The mark of any great storyteller is to always leave the audience wanting more. Nobody can deny the fact that Alex Vega is a gifted athlete and a great entertainer. But when he wrestles, one of Vega’s main goals is to provide his fans with stories that they can tell their grandkids about one day; stories that one would have had to have been there to appreciate.
“It’s always like these guys (indie wrestlers) are pushing the bar so much when it comes to highspots. The key is doing them in sequence and have meaning behind these moves,” Vega said. “A lot of these guys can do them really quickly; all these cool moves and whatnot. But what will put you more over the top is telling a story with them. You’ll see all these guys do a bunch of crazy sh–, just unbelievable stuff. But if they’re in there and they can tell a story, that’s what matters. That’s what makes people say, ‘That match was memorable.'”
Vega comes from a Guyanese background, but was born in Toronto. His real name is Tariq Ghani; at least this is how his parents and most of his coworkers at his day job as a network analyst know him. But to all the fans out there, who pony up the dough to see him wrestle each week, he’ll always be known as Alex Vega. And Vega can certainly relate to them, because much like those who came before him and those who will come after him, he was a fan first.
“Growing up, I used to watch a lot with my father. I grew up with it (wrestling) in the house,” Vega said. “I’ve always been more of an athletic kid. I got to the point where it was either keep being a fan, or actually try it.”
After thinking it over and weighing his options, Vega was a little hesitant, but ultimately decided that it wouldn’t hurt to at least try out for professional wrestling, to see if he had what it took.
It was in 2008, when Vega first walked through the doors of Squared Circle Training in Toronto. The school has such a heavy influence of Japanese strong style and Lucha Libre, and since Vega is a lighter guy at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, it seemed like the perfect fit for him. Under the tutelage of head trainers Rob Fuego and Steve “Kobra Kai” Cvjektkovich, Vega was able to really perfect his craft.
“My offence has all benefited throughout my training,” he said. “If it’s technical ability, if it’s brawling, if it’s flying; those are all the parameters I excel at.”
As he got more and more comfortable in the ring, Vega realized that sooner or later, he would be working shows; so he needed to develop a persona. After all, every great story has to have a great character.
“I used to do a B-boy character when I first started, but I’ve kind of strayed away from that,” Vega said. “I was becoming more of a bad guy; more of a heel. I’m a bit of a high flyer right now, but I used to do a break dancing gimmick.”
“Rock Steady” Alex Vega was eventually paired up with Brent Banks in Toronto’s Smash Wrestling. The team was known as The Steady Ballers, and because they were so similar in styles, charisma and athletic ability, among other attributes, they complimented each other in every way imaginable.
“I’ve had a chance to work with Brent a lot. We do a lot of cool sequences and a lot of cool spots and whatnot, but we always have some kind of story,” Vega said. “It’s the sense that you have the option to control the crowd and give them what they want.”
As great a team as they were, what was once a steady road, quickly turned into a rocky one for these ballers. There were plenty of similarities between the two in the ring, but the one noticeable difference was their attitudes toward the locker room, the crowd and especially each other.
Fans of Smash Wrestling could see that the foundation had already started to crack and it was only a matter of time before this team was no more.
The official break-up happened in early 2013. Though no one was thrown through a barbershop window, the angle was still enough to turn once good friends into bitter rivals. Vega and Banks were set to run out to help Scotty O’Shea, who was being triple-teamed by Tyson Dux and the Overdogs, but Banks decided to put on the brakes and desert his own partner, leaving Vega and O’Shea still outnumbered by the heels.
The feud intensified so much over the next several months that only a veteran referee could step in to help the former Steady Ballers settle their differences. Enter Jimmy Korderas.
“The rivalry was between Brent Banks and Vega, who were tag team partners. And that’s what happens when a tag team breaks up, is one guy turns heel and one guy turns babyface. Brent was the guy who turned heel, and Vega was the babyface,” Korderas said. “I was just, I don’t want to say a babyface, but a regular referee in Smash, without choosing sides or anything like that.”
It’s common knowledge that referees are supposed to remain neutral at all times and call everything right down the middle. But sometimes, a man can only be pushed so far, and Korderas’ decision to not choose sides was eventually taken out of his hands.
“During one of their matches, Brent versus Vega, I disqualified Brent, and he took exception to that and slapped me. He throws a pretty good slap, but anyway, it morphed out of there,” Korderas said. “We were presented with having a handicap match with me and Vega against Brent. I thought it was odd that the so-called babyfaces would have the two-on-one advantage. It’s something different, because usually it’s the other way around. With two young talents like that, I figured they could carry the match. I just wanted to be entertaining, as best as I can, but at the same time, help progress their storyline.”
This was the first angle that Korderas was involved in, since the referee strike of 1999 in the WWE. He really enjoys working with this young talent, and the feeling is usually mutual.
“I knew that I would have to be doing a lot more of the work. It was essentially a one-on-1.5 deal. You’re in there with one wrestler and a referee, who’s got limited training. I know when it comes to Jimmy, we had so much fun. He was just an entertaining guy in that match,” Vega said. “When it comes to Korderas, he is probably the most humble guy that I know in wrestling. When he talks, all ears are on him. I listen as much as I can. If it’s any advice or input that he has, I recommend to all the guys to listen to him, because the man is so knowledgeable. He’s got a good head for the business. It’s fantastic to listen to him and hear what he’s got to say. I had a blast working with him. Hopefully we can do it again, but I enjoyed working with him.”
Once the handicap match was in the record books, after Banks knocked out Korderas with his boot, the feud between Banks and Vega only heated up some more. Vega evened up the score with a pinfall victory over Banks at Smash Wrestling’s Any Given Sunday 2. However, Banks did not handle that loss well, and attacked Vega after the match.
So this story had a hero, a villain, a wildcard in Jimmy Korderas and several plot twists along the way; all it needed now was an ending. That ending came in February of this year, when the former teammates battled it out in a ladder match, where the winner would advance to the tournament to crown Smash Wrestling’s first champion, while the loser would be banned from entering that very tournament. Good triumphed over evil that day, as Vega defeated his former tag team partner and finally put this feud behind him, so he could move on to bigger things.
The championship tournament kicked off on March 30. Vega was unable to advance past Rich Swann in the first round, but he certainly hopes that the fans got their money’s worth. Vega knows that some of them are harder to please than others, but he always makes his best effort to send them home happy.
“I’ve just been able to connect a little more with the fans. I’m not sure if it’s just my confidence level or if I’m able to just relax a little more. But I’m not rushing as much anymore. I’m able to relax during my matches and really soak it up and enjoy myself out there,” Vega said. “You’ve got to cater to the fans that you have. There’s always the smart fans out there, who like to boo the babyfaces and cheer the heels, and that’s great; they paid for the tickets and can do what they want, but if you’re good, you’re good. The fans will pick up on that and will cheer you or boo you if they have to.”
On May 4th, Smash Wrestling has a Smash Wrestling Championship tournament at the eZone (120 N Queen St, Toronto). First round matches are Scotty O’Shea vs Kevin Steen; Michael Elgin vs Chris Hero; Johnny Gargano vs Matt Cross; Josh Alexander vs John Greed, and Alex Vega against New Japan’s Takaaki Watanabe.
On a professional level, and maybe even a personal one as well, the 25-year-old Vega has accomplished so much already. So the question now, is ‘What’s next?’
“I want to make a living out of wrestling. I want to be able to do this full-time; whether it’s a higher promotion, whether it’s Ring of Honor, whether it’s TNA, whether it’s WWE,” Vega said. “My next step is to do some of the American shows. I’ve been doing that for the last year or so. I want to make my way down south to see if I can gain more exposure in America.”
Vega has already done shows in Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, so it might be safe to say that the rest of the world better get ready for him.