Front row to top rope

Maddison Miles goes from young wrestling fan to international pro

Maddison Miles gets the biggest cheers of the night when she heads the late-summer main event in the Kaizen Pro Wrestling show at Alderney Landing.

She races through the crowd, slapping hands, and leaps into the ring, ready to face the four men she’s up against in the final match of the night.

For years, little Maddison Miles was a fixture at every local professional wrestling show in Halifax. There she was in the front row, face painted, wearing a shirt that read “Maritime Wrestling Super Fan.” She carried a binder filled with autographed photos. Sometimes, she came in a cape. At age eight, she was helping out at merchandise tables. By the time she was 14, she was ringing the bell that marks the start and end of each match.

Now, at 19, she’s already a veteran wrestler who’s caught the eye of the big time: World Wrestling Entertainment, which gave her and 41 other independent wrestlers a tryout in Toronto last August.

“It was so cool,” she says, as she waits to hear back from WWE. “It was honestly super surreal to be living out the dream of even being there.

“Obviously, I wanted to get signed, but I’m so young and the most important thing to me was that they saw me and they knew who I was.”

Miles’ father first took her to wrestling before she hit Grade One, and she was hooked for good after seeing female wrestler Purity Saint perform. “I was like, ‘Wow! Girls do this too,’” she recalls.

She made her wrestling debut in November 2015, when she was a Grade 10 student at Millwood High. (Miles graduated early, thanks in part to getting course credit for a wrestling tour.) Since then, she’s wrestled 350 matches in seven countries and won two different championships.

Wrestling fan John Dulong, 30, remembers seeing her when she was a child at the Halifax Forum. “She would absolutely lose her mind for the indie guys,” he says. “You see her as a kid growing up and then she’s actually wrestling, and at 19 she’s at this high level already.”

Despite being a fan, Miles didn’t aspire to wrestling herself until she was 14. For one thing, she was scared of the pain. For another, she wasn’t particularly athletic.

“I grew up as a very overweight child, hating my body and hating myself for the most part,” she says. “I know what it’s like to not have the confidence and self-esteem to do certain things. I’m not your ideal, picture-perfect female wrestler. There are all these girls who look like models and are twig skinny. I hope I can reach out to girls who are afraid to do what they want because they don’t look like everybody else.”

Two years ago, as the only female professional wrestler in the province, Miles saw herself as a bit of a novelty, with many of her matches veering towards comedy. Back then, she complained about double standards. “If you’re a wrestling fan I’m sure you’ve seen there are multiple boys who are not in the best shape,” she said. “But if you have a girl that does not take care of herself, it’s going to be a little different… You have the hair and you have makeup and you have to make sure that nothing falls out, and that everything’s in place properly. And that can be very stressful.”

But attitudes towards women are changing, along with the broader rise of women’s wrestling. (WWE used to call men “superstars” and women “divas.” No more.) “I think right now is a brilliant time to be a woman in the industry of wrestling,” Miles says. “Not only are women having good matches, they are having great matches, which means that stereotype of “Ugh, women’s wrestling” is starting to go away.”

Professional wrestling results are pre-determined and the fans know it. Instead of being completely invested in winners and losers, they are drawn to their favourite wrestlers through a combination of athleticism, magnetism, and larger-than-life personality. Everyone’s got a gimmick, and you’re usually either a face (good) or a heel (bad).

Miles has played both. Kaizen Pro Wrestling promoter Dave Boyce, who has known Miles since she was that kid in the cape, says, “She knows how to be a great babyface. But if she wants to be a heel, you hate Maddie. Some people can’t turn the switch like that. It’s very impressive.”

Unlike a lot of wrestlers, Miles uses her real name. It would be weird not to after growing up around so many of her fans. And her in-ring personality capitalizes on that too. “In Halifax, you have loyal, loyal fans,” she explains. “The scene is not very big, so it’s very much like one big family.” For the local crowd, her gimmick is pretty simple: “Maddison Miles, the hometown girl.”

On the road, that has to change. “When I started travelling, I had to be able to adjust, because my gimmick was always just me,” she says. “That’s not going to fly in Mexico, it’s not going to fly in Germany or in England, because none of those people know who I am.”

Her match at Alderney does feature some comedy elements. Her tall, muscular opponent (and real-life boyfriend) Charlie Winston holds her at bay with an extended arm as she cartoonishly tries to hit him. At one point the two kiss, then go back to fighting.

But Miles also works up the crowd with athletic moves, diving from the top rope onto all four opponents. After some back and forth, she pins wrestler Chip Chambers for the win, then takes the microphone to thank the crowd, telling them this is her last show in Halifax before she leaves to spend two years wrestling in Europe, with the U.K. as her home base.

“That five-way scramble was probably one of the better Maddison matches I’ve ever seen,” Dulong says, when it’s all over. “She’s got a lot of personality in the ring. It’s going to be weird to not have Maddison Miles around.”

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