December 4, 2003
Lucky meeting gets Onyx to UK
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
The monstrous 6-foot-2, 320 pound Dru Onyx owes his recent trip to England to wrestle for NWA Hammerlock (UK) to a chance encounter with a WWE superstar in a Montreal gym.
Onyx had been working a half-dozen times a month around Quebec, but yearned to get out and see other places. He ran into Eddie Guerrero in a Montreal gym, and approached him for advice. Knowing that Guerrero had traveled the world as an independent star, Onyx wondered how one went about getting booked overseas. 'Latino Heat' encouraged him to put together a package to send to the various promoters, and to keep trying. So Onyx sent out letters, photos, video tapes and DVDs.
"I was looking for a promotion that was going to give me more time," Onyx told SLAM! Wrestling. "I wasn't going to go for a day." He drew a fair amount of interest, but the longest booking offered was a week-long, end-of October tour with Hammerlock. Before Onyx left on the trip, he asked for advice from seasoned travelers Don Callis and Pierre Carl Ouellet.
In England, Onyx worked as SoA, the Spirit of Allah, rather than his well-known Quebec name of Dru Onyx. (His real name is Rodney Kellman.) It's sort of a 'son-of-Abdullah the Butcher' gimmick. He fully expected to be a heel in England, but instead, came to the aid of Brit Danny Williams in his debut and fought off the dastardly Irish duo of Paul Tracey and Fergal Devitt. Combinations of those four filled out the rest of the week for Onyx, usually wrestling matches of 20 minutes or so.
Onyx was born in Barbados in 1974, but moved to Canada as a child with his family and grew up in the suburbs of Montreal. A big man, he got into semi-pro football in New York State, and onto the roster of the Ottawa Gee-Gees at the University of Ottawa. Always a wrestling fan, Onyx had dreams of getting into squared circle himself and began calling Marc "The Grizzly" Pilon on a regular basis while still playing football, trying to crack into his training program.
"It took me forever to get into the training," said Onyx. Turns out Pilon didn't like training football players, that they often didn't have what it takes -- or didn't understand what it would take -- to be a wrestler. Eventually, the pestering paid off, and Onyx trained for six month before having his in-ring debut on an NCW show. In fact, his first match was against his teacher, Pilon, and was for the NCW title.
"I was nervous as all hell," said Onyx. "You don't want to mess up." Onyx is grateful that Pilon taught the basics and stressed safety above all. But it was the psychology that stood out. "He didn't just teach you the holds, he taught you the why of the moves."
When his football career ended, Onyx began working the alphabet-soup of federations around Quebec -- CCW, FLQ, NCW, ICW, IWS -- and loved every minute of it.
Early on, he hooked up with the Leducs' regular FLQ promotion, and ate up Paul Leduc's pointers on being a heel. "It gave me an opportunity to wrestle every Friday," he said.
In Quebec City, he feuded with Sunny War Cloud, from whom he learned the secrets of convincing, but safe, brawls. "At one point, I had to get escorted out of the building," Onyx said.
One of Onyx's real skills is on the microphone. But he's had experience there, doing his own rap songs, and as a rapper in the Montreal band Bran Van 3000. As a main gig, he is one of the owners of Clutch Records in Montreal, a small hip-hop label, and is concerned primarily with A&R (Artists & Repertoire). The similarities are there between the music and wrestling businesses: "They are both cutthroat. If you don't know the business, people will abuse you."
"I've been fortunate enough to learn the right psychology to get under people's skins," he said, adding that it helps that he is a "big, black, obnoxious guy" who refuses to speak French in his interviews.
Just before going to England, Onyx was the IWS champion for six months. He believes that his reign has helped move the promotion up the food chain in Quebec. "I tried to put a little more validity into the title," he said. "The perception of the federation has changed from a garbage fed. to an extreme fed." In the IWS, his most regular opponent was Phantom, one of the few wrestlers who matched up size-wise with him.
Onyx knows it may again be a matter of being in the right place at the right time to be noticed and get a break to go onto something bigger. But he's okay if the break never comes also. "I'm very comfortable work-wise, so it's not for the money," he said. "I'm very tenacious. I have great strength of will."
Greg Oliver is the Producer of SLAM! Wrestling. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.