By Perry Lefko
Meet the wrestler named Hornet.
He has wrestled in various parts of the world, but is currently based in Mississauga at Battle Arts Academy.
I have watched him perform at Battle Arts since its first card in December, a few months after the academy opened in September. He is 6-foot, 210 pounds with a black and gold spiked Mohawk hairdo and wears a wrap dress called a sulu, common to people from Fiji, the birthplace of his parents.
Hornet, whose real name is Darryl Sharma, was given his ring name at the age of 17 by his trainer/mentor, Notorious T.I.D., because he resembled a superhero in the way he wrestled. It was taken from the cartoon series Fat Albert, whose gang watched a superhero cartoon called The Brown Hornet. Hornet started out as The Brown Hornet, but a year later dropped the colour. Hornet began wrestling a year under the Ontario Athletics Commission’s legal age of 18, so he wore a mask and his license had the name of his older brother.
Hornet had a lifelong dream to become a pro wrestler.
“People might have dreams about being a firefighter or a spaceman, but as they grow older they grow out of that stuff. I never grew out of that,” he told me in an exclusive interview a few days after last Saturday’s card at Battle Arts’ Rising Stars 5. Hornet beat Randy Reign in the main event.
“I have no memory of not wanting to be a wrestler,” Hornet continued. “When my dad came to Canada from Fiji, wrestling was one of the first things he discovered and he became an instant fan. He used to go down to Maple Leaf Gardens and watched everybody there. When my brother was born, he watched it with my Dad. When I was born on September 30, 1984, I became a fan. From my early childhood, the guys I remember standing out were Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Jimmy Snuka, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Macho Man Randy Savage. Around Grade 8 or 9, that’s when you figure out how to be what you want to be. I looked on the Internet and that’s when I found out about local, independent wrestling.”
Hornet contacted the Notorious T.I.D. and Custom Made Man, and offered to build their websites as a way to get his foot in the door of the squared circle. He started hanging out with them and began his career and emulated some of the Polynesian wrestlers such as Snuka, The Headshrinkers and the Wild Samoans. He performed in and around the Toronto/Michigan/Pennsylvania circuit and then moved to Mexico after being discovered. He subsequently worked in Puerto Rico, Ireland, England, Los Angeles and Japan. He wrestled against many future stars in the WWE such as Sheamus, Drew McIntyre and Tyson Kidd. He did everything he could to join the WWE ranks by staying in Ontario and following what he was told by the company and staying, but he’d become restless and go on tour for companies in other countries.
Throughout his career, he always wished there was some place at home he could train the way he did overseas, so when Battle Arts began last fall it worked out perfectly. He knew Anthony Carelli – better known as WWE superstar Santino Marella – who is one of the owners of BAA, and George (GT Dynamite) Terzis, who was hired as one of the instructors. All three began their pro careers at about the same time.
“I took a look at the place a week before it opened and my mind was blown,” he said. “I could not believe this place could exist because I’ve been in wrestling/training facilities all over the world and none of them are even close to this kind of facility.”
Because of his experience, Hornet has become the locker room leader for the young, aspiring wrestlers that are part of the BAA program and is known as their captain.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the WWE, but I’m even more focused now than I ever have been,” he said. “I can go back overseas later on, but right now my focus is on the WWE and this is where I’m preparing for that.”
Hornet pulled a foreign object out of his trunks and numbed Reign, who is taller and heavier, to gain the win. The referee had been knocked unconscious out of the ring after taking a bump, so Terzis, who is the BAA commissioner, jumped into the ring and issued the three-count to seal the win for Hornet.
Earlier in the card, Hornet openly challenged Reign to the fight, eliciting a mixed reaction from the crowd, many of whom cheered for Reign. Hornet seemed a tad surprised by the negative reaction of the naysayers, but he clearly drew heat when he stared down Reign and took his time exiting the ring. Hornet gave the impression he was ready to begin the brawl, but he was separated and the card progressed.
When I interviewed Hornet, I wondered if he was proud of the means he used to win. Ric Flair and the late Eddie Guerrero became famous for their dastardly tactics, and there are those whose believe that if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying. Hornet said having wrestled the likes of Sheamus and Drew McIntrye before they rose to their current status he had determined Reign, who looks remarkably like Randy Orton and has the same type of build, had the ability to work his way up to the WWE at some point.
“For me as a wrestler who has seen and done it all, I needed to challenge myself once again with somebody who is going to make it,” Hornet began. “I did it with Sheamus, I did it with Drew, but that was years ago. I want to know now that I can hang with somebody that is about to make it because I need to know that I’m going to make it.”
But a few days removed from the match, Hornet has had time to think about what he did to win and is quite contrite.
“I’d like to forget about the way the match ended,” he said. “I was not happy with it. I have a hard time even talking about it with you. But at the end of the day I needed to prove I could beat him and I did.”
Now it should be noted Hornet and I know one another. We have worked out Saturday mornings at Wongmania, Steven J. Wong’s strength and conditioning class at Battle Arts. It’s a grueling two-hour session that tests the cardio of the participants, some of whom are seasoned athletes, others who are weekend warriors. I like to think of myself as more of the latter. I could never battle the likes of Hornet and his gang of grappling gorillas.
Then again, I pride myself on training with the utmost of integrity. I don’t cheat just to prove I can beat others in the various drills we do.
I had the utmost respect watching Hornet in Wongmania, but that changed when I saw him cheat to win. I asked him point-blank if he wanted to be known as someone who does that to win.
“I would like to be known as the guy that wins,” he said.
I wondered how long he had been planning his foreign-object idea.
“I’d like to say it was a spur of the moment thing, but you’re going to call me a liar because I had my foreign object with me,” he replied.
Then he tried to explain himself, but started stammering and stumbling.
“For the next month, I’m going to train harder and hopefully for my next match I won’t have to resort to what I did to win,” he said.
I wondered, too, if now that he had won in the main event if he would ever train anymore in Wongmania or whether he has outgrown us mere peons?
“I’ll tell everybody right now that Wongmania is something I recommend to everybody, whether they are a member of Battle Arts or not,” he said. “If people off the street ask me how to get in shape, I’d recommend Wongmania to everybody. I still incorporate what Steven J. Wong has taught into my training. That’s not the same as doing Wongmania, but I’m using it to tide me over. I will be back, but the thing is with my pro wrestling schedule I have a lot of travelling on the weekends and Saturday mornings are tough to get to. The thing is there are things about Wongmania that I remember from training in Japan and in Mexico. It’s a more athletic type of training. Over here, pro wrestlers hit the gym and do body building. Most people focus on body building when they think of fitness, but if you’re a professional athlete or striving for personal fitness, that’s the difference between going to the gym and going to Wongmania.
“Wongmania is strength and conditioning and that’s what’s going to make you stronger and healthier in your every-day lives. If you’re going to call yourself a professional athlete, you should be a professional athlete. If you’re going to call yourself a professional wrestler, you should be able to confidently call yourself a professional athlete. There was a point in the match where I was able to vertically lift Randy Reign over my head. He weighs probably close to 50 pounds more than me and I would not have been able to do that without the strength and conditioning classes that Steven J. Wong provides.
“Also because I had to use tactics that I’m not proud of to win in my match against Randy Reign, obviously going back to Wongmania is something I’m going to have to do to ensure I no longer have to resort to do what I did to win my future matches. Every professional athlete makes mistakes. On Saturday night I did something to Randy Reign that I’m not proud of. It was unsportsmanlike and all I can do is move forward and train harder to not resort to nefarious means.”
It should be noted that after the interview, he offered to teach me some moves – and then he applied the Camel Clutch, the finishing move of the Sheik, one of the dirtiest players in the history of wrestling. Consider me a mark for thinking Hornet was actually sincere.
About Perry Lefko: Perry is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author living in Mississauga. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years, including 21 for the Toronto Sun, in which he was a runnerup twice for the Dunlop Award for outstanding sports writing in the Sun Media Newspaper chain, and voted writer of the year by the Ontario Curling Association. He has also had articles published in The Toronto Star, Trot Magazine and is currently a frequently contributor to Goodlife Mississauga Magazine and Goodlife Brampton Magazine. He has had seven books published, including two that were national bestsellers: Sandra Schmirler, The Queen of Curling; and Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. He has also written books about Doug Flutie, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Sandy Hawley. He has been contracted by Penguin Publishing to help broadcaster/athlete Colleen Jones write her life story. He also reviews books for Quill and Quire Magazine. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.