By “CHAKAL” David St-Martin – For SLAM! Wrestling
Since 1997, I have been wrestling on the independent circuit under the name Chakal, holding numerous championships, mostly for the Montreal-based NCW and Toronto’s AWF (promoted by Ron Hutchison). I also played semi-pro hockey for a short while during that time. Getting noticed for being a pro wrestler and winning a national hockey mask design contest lead me to create www.chakalhockey.com, where I specialize in creating graphics and tools for hockey equipment manufacturers. I still wrestle regularly for the NCW.
Recently, I wrote a column for the French website www.lutte.quebec about longevity in wrestling as far as injuries are concerned. I was told it was so good I had to share it with the world. Frankly, I hesitate to talk about my own career specifically even after doing it non-stop for 18 years. I don’t want to be that guy that always speaks about himself and how things were better in his days. First, that’s usually never true — things are just different because wrestling is always morphing into something else. Second, I never wrestled for the WWE, TNA or ROH. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to show off with what I did. I was one of Ron Hutchison’s GAEA Boys, one of the lucky few. GAEA ran from 1995-2005 and was a women’s-only promotion in Japan that tried to create a male entity within its promotion.
Over my 18 years as an independent wrestler, I never missed a show because of injury. During my first six years with the NCW, we worked almost every week, and I had a show a month in Toronto for the AWF. The first time I missed a date was for my trip to Japan. Then I missed a second in 2005 because of a semi-pro hockey game.
My main point is how to prevent injuries, or how to work around them. I learned that quickly, thank God, that I knew my body from years of playing hockey before wrestling. In the second match of my career, I took a superplex from the top rope on a ring set up outside in sand. I bruised my tailbone, as the ring didn’t do its full job of protecting me. I was in intense pain for the next three or four months.
I was the green rookie, and I wanted to win my spot — I didn’t want to stop what was a dream come true. I could do everything, I just needed to accept the pain. I modified slightly how I took bumps for a while. Mu upper back and my feet would take the brunt more so I could let my tailbone heal.
This created another injury, as I bruised my heel on a body slam trying to protect my tailbone. I could do all my moves, only pain was my enemy. I made sure no one knew; when you are young you don’t want someone else making that decision for you. I would put foam in my boot to protect my left heel and putting more weight on my right foot.
I now knew that more injury was likely by compensating for a first injury, I added a gel sole in my right boot to help. I added more support to my knees as well.
Everything healed with time. I needed to build my strength and become a little bigger as I was only 140 pounds. If I was bigger and stronger I could sustain hits better without injury.
I became very good at not getting hurt until I went to Japan. We were four AWF wrestlers selected to go in a top-secret scenario. It was so secret, we were only told what the story was when we were on the plane to Tokyo. It was like a James Bond movie with Ron Hutchison in the role of M while we flew first class.
It was a nice trip but it was still work. We needed to meet with sponsors, attend a press conference and put in four to six hours working out at the company dojo. We worked on that match for six days. After three days, Ron asked me to be the captain in the match. I needed to learn the whole match not just my spots. It was not a problem as that was always my strong point. On the same day, bad luck struck, and I broke my right foot. I had the reputation for being an iron man in Montréal, and in just three days in Japan and I had broken my big toe. At first, I believed it to be just a sprain, but the pain kept getting more intense and in the evening while we were eating I almost fainted.
I wasn’t brought to the hospital right away, they called and I needed to wait a few hours for the doctor to arrive. What? At first I thought they would bring me to an hospital in the jungle to see some wizard or something like that. I couldn’t think straight at that point. Finally I was in a special section of a giant Tokyo hospital, a section exclusively for injured pro athletes. I was going to be checked on by the same doctor who took care of Misawa and Kobashi or their most famous baseball players. X-rays confirmed the injury, and lucky for me it was a “good” break. They gave me painkillers and they explain to GAEA how to strap me for my match on PPV. Then the James Bond movie resumed. The doctor took me aside, one on one. He asked not to tell anyone what he was about to do, he also told me he was proud of me and he will be sitting ringside to see me fight. “Don’t show anyone.” He then gave me one pill in a bottle and he looked me straight in the eyes:
“Take one hour before match, not earlier, not later.”
By then we had two more days to get the match together. I took it easy and kept learning the match scenario without taking bumps. The strapping was not helping as I couldn’t push with my right leg. The regular painkillers were not doing much, so I spend three nights in bed in Tokyo watching Japanese television. I don’t know to this day if that wasn’t worse than the injury.
On the big night, it was incredible, the biggest production I ever did. My foot was not doing any better; I was scheduled to take big bumps and jumps from the top rope so we put together a Plan B in case I couldn’t do some of it.
Adrenaline started to hype up, and two hours before the match they put the strapping on my feet. It didn’t feel better at all. One hour before my match I took the magic secret pill. I warmed up and with the adrenaline still rushing and lot of magic from that pill, I had no more pain. I jumped on my right foot, I felt nothing. I took my boot off and got rid of the strapping. Then I looked at the other GAEA boys and I told them: “Screw Plan B, we are going all the way.”
We had a good match and the GAEA people were happy.
It was a magical night, we were rock stars. Coming back home the following day was something else. I wanted to cry as I was in so much pain it was unbelievable. As if everything was suddenly going wrong, Ron Hutchison squeezed my right foot instead of the left on the plane by mistake. “How are you doing now?” Lucky for me NCW was off for the next three weeks so I didn’t miss any action.
Later I prevented a terrible injury spraining my ankle; if I didn’t have hard wrestling boot, I’m pretty sure I would have broken it Sid Vicious style. The crowd didn’t like the sounds or the look of it, and I have never watched it. I was able to finish the match even with the severe sprain, as long as I kept my boot on I was good. I was the champion, no question about taking time off. I used my manager to help me get through matches in the coming weeks, while he took more bumps than he bargained for. I was able to protect myself while performing because of that little tactic.
When I worked the TOW television taping in 2013, I came in with a pinched nerve in my back and three matches on my schedule. I was still able to do everything; I was just fighting pain like in my rookie year. I didn’t say a word, and worst that could happen was I would take a few week off after the taping.
My first match was with former WWE tag team champion Sylvain Grenier. I’m in pain but everything was fine except after a backdrop. I could not feel my legs! It might have lasted a second but it seemed to me like it was forever.
Lucky for me, my nerve finally released and I was in top shape for the rest of the night. I knew it wasn’t my spine, because through the years I learned to listen to my body. Strangely, I had to “work” a knee injury for my next two matches.
Today I know there is a little less in front of me than behind. That’s why I try to do everything in my power to make sure there is no injury in my future and I can continue my dream as long as possible. I hope this sheds some light to what we go through every time we step in the ring and that no matter what happens we are always fighting pain for your enjoyment.
Hope you had fun reading this, because I had a blast living it.
David St-Martin can still be seen in action with NCW out of Montreal. He’s been living his dream for the past 18 years. Check him out at www.ncw.qc.ca.