Adam Firestorm leaves shocked and saddened colleagues behind

The close-knit world of Canadian wrestling was shocked this past week to hear of the unexpected passing of Adam Dykes, who acted under many names within the ring but was most recently known as Adam Firestorm. Without warning, Dykes took his own life on November 5th for unknown reasons, days before some of his closest friends were set to perform at the Russian community centre on November 7th.

To the surprise of some fans, the event hosted by the Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW) organization went ahead as planned. "I don't think there's any question what he would want," heavyweight wrestler Scotty Mac tells me when asked about the show, "We're wrestling because we're paying tribute to him and we know that he loved wrestling, as far as I know, more than anything else"

Before the show began, the bustling crowd was humbled by a pre-fight memorial ceremony lead by ECCW owner Dave Republic, who like many of the staff that Saturday night was visibly shaken at the loss of a dear friend. Republic spoke of the New Zealand-born Dykes not as an employee but as a member of the entertainment group's family, and it was obvious that the late wrestler had made a significant impression upon all who worked alongside him.

As a young teen, Adam became involved with the independent wrestling circuit, running a wrestling hot-line and training in the back yard of hall-of-fame indie wrestler Terry Joe Silverspoon. It was only by chance that he was able to enter his first match on a night where he had been set to play the role of ring announcer and cameraman, instead becoming a last minute substitute for another wrestler.

After donning the mask of "El Antorcha", Dykes quickly became known for his high-flying acrobatic performances, and became a fan favorite as well as gaining the respect of those he worked with inside the ring. He loved his sport, going on to wrestle over a dozen matches per month, and ended up winning six titles over the course of his career. Firestorm eventually retired due to an elbow injury, but remained passionate about wrestling and managed to entertain fans with a few returns to the ring, the last one taking place on September 25th.

Adam Firestorm's passion for the ring and camaraderie with his colleagues made it all the more shocking that he cut his own life short at just 32 years of age, bewildering many as to why, as he had always been a helpful and loving friend to all around him. "It’s a terrible unexpected shame" says Scotty Mac, struggling to find meaning in the loss, "[Adam was] someone that was so well liked."

There was an air of respect on Saturday night, with Dave Republic urging those present to acknowledge the importance of suicide prevention organizations. Republic spoke earnestly in tones one does not expect to hear within the ring of an aggressive, over-the-top sport such as professional wrestling. In a show of sincere grief and honour, all participants of the night's show gathered solemnly around the outside of the ring, facing away from the audience in a traditional "ten bell salute".

At this point the atmosphere in the venue was positively unreal, as such decorum would be unheard of at any other ECCW event, especially with a room full of athletes so often facing one another in larger-than-life mock-combat. More than anything, one could feel the genuine sympathy from the teary eyed and patient audience. Before the show began, they were raucous and filled with excitement.

"We're all out there. We're standing around the ring paying tribute to Adam,” Scotty Mac says. "Everyone's seeing the heroes and the villains all together . . . and Dave's talking about how we're a family . . . In a sense, I suppose we're sort of exposing the business, but we're in a time where people don't want their intelligence insulted." This lifting of the theatrical veil is rare, though it is becoming more and more accepted by wrestling fans who see wrestling as a sport as much as they do a form of entertainment.

The last speech before the show began was given by past heavyweight champion Chance Beckett, who explained to the crowd that the night's feature events would not be offered as a memorial in honor of Adam Firestorm's death, but instead a monument to the way he lived his life.

//Mike Lindsay

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