A storage space in north Edmonton opens to a Monster Pro Wrestling training facility, complete with a wrestling ring.
This is where, on a hot summer day, 36-year-old wrestler Sage Morin, The Matriarch, struggles with her opponent as he manages to get out of a headlock.
Wrestling has generally been a male-dominated sport, which is why the matriarch often finds herself up against men.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. If you need a lesson, the Matriarch will teach it,” Morin says.
During his warm-up, Morin’s passion for wrestling is evident.
She somersaults and rolls with her male teammates, at one point executing a perfect headstand — toes pointed at the ceiling — and rolling forward toward her feet.
If you need a lesson, the Matriarch will do it.– Sage Morin
“My goal is to keep training as hard as I can, to be the best I can and to take my game to another level,” Morin said in an interview.
Morin began her wrestling career earlier this year, in April, and began competing a month later.
During Monster Pro Wrestling’s tours of small communities in Alberta and British Columbia, she quickly became a fan favorite.
“It’s something I’ve really stepped foot in and really enjoyed,” she said.
Morin discovered Monster Pro after his two-year-old son, Geo Mounsef, was killed by an SUV on the patio of a south Edmonton restaurant in 2013.
The Edmonton-based organization was the first in a long line to organize a community event for Morin and his family.
At this event, Monster Pro gave Morin a belt with Geo’s name on it and when she held it, the crowd chanted her name.
“The honor always goes to Geo, first and foremost, and the strength always comes from that,” she said.
Watch The Matriarch in action:
Morin’s trainer says she was born for wrestling.
“She just has this larger than life personality,” said Sean Dunster, aka Massive.
“It’s almost like she came over and wrapped her arms around the whole Monster Pro wrestling team.”
Dunster reached out to Morin hoping to involve him in some matches as MC or referee.
“She’s like, ‘I want to wrestle,'” he said. “And she was just all in, right from the start.”
Morin got into the sport, finding family and support in the organization.
She helps her teammates with their makeup and costumes — and Dunster said she brings a different side to wrestling.
Active radio7:12The Matriarch of Wrestling
Authentic and non-exploitative representation
Morin is from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in central Alberta, part of Treaty 6.
When she first joined wrestling, she was inspired to create a character that resonated deeply with her and reflected her native culture.
“I wanted to be a strong woman. A strong leader,” she said. “The best leaders we have in our culture are the matriarchs.”
She has been careful about how she represents her culture.
“You’ll never catch me with a headdress, you’ll never catch me bringing my sacred ceremonial objects, my feathers or anything like that,” Morin said.
She wanted her representation to be authentic and not exploitative.
“I did that by bringing in my powwow dancers and bringing in native performers, but also just bringing in my own native flavor,” she said.
Morin said her dream was to have an entire team of Indigenous female wrestlers behind her and one day wear the women’s championship belt with pride.
A moment of loop
Coping with the loss of her son almost destroyed her, Morin said.
And nearly a decade later, the pain isn’t easing.
So it was like a full circle moment for Morin when she stepped into the ring as a wrestler.
The struggle helped her heal and start living again.
“In everything I’ve been through in my life,” she said, “the thing I’m really grateful for is the struggle.”