At first, Steve Rivers was worried he couldn’t celebrate his 30th anniversary in 2021 due to COVID restrictions and shutdowns. He wanted to commemorate the occasion by having a few matches, which he was finally able to do with loosened restrictions.
Now coming up fast on his 31st year in the wrestling business, Rivers considers that a milestone of greatness — and isn’t shy about telling you about it.
When Rivers first started training at 17, it was in high school in 1990, and he and Dale Hutchinson were introduced to the Hart family by a mutual school friend, Anne Roddis. He and Dale were dubbed “Chip & Dale” by Bruce Hart, a play on both Walt Disney’s cartoon chipmunks and the dance troupe. The name didn’t last, but Rivers has.
The late British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and Ross Hart trained Rivers in the Hart Dungeon. In 1991, Smith booked Rivers in his first match when WWF came through Calgary to do television tapings just as he was a couple weeks out of school at age 18. “I was in a WWF ring getting my ass kicked,” Steve laughed. “It was quite the experience.”
According to Rivers, if you weren’t 18, wrestling schools wouldn’t accept admissions. He pays attention to how now, aspiring wrestlers are getting in at a much younger age than when he began. When he met the Hart family, and said he wanted to wrestle, and they made him wait till he completed his academics.
Ross Hart, a long-time high school teacher, told SlamWrestling.net that his reasoning for waiting until Rivers finished his education was to ensure that if wrestling didn’t work out for Rivers, he would still have an opportunity elsewhere with his diploma.
“It’s always been one of my requirements that someone wants to go into wrestling, they need to have a high school diploma,” said Hart. He knows the brawling world to be a difficult profession to succeed in.
Born and raised in Calgary, the All American Steve Rivers is now a 49-years-old, 5-foot-10 and 260-pound wrestler. Rivers earliest wrestling memory dates back in elementary or junior high, he was in love with WWF back then and a local business called Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. “A wrestling fanatic” was the best way to describe his passion for the sport, and he wanted to enter that world at a smaller age.
Wrestling companies adored pinning their fighters with other known brawlers for the sake of drama, and for Rivers, he has his fair share of foes. “I’ve had rivalries with Dr. Luther from AEW, Black Dragon, Massive Damage, Gary Williams. Boy, there are too many!” he exclaimed. “There’s Kenny Johnson. Over a 30-year span, you end having a lot a big feuds and guys that you run into. It ends up going for years and years and years sometimes.”
When you find that right person to have a rivalry with, it doesn’t mess up, it was more of a push in the unwracked direction. “You look forward to, and you know you can do really good shows with these people, so you start looking forward to it. It drives you,” Rivers added.
Ross Hart wasn’t surprised that Rivers got to 30 years-plus. He expressed how proud of Rivers he is for pushing through the way he has. Hart also noted that Rivers is a transit cop and that his skills in wrestling has served him well in the law enforcement aspect. “I remember him [Steve Rivers] being very humble, very polite, very eager to learn about wrestling. He wasn’t ahead of himself, he was a star who was destined for greatness,” said Hart.
When he talked with SlamWrestling.net in January, Rivers had just lost his Heavyweight Championship for Can-Am Wrestling. Rivers has a long-standing relationship with Can-Am Wrestling, which is based in Calgary. The promotion started up again after the pandemic-mandated shutdown right on the week of his anniversary. It was a full circle moment for Rivers.
Aside from the big belt in Can-Am, he has won well over 30 to 40 titles during the course of his ongoing wrestling career. Rivers was a nine-time Can-Am Wrestling Mid-Heavyweight Champion, seven-time Mid-Heavyweight Canadian Rocky Mountain Wrestling Champion, four-time Monster Pro Wrestling champ, two-time RCW Champion, as well as plenty of tag team belts as well.
“It’s nice to be at that level, that championship level, especially after 30 years where there’s a lot of wear and tear in my body and almost 49 to still be winning championships feels good,” Rivers said.
The promotional brands he has wrestled for include WWFE Can-Am Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling, Japan for Onita Pro, Puerto Rico for Carlos Colon, in the Middle East, in Lebanon, RCW Wrestling, Pure Power Wrestling.
In 1989, Rivers met Ken Smith, better known as Kenny Johnson, at Stampede Wrestling. They worked so well together during training that they were titled as a tag team. Johnson noted that “it happened so fast.” They had no disagreements, nor disputes between them, that’s why they mixed well. When they started, Johnson and Rivers were known as the US Express, but then Steve came up with the name Model Americans once Johnson retuned to the wrestling world. Kenny complimented Rivers on his ability to create storylines for him his partner.
One time when they were wrestling for Can-Am Pro Wrestling in Alberta, they felt unworthy of the belts presented to them, so Rivers made cardboard cutout versions of the tag belts knowing that he and Johnson were going to win the real thing. They carried them out during their entrance to the ring. Johnson thought it was amusing.
In 1997, Rivers and Kenny Johnson did a tapping at WWE Monday Night Raw in Edmonton where they wrestled the Legion of Doom. At some point in time, Rivers said he chased a contract with WWE, but given how difficult it was to get a spot with complexities involving a visa for a Canadian, it wasn’t a simple task.
“I understand there’s a lot of parameters too. Sometimes it’s harder for the Canadian guys, it’s easier for them to hire an American instead of a Canadian and not having to deal with all the paperwork,” said Rivers. “Not to say that you can’t do it, but it’s really tough to get on. Being an independent wrestler you kind of have to make your own living, your own career out of the independent scene.”
Johnson remains a friend and fan. “He’s a great person. He works really hard at everything he does, and he comes up with great ideas.” said Johnson. “His work ethic in the gym, in the ring, he puts everything into it.”
One of Johnson’s favorite moments with Rivers would have to be when they turned on one and another for their storyline then paired up with other wrestlers, having Johnson betray Tommy Lane and get back with Steve.
Through pro wrestling, Rivers has met the best kind of people he can truly call friends. Given how “cutthroat” the business is, he found it to be a valuable attribute to have some concrete comrades in life.
His wrestling outfits were ordered through catalogues where you browse the pages of a spandex magazine. Rivers’ colors, red, blue and white with stars and stripes, should be obvious given his All-American gimmick. For many years, maybe over 20, Rivers has been using the song “Everything About You” by Ugly Kid Joe for his entrance music, but then switched to “Simply The Best” by Tina Turner.
Rivers has had the loving support from his parents since he started. His friends have been great supports too, they are just as enthralled by his long-running career.
“Good on him for 30 years of going that long and looking after himself and his body,” said Johnson. “Congratulations to him, all the best to him. I can’t say anything bad about him. I love him, he’s a great guy.”
Rivers is the brother Johnson doesn’t have. The tag team partners have shared so much, the personal details, the trials and tribulations of the road. Johnson appreciates it all. “He’s always been like a brother to me in a lot of ways,”
As for personal relationships, there was always that concern anytime they saw him limping in the morning. “That’s the thing about wrestling, you’re not going to get out of it injured free, especially if you’ve been doing it for this long,” Rivers said. He’s currently waiting for surgery for his shoulder and his left knee because he has no ACL as well as his lower back and neck, but he tries to stay fit. To Rivers, injuries are a badge of honor.
Speaking of honor, dream matches? Rivers wishes he could go back in time and work with Calgary wrestlers such as Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and the British Bulldogs because they were a big influence in his life. There are others like Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig and Hulk Hogan.
“Rivers Delivers” is one of his slogans. It’s a saying he would use during interviews at the end that describe him in the wrestling world.
With the restrictions loosened, Rivers has been picking up plenty of matches. He had a match against Devon Veers, a younger wrestler earlier this year. There was a test setup where Rivers said that if he can’t beat Veers in under 10 minutes, he’ll have to go to the bottom of the list for his Heavyweight Championship. It ended in a draw, which publicly frustrated Rivers but is also an example of a veteran helping a younger talent along. The idea is pass down his knowledge to other generations as he has been taught.
Rivers is still proud of what he can do, especially at his age. He has the experience, charisma, passion and resilience of 100 men. “I’m pretty happy with the level of wrestling I’m still able to do,” he said.
Thinking back, Rivers noted a handful of amazing matches — “five star matches.” The one that stands out the most would have to be when he travelled to Japan with Dr. Luther, not knowing who their opponents were going to be. They were the main event in a Barbed Wire Match at Korakuen Hall on November 12, 1999, against Atsushi Onita and Genichiro Tenryu, two of the most famous wrestlers ever in Japan, in a handicap match, with Rivers — as Dr. Steel — teaming with Dr. Luther and Ichiro Yaguchi. “They were the Hulk Hogan warriors of Japan,” he said. This kind of thrown together fight rarely happens, so Rivers was shocked but ecstatic.
During their match, they removed the covering around the ropes and placed the barb wire around it. Rivers woke up in his hotel room the next morning with his bedsheets latched to his back side due to the blood and pulsing wounds.
There are a few matches he’d like to forget too, like the one where he lost his Mid-Heavyweight Championship to Chris Jericho in Calgary in 1994. Jericho and Rivers both wrestled for the same company, Rocky Mountain Wrestling in Calgary.
Away from the ring, Rivers is a huge movie guy. Superhero films, preferably Marvel, are his favorites. George Lucas movies are also part of the collection, he has an Indiana Jones figurine in his home. He relishes in the fact that he’s a “Disney geek” as well. He has 18,000 comic books in his basement, including Batman, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Star Wars, Daredevil, Punisher, Wolverine, Justice League, Captain America comics. He collects at least 30 titles a month.
If he wants to unwind, he reads his comics and/or goes out for beer and chicken wings on a weekly basis. “I’m just a 260 pound nerd,” he laughed.
There’s been a lot of looking back in recent years.
“It’s been 30 years of reflection for my wrestling career, I just can’t believe it’s been 30 years have come by, and I’m still in the game and enjoying it,” said Rivers. “It’s been an incredible run, and I’m looking forward to putting a few more years in before I’m ready to pack it in. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to last 30 years.”
TOP PHOTO: The design for the 30th anniversary of Steve Rivers in wrestling.
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