Monday, September 12, 2011

Ex-pro wrestler and Hollywood actor returns to Douglas College

The way he was: Mike Roselli wins a national wrestling title for Douglas College in 1991.
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Few people can say they’ve wrestled with Bret “The Hitman” Hart, dined with Hugh Jackman and had their wedding flowers bought by Halle Berry. But Mike Roselli can.

The former professional wrestler, Hollywood actor and stuntman spent 18 years in the Worldwide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment and in film before retiring and returning as a student to Douglas College.

A student in the Sport Science program from 1989-91, Mike was also on the College wrestling team, and earned a national title for Douglas in his final year. It was at this competition that someone from the WWF saw him and offered him a job. He didn’t think twice about packing his bags.

Known throughout his nine year-career as the Olympian, Olympian Mike Powers and Iron Mike, Roselli wrestled with the likes of Hart, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Rowdy Roddy Piper and knew all the biggies, including Hulk Hogan.

He also managed to keep his head screwed on tight – something many of his colleagues had a tough time with. “I avoided a lot of the pitfalls that a lot of the guys fall into," he says. "Drugs and alcohol play a big role. It’s rampant, but I managed to stay healthy by staying away from that stuff.”

One day he got a call from a producer at Fox who offered him a job on a kids’ TV show called Los Luchadores (“The Fighters”), whose characters were crime fighters by day and pro wrestlers by night. The producer told him he’d make a good bad guy, and it seems he was right. “The ratings were brilliant, through the roof. And from there I got offered a movie part alongside Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy in I Spy, and then boom. I’ve done about 60 movies now.”

Mike’s film credits include the X-Men movies and Swordfish, where he worked with Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. “They are the nicest people,” he says. “Hugh took me out for dinner for my stag and Halle bought the flowers for my wedding.”

Though Mike loved being an actor, the stunt work proved to be “phenomenally dangerous.” In 2007 he broke both feet and blew one knee after his safety wire snapped while he was jumping off a three-storey balcony. His doctor told him it would be two years before he could do any stunts again.

Wondering what he was going to do for two years, Mike called up Gert Van Niekerk, Sport Science Instructor at Douglas. “I said, ‘Gert, I think I should come back to school. Maybe this is telling me something.’ And I came back to school, and I worked away and I worked away and finally I got to the point where I couldn’t do any more Sport Science classes without getting into the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching program.”

So that’s what he did.

Now a student in the BPEC program, Mike also does charity work, including wrangling his old pro wrestling buddies into putting on a free show for about 200 sick kids from the Fraser Valley Health Authority every year. “I’ve sort of devoted myself to these things. You can have as much success or money or fame in your life, but there’s always going to be that hole unless you do something good. And I just wanted to do something good.”

Mike graduates in 2012 and plans to become a teacher. He says he’s happy with his decision to come back to Douglas – the place where it all began – to finish what he started. “When I started at Douglas 20 years ago, I didn’t know – like every other kid – what I was going to do. So I came here and I got a little education and I got a sport that led to two careers within the last 18 years, which have been phenomenal to me. And when I was lost again, I came straight back to Douglas. Now Douglas has set me on my path for yet another career.
“I’m just so happy to be here.”