WINNIPEG – Reach for the sky, partner, because there’s a new gun in town and he’s fixin’ to make a name for himself.

Meet Winnipeg-born and raised Jeff Doyle, a.k.a. “The Outlaw” Adam Knight, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound 10-year wrestling veteran who first got hooked on wrestling as a kid watching WWF Superstars on TV Saturday mornings.

“These guys were defying the rules and limitations of their bodies, and giving the people what they wanted to see… They’re real life superheroes — and who doesn’t want to be a superhero?” he told SLAM! Wrestling.

Knight broke in under Vance Nevada, starting his training in September 1995. The work was intense as he learned about tying up, taking bumps, and basically “getting my ass kicked.”

At 20, he had his first match in January 1996 against Robby Royce, another wrestler who helped train Knight.

“I got my ass handed to me,” he said of his first foray into the squared circle.

Knight began his career at an overweight 330 pounds with a “goofy haircut,” and he said he now wonders if the beatings he took in the ring were a message from some of his peers to get out of the business.

“I looked like a complete dork… like I didn’t belong in a wrestling ring.”

His first gimmick, “Yogi Donovan,” didn’t help either.

But in 1997, Knight felt he captured the character he was most comfortable with — The Outlaw — whom he compared to Stan Hansen’s in-ring persona.

He described The Outlaw as a loud, brash guy who likes to hurt people, a long way from the short, fat, nerdy kid Knight said he once was.

Marty Goldstein (Martin Boroditsky) met Knight when Knight first began training and called his previous Yogi Donovan gimmick “one of the worst names ever.”

But the producer and consultant who originated Rough House Rasslin’ in 1994 added that Knight has been able to overcome his previous moniker with The Outlaw character, which he said allowed Knight to become one of the most recognized names in the local territory.

To further his transformation, Knight also underwent about seven months of boxing training in 1998 to improve his footwork and hand speed. He was hitting the gym and eating right too, realizing the sacrifices the business demanded and the need to be tough and look the part of a wrestler.

Goldstein said Knight now looks like an old-school wrestler, namely a big, believable tough guy.

“He’s got something that’s in short supply and that’s the big guy” with coordination and a lot of athletic skill included. “He can deliver a top match… I haven’t seen a bad Adam Knight match.”

“The Mecca” Shane Madison (Jeff Wallace), who feuded with Knight in Action Wrestling Entertainment (AWE), called Knight multi-faceted, a wrestler able to do different styles and keep up with smaller guys or work so-called “big man matches.”

“He’s a ring general — not a slow, plodding big guy,” Madison said.

Both Madison and Goldstein felt Knight might not have been used to his full potential in AWE.

“The real story on him is he deserved better than he’s got,” Goldstein said, but added Knight never whined and just continued to work.

Madison, however, wondered whether Knight’s somewhat limited push reflected the difficult balancing act the AWE situation required, as the promotion used not only local guys, but also former WWE notables and wrestlers from across Canada.

But as far as Knight is concerned, AWE was a great time for him, and he believed it worked out for him as far as getting him recognition and national exposure. The only disappointment was that AWE, which has been on hiatus since January 2006, failed financially.

AWE promoter Mike Davidson was also positive about Knight.

“Immediately we matched him with Wavell Starr, and there was instant chemistry as the two had a solid TV match on Larger Than Life Volume 1,” he said in an e-mail. “His contributions were immeasurable both in the ring and out.”

Madison said Knight has the talent to make it to a major promotion but cautioned getting there is sometimes more a matter of knowing someone and having the “right” look than ability.

“You can be the best wrestler in the world but it doesn’t mean you will get there,” he said, adding it’s easier to get into the NHL than it is to land a spot in WWE.

“But they certainly know who he is.”

That’s because in the summer of 2004, Knight, after continual prodding of the now former WWE talent relations scout Tom Pritchard, tried out for the WWE prior to a Smackdown! taping at the Winnipeg Arena.

He called the experience tremendous but also intimidating, especially when he looked up to see the TitanTron, the WWE ring and the seats around it, the very same ones where he watched matches years before.

“I felt like a fan again.”

He said the try out went well, and he was happy to get some tips from William Regal during a one-on-one with the WWE superstar. Regal convinced him to use more of his repertoire, which Knight says he since has.

Although Knight remains hopeful of one day getting a shot in New York, he realizes a sculpted physique isn’t going to get him there. Knight said while “look” does have its place, successful builds can vary.

“The fans don’t want to watch guys they think they can kick the crap out of,” he said, but added: “You don’t have to be built like Dave Batista to do that.”

Madison said the ECW of old, if it still existed, would be a perfect fit for Knight because of the promotion’s focus on work rate.

Adam Knight in action on Canada Day

“Fans are not stupid — they can appreciate a good worker and Knight’s a guy, he might not look like a bodybuilder, but he looks like a wrestler and he’s a hell of a worker,” Madison said.

“This is a guy in the old days that would have had the right kind of character to work the territories… he’d be a star in the old days,” Goldstein added.

But Knight pointed out that the current “it” guy, TNA’s Samoa Joe, is getting great crowd reactions, despite not having a pumped up look, because of his hard-hitting style, intensity, and work ethic.

“He doesn’t fit the mold but he looks like a guy who can kill you,” he said, noting out that it’s a wrestler like Joe that he’d most like to resemble.

TNA might in fact be a possible destination for Knight.

Last Canada Day, he and Chi Chi Cruz had a match that Cruz had taped so he could send it to TNA. Cruz wanted to face a strong opponent and made sure Knight was the man, Goldstein said.

“(Knight) did everything he had to do to make Cheech look like a million bucks, but he also made himself look like a million.”

Now, close to 2,000 matches later, The Outlaw seems to feel good about where his abilities are, and is currently doing weekly shows for Premier Championship Wrestling (PCW) every Thursday at Winnipeg’s The Lid Nightclub.

Although he’s getting married in September and has expressed some desire to eventually settle down and have kids, Knight isn’t poised to ride off into the sunset just yet.

“It’s still too much fun and it’d be tough to give it all up.”