“I started taking an interest in wrestling after playing ‘Raw Deal’ in secondary school. It’s a really fun wrestling card game that a friend brought to class for us to play. We didn’t have smartphones back then, so that’s how we kept ourselves entertained.

I just thought the characters on the cards were so cool, and from there, I became really curious about wrestling and started watching it on TV. I wanted to know what this nonsense was about, and I instantly got hooked. Now, wrestling has become quite a passion of mine.

When I co-founded Grapple MAX in 2016 with my business partner Greg Ho, we wanted to see how far we could bring the pro wrestling scene in Singapore. There was no wrestling school like ours at the time, so we wanted to formalise the education of wrestling.

The year before we opened the dojo, Greg actually went to Japan to seek out a wrestling master to train under. To further raise our credibility, we toured the Asian region as well. Today, we put on shows almost every month and have several members training under us.

What I love most about wrestling is the ability to bring out a colourful personality and portray an image that you can control as a product. Every wrestler speaks to a certain demographic, and a wrestler’s success depends on how marketable he or she is to that target audience.

My favourite wrestler growing up was Shawn Michaels. He’s also known as ‘The Heartbreak Kid’, and I just thought he was so full of charisma. Character-wise, he’s actually pretty aligned with The Ladykiller, a wrestling persona that I’ve created for myself.

The best nicknames in life are not the ones you give yourself but the ones that other people give you. A girl once told me, ‘You’re such a lady killer’. I thought the name was pretty good for branding, so I decided to perform as a professional wrestler under that moniker.

Dennis The Ladykiller is a prize fighter. He’s very smooth and charismatic, and he walks out in a yellow robe and snakeskin tights. Yellow is not even my favourite colour, but I know that it suits the character. He’s very flashy, which is very different from who I am in real life.

As an introvert, there was a huge gap between who I was and who I needed to be. Some people listen to their entrance music to get into character, but I achieve this through neuro linguistics programming, something I picked up from a book called ‘The Game’.

It’s basically the ability to switch your state of mind to get a specific result through visualisation. I had to envision how I wanted my character to be, and that led to a change in behaviour. It also helped that I worked in sales before, so I knew how to convince people.

Right now, my focus is to use whatever marketing knowledge I have to turn the local wrestling scene into a financially self-sustaining industry. We just moved into a brand new location at Fight Pro-Motion gym to scale up our business.

When we were at our previous location, someone informed the Urban Redevelopment Authority that Grapple MAX was running a wrestling show that particular weekend. Apparently, that wasn’t allowed in an industrial area, so the rug was pulled from under our feet.

That forced us to switch gears and move out. But looking back, I think it was all a blessing in disguise. Fight Pro-Motion is primarily a boxing and Muay Thai gym, but they want to turn the whole compound into a mega fighting centre, so we caught each other at the right time.

At the end of the day, Greg and I are just relieved because we want the best for our wrestlers. Most of them come to Grapple MAX for the wrestling, but they stay for the community; the social group; the family.

When we reach our thirties, we start to lose old friends. It’s not that you don’t want to hang out with them, but you start to diverge because you just have different interests. But when you find yourself on a path pursuing a similar goal with others, that sense of community is what holds you together.” – Dennis, 32


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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.