SURREY â€” Sean Neligan was five years old when his dad took him to his first wrestling show at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds in 1992. Since he could remember, he’d wanted to be a professional wrestler â€“ and watching legendary wrestler Michelle Starr at a live show solidified that desire.
Starr (Surrey’s Mark Vellios) would go on to coach Neligan as a wrestler when he was so fresh out of high school that his mom had to sign a release to allow him to train.
"You know when you’re in kindergarten you have to paint what you want to be when you grow up?" asks Neligan, a 26-yearold Surrey native. "Other kids would paint Superman or a cop or a firefighter – I painted Hulk Hogan. So yeah, my entire life that’s what I said I was going to do, but no one believed me."
Twenty-two years after Neligan’s inaugural introduction to live wrestling, he’s realized his dream of becoming Hulk Hogan – or at least pretty close to it. Performing as part of the Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW) crew under as his alter-ego Sid Sylum, Neligan is a pro-wrestling "heel" who has collected as many fans as enemies. In the world of wrestling, there are good guys and bad guys; or, in their own lexicon, faces and heels. Sylum, irrefutably, is the latter.
"I’m a heel. It’s much, much more fun," he says, being sure to add in that it’s all an act.
By day, Neligan is the goodnatured uncle who babysits his one-year-old niece; it’s only as Sid Sylum that people are rooting for him to get knocked on his ass.
"I’m just naturally better at being the bad guy. It’s a lot more fun. I’ve been a good guy, and it’s good when the fans are chanting your name when you come out, but I get the same rush from them booing me…. It’s fun to be bad. You get to go out there and be a jerk. You get to be a cartoon-y villain, you know, the type that kicks a chair out before someone sits on it. You have to be not afraid to look like an idiot ’cause at the end of the day, people want to see the bad guy get beat and the good guy triumph. I get the same rush and the same feel out of losing a match and having them cheer as I do winning a match. You get the reaction."
For the most part, he says, people get that it’s a facade – but at times, fans can forget that they’re real people, too. Neligan says that’s most highlighted during bouts like Fans Bring the Weapons matches, in which incredibly dangerous items get thrown into the ring.
"People bring some really weird stuff (to the FBTW matches). Like, someone brought a two-by-four with two-inch nails and so that’s why we kind of screen stuff. I don’t think people realize we’re real people. It’s a show, but when people get hit with that they’re gonna die," he says earnestly. "I got hit with a SpongeBob piÃ±ata and it exploded with thumbtacks. When we did this in October, someone brought a car door and a painting of one of our wrestlers, Scotty Mac."
Instead of bashing the painting over someone’s head, Mac admits to taking the painting home and hanging it in his garage. Among other weapons contributed to the matches are computer keyboards, ironing boards, crutches, baseball bats, trash cans and, in one instance, even a live lobster. These
are the kinds of things the ECCW will accept into those matches, but they have to draw the line somewhere.
"Something like broken glass or nails, you can’t really do anything with that without maiming or killing somebody," Neligan says.
The ECCW’s next show, dubbed "Hello Ladies…", takes place in Surrey on Saturday, May 3, and celebrates the ECCW’s 18th anniversary. Commemorating the organization’s 18 years, head organizer Scotty Mac says the show will include a couple special features, starring WWE porn-starturned-wrestler Val Venis (where the "Hello Ladies…" tagline comes from) and a "Throwback Throwdown" match featuring former WWE wrestlers Ladies Choice and Buddy Wayne.
The show includes eight different types of wrestling matches, including a Seven-Man Gauntlet for the Gold, a War Games Style Elimination Cage Match and a Fans Bring the Weapons Match. Mac assures that the event, taking place at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds – the same place Neligan watched his first live wrestling show 22 years ago – is a family-friendly event. It could just be the event that spawns a new generation of Sid Sylums.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit ECCW.com.