For the better part of 10 years, I've been stuck on autopilot. I’ve been doing what I love, seemingly out of habit. In my life, I've sacrificed everything most people wouldn't, all to live my dream. The dream of being somebody; anybody noticeable. This is a tough subject for me, nonetheless, here we go.
As of 11am on June the 3rd, 2015 my life was forever changed. I got some news. News I'd hoped I'd have been prepared for. News I tried to prepare for. However, as it was evident by my state that morning, I failed miserably.
Life before wrestling was bleak. I had very few people I could call friends. I was doing what I thought was right for my future, but hated every second of it. As a fat kid who never particularly excelled at anything. I was depressed. I grew up alone, which would explain why I'm socially inept (in case any of you have wondered). I had always suffered from a great deal of depression. Then wrestling came along! I'd found something that I could excel at, and it felt so so damn good to be good at something. The admiration I'd receive from my peers, and fans validated me as an individual. I made friends with people who had common interests, and established lifelong friendships. For the first time in my life I had found some semblance of peace. In wrestling, I was the elite. People saw me for what felt like the first time. I wasn't invisible anymore; I stood out from the pack. I had found something to mold me as an individual; to make me feel like I had some value. Wrestling taught me that life was even worth living (sadly something I questioned on a few occasions in my life). For that I am forever grateful to this business.
So here's the story.
Two years ago at AAW I suffered a neck injury. I lost some strength, and had radiating pain in my spine for 6 months. I took time off and moved to Alberta as a way to get away, and hopefully heal my body. It was successful move, and the itch to come back to professional wrestling crept back until it was killing me. I was determined. I had unfinished business. I wanted a contract; something to validate the 8 years of sacrifice I had made up until that point. Ring of Honor was in my sights, and most importantly, I felt it was in my reach.
Within a few months of returning I did an ROH "tryout camp". As someone who had already wrestled for ROH, and has seemingly impressed the office, I was honestly annoyed by the formality that I "had" to do a camp to be considered. It was a good experience, yet also a flat out cash grab, and a shitload of money, especially for a struggling Indy wrestler. However, it paid off in the form of another match vs red DRagon. This match was nearly flawless. The Dearborn crowd made me the most over guy on the show -due to my headgear. Ethan Page and I swung for the fences, and with help from two of the best, we hit a home run. It's one of the proudest moments of my career. We stole the damn show. However, what some people don't know is that when I took that tornado DDT from Kyle O'reilly, I felt a crunch in my neck. It wasn’t soon after that I would lose all strength in my right arm.
I took a few weeks off, hardly able to sleep, and in some of the worst pain I've ever endured in my life. I got an MRI and sought out a neurologist for help. He told me I had compressed/herniated my disk and it would require surgery. So at the end of September I went in and secretly had my c5-c6 vertebrae fused.
For anyone who’s observant... yes, I kept wrestling during that time. I hid my injury from everyone. Ethan Page knew a little bit about my circumstances, but I couldn't even disclose the full severity of my injury to him. I knew he loved me like a brother, and wouldn't let me wrestle if he knew the risk involved. I refused to miss out on my opportunity with ROH, and I had some great matches during that time regardless of my injury. Tim Donst and myself had a few good ones in AIW, and Monster Mafia hit another home run in Toronto at All Star Extravaganza.
My first match back was against Roderick Strong and Jimmy Jacobs for ROH in Chicago. I wish I had been healthier for this one. I have an amazing amount of respect and admiration for the machine that is Roddy Strong, and was I devastated that I couldn't give him Josh Alexander (3rd person!!!) at his best. All this time he probably just thought I sucked. The truth is, I was just 2 weeks removed from busting my neck. Oh well, that's life.
So I had the surgery. During that time Monster Mafia turned down an ROH booking. Honestly, part if it was out of frustration of the lack of interest in us, even though we were always delivering for them, but mostly it was because I would have been two weeks removed from neck surgery (something I obviously didn't tell them about). However, the clock was ticking. I had to get back. If ROH didn't want me we still had to make it to PWG. I couldn't let my partner down. Tag bookings don't just turn into singles bookings if one guy is out. Even though I was told never to wrestle again, and only 5 weeks post-surgery (far too early), I came back for Alpha-1 versus Ricochet. I powered on through the pain and aggravation, all for this one goal.
Then in February of 2015, the Monster Mafia debuted in PWG. It finally happened. We also got to do it versus two of my favourite opponents and human beings, the Young Bucks. It was honestly a dream come true. The memories of making it from some shitty warehouse show in Hamilton (sorry Greg JuJusiac), to California with my best friend, in front of the hottest crowd in all of wrestling was surreal.
Soon after, we returned to the next show to face Love Gun. It was in this match where my career took a turn. My neck was finally feeling alright. I was getting back in shape. The strength in my right arm had almost completely returned. But toward the end of this match (just like the last time) Sabin hoisted me up for a PowerBomb and Sydal met me with double knees. What happened next was no one’s fault, just poor timing. This could have happened to anyone. It’s just the way wrestling is; every single thing is a risk. As I was taking the move, I came crashing down on my head to the gasp of everyone in the audience as well as Love Gun, and finished up the match. I honestly thought I dodged a bullet. When I returned home I woke up one morning to extreme pain, now in my left arm, as well as a complete loss of strength. I was devastated, to say the least. Not again! This could not be happening.
My tag team partner is obsessed with fate. It's a common topic of discussion in the car. I've asked myself countless times if it was my destiny to end up like this. If I had never moved to Calgary, and in effect abandoned my best friend when he needed me most, I would likely have never been so reckless with my body. I just wanted to make up for the lost time and mend that broken relationship. Also, I originally hurt my neck on a top rope reverse rana; a risk I only took because I thought we'd never get across the border again, and wanted to make every moment noticeable. Surely ROH would want to give me a contract if I was leaving a lasting impression and getting buzz?... Yeah, I'm dumb. The match that night vs red Dragon, the finish originally wasn't even supposed to be on me. Once more at PWG, I had to state my case to convince Sabin that he could hoist me up for a PowerBomb, to even execute the maneuver. All these things were almost avoided. So was it my fate? No. It's just the risks all wrestlers take. If it didn't happen on one of those things, it certainly would have been something else. My neck is just bad. It's weak. Wrestling for 10 years leaving it all in he ring, whether there are 10 or 1000 fans has finally caught up to me.
After the match with Love Gun I told Ethan Page Id get us through DDT. That was the dream. We were a tag team first and foremost. It's the one thing that's kept me loving wrestling this long. I achieved the unthinkable, and won the PWG tag titles at DDT. I not only won the titles, but I did it with my best friend…even if it was short-lived.
In the week leading up to DDT, I'd finally got the MRI I was waiting for. The morning of June 3rd I got the results. Safe to say I had to sit down when I got the news. I was told that I pretty much have either a bulging, or herniated disk at every level in my neck. I also have an impingement so severe, that my left arm has now completely atrophied. My neurosurgeon told me surgery was my only option. They have to now do another two level fusion... It’s the only way to relieve the constant pain, and halt any more extreme symptoms. So July 23rd 2015 I'm set to have my second neck surgery in less than a year. To quote one of my favourite movies "Wow, this is heavy doc..."
Now I don't want to be bitter and talk about all the bad. Don't get me wrong, there is certainly bad. But whatever, if this is the last anyone hears from me, they'll hear the truth. The truth is, I'm not a bitter guy. For the last year I haven't felt worthy of stepping foot in a ring; I‘ve felt like a fraud calling myself a professional wrestler, regardless of the fact that I feel I've had the most success in my career this year, I've also had the worst injuries. My neck has kept me from being able to train and get in shape. As a child I was obese and was ridiculed daily. So being in shape goes a long way for my confidence. It’s been a rough year physically and emotionally. Wrestling is all I ever felt born to do. Something I was naturally very good at. When I was confident, and at my best I don't think there was anyone better than me. Look up anything from the fall of 2013; that was my prime. I guess I'll just always be a little upset I didn't get to show the world.
I sit here and hope people don't take all this the wrong way. I don't want my legacy to be that of a reckless wrestler. Did I take unnecessary risks? Sure. Did my pride get in the way? Certainly. I've been so tough these past couple of years that I'm stupid. I was taxing my body, taking years off my life, and risking it all. All of it for a chance to be recognized as one of the best. If this is it, I suppose I fell short on that goal. The shelf life of a wrestler isn't long. After a few months I will be an after-thought to the fans. I'm okay with that, because it means they've turned their attention to other guys trying to make their mark. Wrestling is tough. It will break your heart, and smile while doing it if you let it. I never let it get the best of me for too long. But today with tears in my eyes I can admit I'm scared of a life without it.
So that's it. I regret not ever getting that contract. I regret not being able to go out on my own terms. Hell I even regret that I never got to be on Colts podcast (shoulda kissed more ass). But when I think about it, I'm proud of everything I did. I wrestled for 10 years balls to the wall. Gave everything to wrestling and it gave me so much in return; even if I failed to get that contract. I made it to PWG, made some amazing friends, and met some amazing fans. I traveled North America, and made a bit of cash doing it. I appreciate all the boys and girls who I've wrestled, and shared locker rooms with. I thank the promotions and fans for giving me a chance to live my dream. Most importantly, I thank Ethan Page for giving me the courage to admit that I was hurt, and in return check my pride at the door for the benefit of my family. As strong as I may be the support went a long way from my best friend.
I'm not saying I'm quitting or I'm retiring. I hate that. I really have no choice in the matter. Truthfully I was never supposed to come back after the first surgery. But I risked it, all for the chance. To finish whatever unfinished business I had. I'm glad I did because I made memories that will last a lifetime. I'm proud to say in my decade of pro wrestling I never injured one of my opponents (with exception of Scotty O'shea's nose on several occasions). I'm proud to know that some will remember me for quite some time. But I'm terrified at the thought of life without wrestling. I don't want to be thought of as a quitter; that I must have never really wanted it that much. For the past decade it's all I've wanted. Luckily I have found something I love even more than wrestling. I have a beautiful son. A gorgeous girl. Amazing friends. I love my family.
I will need them.
July 12th, 2015 I will be running a show in Hamilton, Ontario. It is under the Alpha 1 banner; the one promotion that has given, and meant so much to me and my career. Any profits from this show will go towards helping me and my family. I'll need it while I'm off work, recovering from surgery. A few scenarios of my last match have been considered. Michael Elgin, Psycho Mike, Johnny Devine or even breakout star Tyler Thomas were all considered for this one last go. I will finish my career the only way I know how. The only way I think it'll feel right. With the same people I started it with. Standing beside my brother Ethan Page against two of my favourite, and most storied opponents: Scotty O'shea & Alessandro Del Bruno. Monster Mafia vs GymRats I hope to see everyone there, as I close out this chapter of my life with everyone who's meant so much to me this past decade.
I am honestly, genuinely excited for the future. For the first time in 10 years, the path I've been walking is changing. The uncertainty is exhilarating. Stay in touch.
- Joshua Lemay