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Storming into the world of professional wrestling

Lance Evers may be one of the best pure athletes to ever come out of North Bay

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His fans know him as Lance Storm. A former Intercontinental Champion, four-time WWE Tag Team Champion, and the Most Underrated Wrestler of 2001 ranked by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. This is the ring name he chose back in the early 1990s in the hopes that one day he could make a living in the world of professional wrestling.

But Lance Evers, the person, may be one of the best pure athletes to ever come out of North Bay.

Born in Sarnia, the Evers family moved to North Bay when Storm was very young, and he spent his high school years as a West Ferris Trojan. He started weightlifting at age 12 and says he bucked the trend of what bigger athletic kids would do at the time, and he stayed away from the gridiron.

“My big memories of West Ferris are playing volleyball,” says Storm from his home in Calgary where he now resides and runs his own wrestling school Storm Wrestling Academy. “In junior high everyone just assumed I was going to play football and I thought, ‘why do I have to play football?’”

“The football and volleyball season run at the same time and I played volleyball in grade six, so I decided to do that, and I fell in love with it. I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice if I hadn’t been told over and over that I had to do the football thing.”

There was a reason why so many peers and coaches wanted to see Storm take some snaps.

“I was about 180 pounds when I started at West Ferris because of my weightlifting and all of the football coaches kept showing up at volleyball practice and tried to convince me to go out on the field, which just made me try harder at volleyball,” he says “I was benching about 300 pounds in grade nine.

Peter Randle was my grade nine gym teacher and he was the greatest, one of the best teachers I’d ever had, but since he was a football coach he was certainly asking me to give football a try and when Larry Tougas first came in, he was a teaching assistant at the time, Randle told him to come in and ‘check this kid out’ and Larry was just blown away with what I could lift. I was working out with the seniors and out lifting them and was ahead of the game.”

Storm’s love for volleyball took him to Wilfred Laurier University where he played for the Golden Hawks through his sophomore year while taking business and economics. But he says it was a coach that turned him off the sport and paved his path to the squared circle.

“I was a big wrestling fan in high school. I had my group of crazy wrestling buddies, but it was just strictly a hobby. Then in university, I had a coach that I didn’t care for, that took the fun out of volleyball for me. Oddly enough he was a former assistant football coach but got encouraged to go over and headline the volleyball program. Well, he spent the first third of my volleyball career trying to convince me to go out and get on the field and try football. So, I sort of wasn’t enjoying volleyball as much and wasn’t enjoying university that much. I had always been a good student, but my grades were slipping.”

Storm says it was at that point that he started to ponder a career in pro-wrestling and his roommate put the idea in his head that he was subconsciously failing at these other aspects because he really wanted to try his hand at something different. After a chat with the student liaison office, they told him if he left at that point he was still in a good enough position that he could be welcomed back if he decided that’s what he wanted to do.

“I said, ‘ok see you later’ and I decided to get into wrestling,” says Storm.

Storm headed west to Calgary to the Silver Dollar Action Centre where the infamous Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp was located. The Hart family is famous across the country for running the Stampede Wrestling promotion out of Calgary as well as producing several highly talented wrestlers throughout the ’80s and ’90s including Owen Hart and Bret “the Hitman” Hart who had tremendous success during their careers with the World Wrestling Federation.

But the Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp got an unfortunate bad rap according to Storm.

“That camp was a slight misnomer as none of the actual Hart brothers were doing any of the actual instruction. They would generally take a student who was good from a previous class and was still local and have them teach the next group,” says Storm.

Regardless, he was determined to give it a try and set out his personal goals of finding consistent work within five years.

“I wasn’t going to chase a pipe dream and be a starving artist. It was a career choice for me and so I told myself if I wasn’t making reasonable progress then after five years I would go back to university. Well, I was making my living in three.”

Storm found his natural athletic ability was translating well in between the ropes and he was quickly learning the mental side of the profession too.

“The business was still very secretive back then and the kayfabe era was still alive. I just didn’t’ know how they put matches together and I didn’t know if I would have the mental ability to call a match in a ring. It turns out I ended up with a great aptitude for it, and that's thanks to some of the Stampede veterans that I got to work with early on.”

At 5’11” Storm wasn’t going to stand out for his size, but he was a fast learner and was quickly developing a reputation for being a good worker.

“In fact, in 1992 I did a tour in Lebanon and I roomed with (Legendary Mexican American Wrestler) Mando Guerrero,” says Storm. “He asked me if I watched matches and studied what was going on and I said ‘of course I watch lots of matches bell to bell’ and he said ‘you’re watching the wrong stuff, you need to watch everything before the match starts and everything after the match ends, because, in the ring, you’ve already got it, you just need the showmanship stuff’ and that to me reaffirmed that I had a shot of making this a career. This is a guy who was a thirty-year veteran at that time telling a kid with 50 matches under his belt that I’m doing a big part of the business very well.”

The mental side and learning how to call a match is one of the most often overlooked aspects of professional wrestling.

“Not only do you have to do all of the athletic things, you have to actually plan or think of it all on the fly,” says Storm.  

“Maintaining that dual train of thought in that looking, acting, and reacting in a manner that looks like you’re trying to kill someone, and in the heat of the moment making sure that you stop and don’t. In football, you put that ball under your arm and plow forward and you have one mentality. In wrestling, you have to present one mentality but remembering that you actually don’t want to hit your opponent that hard when you get there. That can be challenging to do what we do and do it safely. We have to read the audience, react to the audience, come up with the idea, and relay that to the person you’re working with and then actually do it. The ability to do that was the big thing that really separated me. Not everyone in the industry can do that aspect that well, and that made me a very desirable employee. I could drive the car and the person I’m working with could be the passenger.”

After his training ended at the Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp, Storm went moved to Japan in 1991 and Europe in 1993 and was generally regarded as a talented up and comer. But in 1995 there was a minor setback where he found himself working more as a bouncer than making an income from professional wrestling. However, within six months he found himself working as a full-time wrestler again and in 1997 joined one of the major pro-wrestling companies in North America at the time; Extreme Championship Wrestling.

“ECW was the first time that I had a little bit of that ‘I’ve made it’ attitude since I was making a six-figure salary and I was on television and pay-per-view, I had my own action figure, I was in a video game so that’s probably that moment I’ve made it.”

After three years in ECW, Storm joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in June of 2000 and when the company was bought by the WWF, Storm was one of the first contracted employees to make an appearance in the new company.

Along the way, he would get to work with some of the biggest stars of the era including The Rock, Triple H, and Hulk Hogan.  

“The first time I wrestled Hulk Hogan was when my phone lit up with all of my high school wrestling buddies saying ‘oh my God you’re a professional wrestler!’ even though I had been working for years at that point, but they saw me on WWE television working with Hogan,” says Storm.  “The cool thing for me about that though was the first time I had ever seen Hogan wrestle live was in the Atlantic City Convention Hall for Wrestlemania IV in 1988. Me and my friends went down to see that event. Well, the first time I wrestled Hogan was in that same arena in 2002 and I fed the Hulk Hogan comeback.”

Storm says there is another moment that really stood out to him that meant a lot personally.

“I wrestled Terry Funk in his hometown of Amarillo, Texas. To me, Terry Funk is The Man. I have so much respect for him as a person and a wrestler and I always wanted to work with him. I was U.S. champ with WCW, and he did all the local press for this house show (an event that wasn’t taped) and with it being in his hometown, why he was like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and I was the Grinch. It was just the greatest love/hate relationship with the audience, and it was just one of the most fun, crazy experiences of my career.”

Storm has now been involved in the business for 30 years and says it's amazing to look back on it being born out of a decision he made in university.

“Every aspect of my life is due to wrestling. I basically transplanted from North Bay to Calgary and other than a few friends from high school, every person in my life is due to that choice – my wife and kids included.”

Running his own school now gives Storm a chance to mentor that next generation of talent and he says for anyone who thinks they want to be a professional wrestler it is something you can’t think of as a fleeting dream job.

 “Look at it as a career. Get the stars out of your eyes of fame and fortune. You must think hard about if this is a career you want to do and not just because you are a wrestling fan and you think it would be so great. You should find a wrestling school that has an instructor that has been where you want to be and represents the attributes that you think you have. Don’t just go because it’s a big name, look at their resume, and do they as a performer, show the aspects of what you may think you have and then you have to be prepared to put a lot of work in.”

If you have a story suggestion for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at matthew.sookram@rci.rogers.com