Words: Matthew Ohayon
Photography and Video: Olivier Cadotte
Video Editing: Julien Ponsard

Every wrestler’s WrestleMania dream starts somewhere. For Mikey Maggiore, 30, better known as his in-the-ring persona, Maredes The Leader of Chaos, that dream began when he was a kid.

“For as long as I can remember, I was watching wrestling. Then in high school [former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler] Sylvain Grenier opened a wrestling school in Hochelaga, so my friends and I went to check it out. I ended up training there for over a year and I never looked back,” Maggiore said.

In some instances, families might not be too thrilled with their child participating in a sport where the goal is to beat your opponent to a pulp—whether it’s real or not. But Maggiore’s 20-year-old nephew, Nicholas, knew he’d try to make it big in the wrestling world from the moment they started watching WWE together.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Nicholas. “[Mikey] always talked about becoming a wrestler. When he told me, I was really young so I was super excited to get to see him perform.”

Maggiore is an independent wrestler, which basically means he is a freelancer in the wrestling world. Most wrestlers start off on the independent scene with aspirations of making it to the bigger promotions, like the WWE.

“When I started, no one broke out of Montreal’s independent scene,” said Maggiore. “Now there’s Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, my coach Matt “Big Magic” Lee —now it’s hard not to think that this is a possibility.”

While dreaming big is one thing, dues must still be paid to get where you want to go. Maggiore and his wrestling aspirations are no exception: outside of the ring, he works as a part-time bouncer at Mtelus in downtown Montreal and as a daycare educator.

“It’s a lot, but I like to always be doing something. I like always being entertained,” said Maggiore. “I don’t sleep. It’s something I need to get better at.”

Outside of the ring, wrestler Mikey Maggiore leads a normal life—mostly.

Erratic sleep schedules aren’t Maggiore’s only worry; food and sticking to a healthy diet are also part of his dedication to his craft.

“You just gotta think to yourself: it’s 1 a.m.–do I really need that bag of chips or late night poutine?” he said. “If I do give in, I’m definitely going to feel it in training the next day. So, it’s just not worth it sometimes.”

Maggiore says inspiration for his in-ring persona, Maredes The Leader of Chaos, came from the wrestlers he grew up watching, like Sting and The Ultimate Warrior.

“The flips and slams are cool, but it’s the theatrics that draws people in–or at least it drew me in. The makeup stood out to me. It made them larger than life characters,” he said.

For Mikey Maggiore, known in the ring as Maredes The Leader of Chaos, look and character are what make pro wrestling so special.

One of the cardinal sins of wrestling is breaking character.

“It’s tough when you have one guy cursing you out and he’s the only one making noise,” said Maggiore. “But as I’ve become more experienced with it, I’ve learned to love that–I think to myself not, how would Mikey react to this guy, but how would Maredes react? It’s really helped me grow into my character.”

Maggiore’s tag team partner Steven Manzano, 23, goes by Steven Mainz in the ring. Unlike Maggiore, Manzano likes to focus on his in-ring abilities more than his microphone skills.

“I like the technical side of it way more. Maredes is definitely a character. I think that’s why we make a good team,” said Manzano.

Kick pads are often associated with more technical wrestlers like Steven Manzano’s character Steven Mainz.

Maggiore and Manzano are both of Filipino descent, which is why they say they were teamed up together in the first place.

“Pro wrestling does this thing where, if you’re of the same ethnicity they place you together. It doesn’t matter who your character is,” said Maggiore. “It just so happened that we make a great team.”

Watching the two men spar shows wrestling is a performance art that takes incredible athletic prowess along with great acting skills and the ability to connect with crowds.

“The way I approach it is, I don’t care if there’s 10, 100 or 1,000 people,” Maggiore said. “They might not know who I am when I get there, but I perform so after my match they say, ‘woah, who the hell was that guy?’”

That’s the type of attitude wrestlers need if they want to make it to the big leagues. It’s something Manzano really appreciates about Maggiore.

“Mikey is honestly one of the most motivating guys I know,” he said. “I stopped wrestling for a bit because of some personal reasons. And, as cheesy as it sounds, he really made me believe in myself again, and I haven’t looked back. It’s his thing.”

Maggiore has wrestled all over Quebec, Ontario, and in Mexico City, where wrestling, or lucha libre, is a large part of the culture. He has stories from just about every place he’s visited, but says there’s nothing like wrestling at home.

“I love the fan interaction you get to have at the small shows [in Montreal.] It’s a grimey scene in a good way,” he said. “There’s a video out there somewhere of an elderly lady in a wheelchair and [with an] oxygen tank cursing me out.”

“As Mikey, I was saying to myself, ‘who the hell is this lady?’ But as Maredes, I said, ‘oh no you don’t!’ So I got in her face and started yelling back. It was a really funny moment that I’ll never forget.”

Right now, Maggiore and Manzano have their sights set on the show they have coming up in New Jersey during WrestleMania Weekend in April. WrestleMania Weekend–essentially WWE’s Super Bowl—is what really put the company on the map back in the mid 1980s, when it was still called the World Wrestling Federation. Now in its 35th edition, WrestleMania Weekend has expanded to include plenty of independent promotions that put on shows during the event.

Manzano says there will be tons of people checking out the different independent shows, so it’s really the duo’s time to shine.

But, while WWE is the goal for many wrestlers, Maggiore likes to keep some perspective. He knows no matter how big he dreams, the odds are stacked against him. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be leaving the ring any time soon.

“Obviously, WWE is everybody’s dream, but if I could just make a comfortable living in, I don’t know, India for example, performing and doing what I do, that would be a dream come true,” he said. “But if WWE came knocking, I’d be OK with that, too.”