As the referee counted three on the mat, and the bell rang to end the match, the crowd erupted at the CLB Armoury in St. John’s on Oct. 25.
Emotion washed over 20-year-old Kyle Durdle as he clutched the Cutting Edge Wrestling’s NFLD Heritage Championship. The young pro wrestler is only two years into his career and was rewarded with his first title win. The Heritage title is a prestigious belt with a long lineage tracing back to N.L. wrestling icon Sailor White.
“I was in shock,” says Durdle.
While the audience reaction at the CEW show that night was mixed with cheers and boos — Durdle portrays his character Jeremiah Jayven as a bad guy, after all, he maintained his stoic persona until he got to the backstage, behind the entrance curtain.
There, he met Brady Hobbs of Bonavista, fellow pro wrestler and friend who had been by Durdle’s side throughout his wrestling career, training, performing and now celebrating.
It was at this moment a rush of emotion hit him and pride welled up inside.
“He knew that this was what I wanted.”
Durdle told The Packet he’s been a fan of pro wrestling for basically as long as he can remember.
“Ever since the age of three I’ve been a wrestling fan,” said Durdle. He says it all started with wrestling action figures, video games, and his uncle who introduced him to wrestling.
His obsession eventually grew to playing on trampolines with his friends, re-enacting his favourite moves.
“Through true bad times, wrestling was always something that helped me keep my mind straight,” he remembers.
Most young fans’ love for wrestling would stop there, but Durdle knew from the time he was a pre-teen he wanted to become a trained professional wrestler.
“I knew that when as soon as I would get old enough, that’s exactly what I was going to do.”
He, along with several friends, even purchased a real wrestling ring they used to practice and perform in 2015.
Blood, sweat and tears
When he started official training in St. John’s with New Evolution Wrestling in May 2017, Durdle and his friend Hobbs had a leg up, with plenty of experience, but still valued the training and seminars yet to come.
While wrestling is predetermined and choreographed to an extent, it is still important to be safe in the ring, work with the opponent to perform moves, appeal to the audience and tell a story.
“Everyone is trained professionally and everyone is a team to put off a show for those interested — but when people use the term ‘fake’ it’s not the word used because you can’t fake slamming your body on wood and steel with an inch of padding,” Durdle explains.
He’s learned how to land properly or “bump” to minimize the damage, but the risk and pain is still there.
“It does take a toll on your body, especially the guys who’ve been doing it 20-plus years.”
Durdle has plenty of injuries to show wrestling is very much a real, hard-hitting, form of entertainment.
“It was pretty painful, pretty stressing, but I wanted to do it so I kept going back,” he says.
He pushed through, seeing his own progress and keeping at it.
“It takes a lot of work to learn how to do certain moves, it’s a lot of pressure to learning it, because you know you can seriously hurt or kill someone (in the ring).”
Another important part of training is creating a character — as a good guy or "babyface", or bad guy, a "heel" — and learning to develop a relationship with the fans.
“It was really hard because I’ve never been the type of person to get up in front of a crowd of people … have eyes on me.”
The Jeremiah Jayven character is a heel. Durdle says, despite being a nice guy in real life, he likes to play the bad guy and get a reaction from the fans.
“People love to boo you, so when you get booed … the people love to hate you.”
The jeers and negative reaction can mean he’s actually doing his job in the match.
Durdle’s very first match came on May 31, 2017 at the CLB Armoury.
“It was really emotional. If I had to give up wrestling at that point, because I knew I had achieved and reached my goals,” said Durdle. “It meant a lot.”
He’s wrestled regularly with NEW in monthly shows, as well as with CEW since his debut.
“From my first match to now, I have definitely improved.”
Durdle says he's less nervous and continues to participate in seminars with more experienced wrestlers to further grow.
He even got to wrestle in a battle royale in Mile One Stadium in front of thousands.
One of the biggest notches in his young career belt came when he performed in front of hometown fans in Bonavista’s Cabot Stadium this past summer.
“I was the opening match and the last match,” laughed Durdle. He even gave a speech at the end to close the show.
“I’m not a really talkative person … I (told the crowd) how it was my dream and I finally achieved it.”
He remembers going to wrestling shows at Cabot Stadium as a fan, now he was the one performing.
But Durdle’s biggest accomplishment would come at CEW’s Haunted Havoc show on Oct. 25.
The CLB Armoury was rocking the night of his big title win against the NFLD Heritage Champion “Dirty” Don Martini.
Durdle found out he was destined to win the title the day before the show, but it didn’t truly sink in until the final bell sounded.
It was a big surprise for the fans after he blinded Martini with a smoke machine and hit his neckbreaker finishing move to pin the champ.
“One thing that really made me emotional was to see my family.”
Durdle’s mother, father, sister and young nephew, Jayven, his namesake, were in attendance to witness the big night.
He thanked Travis Jonathan of NEW, the other wrestlers who helped train him — including Steve “Aziz” White, and his opponent Don Martini, for seeing his championship potential.
Durdle will set an example as a champion for the wrestling scene. As a champion, he’s a representative of its promotion and will work hard in the future.
“The best wrestlers in Newfoundland held this title … Sailor White was definitely the most famous.”
The prolific St. John’s-based pro wrestler traveled the world in wrestling rings, including with the World Wrestling Federation as Moondog King. The local legend passed away in 2005.
While White grew to fame before Durdle’s time, he’s watched his matches and talked to many local wrestlers who were trained by and close with him.
“He’s someone I look up to … because when you want to be someone, you want to be Sailor White … and achieve what he’s achieved.”
He wants to help put Newfoundland and Labrador on the map as a great place for wrestling, travel to other provinces, and continue to achieve more, including earning the NEW Championship.
On the way, Durdle also wants to inspire fans — many of whom may be just like he was when he was their age.
“The main reason of me wanting to do this was to pretty much set an example for kids that grow up and want to be a wrestler … and know they can do it.”