It’s been a long, challenging journey for Impact X Division champion Josh Alexander, but it certainly feels like he’s on the precipice for something big as the X Division title has often been the steppingstone to the IMPACT World Championship.
As Alexander prepares to defend his title against Petey Williams, Trey Miguel, Ace Austin, Chris Bey and Rohit Raju in an Ultimate X match at Slammiversary (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on FITE), the 34-year-old Canadian has had an opportunity to look back on a career that almost never was. It may sound cliché, but professional wrestling absolutely saved his life.
“Wrestling, I always say it saved my life,” Alexander told Sporting News ahead of his match at Slammiversary. “It gave me something to have an interest in when I was kid, a way to escape what I was going through at school, and then later it gave me understand of how to get in shape and it gave me the best friends in my life.”
Although we’ve heard before the suggestion that a career has saved someone’s life, Alexander means it literally instead of figuratively as he used pro wrestling to climb out of the darkest times of his teenage years.
“Life before wrestling was bleak for me,” Alexander said. “I was a fat kid, obese, and school and even outside of school was day after day of being teased and ridiculed. I had very few interests or anyone I could really call a friend. I spent a lot of time alone, which is why I’m so socially inept to this day, but all of that made me a very depressed kid.”
One of the few things Alexander found joy in was professional wrestling. Ironically, it was TNA Wrestling — the old name for IMPACT — that Alexander discovered his calling.
“I can’t tell you exactly what it was, when I saw TNA Wrestling I suddenly had an interest in life,” Alexander said about watching the likes of AJ Styles and Samoa Joe compete in these high-octane matches that were distinct because of their fast-paced and risky style that has often been incorporated in lucha libre and cruiserweight divisions across the globe. Seeing these talented wrestlers fly around the ring inspired Alexander to take an interest in his health and weight.
“These guys looked like badasses and the type that maybe I could look like one day,” he said. “I was almost 300 pounds when I was 17 but began dieting and, by the time I left for college, I was down to about 240 pounds.”
After graduating from high school, Alexander had an idea of what he wanted to do but couldn’t necessarily figure out how to get there. He admits that he was the “least athletic guy in school” but found a wrestling school in Ontario called Living Legends Wrestling Academy and decided to see whether he could live out his dream of becoming a pro wrestler. A few bumps later, Alexander was told that he was a natural and it wouldn’t be long before he hit the indie scene in 2005. By 2010 he would meet his lifelong friend and current AEW wrestler Ethan Page and the two would form the tag team Monster Mafia and work for various promotions including Ring of Honor and AAW. But the thing that saved Alexander nearly ended life as he knew it.
A neck injury in 2013 should have put Alexander on the shelf. Instead, he attempted to push through it in an effort to get signed by a major promotion. Instead, during one of the best matches of his career in Ring of Honor against Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly later in the year, Alexander heard a crunch when taking a tornado DDT from O’Reilly and realized he broke his neck. Once again, Alexander was determined to continue working despite being told he needed major surgery.
“One doctor said that I should never wrestle again, that the risk was now far too great,” Alexander said. But knowing that the likes of Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin had returned from neck injuries made Alexander think he could do the same. “I told no one that I’d had major surgery. I was told to take nine months to heal and rehab before even resuming regular exercise but, again, we were so close to that contract, and a wrestler is who I was, not just my job
“I was back in the ring five weeks after spinal surgery.”
Although it was a terrible idea that could have left him a quadriplegic, Alexander continued to work and his profile on the indie scene grew. Eventually, he would win the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla tag team titles in 2015 but ended up with another neck injury that needed surgery, and his wrestling career would have to end. And with it, life as he knew it.
“It was like going to a funeral of the life I wanted and had worked so hard for,” he said. “As much as wrestling had left me with these injuries — and it was my stupid fault for not allowing them to heal so they got worse — wrestling had given me my health and sense of who I was for 10 years. I didn’t know what the future even looked like without wrestling.”
Alexander had his final match on July 12, 2015, alongside Ethan Page and went in for another neck operation 11 days later. This time, he woke up with news he wasn’t expecting.
“The doctor told me once they opened me up, the damage wasn’t as bad as the MRI indicated,” he said. “Then it came: If I rested for nine months and did my rehab, I’d be healthy again. Good as new. I could wrestle again, he said. I just looked at him.”
The news was too good to be true and Alexander sat on it for six months. He eventually told Page and prepared for his surprising return to wrestling in 2016. He wrestled everywhere, got in the best shape of his life and was widely recognized as one of the best unsigned talents in the industry.
That was, until February 2019, when IMPACT wrestling executive vice president Scott D’Amore appeared in the ring after Alexander’s match in Destiny World Wrestling. Unbeknownst to Alexander, he would no longer be the hottest unsigned independent wrestler. Instead, he was surprised with what D’Amore had in his hand: a contract to join the wrestling promotion that ignited his desire to become a pro wrestler.
The wrestler known as “The Walking Weapon” immediately made his presence felt alongside best friend Ethan Page as The North and five months after arriving, the duo won the IMPACT World Tag Team Championship. They held on to the titles for more than a year before dropping it to the Motor City Machine Guns. They regained the titles once more before losing them and the duo split as Page was heading to All Elite Wrestling.
As a singles wrestler, Alexander climbed the ladder of the X Division extraordinarily fast and defeated Ace Austin and TJP to become the X Division champion in April. And now, he gets to participate in the match that wowed him as a teenager: Ultimate X.
“At every stage of this journey, I pinched myself I’d gotten that far,” he said. “A real wrestling coach telling me I had talent, I never expected that. I never expected to have a match or to get paid $20 for it. I never thought I’d wrestle in front of 100 people, much less thousands. Now I am the X-Division Champion going into Slammiversary to defend in an Ultimate X match.
“Everyone who’s been with me on this journey — I promise you I’ll give you something very special on Saturday.”