Rish Koya is living out his childhood dream.
Mr. India, as Koya is known in the wrestling ring, recently won the All Star Wrestling Trans Canada Championship.
“I have had different belts, but this is the big one,” he says of the heavyweight championship. “This is the one everyone wants. It’s the best of the best.”
As an infant, Koya moved from Fiji to Edmonton, where his love of wrestling began. He attended his first match before his first birthday.
“It was like that father-son thing - wrestling was something we always did. I have loved it since I was a kid,” says the New West resident. “I would try to get in the ring when the bad guys were beating up the good guys. They would have to hold me back. I think the first time I actually got in the ring I was two years old at Stampede Wrestling.”
Years later, the WWF/WWE fan started attending Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling shows at the Eagles hall (now the Columbia Theatre.)
“I went there and I absolutely fell in love with it,” he says. “The main event was awesome, but the wrestling itself was so-so. But it was the atmosphere. There would be 200 fans in there and they were loving it. They were all yelling and screaming.”
In 1996, Koya began training with Gorgeous Michelle Starr at a backyard wrestling ring in Surrey.
“I remember when we started, there were so many guys who came and went, just because the training back then was so difficult,” he says. “It’s not just learning how to wrestle, it’s the physical conditioning, the functional strength.”
And what about those longstanding comments about wrestling being fake?
“Usually my response to that is, just get in the ring with me for a few minutes and I’ll show you fake,” Koya laughs.
While his original character was a bad guy, Mr. India is one of the good guys.
“The fans are so behind the character. They are chanting In-di-a, In-di-a, In-di-a. You take a look around and there are maybe three Indo-Canadians in the audience. They aren’t chanting for the country, they are chanting for me,” he says. “It feels amazing.”
Koya is thrilled to be All Star Wrestling’s heavyweight champion and hopes to use it as a platform to promote his two passions - wrestling and healthy living. A trainer since 1998, Koya has developed a kettlebell training program now offered at Koyabell Fitness in New West.
Koya also teaches a Wrestle Fit program at the Surrey gym where he trains for All Star Wrestling. Like some of the visiting professional wrestlers who’ve dropped by the gym, Koya aspires to break into the WWE.
“If your goal isn’t to be there, then you shouldn’t be wrestling. That’s how I feel,” he says. “You want to be the main event; I want to be the main event every single show. I want to be the champion, I want to be the guy. Give me the ball, I’ll run with it.”
Koya, who is working on a plan to create a wrestling/variety show in New West that showcases local businesses and introduces new folks to wrestling, is enjoying his time as All Star Wrestling’s heavyweight champion.
“Come check out a show. There is local wrestling here and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s a family- friendly show. Just give us a shot,” he suggests. “One show – come check it out.”
In his words:
“There are two rules in wrestling. Number 1, protect yourself. Number 2, protect your partner/opponent.”
“It’s really a big family. There aren’t too many of us that do this. We are really like a carnival if you think about it.”
“People think hitting the ropes is easy. That’s elevator wire. Each time you hit the rope, it’s like, boom. You feel it.”
“I would have to say I’m a good wrestler. I’m a power wrestler. I have that hybrid style – I can get you on the mat, I can get you with power, I can get you on the flying side too. I can pretty much go across the board. For my size, I get some very good elevation. My leg drops are known as the best leg drop in the business.”
“My mom came to my first match in New West back in 1997 and that was the last match she came too. She did not like to see her oldest get beaten up.”
“Every match tells a story. My whole thing is you have got to tell a good story, draw the fans in and take them on that nice ride.”