The Ontario independent wrestling scene is as hot as ever, and many of the young talented athletes out there are earning themselves a huge local following. One name that has seen his fan base multiply over the past year, thanks to some impressive matches against major opponents, is Nick Foti -- better known to many as Asylum.
"It's funny," he told SLAM! Wrestling recently, "given where I am now, but I wasn't really into wrestling as a kid. I was more into comic books and superheroes and things like that."
It wasn't until around the time he saw Wrestlemania VI live at SkyDome (Foti has lived in the Toronto area for all of his 27 years) that he caught the bug. "The Ultimate Warrior (seemed) like kind of a superhero, so that's how I got into it."
Nine years later, in 1999, Foti decided to give the sport a try himself.
"I don't really know how I got the idea of training. I guess because of my size, people started mentioning it. I sent in my picture and resume to Sully's Gym (owned at the time by Ron Hutchinson). I sent it in once and didn't hear back from them. But I sent it in again, I got a call, so I went in to talk with them, and they set up my training."
"I trained with Ron for my first three years," he continued, "and then I went to wrestle in Australia and New Zealand for a while. I came back and (Hutchinson's promotion) Apocalypse Wrestling Federation had folded, so I looked for a new place to go. I then went to Squared Circle Training with Rob Fuego, and I was there for about a year and a half. I then started with UWA, and now I train with Ruffy Silverstein in Newmarket."
Taking the various lessons learned from each trainer, and applying that through his natural size and skill, Foti has gone on to become one of Ontario's most popular names. A lot of that, he says, is because he has been given the opportunity to wrestle a lot of high-profile opponents.
"Oh definitely, a big reason why (my matches have improved lately) has to do with the level of people that I get to work with now. I'm getting matches with people who are better than me, which is awesome. I think that's the only way to improve. (Success) comes from experience and getting a little more comfortable in the ring, knowing your style, knowing what you should and shouldn't do."
One man he gives particular credit to is Samoa Joe, with whom he had an excellent match earlier this year for Stranglehold Wrestling. Of particular note was that the match took place the day before Joe came back from injury and squared off against Kurt Angle on pay-per-view for the very first time.
"I was nervous," Foti said about the experience. "I knew Joe's leg was bad, and I did not want to be the guy responsible for putting him out again and (spoiling) his pay-per-view match. My main concern was not hurting him. It's pretty interesting, because you wrestle guys that you don't really know that well, and you're trusting them with your life. Overall, we had a good match -- it was short, but it was really good. It was definitely an awesome experience."
On the other hand, he wasn't as thrilled with his experience wrestling for Combat Zone Wrestling, which he had a chance to do last year.
"CZW was a hard experience," he remembered. "You're wrestling in front of (fans) that have seen everything, and that don't particularly like people that they don't know -- they're really hard to please. I didn't expect them to be so... I don't want to say unforgiving... but they really didn't (seem open to) accepting something new. I didn't have a bad match, but apparently, it wasn't special to them. That said, I'd go back. I have nothing bad to say about the guys there or the promoters."
He may even do so later this summer when his work schedule frees up (his day job is a school teacher). In addition, he's also planning on going to Europe.
"It's great. Not only do I get a chance to wrestle, but I also get to go and see the world. That's another reason I love doing what I do. It floors me that not only do I get to do something that is special to me, but to know that people want to come out and see me do it, to see an Asylum match... that's something that I'm very glad of."
September 4, 2003: Asylum: Ready to rumble
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Bob Kapur supports independent wrestling. Anyone else out there who does as well can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.