For many years, having a gimmick in professional wrestling has been the crucial factor in garnering adoration or hostility from fans. But an in-ring character may not necessarily have any correlation with the wrestler who is playing the role in question. For Ontario-based independent wrestler The Hacker, the gimmick is very much a part of who he is outside of the squared circle.

“Computers have always been a big part of my life as far back as I can remember,” said The Hacker (real name Josh Lessard) in an interview with SLAM! Wrestling. “It all started before I hit grade one when my father bought me a Commodore 64. I haven’t looked back since. Whether I’m playing games, to the programming I do.”

The only thing else that comes close to rivaling his love of computers is professional wrestling. “I grew up watching Hulk Hogan. He was definitely my favorite with the Ultimate Warrior coming in at a close second,” he said. “It was a hallmark of growing up.”

With his passion for computers firmly entrenched, the 25-year old native of Welland, Ontario would go on to achieve high grades throughout his tenure in high school. But the pursuit of academic excellence did come with some adversity, admitting that he lived with the stigma of being a geek.

“I had a hard time a lot through the upper years of elementary school and the beginning years of high school,” said The Hacker, who eventually found the courage to break out of his nerdish shell. But as fate would have it, the geek would be resurrected.

While attending Brock University, the Bachelor of Science student would frequent independent wrestling shows in southwestern Ontario. When a wresting school opened in nearby Niagara Falls, the full-time university student made the bold move to become a professional wrestler, under the tutelage of independent wrestling star “Dangerboy” Derek Wylde.

“I didn’t know who would be the trainer at the time. I knew I just wanted to train. When Wylde walked through the door, that was just icing on the cake. I had seen him wrestle quite a few times.”

But with commitment comes sacrifice, and The Hacker soon found himself in the less than envious position of balancing wrestling with his scholastic pursuits. “It was extremely difficulty. A social life was out of the question. I didn’t have a heck of a lot of time for myself. But when I look back on it, this is what I wanted to do. So my time for myself was training in the ring, watching wrestling and working out in the gym.”

The Hacker readily admits there was no hesitation on his part in establishing his wrestling character around a geek persona prior to his training.

“One of the running ribs on me was that I was way too excited about my gimmick. I had my gimmick all figured out before I even stepped into the ring. He (Wylde) had to tell me to take a step back, slow down, get trained, and concentrate on the wrestling. But when I came to actually pick one and get my tights made, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Hacker made his wrestling debut in August 2000. He honed his craft with various promotions across Ontario, entering the ring wearing coke bottle glasses, his trademark “Got Keyboard?” T-Shirt, and a keyboard in hand.

“I do admit to dumpster diving once,” confessed The Hacker in explaining one of many ways he has acquired his endless supply of keyboards, often utilized in the form of a precise strike to his opponent’s cranium.

The Hacker has evolved into a noted high-flying wrestler, thanks in part to his memorable matches with his former mentor.

“When you know you’re going to wrestle Dangerboy Derek Wylde, it’s going to be fast-paced, high flying and absolutely crazy match,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever gone out to do a match with Wylde and hadn’t been extremely scared beforehand from all the crazy stunts we had planned.”

Now a three-year veteran, The Hacker wrestles primarily with Border City Wrestling in Windsor, Ontario and Neo Spirit Pro Wrestling in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He has held titles in both promotions and others, but the most prestigious accomplishment thus far for this wrestling super geek was acquired outside of the ring when he graduated from university on June 12, 2002.

“I managed to graduate at the top of the school and earned the Governor General’s Silver Medal for the highest cumulative average in a first Bachelor’s Degree. That’s a day I won’t soon forget.”

Now attending the University of Waterloo, The Hacker is actively pursuing a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. “I’m at a point now where I’m getting ready to write my thesis. After that, I’m hoping to get into the PhD program.”

With a work ethic that has carried him to great heights, The Hacker is still resolved to hack his way to the top of professional wrestling. “I think I could make a contribution to WWE, especially if they start pushing the cruiserweights in earnest.”

While only the select few will reach financial success in professional wrestling, The Hacker is well aware his education will be an important safety net in life. “I’m very conscious of that. Never did I every dream of cutting back on my education when I started training to become a professional wrestler. Wrestling is such an unsure business. Even when you make it to the top, people are let go all the time. You definitely need something to fall back on.”