Thursday’s death of Adam Dykes, known in wrestling as El Antorchia and Adam Firestorm, has left the wrestling community coping with a tremendous loss. From his in ring skills to the talent he provided in running websites and creating promotional videos, Dykes was affected and loved by every person who he met.
Several of Dykes’ friends and colleagues spoke over the phone with SLAM! Wrestling to share their feelings on their friend. Veteran Michelle Starr, who opened ECCW and now runs All Star Wrestling in B.C. remembers first meeting Dykes as a teenager.
“He was maybe 13 or 14, still in high school. He and his best friend James Olson wanted to interview me for a school project. That started them getting involved behind the scenes, they made the program for West Coast Championship Wrestling, probably in 1994 or ’95. Adam would hang around and watch the training, and eventually joined in on the training. We were training people in Rocky Della Serra’s backyard and he was one of those guys who just picked wrestling up. We were running an ECCW show short a guy so Adam was forced into duty early and from then on there was no looking back. Adam was booked on every show we had for years and was a pleasure to work with and to have on the crew. I was proud to be his friend, you couldn’t ask for a better friend. I had a moving company and Adam helped me out on the truck. He helped out so much behind the scenes of ECCW and my current company All Star Wrestling. Up until this day he was my webmaster for ASW.”
Current ECCW star Scotty Mac recalled that seeing Dykes in his “El Antorchia” character was one of the first things that drew him to wrestling.
“We had our fair share of comments on what we considered red pyjamas, but he stood out and did some cool stuff. That was one of my first exposures to indy wrestling. I ended up having my second match with him in January of 2000 and he gave me on hell of a match. A few years later when they decided to do something different it was me that he turned on in a six-man tag.”
Known to be good natured, there was a moment that Mac recalled where Adam was less so. “We had a three-way match with Disco Fury and I thought it was great. He was so pissed at me and Disco because every time he would go to do a spot we would interrupt it. He didn’t get any stuff in because we kept interrupting the spots! He is a forgiving guy and got over it but I felt horrible because I got him pretty frustrated with me. The guy was ridiculously talented it was so easy for him to have a good match, it wasn’t just chemistry with one or two guys. It was very hard to have a bad match with Adam Firestorm.”
Firestorm can also take credit for Juggernaut’s initial foray to ECCW.
“I had just gotten back from living in Florida for a year and met him on the Internet. He convinced me that ECCW was where I wanted to be,” said Juggernaut. “We hit the road a lot and like with anything you get the groups of friends you hold a little bit closer. It was myself, Adam, Tony Kozina and Strife. We became close because we had the same sense of humour and appreciation for the business — some guys did it because they wanted to go out and party, we actually taped our matches and would go back and watch them, criticize them and try and make them better. He had very strong beliefs and he stood by them firmly. It is impossible not to respect a guy, especially in the industry we are in, that could stand by his guns, beliefs and morals like he did. That was one very endearing quality about him was that he was willing to hold strong to what he believed in. It was the same for all of us in that little four person group, none of us would sacrifice our beliefs and Adam saw that which may be why he chose that group, if he chose the right people he wouldn’t have to worry about people pushing him in the wrong direction.”
It was his love of the business that made him so good, Jugg stated. “He was a very big fan from as long as he could remember. That is why he was so good, he understood what was successful back when the business was different, and why. He understood what the lost art of charisma meant and realized if he learned to do some cool moves and then added charisma things would go well. Half of his wrestling was under a mask, it is very tough to put emotion into a match when no one can see your face but he did it. You put a guy in full red flaming body suit wearing a Hawaiian shirt coming out to Ricky Martin songs, it is no wonder at every town we went to he was one of the most popular guys on the show.”
Mac agrees and expressed loss at not getting to tap that respect for the business to teach current wrestlers.
“The one thing that stood out is he wanted things to make sense. He liked the old school where you do a little to get a lot. I spoke to him on the phone a month ago and told him the door is open. I am running ECCW at a time where we don’t have a lot of veterans in the locker room. Firestorm is a guy I could have depended on when I am worrying about the show and my own match I can tell him what I needed and he could go over things with everyone and make sure they make sense. I could have been confident in that role and he would have benefited from it,” Mac said. “I am disappointed that he wasn’t able to do it because I know what it would have meant. We have a lot of really talented young wrestlers that really could have benefited from what he had to share and how he shares it. There isn’t one person that I know that doesn’t like him, he is one of the only people you can say there is not one negative thing about him.”
Juggernaut hopes that those who knew him will continue his attitude on for him.
“I am hoping that us that actually knew him will carry his influence on because a lot of the young guys didn’t get the privilege of knowing him feeling that influence. I am not sure his direct influence will carry on unfortunately but I would like to think the guys that knew him well will take the positive sides of what he had to offer and bring that in,” Juggernaut said. “There are a lot of guys that could learn from especially his attitude of ‘I’m just here and love what I’m doing.’ When he was wrestling and travelling and being Adam, you never heard him complain. A lot of people could pick that up, you are doing what you love to do, why complain about it?”
Dykes, who had been retired for a few years after an elbow injury, came out of retirement a few times for one-off matches. His final one took place in Campbell River, BC, on September 25th for All Star Wrestling against long-time friend Disco Fury.
“I had to ask him 200 times if he would wrestle just one more night. He came out to the show the night before in Victoria and I was like, ‘Come on, please?’ When he showed up I was like ‘cool’ and he opened his bag and there was the Torch gear. That meant the world to me. One more time as Torch, that was awesome it was like a gift,” an emotional Disco said. “He had such class. Guys like him in the business, there isn’t any left. He would put the other guy forward first, it wasn’t about his needs it was about making the other person look good. He asked what I wanted to do, we went over what we were doing and went in and had a pretty good match. For him not wrestling in awhile he did awesome. After he called me a stand up class guy, shook my hand and we hugged. I went to leave and he called me back to the ring and did it again, so I raised his hand and we walked away.”
“I asked him to come up and referee on the shows because I knew he didn’t want to wrestle. He had an impromptu match with Disco in what was his farewell to the wrestling business. Disco started after him but spent a lot of time with him on the road. He only wrestled once before that in the last couple of years and it was a year ago against me in Victoria for the Pure Wrestling Alliance. He was so easy to work with, it was like night and day working him compared to guys today. You didn’t have to call spots in advance you could just walk and talk your way through it in the ring. It was always a pleasure working with Adam,” added Starr.
Dykes had travelled to the show from Victoria with former wrestlers “Dirty Money” Shaun Myall and “The Thug” Ken Cossit. Myall had the privilege of taping Dykes’ last match, stating that despite being inactive he could still outperform many other guys in the ring. Afterwards they headed for home, and nearly lost their lives when they hit a 600-pound elk.
“We were driving and I told them it was refreshing to get out to a wrestling show. I’ve played fast-pitch and flag football and travelled for tournaments across our province and was lucky enough in my playing career to have travelled a lot. I go looking for the corny, funny stuff that happens at a wrestling show at a sports tournament and it never happens. Wham out of nowhere something crazy will happen at a wrestling show. It was a minute or two later that we hit the elk,” Myall said. “I don’t remember a lot of it but I remember the elk coming through the window and us coming to a complete stop. I asked Ken if he was okay and he said yes and he asked Adam if he was okay. Adam turned to him and then took his glasses off, folded them up and put them in his pocket. It was an eerie calm about him because he had literally just stared death in face and won. Adam got the worst of it. His leg and face were cut. A medic just happened to stop by and cleaned both of us up, and asked if we wanted to go to the hospital but both of us felt we were okay. The next day when Adam and I were driving home I looked at him and said, ‘We shouldn’t be here.’ He replied, ‘No, we shouldn’t we are lucky to be alive.'”
When someone dies it brings people together. The common bond of respect and admiration for Adam has started mending some fences in an unexpected way.
“Adam’s death is going to mend a lot of fences and bring together people who may have not been speaking to each other. In fact my ex-partner in ECCW, Dave Republic, called me to make me aware of what had happened, he wanted me to know James Olson was looking for me before it hit the Internet because he didn’t want me to find out that way. That was the first time I had talked to Dave in many months,” said Starr. “People are going to talk each other now and keep in touch. I feel like I haven’t been in touch with Adam the way I could have been in the last few years. We would talk on Facebook or messenger but few phone calls and haven’t really hung out in recent years. You wish you could have that time back. I wish I had gone to Campbell River for that show, I pulled out on that date and missed out on getting to see him.”
“I spoke to Buddy Wayne and Matt Farmer for the first time in a long time,” added Mac. “It is a cliche but it sucks that it takes something like this to bring us back together. There are some beefs that aren’t repaired by something like this, it doesn’t erase everything. I would like to think that when we do a memorial we will have a whole bunch of people in the business that will come together out of a shared love for Adam and maybe we will take care of each other better. We lose people like Kerry Brown and they are older and missed but at times it is somewhat expected. This seems so tragic with how young he is and the little boy he leaves behind. It doesn’t seem right or necessary.”
For Myall, it was his relationship with SLAM! Wrestling contributor Marty Goldstein that began to repair itself.
“We were involved in a project a year and a half ago and we got angry at each other. As soon as I found out what happened I called Marty and he didn’t know what was going on,” said Myall. “One of the things that happened on the phone was I apologized to Marty for being arrogant. So I do need to talk to my friends more and go out to the shows when I can and help the young guys in the business and be constructive with them instead of tearing them down. We need to stay in contact and try and not worry about the egos as much any more.”
Someone as well liked as Adam had many stories through his short life. His Ringside Live co-host Ian Hamilton shared two to start.
“He did a video on his website on how to combat the swine flu epidemic and was asking his son Thomas about it. He talked about his son all the time and there wasn’t a week on the show where Thomas didn’t make a guest appearance in some way. So he was doing this video as a spoof and he said, ‘What can we do to stop swine flu spreading?’ and you hear Thomas in the background yell ‘Triangles!!!’ Adam ran with it and improvised a whole video on building fences of triangles around farm animals. It really cracked me up,” Hamilton said. “On New Year’s Eve last year I remember getting a voice mail on my cell phone from Adam wishing me a Happy New Year. I remember wondering how he got my number… then remembering that my Skype was set to forward messages to my cell phone if they weren’t answered. I was looking forward to doing the same back to him this year and I wish I still had that message on my phone.”
Disco Fury spoke of how much Adam gave of himself to others in the ring.
“One of my very first matches was a battle royal. I had just broken in and going through the paces and as he was beating away on me, he looks at me and says, ‘Don’t you want to do anything?’ I asked if I could throw one dropkick and he said, ‘Sure kid, give it your best shot!’ Right there I was like, ‘Wow, he actually gave me something.’ All of the other guys were just giving it on me and here was a guy who was just trying to make everyone better. We did the Northern Hell Tour and he got so sick, he had pneumonia. He had a fever of 103, couldn’t even move, and he would go to the ring and give 110%, busted his ass, made everyone look good, finished, went back to the dressing room and zonked out. The very next day he would get up and do the same thing again.”
Myall’s fondest memories are away from the ring.
“I live here in Victoria and every couple of weeks would go out and have a chat. My favourite memory is the pride that he took in doing things for his son. Adam and I went to Wal-Mart all the time bin diving in the DVD section looking for bad television shows from the ’80s and ’70s and bad wrestling videos from any time. Adam loved buying Transformer movies for his son and watching them with him. Now that young boy won’t have that pleasure in his life and a memory to share with his dad for the rest of his life.”
Adam’s love of bad TV is one that also resonated with Scotty Mac. “We had a shared love for Saved By The Bell. Dropkick Murphy, Adam, myself, and more wrestlers than you might think actually like that show it is probably the over-the-top characters and TV drama. Adam came over one day and he had printed off a photo of Zack and Jessie where she had an addiction to caffeine pills. He autographed it for me ‘To Scotty: May You Always Be Saved By The Bell.'”
It was in searching for a photo with Adam for his Facebook profile that Mac realized what Adam meant to him. “I found one of me, Adam and my old partner Ja Jakobe. Under it said, ‘Trifecta of awesomeness.’ I had never noticed that underneath the picture before. A lot of the time in wrestling we spend our time giving each other a hard time and ribbing each other. I know that he knew good wrestling…” he said, pausing to regain his composure. “To get someone like that calling you awesome is pretty cool.”
Juggernaut said he can’t repeat his favourite story, but revealed one in which Adam appeared to have magical powers.
“We spent so much time together, you have to understand this group of people lived in a 12-person van for months on end. So the stories that we have there are so many of them,” Juggernaut explained. “I remember a time we were on our way to Salt Spring Island and we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch. We had a new ref on the tour and he was being a smart ass so the ribbing was constant. We had stolen his shoes or something so he was pouting and wouldn’t come out of the van for lunch. Adam convinced him to come out of the van and when he got out everyone attacked him on the street of this very small town. Beautiful Bruce was chopping him and then I gave him a piledriver and then Adam threw flash paper at him, so it looked like he threw a fireball. We were all laughing and went inside the restaurant. Fifteen minutes later the police showed up. The neighbour that called the cops came in and said, ‘The huge guy attacked him and then the midget started attacking him, then a wizard threw a fireball.’ The police are trying to take a statement from a guy saying that a wizard threw a fireball and a midget was dancing around. As weird as it sounds that was daily occurrences for us on the road. When you have a strange group of eclectic souls that is how it is.”
There is much talk of brotherhood in wrestling. No one knows why Adam Dykes chose to end his life, but everyone insists that this needs to be a wake-up call. Independent wrestling is a small community, which Juggernaut summed up best.
“In wrestling we choose more than just friends, we choose which brothers we want to have for the rest of our lives,” Juggernaut said. “I don’t know the circumstances surrounding all this completely but some of us, including myself, should have been paying attention better and maybe been there to help. I hope people will learn that this is a brotherhood and you really need to stand up and be there for your brothers. All the ribbing and joking aside we need to be there for each other because it is a business that no one understands. Who better to talk to than the brothers you have in the same business who will sincerely try and help you through the problems you have so you don’t feel like there is no option and are trapped. Consider that when a friend phones that you haven’t talked to in a few months instead of going, ‘I wonder what this guy wants?’ phone back and find out. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. We really need to start being there for each other and standing up for each other when they need it.”
Jason Clevett was a friend of Adam Dykes. This is one of the hardest stories he has ever written, but also one of his most important. Thanks to those that shared their memories, and their tears.