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Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on slam.canoe.ca and was written by Matthew Byer.
Recently, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a very special scholarship was awarded for the first time in honor of the late Reid Flair. The recipient was 23-year-old Michael Richard Blais from Calgary, Alberta, who has already been wrestling for eight years.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound, bleached blond Blais had difficulty putting it into words what winning the scholarship meant to him.
“When Beth Flair shook my hand in the ring she told me to use this for good, make something of myself with it, and when I go back home to teach everyone what I’d learned because that’s what Reid would’ve done, it was overwhelming,” Blais told SLAM! Wrestling.
The training sessions were held during the weekend of August 1-4, as a part of the Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. The camp was lead by Dr. Tom Prichard, and included Les Thatcher, Tully Blanchard, Leilani Kai, and Gerald Brisco.
“I have such respect for all the trainers, having watched and studied them as well as hearing things from others who have worked with them,” he said. “To have them recognize me, take an interest in me and ultimately choose me for the scholarship was overwhelming as well. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in wrestling so far. It kind of like, validated to me that I made the right choice to do this, and I can actually make it. I just need to keep working hard. It made me feel like it showed people like my parents, grandparents, TJ Wilson, Nattie Neidhart, my friends, and my fiancée, anyone who has ever supported me, that they didn’t waste their time on me. It gave me the confidence, but also more so the motivation to work my @$$ off harder to keep whatever momentum I have going and make something of myself with this.”
A fellow attendee at the camp was Prairie Wrestling Alliance wrestler Sheik Akbar Shabaz who knew that Blais would do well despite the fact that he was so nervous.
“This guy literally eats, breathes, and sleeps wrestling,” said Shabaz. “He asked me to come with him to North Carolina to train with him and Dr. Tom Prichard. He’s helped to make me a more confident and better wrestler. He’s helped me in ways he’ll never know. Michael Blais was told as a kid he’d never make it because he was too fat, and he was too reckless in the ring. He proved everyone wrong by dieting, changing his style, and hard work. You can’t stop his shine, and when his light reaches out and touches you, you can’t help, but feel his passion and desire in the ring. I can honestly say you will see Michael Blais move onto bigger and better things.”
Shabaz said there was a reason why Prichard and Thatcher put Blais on the Internet-Pay-Per-View twice. One of the things that Shabaz feels makes Blais special is that he’s capable of leading a match with an inexperienced wrestler, and making him look phenomenal, just as easily as he can respectfully listen to a veteran and follow directions. “Everyone that watched the iPPV now know the name Michael Richard Blais, and I can guarantee you they will follow him until his wrestling career is over,” assured Shabaz.
As for what Blais intends to use the scholarship for in the immediate future, he is putting it towards this year’s Harley Race World League Wrestling week-long camp.
“I signed up for the camp literally the day I got back from Charlotte,” recalled Blair. “Other than that, I am just going to keep my eyes open for camps with as many veterans and well known trainers as I can. One thing Mr. Brisco told us was to do our research and make sure wherever we go to learn has a reputation for producing good talent. So I am just going to keep my eyes open, do my research, work hard, and learn as much as I can.”
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