Iqaluit gets a larger-than-life-sized dose of ham acting as wrestling's heros and villains strut
The good, the bad and the unlikely
Standing nearly six and a half feet tall, and weighing in at about 270 pounds, Brian Youngblood looks like he could easily rip someone's head off.
But the kids swarming around Youngblood have nothing to worry about. The affable native of Manitoulin Island and ex-soldier is a good guy in the world of Blood, Sweat and Ears pro wrestling, and there's only one man in the Arctic Winter Games arena on this night that Youngblood wants to hurt.
His opponent is Sebastian Suave, an effete, self-styled aristocrat who enters the ring wearing a matching set of zebra-print jacket and tights, washes his hands with sanitizer and wipes his feet on a cardboard mat before entering the ring.
"He thinks he's the greatest thing going and I actually don't think Sebastian Suave has won a match, I've never lost," Youngblood says.
The Ontario-based BSE circuit is wrestling's minor leagues, and the Iqaluit show marks the first time BSE has ventured outside its turf.
Promoter Arda Ocal seems pleased with turnout: while the arena isn't sold out, it's around three-quarters full. The two-night engagement doubles as a fundraiser for the Inuksuk High School basketball teams, and that likely helped attendance.
Kids, who make up about roughly half the audience, are pumped. Wrestlers visited Iqaluit schools in the days before the show, talking about bullying and drugs, and warning of the dangers of trying to body slam your little sister off the couch at home.
Youngblood is the biggest person most of these kids have ever seen.
"He's so big, every time he stood up the kids were like, ‘ahhhhh,'" Ocal said.
Back in the ring, Suave is greeted with a chorus of boos, while Youngblood, who drove to the arena on a snowmobile and enters the ring escorted by two young Iqalungmiut, receives a hero's welcome.
Tyler Rowe, 11, was one of the kids who escorted Youngblood into the ring. He's a huge wrestling fan and couldn't believe his luck.
"I felt awesome, I felt excited," he said afterward. "It was just great."
The match itself follows a predictable story arc. Suave, who looks half the size of Youngblood, gains an early advantage thanks to some dirty shots to Youngblood's knees.
But summoning the power of the crowd, Youngblood mounts a comeback. When he plants Suave on the mat with a massive body slam, the referee counts to three and the crowd of around 400 go completely bananas.
Suave's not happy with the treatment he got from the fans. He grabs the ring announcer's cordless microphone and calls the audience "second class citizens" who should "show me the proper respect."
Youngblood chases Suave out of the ring and grabs the mic.
"Suave," he bellows, "I may not be from here, but these are my people!" The crowd, once again, goes crazy. Youngblood is mobbed by kids on the way out of the ring who offer congratulatory pats on the back.
It's easy to know who to cheer for. For the next match "Textbook" Tyson Dux ambles to ring with a smirk on his face. He takes the microphone and demands "complete silence for my match, because you stink."
His opponent is the charismatic Brent B. who wins the crowd's favour with some high-flying maneuvers. He gets Dux outside the ring and encourages those in the front row to put their feet up so he can bounce Dux's face off their shoes.
But good guys don't always win. Dux gets Brent B. back inside the ring and ties him into knots with painful looking submission holds. Dux gets the victory and smirks back to the dressing room.
Chokeholds might win matches, but they don't win fans. "I pretty much like all the action," said Robert Ikkidluak, 10, "[but] my favourite was when they were jumping off the ropes."