Independent wrestler, JP Simms
JP Simms lays out Samoa Joe at Wrestlecentre in Halifax. Photos: JP Simms.

Two out of three

JP Simms suddenly found himself down one fall and facing defeat in his two-out-of-three falls challenge for the Kaizen Pro Wrestling heavyweight championship this past July.

His opponent, crowd favourite and heavyweight champion, Covey Christ, was now ahead. JP Simms’ expression said he knew he had to get busy.

Family friend, Nikki Sheppard, was in attendance. She watched down with intrigue from the tiered theatre seats at Dartmouth’s Alderney Landing.

“As a person, he’s a great guy. Love him to death, he’ll do anything for you,” she said. “As a wrestler, he’s awesome! Little sneaky at times, but that’s just him.”

While Christ caught his wind, Simms’ disbelief transformed into desperation. What had just happened? How did he get here? Just moments ago, 50 Cent’s ‘I Get Money’ blared through the theatre speakers, as Simms oozed with confidence while he entered the theatre and then the ring, to the polarized reaction of the crowd.

Back to reality. Simms had to act fast. And so, he did what any ‘bad guy’ or ‘heel’ wrestler would do. He grabbed a steel chair — an illegal foreign object.

Not only did this seem like a frustrated desperate move, but it also seemed poorly thought out. The referee was right there and could see all of this. Soon as Simms connects with the chair, he’d be disqualified and lose the match.

Before Simms could connect, the referee intervened and grabbed the chair out of Simms’ hands.

In what seemed like what took forever for the ref to take the steel chair, turn around, bend down, and place it outside of the ring, Simms suddenly got his hands on a white powdered substance and threw it in Christ’s face — blinding Christ in the process.

This was all by design. The steel chair was a decoy all along.

Somehow, as soon as Christ turned around blinded, he assumed that the referee was now, in fact, Simms. And so Christ grabbed the ref, and performed a wrestling maneuver on him in the middle of the ring, driving his face and head into the mat, rendering the referee incapacitated.

Wowzerz!

With the ref down, sneaky-Simms went back, grabbed the chair, and smacked-fiyah over Christ’s back — several times.

Another ref eventually moseyed his way on out to the ring while Simms finished up. Simms then got rid of the chair, and pretty much had his way with a flurry of signature offensive moves, before pinning his opponent for the count: “One!… Two!… Three.”

The match was now tied. The winner of the next fall would win the match, and leave the ring as the Kaizen Pro Wrestling heavyweight champion.

[To view the slideshow below, click on the arrows below the slides. For those who use a screen reader on a computer, those arrows are below the slides, on the right.]

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JP’s journey

Jeremy “JP” Simms grew up in the Kline Heights area of Halifax. He attended elementary school at Chebucto Heights, junior high school at St. Agnes, and high school at Queen Elizabeth High. He is the son of a white mother and a Black father whose roots are in the historical Black community of Hammonds Plains.

Like a lot of kids, Simms grew up watching wrestling. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were his favourites. Simms said had dreams of being a pro wrestler ever since he was just eight years old.

“Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 12 was the match that made me want to be a pro wrestler,” Simms said.

This was one of many matches in the long-storied, on-and-off-camera rivalry between wrestling legends, “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, and Canadian wrestling hero, Bret “Hitman” Hart. In the main event, in what was dubbed an Ironman Match, the two wrestled to an hour’s draw before going into sudden-death overtime. In the end, Simms’ hero, Shawn Michaels, was victorious and captured the WWF world title for the first time in his career.

(In the interest of professionalism, I quickly forgave Simms for rooting for Shawn Michaels over Bret Hart. This was very hard to do.)

It was no secret to any of his peers what Simms wanted to do after graduating.

“Everybody knew I wanted to be a wrestler,” he said. “It was a very vocal thing for me. Everybody in school always knew it was something I wanted to do.”

At 19, while working for the movie theatre at Park Lane Mall in Halifax, he discovered a local “backyard” wrestling company known as Charity Wrestling Federation or CWF. It was based out of Timberlea. Simms was able to gain experience performing and interacting with a live crowd.

“It at least got me in a ring and in front of a crowd, but I didn’t know what I was doing. And I knew that.”

Simms one day came across an online ad for Storm Wrestling Academy. The academy was in Calgary and was owned and operated by former WWE star Lance Storm.

“The first thing that did was raise my eyebrows because: I’m Canadian, it’s in Canada, eh, I can make that possible!” he said. “And I mean literally, within a few days, I emailed Lance Storm and I asked him how everything worked with his training school.”

Storm had gained national and international television exposure as a wrestler and being billed as champion in major wrestling promotions such as WWF (now WWE), ECW, and WCW.

After wrestling for 25 years, Storm semi-retired in 2005 and opened his wrestling school. He went on to train a handful of future WWE stars and other pro wrestling stars.

“And I never even looked back. I didn’t know how I was gonna get there or what I was gonna do,” Simms said. “But this is an opportunity that I cannot pass up. And honestly, the rest is history.”

Simms paid $500 for a down payment to hold a spot. He got a second job and worked to save nearly $5,000 for the training, travel, and other expenses.

Eight months after contacting Storm, Simms left his friends and family in Halifax to move to Calgary for three months, where he knew no one, in September 2008. He was 20 years old.

“I just remember him emailing me and being like ‘I’ll meet you at the airport.’ OK! Hopefully, he’ll meet me at the airport!” he said. “I’m getting off the airplane, and I’m terrified that I don’t know if he’s gonna be there or not. But sure enough, I looked down, and there’s Lance Storm waiting for me at the airport.”

Photo: Lance Storm/Twitter

Training days

The training was scheduled for three months. Simms said they trained for three-to-four hours a day, five days a week.

Storm helped Simms get a place to stay at a bed and breakfast located about three hours from the training facility. A family friend helped him get a job.

“It was brutal. I had to take a bus, a train, and a bus to get there every day. And yeah, obviously I had to get a job, [and after training], I would take an hour and a half bus ride to my job.”

“So, I’d get home around 12-one o’clock, get up at six, go train… Did that every day. For three months,” he said.

At 150 pounds, Simms said that a personal trainer approached him at the gym one day and offered him his services.

The two then worked out a plan to help Simms put on muscle mass. They trained together three days a week, while Simms trained on his own the other two days.

“He gave me diets, he gave me specific groceries to buy, protein powder, all that stuff” Simms said. “It’s just ironic that a guy came up to some lost kid who just wanted to wrestle.”

Back at the Storm Wrestling Academy, Simms said there were loose ends to tie up before initially getting down to business.

“I can remember the first day, signing a waiver that said if you lose your life, it’s not his problem. Because you’re signing a contract basically that if I get jumped on my head the wrong way or…anything like that, you know, Lance Storm’s not liable for it.”

Despite any wrestling fame or celebrity, as a trainer, like his wrestling persona, Simms said Storm was very serious.

“He was very strict in training. Very strict. [There was] no laughing, none of that kind of stuff.”

Simms talked about an incident where it became very apparent to one of his classmates just how serious Storm was.

“This one guy that was in training class was kinda just laughing, horsing around … I was like that when I was younger too of course like anybody else, right. But I wasn’t necessarily goofing off, but I was talking to him when we should have been paying more attention,” he said.

“And he went to give me … how The Rock used to do that DDT where he’d jump up from behind them and then give them a snap-DDT – we were practicing that move and buddy just kinda dropped me.”

“He did it to me and just kinda let me go, and I just remember Lance like grabbing him and like throwing him down on the ground. And we couldn’t hear what he said to him… But like we all knew that Lance was pissed!”

One day, while on route to training with a fellow classmate, Simms said their bus was late, making them also late.

“I just remember walking in and Lance being like ‘Oh great, you made it! Two hundred squats,’” said Simms reflecting on the incident. “And he’s like ‘No, right now.’ And that was the first time and only time I’ve ever done two hundred squats in a row.”

Simms said the repercussions didn’t end after the squats.

“And who’s the first people he made get in that ring? Us!” he said. “Legs were like jelly, we could barely walk, and that was my lesson, another lesson in life to always make sure I’m early. You know, leave early. Leave 10 minutes earlier to go get that bus if you have to.”

“Sacrifice though. That’s what I put it to. You know, I was willing to do whatever it took to get where I needed to get.”

Official pro

JP Simms with wrestling stars: 2 Cold Scorpio, Kurt Angle, Rikishi, & AJ Styles. Photos: JP Simms.

After graduating from Storm Wrestling Academy, JP Simms came home to Halifax in December 2008. He was eager to put his wrestling training and connections to use.

Simms contacted local wrestling promoter Chuck Martin, founder of Ultimate Championship Wrestling (UCW), out of Spryfield, and joined the tour.

“So, five months after I’m training with Lance Storm, I’m on a seven-day tour with Bushwhacker Luke, Al Snow, and Honkey Tonk Man.”

“Even the 33-year-old me would be pumped for that. But the 21-year-old me was ecstatic to be on the road.”

Simms said he started to truly come into his own when the bookers started putting him in matches with wrestlers from other provinces.

“They started giving me guys from Ontario, putting me in the ring with guys from Montreal. They were giving me people that were helping me, and I was helping myself and them.”

The first was a wrestler named Ryan Rogan from Montreal who was trained by Canadian wrestling star, and fellow Montrealer, Jacque Rougeau — formerly known as The Mountie in the WWF.

“We had a really good match that night. And I remember like, the confidence level was at an all-time high that like ‘Man I can do this! I can have a good match with anybody and I know that I can.”

Simms said that Lance Storm’s credibility among wrestling’s top stars opened more opportunities for him on the maritime wrestling circuit (formerly the Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling territory), where many former WWE stars and wrestling legends are known to frequent. This soon opened doors and created momentum for the Maritime Wrestling scene as a whole.

“I find it always made a difference,” Simms said. “Like if I was wrestling Gangrel or people like that, they’d say ‘Who trained ya kid?’

Wrestlecentre

In March 2014, one of several local wrestling promotions, the former Wrestlecentre, held its inaugural event in Halifax. In the main event, Simms defended his heavyweight championship against international wrestling star, AJ Styles.

Styles had wrestled previously for big-name wrestling promotions such as Ring of Honor (ROH), Total Nonstop Action (TNA Wrestling), and New Japan Pro Wrestling(NJPW). Styles went from Wrestlecentre to the WWE, where he won the world title several times.

“I think that training with Lance Storm helped me with everybody else. Because like I remember them saying with AJ Styles, they had to send a couple of my matches to him. He (had) to OK whether or not (he was) gonna wrestle me or not.”

In August of 2018, Styles returned to Halifax to defend the WWE world championship against Samoa Joe at a WWE event at the Forum. After the match, Styles got on the mic, thanked the crowd, and acknowledged having previously wrestled in Halifax. Chants of “Wrestlecentre” and “JP Simms” could be heard throughout various sections of the arena.

“I always say when I describe Wrestlecentre, that it was like lightning in a bottle. It was one of those things that had the potential to be a lot more than it was, but goddamn, for that year or two, Wrestlecentre was hot man.”

Simms also wrestled former ROH and TNA, and future AEW wrestlers like Colt Cabana, Petey Williams, and Christopher Daniels. He even attacked future WWE star Samoa Joe at the conclusion of one of his main event matches.

As Wrestlecentre gained momentum, other wrestling stars made their way through the Halifax wrestling promotion. African American wrestlers Too Cold Scorpio and Shelton Benjamin, as well as other wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes, Matt Sydal, Bobby Roode, Jake ‘The Snake” Roberts, Mick Foley and Kurt Angle all made their way through Wrestlecentre.

So did Simms’ former trainer, Lance Storm.

“When I did that Wrestlecentre show with him in 2014, obviously that was the first and only time I’d seen him since I trained with him,” recalls Simms. “And it was cool seeing him again. You know, I felt evolved by then, and I felt like I finally came into my own by then.”

Simms was billed as the promotion’s heavyweight champion and one of their main stars. Promoters Jason Mosher and Tyler Burns were able to land Wrestlecentre a deal for a tv show, “Voltage,” through regional cable access television, Bell TV.

“We’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna make you a good guy, we’re gonna make you love everybody, we’re gonna make you kiss babies and talk about how you can’t wait to go to a Halifax bar at the end of the show,” Simms recalls of the promoters’ plans for him. “I think that it made people want to spit me out.”

Backstage turmoil

“The King” JP Simms wrestles Christopher Daniels, “Dynamite” Dylan Davis, and Colt Cabana. Photos: Gaetan Lanteigne Photographe, used with permission.

As the crowd started more and more to boo Simms, it was around this time Simms said he also started to sense a bit of real-life hostility with many of the wrestlers backstage.

“I think a lot of people, when I wrestled AJ Styles, were waiting for me to fail,” he said. “And I think when I had that match … if they didn’t have that option to shit on me for that, they had to start finding other things.”

Feeling increasingly isolated backstage, Simms suspected some of the wrestlers tried to influence the fans, in an effort to influence the promoters.

“A lot of wrestlers like to get into fans’ ears too. Like a lot of wrestlers talk to the fans, especially back then. More than people realize. And all of a sudden it became ‘Oh we want all these other guys. We want anybody but him.’”

Simms was the only regular wrestler for Wrestlecentre who was Black. Like the roster, the live crowds were predominately white. For his part, Simms said he wasn’t focused on any possible racial aspect to the crowd boos or the backstage hostility.

“Yes, there’s been times where I’m sure there’s been some racism. I always (chalked it up) to the fact that I got the matches everybody else wished they could have. That’s how I’ve always looked at it,” he said. “I always just chalked it up to jealousy and just the fact that those guys couldn’t appreciate the fact that I was the one getting all the spots and they just made it look like I was sucking up to the bookers to get it, when I wasn’t.”

“Maybe just gullible me never looked at it that way, but I’ll tell ya, I sure looked at it the way he said that comment.”

“That comment” was from another wrestler. It wasn’t made in the ring, or on TV, but rather on the wrestler’s personal social media account. In addition to taking a shot at Simms’ physique, Simms said he was taken aback when the wrestler made reference to Simms’ skin tone.

“’If JP Simms returns to Wrestlecentre I’ll quit. He has zero ring gear, and he looks like a Pillsbury Doughboy that’s got a tan,’” Simms said the post read. “That’s exactly how I took that because…I don’t need to call you a white boy, so why do you need to call me (tanned)?”

Simms said he felt a line was crossed where the remarks weren’t part of any wrestling storyline.

Simms said he was met with further hostility when he respectfully confronted the wrestler about it. Backstage heat and tensions towards Simms continued to grow as Simms said many of the wrestlers barely spoke to him.

Asked if any of the veteran wrestlers ever tried to step in and help ease tensions, Simms replies “No. God no. Not one person. No one backed me up about that man, I was on my own.”

On-screen and in the ring, Simms said many of his opponents’ promos and interview segments toward him then started to follow an unoriginal and redundant trend. Mainly, they all tended to poke fun at Simms’ physical appearance and physique. He said he doesn’t think this was a coincidence.

“It basically became a shoot in the back where it was like everybody hates on Simms , you know … Not to his face, but they all talk about him,” he recalls. “And they all talk about how he shouldn’t be here. And ‘He doesn’t deserve it,’ and ‘He hasn’t worked hard for it,’ and ‘He hasn’t put any effort in the ring, doesn’t put any effort in the gym.’”

As time went on, Wrestlecentre shut down, and Simms continued to get bookings on the Maritime Wrestling scene until the pandemic put everything on pause.

During the COVID lockdowns, the Maritime Wrestling scene was jolted when a female wrestler courageously spoke out with several stunning allegations.

Among other claims, she accused one wrestler, her ex, of verbal abuse, threats, and blackmailing her with child pornography of her on his cell phone.

A number of other Maritime wrestlers, men, were said to not only be privy to some or much of this, but also present while the girl was passed out in hotel/motel rooms, naked, with but a mere bedsheet covering her up. Drugs and alcohol were also said to have been involved.

Simms said he had no part of it.

“Never seen a thing. I was never around any of that,” he said. “For a lot of years, I wasn’t liked in the locker room. I wasn’t one of “the guys” … if you know what I mean … I wasn’t in their posses.”

“I was legitimately wowed by all of that when I heard it. And one of the first things I said to Brittany [his fiancé] when all that happened was, I said, it’s a good thing as soon as all the shows are over I come right home, and I come right home to you.”

The finish

JP Simms celebrates childbirth, proposes to fiancée Britany, wrestles his kids, and purchases a car with Britany in lieu of their postponed wedding. Photos: JP Simms.

This past July was Kaizen Pro Wrestling’s first event since November of 2020.

“There was kinda some restrictions lifted so where we actually had a show, but then COVID flared up again so we had to put it on pause,” said ring announcer David Boyce. “But yeah, we’re back!”

With their 2-out-of-3 falls match now tied at one, it was almost a given that JP Simms would easily cruise to victory in the final round, given the passionate beating he’d just laid into Covey Christ.

Simms continued to dominate throughout much of the third round. Eventually, however, Christ would catch a second wind and work his way back into the match. The two competitors went back and forth exchanging several two-count close finishes.

Could it have been the absence of four-year-old son Brayden, three-year-old daughter Natalia, and their mother Brittany who, though usually at ringside, were not at this match due to COVID restrictions capping the audience capacity at 150 people?

Could it have been that JP and Britanny’s uncertainty surrounding those same COVID restrictions caused them to postpone their wedding that was supposed to have happened seven days before the match?

“I would have been a married man when I wrestled Covey Christ!,” said Simms. “Not to just sound like a husband of the year, but like — and I truly feel this way — I wanna give Brittany the wedding of her dreams.”

Whatever it was, in the end, despite the steel chair beatdown, Simms was unable to hold off Christ, as Christ was able to hit his signature move, and pin Simms to retain his Kaizen Pro Wrestling heavyweight championship.

“The main event was two guys, two warriors, who went in the ring for at least 40 minutes … they gave it their all, it was a great battle,” said ring announcer David Boyce after the show. “Covey Christ retained … but man, the heart… These guys just went out for 45 and put on a clinic. It was fantastic.”

Following the match, an emotional Covet Christ called the rest of the wrestlers, including Simms, to ringside and thanked them and the fans.

Justin Eweak (who is Black) was also in attendance. “Yeah, I’ve seen him in posters around the city, and actually I’m pretty sure I went to school with him,” he said of Simms. “But yeah, I was really impressed with his performance. It’s nice to see another one of us out there. And having that representation. He did a great job.”

When asked about his main event loss, Simms said “I could not care less if I win or lose. I could lose every single match for the rest of my career, as long as I go out there and have a fun match, I come back, me and my opponent are as safe as we were when we went out there, and both of us are happy and we both felt like we learned and grew, that’s all I care about.”

Simms said there’s a big difference in the atmosphere among the Kaizen locker room,

“Everybody actually motivates each other. Everybody’s there to like push each other to do better.”

Simms went on the next weekend to wrestle two dates for his original stomping ground, UCW.

“Man, I’ve had an amazing experience in the wrestling (business),” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to wrestle superstars that I could only dream of wrestling. Being in a locker room with wrestlers who were, you know, I was watching when I was a kid.”

“I trained to be a wrestler for myself, I didn’t train for all you guys to like me and to make friends. If I make friends in wrestling, cool, but I’m training to do what I’ve always wanted to do.”


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Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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  1. Thank you, you described it wonderfully! Was a great story and made me wish I could see a wrestling match again one day.