When Sebastian Wolfe gets into the ring, he has more than just winning a match in mind.
As a proud member of the Pasqua First Nation in Saskatchewan, the professional wrestler views the squared circle as a place to raise awareness of Indigenous history, culture and issues as much as one to wipe out competition.
Preceding most matches, Wolfe will make his entrance swathed in his nation’s flag, and his wrestling boots, adorned with red handprints on each side, are a small but mighty nod to his solidarity with missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across North America.
“Being Indigenous is definitely something I am very proud of,” said the North Vancouver-born bruiser.
“It is important to me to try to help put a spotlight on my nation and our people in general across the country, and some of the issues we face.”
Just this month, those small crimson handprints were put in front of the eyes of thousands as Wolfe made his All Elite Wrestling debut — his first big milestone on what is no doubt expected to be a long and illustrious career.
In the wrestling world, AEW sits high in the ranks, only beaten in size by American pro wrestling giant WWE. It has two national television shows that air every week on The Sports Network and a weekly Youtube series AEW Dark, which Wolfe appeared on during its Jan. 10 episode. Both are filmed in front of mass crowds and some of the industry’s most notable names.
“To get an opportunity like that on such a major stage, it was pretty surprising,” he said.
The match had been a Trios, a three-versus-three, against Matt Hardy — notorious WWE alumni and the nucleus to one of the industry’s greatest tag teams, The Hardy Boyz.
With Wolfe only waiting in the wings as an "extra" on that day, there had been no guarantee he would actually take to the ring, and so to be called up — in a match against one of his childhood idols no less — was a sweet, serendipitous moment, he said.
“[Hardy] is actually somebody I’ve been watching for over 25 years on TV, so to get a match with a company like this, in front of an audience like that, with somebody of that caliber, it was very surreal.”
Wolfe's infatuation with the sport began in his preschool years when his Nana, babysitting from her home in Lower Lonsdale, would have WWE blaring from the small screen. It embedded a seed that would continue to sprout as he moved with his family back to Saskatchewan shortly after, and again still when he returned to North Vancouver, attending Sutherland Secondary, over a decade later.
“She was a huge fan, I had no choice,” he laughed.
“I was just captured by it instantly, and as I grew older I kept loving it. I knew it was something I had to pursue.”
Still, Wolfe, now in Vancouver, began his wrestling career much later than what would be expected for a man of his success. After dabbling in fitness instructing and various trades in his 20s, it wasn’t until an opportunity came up at the Lions Gate Dojo in Surrey, a training gym he credits as being “one of the best in the country,” that the ball truly began rolling.
The Cree wrestler had his first match in 2018. Now, just five years later and aged 33, he is being recognized by one of the industry’s largest promotions. While he is yet to be contracted by AEW, the acknowledgement is enough of a career milestone in itself – one likely to set the tone for future opportunities to come.
“This is a foot in the door with the company. They know your name, they know who you are, and that’s what everybody wants to work towards.”
Wolfe said he hopes his recent feats are an example of what can be achieved with hard work and determination – especially for those within his own community. He is not oblivious to his mushrooming following, he said, and hopes to harness that fame to influence and educate wherever possible.
“I’ve talked to my chief and friends and family, and I know that there are younger people who know me and follow me,” he said.
“That is definitely something that I’m proud of, and I don’t take it lightly. I just hope that as my name grows, and I get more exposure, the light can shine even brighter on certain issues and other kids can realize that this is just as possible for them.”
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.