Kids screaming the names of alter ego wrestlers could be heard outside Inuvik’s Friendship Centre last Saturday for a Totally Arctic Wrestling match.
“It was cool, it was it was funny,” said Fraydee Greenland and Julianna Kay who travelled two hours by boat from Aklavik with their family members to be at the event which featured “Todd Quality” from Abbotsford, B.C.
The western Arctic town is a hub of the most northern pro-wrestling entertainment and it is Indigenous-founded and led.
Since June 2019, the Inuvialuit co-founders have been developing wrestling content and hosting shows in person and online.
They’ve been expanding their audience and bringing wrestler personas including last July bringing up “World Famous CB – Cheeseburger” Brandel Littlejohn from New Jersey.
With his T-Shirt on, Kay said she cheers for “Nolerbear.”
A land-based coordinator and firefighter by day, Noel-Leigh Cockney (Nolerbear) joined the co-founders nearly four years ago. For him, it’s about incorporating his Inuvialuit culture.
“Being in the ring … and hearing them cheer, it’s really exciting,” said Cockney who is from Tuktoyaktuk. “It really brings me back to watching wrestling growing up and getting that excitement going and seeing that. I’ve been out on the land like most of my life so with my wrestling gear, I have the hide belt with Nolerbear on it, I have my mukluks that I wear in the ring.
“To really be able to bring our tradition…you don’t see that anywhere else,” he said. “I think being able to bring a lot of eyes eventually farther up here and bring more people up for bigger shows.”
Recording for their 40th Totally Arctic Wrestling video on Youtube including for their 16th “Saturday Night Skoden” show, co-founder Dez Loreen (Deztro The Eskimofo) said he’s motivated to create more opportunity and spotlight for the region.
“The biggest part for me has definitely been the community feedback in that you hear from these kids in the street at the store say ‘Are you the Eskimofo?’” said Loreen, who is also a comedian and video journalist. “We’re seeing now there’s a generation of children now in Inuvik, that are growing up with pro wrestling in their community. These are core memories they’re making with their parents.
“Being Inuvialuit for me and being able to showcase a bit of what we have here…has been really important,” he said. “We use a drum instead of a bell to start our matches…. I even want to go as far as doing ‘Atauhiq, Malruk, Pingahut’ for our counts one, two, three, so that’s something we’re going to be introducing soon too.”
He said they have been trying to bring up and encourage female wrestling, and looking for more sponsors to help cover flights and accommodation.
“If you’re out there and your man, woman, child, well, teenagers, I guess, and you want to train to be a pro wrestler and you live around the Inuvik area, please give us a call.”
Proceeds from Saturday’s match went towards ongoing the Weitzel-Loreen family’s pancreatic cancer support fund.