There comes a time when you can sense that a young wrestler on the independent scene is starting to make some headway, and may be heading into the next phase of their career. They start to travel to bigger metropolitan areas to grapple, hold titles for numerous promotions, and seem to be constantly booked. It has become very clear that Ontario’s Josh Alexander at the age of 26 has reached a new plateau in his career.
In 2012, Alexander wrestled for 15 different wrestling organizations throughout the continent, and so far in 2013, he has wrestled for 11 different ones. When SLAM! Wrestling caught up with the eight-year veteran of the squared circle, Alexander was getting ready to go perform for EVOLVE in Queens, New York, on September 21st in a Four Way Elimination Match against Biff Busick, Maxwell Chicago and Andrew Everett.
As Alexander explained it, though, this wasn’t his first involvement with EVOLVE.
“In May of 2011, about the time I was beginning to gain some steam and come into my own wrestling for the likes of Alpha-1, EVOLVE came to Toronto and did an Internet pay-per-view,” recalled Alexander. “I was lucky enough to be the local guy to get an opportunity on the card. I don’t think I did horrible, but by the same token I didn’t give them a reason to have to use me again. It was just not the right time. That being said I believe this coming weekend when I head to New York City for EVOLVE, I am a much more prepared performer. I have travelled a lot in the past couple years and have been building a solid fan base.”
With regards to his plans when he wrestles for them in New York City, Alexander said he would be sticking to the only plans he knows about at this time, which is to step into the ring with his three opponents who are up and coming talents as well.
“All of us are good in our own right and ready to break out,” Alexander said. “It’s anyone’s game. I’m just going for the opportunity to reach a new fan base with a great promotion and hopefully show I belong on the full-time roster.”
Gabe Sapolsky is the man behind EVOLVE, and arranged for Alexander’s latest shot. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what Josh can do with the huge opportunity of being in the EVOLVE Style Battle tournament this weekend in New York City,” said Sapolsky. “I believe the new class of talent is here and knocking on the door to carry independent wrestling. Josh has proved that he is at the top of that class with his physical, relentless style. He will get a chance to really showcase his abilities on the live to tape EVOLVE iPPVs at WWNLive.com this weekend.”
This doesn’t mean that Alexander plans to rest on his laurels for the remainder of the year. So far he’s already wrestled Michael Elgin at Absolute Intense Wrestling’s Absolution 8 event.
“We went to a 30-minute draw and it has really got me a lot of attention,” explained Alexander. “Many writers, fans and wrestlers are calling it 2013 Match of the Year so far. In November, we are doing the No Time Limit rematch, it would be safe to assume that will be pretty special. Otherwise, Ethan Page and I have plans to bring the Monster Mafia back to Monrovia, California, sometime before the new year to defend our IWL tag team championships.”
Speaking of the Monster Mafia, when SLAM! Wrestling spoke with Ethan Page he had only complimentary things to say about his tag team partner.
“Josh is a rare breed,” stated Page. “He’s the unknown component in a classic match. He just does those things you can’t explain or teach people; you just know. Certain guys have chemistry with certain guys; Josh has it with everyone. He just draws out the best in people. As far as the tag team, I’m the brains, he’s the talent. I’ll throw 1,000 ideas at a wall and literally try stuff with action figures. Josh will be the one to say ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘change this to this’, but to me it’s like a lyricist and a performer. I can think up great stuff; he can just do it better than me in the ring.”
That athletic talent that Page referred to has been present in Alexander for quite some time, going all the way back to his high school days when he religiously played basketball. After high school, Alexander enrolled at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, to study sports management in the fall of 2005 because, as he explained it, he thought that was the normal thing to do. Still, the lure of his love for professional wrestling proved strong.
“My friends and I in high school would wrestle in basements on mattresses, on trampolines, or in front yards,” recollected Alexander. “A friend who was an aspiring filmmaker would submit videos for English class of us re-enacting Shakespeare’s King Lear, but instead of a sword battle it would all end with a Tombstone or a Powerbomb. It was something that brought us all together.”
So when Alexander ventured off on his own to university located in a city that was four hours away from his hometown of Bolton, Ontario, northwest of Toronto, he found he had a tough time living in a dormitory being that he wasn’t the partying type. As a result, he began to look for an athletic outlet and stumbled upon a flyer for a show called UWA Hardcore at a WWE RAW show that was taking place in September 2005. Through the power of the Internet, about two months later he discovered independent wrestling shows and promotions.
“Now I know most people tell you they had always dreamed of being WWE champion, but in my insecure youth I never dreamed any of that possible,” admitted Alexander. “Even as a backyard wrestler I’d sooner emulate Dean Malenko rather than The Rock. I just thought at best I could train and have some fun with it. That Saturday, I went to what was then called Living Legends Wrestling Academy in Hamilton over an hour from my school and took my first bumps. From the first time I learned to bump, to bridge, to run the ropes all the other students were telling me I was a natural. That I was picking it up so fast, that I was talented. Immediately, I wanted more and delved deeper into wrestling. It consumed me and my life and began giving me the confidence I needed.”
Michael Elgin remembers those early days well as that happens to be when he first met Josh Alexander and took an instant liking to him
“It’s hard to explain, but being so passionate about wrestling allows you to see that same quality in others and I saw that in him,” said Elgin. “We travelled the roads a lot when he started, but after a bit I think his mind got clouded with other things. I will say I’m very happy that his mind is clear and he’s focused and motivated. I had my favorite match of 2013 with him at AIW, and he just keeps getting better. I am and will continue to push to get him in ROH.”
About a year later after Alexander had begun training at LLWA and wrestling for smaller independent shows, “Hotshot” Johnny Devine, who had been very outspoken about the need for old school mentalities to be carried on and the need for proper training in wrestling, opened his one and only class in Oakville, Ontario, at a local boxing gym.
“Working smaller indy shows, being green, and wanting to learn from anyone I could, I jumped at this opportunity,” Alexander cheerfully recalled. “It was to this day, the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. The training was brutal; the ring had no give, and very little padding. The conditioning and toughness he required from us was unmatched at any school I’ve since witnessed. Wrestling, I, of course learnt a great deal. He was [Hart] Dungeon trained, and trained us in the same vein as the illustrious Calgary training school, but the school also taught us so much about character and how to carry ourselves as a professional and a person. I credit Johnny Devine for making me the man I am today. I have since carried all of this forward and my passion for wrestling is the same as it was the day I first stepped in a ring.”
Johnny Devine remembered how he first met Alexander at a show in Hamilton, though he admitted he couldn’t remember the name of the company the youngster was working for at the time.
“There was a communal training centre at a terrible hole of a storage space and Josh was one of the ‘wrestlers’ there,” said Devine. “When I opened a training centre at Post Gym in Oakville, I had 20 guys, and a couple of girls, contact me about training with me, and Josh was a stand-out among the group and made the final cut. The try-out consisted of 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 300 squats and some in-ring drills; all of which was designed to test one thing — heart. As long as they did not give up they were in. Only five made the cut.”
One person who was part of that same training class, and recalls it vividly, was woman wrestler and trainer Miss Danyah.
“We were pushed beyond our limits, stretched to no end and really learned to listen, respect wrestling, and work hard to sharpen our skills,” explained Miss Danyah (who has since married Devine). “We trained in a boxing ring that had no padding; landing on steel beams and solid flooring. We would all walk out broken, limping, sore as hell, but we would each come back for more. Josh was a natural in the ring. His moves, movement, timing, and execution came easily. He just needed someone like Devine to sharpen those skills. Josh absorbed everything like a sponge. He is a true student of the sport.”
Devine concurred, stating that Alexander was a great student who was open-minded, closed-mouthed and able to grasp the concepts about the business of professional wrestling.
“Athletically Josh started soft, but his dedication to training, improving and honing both his body and his craft have turned him from the Ronin he started out as into the Walking Weapon you see today. I’m very proud of Josh as a student and as a man,” said Devine. “He has overcome so much adversity and no small number of personal issues with dignity, honour, and a never-say-die attitude that will serve him well in his future, which will lead him to whichever company he chooses. WWE, IMPACT Wrestling, New Japan, AAA, or any company on earth will be hiring a main event talent one day in Josh Alexander. The only thing that can stop Josh is Josh.”
Miss Danyah described Alexander as a great friend, and recalled how they would travel together to shows often, and that the few times they had the opportunity to wrestle as a tag team, they would go by the name ‘Devine Duo’ as tribute to their trainer.
“As a personal trainer, one of the most impressive things I have witnessed with Josh is the amount of time, work, and dedication he has put into his physique,” elucidated Danyah. “It has taken him years to mould his body, but he was patient, worked hard consistently, and revamped his nutrition to be in the best physical shape possible. His work is unparalleled and his work in the gym definitely reflects his athleticism in the ring. I’ve known Josh for eight years, and he is only now getting the recognition he deserves for what he can do. Timing is the key for him. I don’t think it’s a matter of if he’ll get signed to a major company, but when. He is very much on the radar now.”
After he was trained by Devine, Alexander worked for numerous wrestling promotions, but when he reflected back on the last several years he felt that Alpha-1 Wrestling’s A1 Alpha Male Championship, which he held in 2011 and 2012, was the catalyst that launched him into the place he is today.
“The title says it all ‘alpha male’, it just means you’re the top dog,” declared Alexander. “Alpha-1 was running very successful shows and still is, but at that time in front of those large crowds I was able to gain so much experience. I worked with some of the best wrestlers in North America and was able to gain the confidence to know that the sky’s the limit. This interview would surely never have happened, and my career would likely have ended, had I not had these opportunities.”
He has found success south of the border too.
“All my American success up until this point I owe to Absolute Intense Wrestling out of Cleveland, Ohio,” said Alexander. “They were the first company with any buzz to give me a chance and I’ve really had a chance to make the best of some good opportunities. The best part about AIW is that they are both growing at the moment and on the rise. It’s great working for them. I’ll always owe them for my success.”
The year 2011 was a pivotal one in Alexander’s career, as he also won the A1 Zero Gravity Championship, which he would hold until April 2013, and he participated in the inaugural Randy Poffo Invitational (RPI) where he went all the way to the tournament finale.
“Randy Savage had just passed away,” recalled Alexander. “I was always a big fan of him both before and after becoming a professional wrestler, which is not always the case. In all honesty, I felt more privileged to help Alpha-1 Wrestling raise money for Heart and Stroke. I take a lot of pride in being a part of charity shows, giving back what little I can. Also, as a wrestler I’m very competitive, especially in 2011 at the RPI. I had started discovering myself as a performer more and more. By the time I entered the second round of the tournament versus Alesandro Del Bruno it all came together. That match went off better than anyone could have anticipated. It blew me away, the reception it got. People still talk about it being one of the best matches that year. It was the spark that triggered the rising action of my career; ever since it’s been on the climb.”
Alexander followed up that impressive year by winning the Union of Independent Professional Wrestlers’ UNION Heavyweight Championship from Steve Corino in 2012 and winning the Insane Wrestling League’s tag belts with partner Ethan Page in 2013.
With regards to when he won the UNION Heavyweight Championship, Alexander recollected that he had already wrestled once on the show earlier that night.
“I knew I was going to be wrestling Corino that night and was nervous,” confessed Alexander. “I always get the butterflies, the unknown, I love the pressure. Rising to the occasion is the best feeling you can get; especially, when it all happens in real-time in front of a live crowd. I was honoured to have the chance to wrestle a veteran like Steve Corino, the championship was just icing on the cake. At the time, it was the fourth championship I’d consecutively held. Soon after I won my fifth title, so being able to represent four companies as their main attraction, and champion, is and always will be an honour. It’s something’s no one has done before in Ontario, and something I’ll never forget.”
As UNION Heavyweight Champion Alexander continues to have the same goal that he has for any title he’s held, which is to raise everyone’s game, a willingness to lead by example and to work harder than anyone else on the show. By doing so, he hopes it inspires the other wrestlers on the roster to raise their games and take the Union of Independent Professional Wrestlers to new heights.
Being a champion for any promotion comes with it a great deal of responsibility and Alexander takes that very seriously.
“A lot of guys might disagree with my standpoint on being a champion,” acknowledged Alexander. “Perhaps I’m old school, but with it comes the responsibility to make sure the fans get their money’s worth. I don’t think very many of us are draws any more, I more believe that wrestling as a brand draws in the crowds. It’s up to the performers to make sure they go home happy. More so those guys like Ethan Page and I in California for IWL, or when I’m at the UNION in Toronto.”
However, the fact that he is a titleholder for multiple companies sometimes results in conflicts, but Alexander stated that those normally came in the form of scheduling issues.
“Sometimes I have a show already booked that I can’t miss, but it’s on the same day as another event where I’m supposed to defend one of my championships,” said Alexander. “It’s unfortunate, but it is a reality of independent wrestling.”
While Alexander has not yet had the opportunity to attend a try-out for Ring of Honor, TNA or WWE it hasn’t been from a lack of trying.
“In 2011, I had paid, and planned, to attend one of the ROH camps. Another wrestler and I had a show in Ottawa and planned to drive through the night afterwards to make it to Philadelphia in time. Plans as they are change in the blink of an eye, and unfortunately, we were caught in a horrible snowstorm in Upstate New York and couldn’t attend; I plan to attend one soon though.”
In April 2013, Alexander had the opportunity to take a look with WWE at their Raw and Smackdown tapings and described the experience as being a very important one.
“I really got to see how the WWE machine works,” stated Alexander. “The most valuable portion of the experience was getting to listen and learn from William Regal. Everything seemed to go well and I got some great feedback. It’s just nothing happens overnight. Have to keep plugging away.”
As to the future, Alexander affirmed that if he had a choice he would love the opportunity to sign with Ring of Honor and travel the world gaining experience before going to WWE due to the fact that he hasn’t had the opportunity to wrestle overseas, though, that does remain a goal.
“Looking at the landscape of talent in WWE it seems the guys who follow that journeyman approach are having the most success,” Alexander indicated. “Of course, my goal is to end up one day in the WWE one way or another. My immediate goal is to sign my name on a contract for one of the major companies. I travel, I diet, and I train, to improve for the opportunity to make a living doing what I love. Hopefully, it will all pay off in the not so distant future. If not, I will continue making a name for myself doing what I love. I never thought I’d wrestle a match when I started, so every opportunity and accomplishment is amazing to me.”