Recently, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a very special scholarship was awarded for the first time in honor of the late Reid Flair. The recipient was 23-year-old Michael Richard Blais from Calgary, Alberta, who has already been wrestling for eight years.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound, bleached blond Blais had difficulty putting it into words what winning the scholarship meant to him.
“When Beth Flair shook my hand in the ring she told me to use this for good, make something of myself with it, and when I go back home to teach everyone what I’d learned because that’s what Reid would’ve done, it was overwhelming,” Blais told SLAM! Wrestling.
The training sessions were held during the weekend of August 1-4, as a part of the Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. The camp was lead by Dr. Tom Prichard, and included Les Thatcher, Tully Blanchard, Leilani Kai, and Gerald Brisco.
“I have such respect for all the trainers, having watched and studied them as well as hearing things from others who have worked with them,” he said. “To have them recognize me, take an interest in me and ultimately choose me for the scholarship was overwhelming as well. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in wrestling so far. It kind of like, validated to me that I made the right choice to do this, and I can actually make it. I just need to keep working hard. It made me feel like it showed people like my parents, grandparents, TJ Wilson, Nattie Neidhart, my friends, and my fiancée, anyone who has ever supported me, that they didn’t waste their time on me. It gave me the confidence, but also more so the motivation to work my @$$ off harder to keep whatever momentum I have going and make something of myself with this.”
A fellow attendee at the camp was Prairie Wrestling Alliance wrestler Sheik Akbar Shabaz who knew that Blais would do well despite the fact that he was so nervous.
“This guy literally eats, breathes, and sleeps wrestling,” said Shabaz. “He asked me to come with him to North Carolina to train with him and Dr. Tom Prichard. He’s helped to make me a more confident and better wrestler. He’s helped me in ways he’ll never know. Michael Blais was told as a kid he’d never make it because he was too fat, and he was too reckless in the ring. He proved everyone wrong by dieting, changing his style, and hard work. You can’t stop his shine, and when his light reaches out and touches you, you can’t help, but feel his passion and desire in the ring. I can honestly say you will see Michael Blais move onto bigger and better things.”
Shabaz said there was a reason why Prichard and Thatcher put Blais on the Internet-Pay-Per-View twice. One of the things that Shabaz feels makes Blais special is that he’s capable of leading a match with an inexperienced wrestler, and making him look phenomenal, just as easily as he can respectfully listen to a veteran and follow directions. “Everyone that watched the iPPV now know the name Michael Richard Blais, and I can guarantee you they will follow him until his wrestling career is over,” assured Shabaz.
As for what Blais intends to use the scholarship for in the immediate future, he is putting it towards this year’s Harley Race World League Wrestling week-long camp.
“I signed up for the camp literally the day I got back from Charlotte,” recalled Blair. “Other than that, I am just going to keep my eyes open for camps with as many veterans and well known trainers as I can. One thing Mr. Brisco told us was to do our research and make sure wherever we go to learn has a reputation for producing good talent. So I am just going to keep my eyes open, do my research, work hard, and learn as much as I can.”
As for the four-day camp itself, Blais indicated that Thatcher, Prichard, and Kai were there for the entire time, while Brisco was available for two of the days, and Blanchard was there for three of the days.
“I don’t know if I could explain everything I learned from them without either writing you a book or spending a few days talking about it,” said Blais.
“A big thing was for years everyone has been telling me to ‘slow down … make everything you do mean something’ and I never really got it, maybe just ’cause I was young, maybe it wasn’t explained to me right, or maybe I just didn’t understand. The way they explained it though, taught it, it just all clicked and I got it,” Blais said. “Everyone, especially Dr. Tom Prichard, really helped me with my confidence; just the talks they gave, and the interest they took in me, really opened me up and made me feel good about my choices in life. Les Thatcher, Gerald Brisco and Dr. Tom Prichard really helped drill into my mind the importance of gym time, looking the part, and nutrition. Les Thatcher actually sent me an entire nutrition guideline. Honestly, all the trainers taught me so much not only about in the ring, but outside of the ring. I truly feel like I’m a better wrestler, but also a better person having attended the camp.”
Blais went to his first Stampede Wrestling show in 2003, and it was actually the Stu Hart 88th Birthday Show, and that on the show there was a match billed as “Teddy Hart’s Kids Pro Wrestling School Exhibition.” After the show Blais mustered up his courage to go to talk to Teddy Hart and ask him about the training. Two weeks later when he went to see Hart he found out that the training camp was $1,000 to sign up and $200 for each subsequent month. At the age of 13, Blais was lucky enough to have supportive parents and grandparents who gave him the down payment for the camp and the $200 per month until he turned 18 years old.
The two men chiefly responsible for Blais’ training were Ravenous Randy Myers and TJ Wilson.
“Randy taught me how to bump and the very basics at the beginning like how to run the ropes, grab a headlock, etcetera,” explained Blais. “It wasn’t that long before TJ Wilson started training us, and he was the one that really taught us how to wrestle. He taught us how to chain wrestle, run spots, how to show intensity, how to put a match together. He helped us practice moves, come up with moves, taught us proper conditioning. He was the guy that really trained us, but Randy Myers was there during it.” Other influences included Nattie Neidhart, and Apocalypse, who is Rick Victor and Apoc in NXT.
Blais’ trainer TJ Wilson, better known to WWE audiences as Tyson Kidd, has continued to follow his friend and protégé’s career, and when he heard Blais had won the special scholarship in honor of Reid Flair, he excitedly said on Twitter “He killed it this week in North Carolina I’m hearing. Impressing guys like Gerald Brisco and Dr. Tom Prichard.”
In response Brisco tweeted, “Good kid need to hit the gym and a good person,” while Prichard tweeted “He did a great job! You should be very proud!”
Even with that pedigree of training, finding work at the beginning of Blais’ career was difficult due to his youth. At the age of 15 it was Bill Bell, the promoter of Stampede Wrestling at the time, who gave Blais his first big break. During his time at Stampede, the highlight was a Lumberjack Match he had against Brandon Van Danielson at the end of the Young Lions Cup Tournament.
“Really it ended up being so much more with all the guys around the ring watching us work our butts off. It was an amazing feeling,” recollected Blais. “Being the youngest British Commonwealth Middle Heavyweight Champion and winning it at 16 years old is as cool a stat as a young guy can get too. To have my name listed in the same title history as Dynamite Kid, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, and be able to have the stat saying I’m the youngest ever is pretty sweet.”
If the name Michael Richard Blais isn’t all that familiar it’s probably due to the fact that up until January of 2013 he had been known to wrestling fans as “Chucky Blaze.”
“Something just snapped in me and I decided I had to make a change and move forward,” clarified Blais. “I went on a very strict diet, lifting routine, I dropped from 215 pounds of fat, I was 230 in October of last year, to a fairly lean 170 pounds. Part of the mental switch was the thought that Chucky Blaze sounded to me like something a 15-year-old came up with, probably because it was. I kept thinking of a name, until I finally decided to just use my real name Michael Richard Blais (Blaze).”
For the last seven years the Edmonton-based Prairie Wrestling Alliance has been the home promotion for Blais.
“No matter what is going on with life, twice a month, every month, I get in the ring and perform for them,” Blais relayed.
“I’ve evolved so much there, and everyone has always been supportive. [Promoter] Kurt Sorochan has always been good to me and is a friend,” said Blais. “PWA’s given me the chance to wrestle Homicide who still remembered me when I saw him in Charlotte which was cool. They gave me the chance to have a match with Harry Smith and gave me the trust to run with their heavyweight title.”
Shabaz, who has known Blais for many years, has seen him transform from someone who would do 10 high spots in a match, and wouldn’t care if he landed on his head, to a more seasoned performer.
“I remember Lance Storm would use him as an example of what not to do in wrestling in his training school,” recalled Shabaz. “He changed his style and quickly changed the minds of his critics. Seeing him in the ring do drills and run through spots and work matches inspired me to do better. Given the opportunity I think he can make it anywhere he wants to; following in the footsteps of his best friend TJ Wilson.”
Out of the titles he’s held, Blais cites the PWA Heavyweight title as being the most meaningful because of how hard he had to work to obtain it.
“They always treated me well in PWA, but I know from the time I started until 2012, I wasn’t really looked at as a guy who they’d trust being in that spot. I was too young. I didn’t wear professional gear — Hell, I wore a T-shirt, but I worked, and worked, until everyone respected me and said, ‘Okay, you’re gonna be the guy who wins it from Harry Smith.'”
The process by which Blais became the PWA Heavyweight Champion took place over a period of two years.
“It’s been an entire story-arc for me that I’ve kind of helped mold the entire time,” elucidated Blais. “It’s something I couldn’t do anywhere else but it works here because all the fans here have seen me since I’ve been 15 and my first feud with Brandon Van Danielson. It started with me and T-Bone Jack Sloan as partners, who hated each other, and ended up with the tag belts. T-Bone was the bad guy, I was the good guy. When we lost the tag belts, we did a double turn as he tried to shake my hand, and become a real team, but I hit him in the nuts. The next month, I brought out a bodyguard named Azrael, and we ended up running T-Bone out of the company. My bodyguard and I went on a tear leading to me winning the heavyweight title from Harry Smith where I debuted pink and black gear saying I was gonna beat him in his own family’s colors. I lost the heavyweight title to Dylan Knight, blamed Azrael, and told him I’d only forgive him if he won us the tag titles, which we did. When we lost them, I blamed Azrael again, he had enough, and choke slammed me.”
From there Blais had a program for a few months between himself and Azrael which ended in an I Quit Steel Cage match where he ultimately quit. The following month Blais came out to the ring and congratulated Brandon Van Danielson on becoming a double champion.
“I explained how I was too tied up in everything else over the last few years, and that I forgot what I am here to prove is that I’m the best, I’m God’s Gift to Wrestling. So we are doing a best-of-seven series, and in the end it’ll tie everything up in a nice little package, but I can’t give it away. It’s honestly been two years of building my character in a certain way, almost all by accident. It’s pretty cool, one of those things where I wish PWA got more coverage as a top indy so more people knew about it.”
Blais has also had the opportunity to wrestle for the NWA, ECCW, Wrestling Supershow, Real Canadian Wrestling, Force Pro Wrestling, Power Zone Wrestling, All Star Wrestling, Mid-Atlantic Fan-Fest and Canadian National Wrestling Alliance. Out of those other promotions, one highlight for Blais was working for CNWA and Vance Nevada.
“Probably the most fun I had was at a CNWA show in Sexsmith, Alberta earlier this year,” said Blais. “I actually made the six-hour drive with my dad, which was a fun bonding experience, and I got to wrestle a guy named Brian Rich, who told me after that he had felt down about wrestling, but I made him feel good about it with the match I gave him. It’s always nice to hear that.”
Another special moment came when he worked for All Star Wrestling, and Michelle Starr, where he had the opportunity to wrestle the Bollywood Boys in the main event of the very first show he ever worked for him.
“I just had the two matches for the Mid-Atlantic Fan-Fest,” Blais told SLAM! Wrestling. “To be on iPPV, with all the legends there watching and being able to pick their brains for critiques after was one of the best experiences I could possibly have had doing this so far.”
So far Blais has only had the chance to wrestle in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Charlotte, North Carolina. However, now he wants to wrestle everywhere and anywhere he can.
“I’d love to wrestle in California, specifically for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. I’m planning to attend the Harley Race 2013 WLW week-long training camp, and would love to be able to wrestle on their show at the end of the week in Missouri. Japan is a place that has been a goal of mine since I started, I love the Japanese culture and the wrestling there it would be amazing to experience it.”
In terms of a long term dream, Blais stated that it was to make it to the WWE and to one day main event at Wrestlemania.
“Currently, though, I set some attainable goals for myself,” said Blais. “I’d like to be able to put on 15-20 pounds of lean muscle in the next year so I can be a well-built 190 pounds. I want to attend as many camps so I can continue learning. I want to wrestle as many shows as I can. I’m hoping to get to the point soon where I can say I am doing at least six shows a month. Really, the big one is I would love to go to Japan, England or both for a tour within the next year. Lots of goals, but I think that’s what you have to do to make it. Always work towards a goal.”