From taking small gigs in Northern Ontario to becoming light heavyweight champion, “The Amazing Canadian” Lionel Knight has delivered neck breakers and piledrivers to some of the best in the wrestling industry. No matter how big or small the opponent across the ring may be, Knight, now 32, put them all in the dust with his highflying, no-nonsense style.
Yet, before facing some of the biggest and baddest names in small town North North American professional wrestling, Knight had to convince the toughest and harshest opponent of them all: his mom.
“My mom didn’t want me to do it [wrestle], and she still hasn’t been to a show only because she doesn’t want to see me get hurt,” Knight said, during a telephone interview April 7, from Barrie, Ont. “But I don’t blame her, I am her son, I get it.”
It was at the age of five that Lionel Thompson (Knight is not actually his real last name) remembers watching his first match. It was Survivor Series 1988, when over 13,500 fans packed the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio to see the unstoppable Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage) Hercules, Koko B. Ware, and Hillbilly Jim take on The Twin Towers (Big Boss Man and Akeem), Ted DiBiase, Haku, and The Red Rooster.
With the over-the-top characters and captivating story lines, Thompson started to fall in love with wrestling sports entertainment. After moving to Brampton from Montreal, and graduating from high school, a friend convinced Thompson to enrol in wrestling school.
“My friend told me about a school down the street where I lived, so he said during the summer ‘Let’s go check out the facility and see what it’s like’,” Thompson explained. “I went there and they liked me a lot, so I gave them my contact information just in case.
“After the first day I was hooked.”
Thompson made his professional wrestling debut in 2004 under the ring name “Lionel Knight”. Driving for hours just to wrestle at an arena for a few bucks, Knight started to become popular with wrestling fans for his innovative offence inside the squared circle.
From his devastating running apron dropkick to his vicious roundhouse kicks, Knight shocked UWA Wrestling fans on July 22, 2005 in Mississauga, when he defeated his brother Mickey Knight for the vacant UWA Light Heavyweight championship.
To Knight the moment he first held that championship belt is a feeling he’ll never forget.
“The reason why that moment was crazy is because when I started there (at UWA) I never expected to win a title, I expected to get matches, get better and move on,” Knight explains.
“Slowly the fans started to get behind me and after the fans got behind me that management started as well and they told me I was going to win the title.
“That was a big deal for me.”
After vacating the title one month later to fellow tag team partner Josh Prohibition, Knight went on to tour all across Ontario and the U.S. working in local promotions such as Barrie Wrestling, IWS, CZW, and GCW.
Facing talented independent wrestlers such as Claudio Castagnoli, Heirshiro Hazuki, El Generico, Chris Sabin and Chris Hero, was beneficial for Knight as his confidence in the ring started to grow.
But none taught him more than ECW original Jerry Lynn.
A two-time world champion, holding both the Ring Of Honor and ECW World Championship, Lynn traveled throughout the globe competing in some of the biggest wrestling organizations such as WWE (then WWF), Impact Wrestling, and ROH Wrestling. In March 2013 Lynn retired, exactly 25 years after his career began and shortly after, landed a position as a producer for ROH.
Knight calls his bout against Lynn the most memorable match of his career, and believes it was Lynn that made him become better at his craft.
“I was so nervous and he was cool about everything,” Knight said. “I was a rookie and still green in the business and he guided me through and made things so easy for me.”
Now a 13-year veteran, hearing the roar of the crowd is as satisfying to Knight as it was when he first started his wrestling career. Whether he is portraying the hero or the villain, Knight always makes sure that every fan gets their money’s worth, no matter what physical pain he is feeling, through bruised ribs to concussions.
Yet for Knight, true strength isn’t the antics of “Macho Man” Randy Savage or the immortal Hulk Hogan.
“My mom is my hero because she raised two kids with not much help from my dad,” Knight said. “She raised us to be very respectful men and she never showed weakness the entire time.”
You can follow Knight’s coming events on his Twitter page: