wrestling producer and series host David Boyce. “It’s not just walking out and wrestling for ten minutes but about their characters and everything they have to do to prepare mentally as well.”
While a wrestling fan since he was a kid, director David Mullins also now has a better appreciation for these athletes. “While we were shooting, I was just absolutely floored by the conditioning, the acrobatics and the physicality of those involved,” he says.
Halifax wrestler Charlie Hubley, one of the sixteen wrestlers appearing on the show, is proof.
“If you see me the day after a show, everything hurts,” he says. “When I get in the ring, my intent isn’t to send them home in a wheelchair, but you are trying to win a match. You are trying to earn someone’s respect in the ring, and you’re trying to convince the audience that what you’re doing is more than entertainment. It is very real.”
In the ten-episode Real Wrestling, sixteen wrestlers from around the Maritimes compete for the top berth in a tournament run by promoter Elana Gold.
“The show focuses a lot on the characters, and a lot of their backstories are really entertaining,” says Boyce. “The boss of the network seems to be a little shady and has a predetermined winner in mind, so that story is followed as well.”
For Mullins, it was equally important to highlight the character-driven aspects of the show. “I wanted to try and target people’s heartstrings and make it more personal,” he says.
And while a casual viewer may be forgiven in thinking that Real Wrestling is at least partially scripted, that is not the case at all. Instead, while Boyce says there was an established story baseline, he left the rest to the wrestlers.
“It’s better to let them come up with what they would say and how they would react,” he says. “For instance, you can’t give Charlie [Hubley] a script. Charlie is Charlie, and because he’s one of the most entertaining wrestlers in our area, it just wouldn’t make sense to give him lines to read.”
For Hubley, who trained in Calgary under legendary wrestler Lance Storm before starting his professional career in the Maritimes in 2018, Real Wrestling will do its part in introducing the sport to a broader fan base.
“I don’t care what anyone says; when professional wrestling is good, I don’t think there is any better entertainment anywhere,” he says. “So for this television show to be able to showcase every single one of us, the way it did, I think it will bring a lot more eyes to the scene here in the Maritimes specifically.”
But while the two Davids and Hubley are big on having the personalities drive much of the show, there is no lack of actual wrestling, even to the point of expanding the tournament play beyond the ring.
“The show basically involves a sixteen-man tournament where a match can happen at any time as long as a referee is present,” says Boyce. “It adds a lot of entertainment to the show and not just about a regular tournament in a ring.”
It also allowed Mullins to give viewers a different perspective.
“I wanted to try and get as close to the action as I could to give the audience something that they may not see at a regular wrestling match,” he says. “And then we added a layer of drama to see where it would go.”
And while Boyce says wrestling fans will enjoy Real Wrestling, it is just as entertaining for those who are not.
“The storylines, the characters. It’s all very funny,” says Boyce. “Plus, you get to invest in the characters and follow them along through the series.”
“It’s about these people and their relationships inside and outside of the ring, and I think that’s enough to draw people in,” adds Mullins. ” Take a chance, watch the show. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Ultimately, Hubley sees Real Wrestling as an introduction for many to pro wrestling, and he hopes it will inspire them to explore wrestling IRL as well. In true wrestling fashion, he concludes with this prediction: “I guarantee, regardless of what happened on the television show, the wrestling shows that Charlie Hubley will be in going forward, I will be standing a winner every single time.”
Real Wrestling is now airing on Bell Fibe TV1 and online. Visit bell.ca for more information.