NIAGARA FALLS, ONT – For most people, there comes a time in life when one must take stock of the present circumstances and decide if it’s time to make a change.

There are countless independent professional wrestlers who are nearing that crossroad when it comes to continuing a career in the ring, now more than ever before. Mainstream popularity in wrestling has tanked. Only the slumping WWE remains, with no emerging competitors offering a viable alternative. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the biz, so perhaps hanging up the tights for some is not such a bad idea.

For Ontario wrestling great Derek Wylde, hanging up the tights is just not an option. “You have to love this business to stay in it, especially as long as I’ve been in,” said Wylde, during a pre-match interview with SLAM! Wrestling at the recent Neo Spirit Pro (NSP) show in his hometown of Niagara Falls. “I always tell anyone who’s getting started in this business that it’s not the amount of talent you have that will let you make it in this business, it’s the amount of s— that you can wade through to get to the top.”

Wylde knows all too well how difficult it is to climb the ladder of success. Now a seven-year veteran of the ring, he has traveled the long road of paying his dues with countless promotions and in the process, established himself as an awe inspiring high-flyer. In fact, it was that well-earned rep that got him noticed by Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW), located in the hot Tri-State indy wrestling scene in the United States.

“I didn’t do anything to get in contact with them,” recalled Wylde. “JAPW contacted me last year; they were doing a best of light heavyweights, which they do every year. I guess the promoter was looking for international talent.”

With the Internet being the most convenient method to seek out wrestlers, the promotion discovered Wylde’s name appearing more than once at various sites and message boards. He would make his debut with the promotion in December of 2003.

“It’s a fantastic organization,” remarked Wylde in reference to JAPW. “They get a lot of fans coming to the shows. It’s a real hot bed for wrestling in the Jersey area. Fans are very respectful. I like that area a lot.”

As luck would have it, his inaugural performance with JAPW caught the attention of another promoter in attendance at the show. It turned out to be none other than former ECW valet, Jasmine St. Clair, who is currently involved with the Pennsylvania-based promotion, 3PW. Wylde soon found himself hitting the road for the U.S. once again, working his first show with 3PW in January of this year. It would also turn out to be his harsh introduction to the Philadelphia wrestling crowd at the infamous Viking Hall.

“I never experienced anything like that,” said Wylde, recalling his entrance to the ring for his match. “I came out and they hated my guts. I went out there and I did the best that I could and we had a really good match. At the end, the ref told me to stay down for a little bit because the fans really liked me and I said ‘Oh they do?’ They gave me a standing ovation and I got booked for eleven more shows after that.”

While grateful for his opportunities to work south of the border, Wylde surprisingly stated that breaking out in the United States is not a priority, but for a reason that many in his craft can identify with.

“I hate the product on TV,” Wylde said, who at one time dreamed of making it to the WWF(E). “That was my motivation in the mid ’90s when I was really into wrestling. Vince (McMahon) was actually using lightweights on TV. Now, there’s no competition, so the money is not there. I have a family now and for me to leave my home here in Canada and be on the road so many days of the week and be away from my family, it would take a lot more than working on Velocity against Sean O’Haire and get my ass kicked every week doing that.”

Wylde made specific mention of the departure of former WWE star Spanky Kendrick as a shining example of someone who made it to the big time, only to part ways because of disillusionment with the overall company product.

“Spanky asked to be let out of his contract, when does that ever happen? This is the first time that the guys who are just coming in are not hungry like they were because there’s nothing to look forward to,” he said.

That stark reality of the dreariness mainstream wrestling is stuck in has provided Wylde a brand of confidence when it comes to what he wants to achieve with his wrestling exploits.

“I’m sure if I was really motivated, right now I’d be able to make that WWE contract or work for NWA/TNA every week. But I’m not fighting for that because it’s not something I really believe in to be totally honest. I hope that doesn’t make anyone sad out there, I’m not giving up on wrestling. Right now, my main motivation is to have the best matches I can and just give the fans something to remember me by,” Wylde explained. “I’m going to give it everything I got with every match I do and I always will for as long as I can do it in the ring, but it’s going to be for the fans that I do it for that night. It’s not going to be for Vince, it’s not going to be for Jeff Jarrett.”

What makes his commitment to bringing his noted daredevil wrestling antics to fans that much more admirable is the onerous trek of trying to circumvent the U.S. border to attend shows in the modern post 9-11 era. More than once has Wylde attempted to make the crossing, only to be turned away.

“I looked into getting a work visa. It’s next to impossible unless you have a team of lawyers and access to a lot of money,” Wylde explained. “There’s no reason to give me a work visa when there’s Americans that can take my spot. For me to get a work visa, the company that wants me to work for them would really have to fight for me.”

He made mention of his brief tenure with NWA/TNA as an example that unless you’re a drawing name, the likelihood of a promotion pursuing the complex and expensive process of acquiring a work visa is slim to none.

“Why would TNA fight for me when there’s another guy who lives around corner, who lives in Jersey, or lives in Philly, that can do the same job? I don’t have a fan base in that area, so why would they fight for me and spend time and money when they can get someone else. I don’t blame them.”

Wylde noted that with Canadian workers having no place to go within their own borders to acquire regular bookings or television exposure, a select few are choosing to relocate to the U.S. market.

“A lot of Canadians are doing that right now,” he said. “Some are already gone and you’ll notice their absence I’m sure. They’re doing that because they’re hungry for it.”

However, while he is not prepared to make such a commitment, he is all too willing to deliver his high impact style right in his hometown with NSP.

“I love this place. I’ve had some of the best matches in my life in this place. I do consider NEO my home. They always give me decent matches and the fans here really appreciate it. It’s just a great bunch of people who work here.”