It’s a long way to the top for wrestlers, but two locals are hustling their way.
Ali Saif, known as Tiger Ali in the ring, and Enes Ahmetovic (Aiden Adams) have dreams of being among the best in the world and are paying their dues with promoters across Western Canada.
“When you’re in the ring, you’re telling a story,” says Saif.
Sometimes the storyline is power versus speed, or David versus Goliath.
“The beauty of the sport … is there’s always a different way to tell a story,” says the 5-11, 220-pound wrestler. “I’m going to create a story that the people are going to enjoy and watch.”
While a wrestler can become a caricature in the ring, Saif says the main goal is to win fans.
“We’re living in this fantasy world, larger than life, a world of giants,” says Saif.
Watching Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, as a child inspired Saif to pursue the sport.
“You have to get emotionally connected to the crowd, and he did,” says Saif.
A corrections officer by day who is now in his fourth year of wrestling, Saif says the path to his current persona hasn’t been direct.
“When I started wrestling I was given different names that didn’t really suit me at all,” says the third-generation wrestler who was born in Punjab, Pakistan, and moved to Canada in about Grade 5. “I couldn’t say no because I was looking for a job as a wrestler.”
Following training with Storm Wrestling Academy in Calgary in 2014, he went by the name Ravi O’Brien as a tag team duo with his assumed adopted brother Tim O’Brien.
In searching for a new name after Tim exited the industry, Saif called upon RCW’s Vince Austin and Steven Ewaschuk, and Wavell Starr from Regina, a former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) athlete.
Starr came up with idea of Tiger Ali, a character who could be either good or bad, known in the industry as baby face or heel.
Saif likens his territorial character to the tiger Shere Khan from Disney’s The Jungle Book.
“He does things in his way,” he says. “As long as things work out in his way, he’s a nice tiger. But, (if things don’t go his way), then he’ll turn his back and do it his way and he’ll be the bad tiger.”
Tiger Ali reigned as the RCW Commonwealth Champion for about six months after he defeated Ahmetovic (then The Bosnian Adonis) in August 2016.
The two have met each other in the ring plenty of times, and with the turning over of the crown, Ahmetovic followed plans to work with different promoters. He’s since traveled Western Canada fighting with Prairie Wrestling Alliance, High Impact Wrestling and Big West Wrestling, to gain more experience.
The first-generation Canadian, who grew up in Calgary and has lived in Airdrie for the last six years, says his family’s Bosnian heritage was a difficult stereotype to play.
The 5-11, 200-pound, 23-year-old wrestler adopted the name Aiden Adams.
“I’m still trying to discover this character,” says Ahmetovic. “Essentially if you want to build a character, it’s amplifying yourself by like a 1,000.”
Ahmetovic is continuing the learning process since training with the Hart family’s wrestling school in Calgary and the Storm Wrestling Academy two years ago.
“I’m trying to figure out what I can do to stand out,” he says.
Both Saif and Ahmetovic aspire to make their sport a career and are making moves to do so.
Saif moved to Toronto this spring to pursue wrestling and acting opportunities. He’s thankful for the friends he made in Airdrie and the support of his roommate, Megan Skarsen, and her family.
“She helped me when I was going through a hard time,” says Saif. “Her family is like my actual family in Alberta.”
He’s grateful for friends he made who helped him get the physique he always wanted while working out together at GoodLife Fitness.
“Shane Smith helped me a lot in diet and workouts,” says the pro wrestler, adding thanks to coach Brian Mark from AEnation.
Saif is striving to be scouted by World Wrestling Entertainment, while Ahmetovic is pursuing the sport in the United Kingdom this fall.