VANCOUVER – There are moments that transcend the politics, ego and character of wrestling, or, put another way, moments that matter. The Adam Firestorm Memorial Show held Friday in North Vancouver was a collection of such moments, a night comprised both of heartache and celebration and whose ultimate prize was shared by a fraternity of brothers and a family that had come to embrace them. But the real winner of the night was a bright-faced five-year-old boy who, especially on this night, looked so much like his father.
The show, as emotionally charged as it was, did not resemble a typical memorial show. It was not sombre. It was not depressing. People did not sport long faces or openly weep. In fact, the first match of the night, a lively match between ECCW’s Billy Suede and ASW’s Kasaki had many in the audience openly laughing as the two wrestlers verbally sparred. This was the theme of the night: a chance for the friends of Adam Dykes to come together and celebrate his life while sharing his passion for the thing he truly loved in life, wrestling. For this one night, wrestlers from different promotions put aside their petty politics and personal differences and united for a common purpose — to say goodbye to their friend and help his young son achieve a successful future.
The night began with all the wrestlers in attendance forming a circle around the ring to watch a videotaped and heartfelt address from Adam’s parents, shot in Adam’s home country of New Zealand. Adam’s parents expressed their gratitude and appreciation for those behind the memorial show and articulated their understanding of Adam’s absolute love for professional wrestling. His parents did not cry and did not break down as they talked lovingly about their son, dead now for just over a year. Instead, they wished everyone well and encouraged all the wrestlers to put on a great show.
“I know Adam would be looking down and would want everyone to have a lot of fun,” Adam’s father said, his image displayed on a large projection screen. “He would want to hear a lot of noise from the fans, a lot of cheering. So let’s make a lot of noise for Adam Firestorm!”
The crowd — and the wrestlers too — responded with wild applause and you could see some emotion on the faces of those around ringside, but there was no sobbing or shaky knees, just enthusiastic clapping and hollering as the show to remember a fallen comrade began.
The results: Kasaki was defeated by Suede in the opening contest; the team of Volcano and the Panama Wasp overcame the team of Adam Virtue and Azeem; Mr. India managed to get a win over Cremator in a hardcore match; Scotty Mac and Kyle Sebastian beat Vance Nevada and Cole Bishop; in women’s action, Raven Lake fell to Supergirls Champion Nikki Matthews.
Then it was time for the main event and really, the moment of the evening. Billed as a Memorial Battle Royal comprised of wrestlers who knew and/or worked with the late Adam Firestorm, the match was a high-paced, entertaining contest whose winner would receive the beautiful Adam Firestorm Memorial Championship belt. Crafted by beltmaster Dave Millican and designed by Rico Mann, the belt is something John Parlett, a 20-year friend of Dykes, called “a work of art. Those pictures on the Internet don’t do it justice. It’s a piece of art made by the best in the business.”
The winner of the Memorial Rumble was Strife, perhaps the person closest to Adam Dykes in the wrestling world. The two bonded during frequent road trips and wrestled many matches together. “Adam was my first and best friend in the wrestling business,” Strife said in a post-match interview. When Strife was handed the Memorial belt, the emotion was evident on his face. He took a moment to stare into Adam’s face etched onto the title’s golden plate and everyone held their breath, lumps forming in many throats.
Then Strife invited Adam’s family — all of whom had travelled all the way from New Zealand just to see this show — into the ring. Adam’s sisters Katina and Julie stepped in first, followed by Adam’s wife Emile and behind her was Thomas, Adam’s five-year-old son and the person who would receive all the proceeds from the Memorial show, money that would be placed in a trust fund for his education. (A sizeable amount as the winner of the night’s 50/50 draw donated the money back to the trust fund, a gesture that earned the fan a warm and long ovation.)
And then “The Moment” was there, the one that opened the proverbial floodgates. Strife knelt before Thomas and handed the young boy the Memorial Belt. There was a moment — albeit brief — when the child looked down at his father’s masked face and in those seconds, understood what he was holding. Then, like his father, he smiled broadly, determined somehow to turn a potentially depressing moment into something very special.
“We weren’t sure how Thomas would react to the belt,” Disco Fury, also a long-time friend of Dykes, said after the show was over. “We didn’t know if he would grasp it. But he embraced the whole thing and when he held that belt and you could see the look in his eyes, it was like his dad shot right into him.” Disco was openly crying as Thomas held the belt and he wasn’t the only one.
Julie, Adam’s older sister, was able to see this moment for herself as she stood next to Thomas as he held the gleaming belt. “It was really special,” she recalled. “I can see Adam in Thomas just in the way he moves and some of his mannerisms. But tonight, in that ring, it was like… there’s my little brother, just the way I remember him.”
Then, just before all the wrestlers and Adam’s family gathered for a group photo, everyone started chanting Adam’s name, including his son and even though the crowd on hand was sparser than in other shows, it sounded like a sell-out. And that’s what Adam would have heard.
“He’d have gotten a huge kick out of this,” Julie said of her brother, the memorial belt transferred to her own waist. It matched the small fire tattoo on her ankle. “And that’s the thing with Adam, he was always smiling. And he never said a bad word about anyone. If people were having a bad day or having issues, he would find something funny or goofy to do — that’s just who he was. Nothing could have been done to represent his love and passion better than this belt. It just amazes me that some of these wrestlers who don’t make very much money contributed something for my little brother. It’s touched me beyond words.”
Strife concurred with Julie’s point. “This inter-promotional show is the perfect tribute to Adam,” he said. “I was talking with some of the guys in the back and we agreed that he was the only person we know of that didn’t have heat with anyone. No one ever said a bad word about him. And for everyone here to capture a little bit of his spirit by coming here and working together for his memory and for his son, I think that’s the best testimony there can be for the legacy he left in the wrestling business. He made everyone a better person, because they had to become a bigger, better person to participate in this show and I know he would have really loved that.”
Adam’s family understood the close bond shared by the wrestlers and understood that the people competing in the ring were truly Adam’s second family. “It was incredible to see people from different wrestling organizations coming together tonight,” Katina said. “It was very, very cool. It’s awesome that people understood him and who he was and for someone to have that kind of power after they have died is pretty phenomenal.”
The legacy of Adam Firestorm is intact and it will continue well into the future. Although the Memorial belt will travel back to New Zealand so Adam’s parents can see it, it will return next year when another Adam Firestorm Memorial show will be held. Parlett is thrilled to know that Adam’s name will not be forgotten and that young Thomas will be able to benefit from the tragedy of his father’s passing for years to come.
“This is the single most important thing I have ever been part of,” Parlett said as people began to file out of the building. “I’ve been involved in wrestling for over 20 years and this is the single most important thing that has happened in my lifetime. I feel good that we all did something that will live on because we got everyone together and now it will continue. I think this is what we had to do as a brotherhood, a community of wrestlers and promoters. I hope it continues forever.”
Parting with the belt was hard for Strife but he understood its true place was with Adam’s family. Still, looking at that belt after he won the Rumble match was almost like having Adam in the ring with him again. “I felt a lot of heartache, a lot of joy, a lot of memories and a lot of regret,” he recalled of the experience. “But overwhelmingly, just looking at the belt, at his face, I just felt… I miss my friend. And when I was talking to Thomas in the ring, I could see the same feeling in his eyes. In the end, I think we all did something wonderful in light of the worst possible circumstance, so there’s a lot of mixed emotion. I think the idea was for everyone to have fun, be happy and celebrate Adam’s life and I think we did that.”
But there was a lot left unsaid as the ring was dismantled and the night came to a close. Yes, Adam led a great life and left an indelible mark in the lives of many, but that he died at all doesn’t seem right. A beautiful child will grow up without a father and a sister is left without her brother and for what? Why did this have to happen? This is the ultimate tragedy: the complete senselessness of it all, a question that can never be answered and that those that cared for Adam simply have to deal with. Adam didn’t have to commit suicide, choosing to make the pain so much worse for those that cared.
“I think he would have been touched by the love and respect for him,” Strife replied thoughtfully after being asked what Adam would have thought of the Memorial show held in his honour. Before continuing this thought, Adam’s friend took a moment and nearly a minute went by before he spoke again. When he did, his voice had changed. There was an edge to it, as if something else was accompanying the pain of this reflection. That unsaid thing that had hung in the air all night that was for the briefest of moments so clearly etched on Thomas’ young face. Love but frustration too.
“It’s hard to say what tonight would have meant to him,” Strife said finally in this emotional voice. “I think it would have changed things if he had known the love there is for him… from his friends, from his family and how much he touched everyone around him both in life and in death.” Another pause, another reflection. “Adam was very unwell when his life ended and in a dark moment like that, I think love is for sure the answer and I guess he felt that wasn’t available to him.” Strife took a moment to watch Thomas as he ran by, playing with another wrestler’s son. “Tonight is a reminder that it was.”
“Moments like these are the reasons I write about wrestling in the first place,” says Fred Johns, the West Coast Correspondent for SLAM! Wrestling.