This 25-year-old is a student by day and a professional wrestler by night
Wilson Loh plays the character of Hotshot – a brash and loud individual who is determined to prove that he is the best.
Two men decked out in vibrant clothing circle each other in a square-shaped ring covered with thin foam padding and a canvas cover. Like sharks fixated on their prey, they wait for the perfect opportunity to make a move. Suddenly, one of them lunges forward, sailing through the air as he pulls off a cutter with finesse, leaving his opponent writhing on the ground. In a split second, the fight is over.
Such a scene is a common occurrence for 25-year-old Wilson Loh, a student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) who doubles as a professional wrestler and assistant coach at Grapple MAX.
Hailing from a single-sex secondary school, Wilson was introduced to profession wrestling by one of his classmates. Before long, he was captivated by the intricate moves performed by the wrestlers and the narrative aspect of the sport.
Wilson clarifies that while wrestling is choreographed and staged, the physicality displayed by the wrestlers is real and they actually do experience pain and discomfort to a certain degree.
A pivotal moment came when Wilson came across Grapple MAX’s advertisement of a local wrestling show at Singapore Management University while he was still serving National Service. While he was unsure if it would be as exciting as watching it on the television screen, he still decided to grab a few friends to attend the show.
His doubts proved to be unfounded as he was enthralled by what he witnessed that night.
“I was very amazed by the moves and storytelling that Grapple MAX had showcased. I told my friends that this is really something cool and something I want to pursue,” he shares.
True to his word, Wilson joined Grapple MAX in late 2017 after he had completed his two years of mandatory military service.
As a pro wrestler, Wilson plays the character of Hotshot – an arrogant and obnoxious individual who is determined to prove that he is a “cut above the rest”. Hotshot is also part of a three-men faction, alongside his coach Greg Ho and fellow wrestler Remus Koh, known as Inglorious.
He explains that Hotshot is a “heel”, a jargon which means villain or antagonist in the world of wrestling where good versus evil is a common narrative.
“We (Inglorious) use really questionable tactics to gain an advantage over our opponent,” he shares.
Over the years, Wilson was able to secure over 13 wins, two of which took place overseas in Malaysia.
He then realised he wanted to give back to the wrestling community, prompting him to sign up as an assistant coach at Grapple MAX when he got the opportunity.
“I took it up, wanting to share my experience and my knowledge with my peers, and hopefully help them progress in their own wrestling journeys to become better wrestlers themselves,” he says.
However, the journey is not always smooth sailing.
As Wilson is still pursuing his undergraduate studies at the Nanyang Technological University, juggling between his schoolwork and his training has proven to be difficult. Transportation is also an issue as his school is situated in the west while the training gym is located in the east. He points out that the period for midterms and finals are the most challenging.
In spite of these obstacles, Wilson remains undaunted. “I think sacrifices have to be made if you’re really that passionate and interested in a hobby,” he explains.
Besides his academics, the cost of pursuing professional wrestling is a factor which he considers as well.
According to Wilson, the average cost for each wrestling class is around $20 to $25. Coupled with the gear which includes kneepads and wrestling boots, this usually sets him back a few hundred dollars which he strives to pay off on his own.
“Since this is my own personal interest, I finance it independently by giving tuition classes to pay for these wrestling classes,” he says.
Thankfully, he is able to seek solace in the community at Grapple MAX which he describes as wholesome and inclusive.
“We have people from all walks of life here, people from different ages, people from different occupations, different stages in their lives,” Wilson shares.
He adds that the community is so closely knit that they often hang out as a group for outings and even travel together outside of training.
Apart from the community, his parents have been his biggest pillars of support, with his mother even encouraging him to pursue the sport when he first shared his ambition with her.
“She has been here for every single show so I’m really grateful to have very supportive parents who look out for me and support me in all my aspirations,” he says with an appreciative smile.
Through wrestling, Wilson has also been able to learn a multitude of invaluable lessons. He has picked up soft skills like working together with other people despite not knowing them.
Additionally, performing in front of a live audience has done wonders for his self-confidence.
“I feel much more confident in my own abilities knowing that I am someone who is able to put on a pair of tights and wrestle half-naked in front of a number of people for shows,” he says.
His three coaches — Greg, Dennis and Dave — have also been instrumental in his wrestling journey. Wilson describes them as experienced and passionate individuals who would often push him and his peers to strive for excellence while keeping them safe.
“I look up to them tremendously and I hope that one day, I can be in their shoes and help people progress in the same way.”