On November 25, Sammy Peppers returned to his old high school to battle a second-generation Canadian wrestling legend.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Peppers is from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and he recently competed in his first match back home in over two years. The bout took place at Portage Collegiate Institute West Gymnasium, and he battled Davey Boy Smith Jr., the son of WWE Hall of Famer, The British Bulldog.
SlamWrestling.net talked with Peppers before the bout. He saw it as “a bit of a test as well to see how I fare against someone who’s really done a lot for a Canadian wrestler in terms of travelling to Japan and working for a nationally televised company and achieving tag team championships with global companies.”
Peppers was well aware he was the underdog heading into the match, calling Smith Jr. a “Canadian wrestling icon” but he did not let that affect him mentally. “He definitely will be bigger, stronger, faster, he’s going to be able to physically outpower me. But I’ve got my hometown behind me and I’m not going to take it lightly just because I know all of this, I know I’m at the disadvantage here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t stop giving it a hundred percent the entire time.”
“I can never give him [AJ Sanchez] enough credit because he really opened my eyes to wrestling and made a dream into more and more of a reality every time, I work with him,” said the 29-year-old Peppers. “But AJ Sanchez, my trainer, has really provided me with the tools and the resources I’ve needed to learn how to do things in this industry that I never thought I would be able to.”
Sanchez saw that Peppers had a big personality from the get-go, but he said he has really come into his own over the last year or two. “The personality aspect of who he is has helped set him apart from everybody,” explained Sanchez, who sees great potential in Peppers. The veteran also explained that a wrestler’s etiquette outside the ring is just as important as their work in the ring. Sanchez said Peppers is the guy setting and taking down the ring, cleaning the venue and leading the younger wrestlers.
According to Duggan, Peppers was in great hands from the beginning because Sanchez is “one of the best all-around wrestlers this country has to offer.”
Duggan was impressed by Peppers’ work in the academy. “Very few people come to wrestling school physically and mentally prepared for what is to come. Sam never appeared detoured and was always pushing through and progressing along,” said Duggan, the CWE promoter. He believes Peppers has the potential and talent to become successful in wrestling.
However, Duggan also noted that Peppers has many opportunities available away from wrestling as well.
Peppers is originally a University of Manitoba graduate from the Asper School of Business, where he currently works as a student advisor, but post-graduation, he worked for a tech start-up company. After some mass layoffs in early 2018, Peppers was in-between jobs and had always been a fan of wrestling.
He also was always looking for motivation to go to the gym and thought becoming a wrestler would help push him towards a goal. Peppers said he is fortunate to have found some success, but even if he had not found success it was an adventure he wanted to take.
“In life, there’s a lot of things that people seem to regret, but oftentimes it’s usually the stuff we don’t do as opposed to the things that we try and maybe fail,” he said.
That’s what led to Peppers start with CWE Academy and his first appearances on the independent scene came as a referee for CWE, which was part of Sanchez’s training. When Sanchez thinks his trainees are ready to be in front of a crowd, he makes them referees so they can get comfortable and be a part of the show without actually wrestling.
Peppers then made his official wrestling debut on October 18, 2018, and he did have a bit of a slow start originally working under his real name. He began to gain some traction once the Sammy Peppers character came to fruition, a persona that came from a drunken idea.
“I got together with some friends literally out in the middle of nowhere Manitoba, and we were having a bit of a bush fire and we were chatting about different wrestling names,” he recalled. A buddy suggested Sammy Peppers. “It came out of nowhere and it ended up sticking.”
Peppers’ character is now a high-energy worker who really knows how to fire up a crowd. “There are times where I’m wrestling where I do a lot of hip gyration, hip swivels, the crowd has really been connecting with those kinds of movements in my work. It’s trying to incorporate that to give the fan their entertainment value, but also at the same time, not distract myself too much to the point where I’m not successful in the wrestling match that I’m trying to compete in.”
Initially, Peppers burst onto the scene as a singles competitor, but he has found most of his success as a tag team wrestler. Peppers is a member of Red Hot Summer, alongside Bryce Bentley and they are the current CWE tag team champions.
Red Hot Summer got started in a random tag team match for Real Canadian Wrestling in October 2020.
“When you’re teaming up for the first time, you have some hiccups and you’re experimenting with how you can work together as a tag team and the one thing we noticed is that we really jived well when it came to the charisma side of things,” explained Peppers. “So, I think that hit a spark, like it, really set the tone for what we could potentially do together. Then coming back into Winnipeg, we had some more opportunities to start teaming up together and it sort of kept escalating match after match, we got a little more successful day by day.”
Peppers said that the pandemic gave his team the opportunity to sharpen their skills with all the empty arena shows and they eventually reached the decision that teaming was something they wanted to do for the foreseeable future. They then got their gear matched up and created the identity for Red Hot Summer. “We’ve spent most of 2022 as tag team champions now, and the momentum’s still red hot, no pun intended.”
It means something to carry the title belts, said Peppers. “I think like any wrestler can attest to this too, like a victory that results in obtaining a championship it’s very self-motivating. In the sense that you put in the work and you put in the effort, the time, blood, sweat, tears, all that good, yummy stuff. And to show that after all of that effort you have something that proves that you stand out amongst your peers in terms of a category of wrestling.”
Despite Peppers’ success in the tag-team division, he said he still has aspirations in the singles division. He said winning a singles title in wrestling is on his bucket list, more specifically winning that title outside of Manitoba.
Red Hot Summer has no plans of losing their titles anytime soon, but Peppers believes in every team both partners wonder about the singles division. “With tag team matches, you have a partner to fall on, it’s a relationship that you can have with your partner where I may need to lean on him for help or vice versa. When you’re out there solo, it’s you, it’s got to be you that’s out there and really making the effort to win or win over the audience.”
Peppers said he is open to travelling more to find success as a singles competitor, as most of his matches take place in Manitoba.
The Portage la Prairie bout was special. “There’s just something about returning back to your hometown, like your homegrown roots and especially seeing people from your hometown that maybe haven’t been kept up to speed on what I’m up to these days or what my hobbies or passions are. It’s really a nice little homecoming where I’m able to present Sammy Peppers in front of my hometown.”
At the bout in Portage la Prairie (about an hour from Winnipeg), Peppers came up short against Davey Boy Smith Jr. In a conversation after the show, he tried to sum it all up. “I don’t know if I fully appreciated or fully comprehended the background that Davey Boy Smith Jr. had in terms of his grappling and his wrestling technician like he was quite untouchable in the ring. … It was funny, he actually won replicating the Davey Boy Smith and Bret Hart finish where I went for a sunset flip and he caught my legs and went down and took me down for a pinfall for three.”
Following the match, Smith Jr. grabbed a microphone with some nice words for his opponent and Peppers said that was a nice moment to have in front of his home crowd. However, their singles match was not their final meeting of the night.
The main event of the CWE show was a 10-man battle royal and the final two men in the ring would be Peppers and Smith Jr.
“I actually was able to eliminate him to win that match in the main event. Although it wasn’t a single pinfall or submission victory, I’ll take a little redemption in the form of a rumble victory any day. So, it really came full circle in the end where I didn’t really get the one-on-one match victory, but I still got away with what a lot of people would probably call an upset.”
TOP PHOTO: Sammy Peppers entering the ring. Photo courtesy Cheryl Dunning