If fans hadn’t heard the name of Wavell Starr, it’s unfortunate. What they likely missed was a talent whose career spans more than two decades.
And for all his heinous and fiendish acts in the ring, Starr’s contributions to wrestling has often been missed by many fans today who aren’t as privy to him since he isn’t on television.
That is, he isn’t on television today. Around the turn of the century, Starr competed briefly for the WWE.
Wavell Starr – The First Nations Sensation
But before Starr’s career can be shared today, it’s crucial to look at his early training and development. Upon his first match, Starr had the benefit of having WWE trainer Leo Burke watching what he could do. Burke’s attendance opened the door for Starr to meet Calgary’s famed Hart family.
“I think this kind of fast-tracked me, and it also showed people that I had the natural ability to pick it up really fast,”
That is, he isn’t on television today. Around the turn of the century, Starr competed briefly for the WWE. But no one immediately is trusted on screen, and Wavell Starr would train in the WWE’s then-developmental system in Louisville, Kentucky.
“It was a very competitive environment, but being around that was really an essential moment in my career because I realized that I had what it takes.”
The adage iron sharpens iron was not much of a stretch when applied to Wavell Starr. For Wavell Starr, he was turning heads, and while he wasn’t officially under contract with the WWE, he felt as though the stars (no pun intended) were aligning for him.
But after beginning his career competing in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he’s continued to raise the profile of Indigenous wrestlers, in particular in Canada. What fans see is what they get when it comes to Starr.
The First Nation’s Sensation doesn’t need to come to the ring being anything other than himself. He proudly showcased his indigenous heritage and, at one point, would compete with a customary braid that reflected his culture.
But unlike several representations in the past of Indigenous personas on-screen, Starr has never been a character.
The challenge for him proudly showcasing his Indigenous heritage it also made him a lightning rod of hate by fans. While today acknowledging the abuse and misrepresentation that the Indigenous people have faced is more prominent, it wasn’t always this way.
“Next thing you know, you’re in a small town in Saskatchewan in the middle of the ring, the only aboriginal person in the place, and some of the things that are being said to you are really terrible…
“It’s a real eye-opener, but at the same time, the positive that came out of it is that I’m pretty solid when it comes to racism. I have a very thick skin.”
And what doesn’t kill someone will make them stronger. This is the case for Starr today. He will prominently stand for what he believes in. When it easily could have been a case where he was caught in the caricatures that Indigenous had been booked in the past, Starr shows his heritage with pride.
He competes with a sense of fierce and reckless abandon. It’s that same pride that best represents who he is as well.
But it’s what he has meant to his people because of what has overcome is an inspiration for other Indigenous wrestlers to follow.
Far too often representation, proper representation is lost, but a proud Indigenous Canadian wrestler who wears his heart on his sleeve each and ever time he steps in the ring speaks volumes about what he means to those watching and those aspiring to follow in his footsteps.
“You look at some of the obstacles, or even just the odds stacked against many of our young people trying to get through all these historical realities that our people have to identify with, and I think he certainly is a person that shows anything’s possible…
He’s made an outstanding effort to show the world, and show our people, that we can persevere.”
Far too often, the belief that making it in the industry means having a career that is best reflected by what you did on television. For Wavell Starr, he’s been there and done that. His success isn’t measured in wins or losses but in representation. His dream is to have the opportunity to live out his passion.
“It’s really something to say that you’re legit living your dream, and I still am. I mean, there’s no stadiums, no coliseums, and not as many flights as there was at the time, but something with the business is my passion, and it’s my love, and just being involved in it is still living my dream.”
First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities have suffered indescribable bigotry, segregation, and suffering. If Wavell Starr can create hope for men and women aspiring to entertain, then to live their dream is as crucial as breathing itself.
Hope is often lost in this world as without support, resources, and an opportunity is never present. Starr has been someone who continues to prove that hope doesn’t have to be lost. That he doesn’t need to be entertaining thousands to feel the sense of adulation that comes with being a wrestler.
He entertains because, after more than a quarter of a century of competition, Wavell Starr will compete until he no longer can. But even he has found that his motivation isn’t about what he sees on television but in the eyes of his children.
Although Starr’s son isn’t pursuing professional wrestling as a career, it’s his desire to pursue his dreams that has motivated him to continue to live his dreams.
But Starr’s dreams don’t just represent his desire to succeed but to represent an entire community. Whether he is in the role of heel or face, Wavell Starr is able to evoke emotion from a crowd, and that is something very few can do.
He was never Wahoo McDaniel or Tatanka, but it doesn’t because he has blazed a trail all his own. If what Starr has done for more than a quarter of a century says something, it says that dreams can be caught. And when they are caught, they should never be let go.