Dash Dauntless: VIU’s professional wrestler

Meara Kimball is dressed in suspenders and jeans with a shirt that says Dash on it

"Dash Dauntless" aka Meara Kimball, Learning Technologies Support Specialist, demonstrates their entrance pose for the beginning of a professional wrestling match.

photo credit: Joshuah Ruckstuhl.

June 7, 2023 - 3:00am

By Alyson Winks

For much of Meara Kimball’s childhood, brothers and wrestling were necessary annoyances that had to be endured. In the days of single-television households where smart phones were still just a sparkle in Steve Jobs’ eye, agreeing on what program to watch was a daily battle. Eventually, Meara learned to tolerate, then secretly, enjoy professional wrestling. It was the 1990s and Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker, Macho Man Randy Savage and Bret the Hitman Heart were household names in most Canadian residences with children.

“Wrestling was just always kind of around,” says Kimball, Learning Technologies Support Specialist in the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL) at VIU’s Nanaimo Campus. “We went on a road trip and the VHS videos my brothers brought were all wrestling videos. I was so mad, that I agreed to watch as long as we could watch my favourite (show).”

It turned into many hours of Undertaker vs. Undertaker (yes, there were two for this match).

Fast-forward to adult life and wrestling remained a constant. Their fiancé also grew up on wrestling and even had designs on trying it.

“He always said he wanted to try it and I always said I’d get jealous of all the cool stuff (costumes and other swag), so we joined a gym together,” Kimball explains.

Join for the swag, stay for the love of it

Kimball and their fiancé, Kyle Vanderberg, known as “Randy Ruckus” in the ring, became members of VIPW Training Center about a year ago and both recently had their first professional matches. For both, it has been a year of a grueling workout regime combined with the creativity and collaboration of character development, and match design. Part acting, part athletics, and all theatrics.

Part athletics

While professional wrestling may appear overacted and dramatic, it is backed by a serious training schedule that ensures athletes have the stamina to go the distance and avoid injury in the ring. Tired muscles are far more likely to become injured muscles. Kimball spends about 12 hours each week working moves, practicing falls or, “bumping”, lifting weights, cardio conditioning and stretching.

“There are four main ways to fall, mostly flat on your back,” they explain. “You learn to slap the mat. At first it really hurts, but as you learn, it gets better.”

Meara Kimball puts Kyle V in a headlock during a wrestling practice in a ring

Kimball and fiancé Kyle  Vanderberg demonstrate moves they have been working on for the last year.

Part acting

This part perhaps came less naturally to Kimball than the athletic requirements.

“My whole life, I have always been adamant that I do not like performing. But I have always done it. I played piano and was in every school band, but I was in the pit band, never acting in the musical.”

It’s safe to say that a wrestling match is far more like being a cast member rather than in the orchestra, so Kimball had to leap out of their comfort zone.

The acting in wrestling comes from the collaboration between the two wrestlers or teams where one person or team plays the “good” character called a “babyface” and one person or team plays the “evil” or “bad” character called a “heel”. These archetypes are familiar tropes that help the crowd choose a side which gets the energy at the match going.

While the broad strokes of a match are discussed beforehand with the “opponent”, the ability to read the crowd, improvise, and trust each other are critical components to ensure a match is successful.

“The bad guy “heel” may need to make the moves look extra painful and really sell their evilness to the audience so the crowd can rally around the good guy babyface’s big comeback when the time comes,” Kimball says. “You work together and feed off each other’s strengths. It’s a super collaborative experience.”

The theatrics

Like all good performances, a proper set, costuming, character development, and marketing that builds the anticipation of the big event are all required. In today’s social media age, opponents exchange video barbs through their branded social media accounts. Often the bad character will call out the good one with insults and threats to build hostility and provide a platform for the good character to defend themselves. It sells tickets and gets the audience going even before the match has begun.

The ideal persona for a wrestler’s character is not born overnight. It takes time to channel creativity, get feedback, figure out elements that represent the individual and find something a fighter feels confident portraying.

Dash Dauntless, Kimball’s character, is this. A mix of their love of superheroes with some Clark Kent suspenders; an orange crush vibe drawing on Kimball’s positive, bubbly energy; “Dash” representing their size and speed. Kimball is small in stature, making words like “hammer” and “crusher” seem disingenuous. However, they are fearless, as this video shows. They are naturally a babyface but are working on being meaner when needed.

The constant current underlying Kimball’s love affair with the sport has been the incredible group of people they now call friends.

“I have found so much support. I’ve been lucky to have more experienced wrestlers really mentor me from the beginning. I have received a huge amount of encouragement and coaching.”

In particular, from their trainers at the gym.

“The family at VIPW are incredible. BJ Laredo is the owner of the gym and trains us in all the foundations of the sport and industry. Riea Von Slasher also trains us and has mentored me. She has so much experience herself – I think what she has taught me has really sped up my education and training.”

Wrestling has also made its way into Kimball’s work at VIU. During, the recent CIEL teaching and learning conference, they delivered a presentation titled “Recognizing prior indirect learning; or how I became a pro wrestler”, which discussed Kimball’s learning journey and encouraged participants to explore their previous experiences to identify how they learned new things.

Meara Kimball stands in front of a projector screen in a wrestling costumne for a presentation on prior learning

To date, Kimball has had six matches. One was a student match against their fiancé and another was their VIPW debut solo match against The Vixen Jade, which they lost. Their latest was on May 27 against veteran wrestler Riea Von Slasher, which they lost but learnt a lot. Next up is the June 24 Live Pro Wrestling event in Nanaimo.  

With a whole summer of events planned, including Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Exhibition (VIEx) on August 25, 26 and 27, Dash Dauntless is feeling positive about what the future holds as they hone their skills, build their character, and energize their ever-growing fan base.

Tags: In the Community

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