Inside the professional wrestling ring in Cloverdale’s Alice McKay building, “The Violent Artist” stood listening to the crowd boo.
The harsh glare of the overhead lights illuminated his nearly-naked body as he grabbed the microphone from the peach-dressed announcer.
“Just in case you’ve been living in a cave, on Mars, with your fingers stuffed in your ears,” he said, animosity dripping from his words, “I’m Kyle O’Reilly.”
The crowd erupted. A medley of cheers and jeers echoed throughout the room as O’Reilly slammed the crowd and the province for being overly polite and far too friendly.
In his off hours, “The Violent Artist” Kyle O’Reilly is Kyle Greenwood, a soft-spoken North Delta-raised guy who hung out before the match wearing a grey and blue ranglan shirt and sipping a Rockstar energy drink.
Greenwood sat chatting with Jake Merchant, who had come to to support his high-school friend.
“He was always an outgoing kind of guy,” Merchant said about Greenwood. The two of them had gone to North Delta Secondary and Sands Secondary together back in the early 2000s.
“Always his dream, to pursue” wrestling, he continued. “He probably had plans here and there, but this was his main focus: getting in the ring and making it in the biz.”
Greenwood first caught the wrestling bug as a young kid.
“We wrestle our stuffed animals and our pillows on the couch and our buddies on the trampoline,” Greenwood said. “I was just one of those kids that never grew out of it.”
He fell in love with the theatrics of professional wrestling, and after high school, joined the Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling In-Pain Asylum under Michelle Starr, who also owns Cloverdale’s All Star Wrestling.
He spent four years working the local indie circuit, building up the Kyle O’Reilly name. Then, he started heading down to the States to compete in professional wrestling matches down there.
“It’s not like I was going to take other people’s jobs,” he said. “I was just a kid trying to chase his dream.
“Because of that I had to lie my ass off every time I crossed the border. It was so scary,” he continued. “I shudder to think of what would have happened if I had the wrong guard having the wrong day.”
After a couple years of going back and forth over the border, Greenwood decided to stay in the States, doing “the illegal alien thing” for a few years until he could get a greencard.
During that time, Kyle O’Reilly clawed his way up the pro wrestling ladder, working in tag teams and finally making it the top championship match for the Ring of Honor, an independant American professional wrestling promotion.
He won the championship title in December 2016, but lost it in January 2017 to Adam Cole. At that time, Greenwood’s contract with the Ring of Honor expired.
Now, the O’Reilly personae appears at odd matches while Greenwood waits for another contract opportunity. One of these was the headline slot at the All Star Wrestling show in Cloverdale on June 9.
Three other North Delta wrestlers were also featured that evening: locals Matt XStatic and Kellen Raeth faced off in an intense rivalry that seemed to centre largely on the luxuriousness of their locks, and The All American Azeem the Dream (whose personae is from Hawaii, although the man behind it is from North Delta) squared off against the nearly 300-pound Moondog Manson, who brandished a baseball bat entwined in barbed wire.
Other matches included a cartoon-like fight between Salty the Seaman and Black Sheep Dave Turner, and a tag team bout with female champion Bambi Hall, “Ravenous” Randy Myers and Sgt. Mike Everest facing off against the Tokyo Raiders.
That night O’Reilly was facing off against “Loose Cannon” Kenny Lush, a hefty six-foot two-inches and 250 pounds to O’Reilly’s five-foot eight-inches and just over 200 pounds.
Outside of the pro wrestling vortex, Greenwood and Kenny Luah (Lush’s off-stage personae) are close friends: Luah was even best man at Greenwood’s wedding. But inside the ring, it’s a different story.
Like a scene from a 1970s Marvel comic book, the two men pounded each other both in and out of the ring. O’Reilly, slowing in the first part of the match, returned with a flurry of mixed-martial arts moves that drove Lush to the ground. Lush retaliated by throwing O’Reilly out of the ring.
Back and forth, the two adversaries fought until finally knocking each other to the ground at the same time. O’Reilly, dazed like a beginner character in the 1980s video game Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!, lost the match.
Standing in the ring, looking over at O’Reilly, Lush grabbed the microphone.
“Kyle,” he said, the two versions of himself blending together as he spoke. “You gave me the fight of my life.”
“That’s not the Kyle I know,” he continued, referencing O’Reilly’s opening speech’s hostility towards Canada. “Times are bleak in America. You need to be their guiding light.”
“You know something Kenny, Kenny Lush, if that is your real name,” O’Reilly said, grabbing the microphone from his friend. “You’re absolutely right.
“There’s no place on this planet like British Columbia. There’s no place like home.”