Canada’s Maritimes provinces hold a distinct place in the history of North American pro wrestling. Dating back to the 1960s, promotions like Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling popularized pro wrestling in the region, and newer promotions such as Kaizen Pro Wrestling are keeping the spirit alive in the region today.
As the LGBTQ pro wrestling movement continues to spread, it only made sense that The Maritimes would see its own group of out stars emerge. One such athlete is newcomer Justine Ward, a genderfluid high-flyer who lives up to their “Cannonball” moniker in and out of the ring.
Ward is barely into their in-ring career, but is already garnering attention both for their athleticism and what their presence within the region’s pro wrestling scene represents. Ward regularly switches up their gender presentation at events through their ring gear, using dress as a statement of their identity before the bell ever rings.
Once the bell rings, though, their wrestling style showcases a certain never-say-die spirit against opponents much larger than their 5’2’’, long-distance swimmer frame. Watching a Justine Ward match feels reminiscent of the LGBTQ community’s unending determination to overcome any obstacle that feels insurmountable.
Their first main event match against their trainer, Kaizen Pro’s Covey Christ, put all of this on display. But it was their first appearance at a Pride-themed event back in July, Glory Hold Pro Wrestling, that put the metaphor in front of a crowd keenly familiar with what it represents.
Ward triumphed over Thad Howett on that day to a wild eruption from the crowd, but that day held a higher significance for them. The venue where Glory Hold took place, Pier 21 in Halifax, was the same building where Ward’s high school prom was held during a period when Ward was still grappling with their gender identity.
“I didn’t even really have time to think about what I identified as back in high school, so I was just a cishet white male or whatever,” Ward said during an appearance on the Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring.
“I went to Pier 21 ahead of literally everybody else because I just wanted a moment to myself,” they continued. “ I could visualize where all the tables were, where the dance floor was for prom. ... I could see it all again, and it was, at moments, very dysphoric to deal with. But I knew that’s what I was dealing with going in, so I got that out of my system.
“Then to have that response was like, ‘OK, we got this. It’s fine. You’re not going to be dysphoric halfway through this match. You’re going to be fine,’” Ward said. “For me, that performance is as much me enjoying the crowd being behind me completely as it is me reclaiming that spot.”
Catch “Cannonball” Justine Ward in action Saturday, Nov. 12, at Kaizen Pro Wrestling in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out the full interview with Ward and other LGBTQ pro wrestling stars on LGBT In The Ring every Thursday.