SANTA CLARA, Calif. — To World Wrestling Entertainment fans, he’s Kyle Edwards. To Canadians, he’s Arda Ocal, the Toronto native who’s finally living out his lifelong dream of working for the WWE.
And this weekend, he’s living out that dream on the biggest stage of them all, WrestleMania.
The journey from the GTA to the largest wrestling company on earth may have seemed like it happened abruptly, when Ocal was hired last September while still working for The Weather Network, but it was anything but, Ocal said.
“My journey to WWE has been very long one,” Ocal said, adding the he first auditioned with the company in 2009. “I did not do well at all. It was a terrible audition. I just was not ready then. I didn’t have enough broadcast experience under my belt.”
Unfazed, Ocal landed an internship at The Score, and fate began to take over. Ocal created the popular Aftermath show, a post-wrestling wrap-up show that exists to this day with current host and fellow Torontonian Jimmy Korderas, a longtime WWE referee.
“Honestly, when I pitched that idea, I thought that that would be a really good resume note for me to eventually impress WWE.”
Four years after his first audition with WWE, he got another opportunity.
“So my next audition was in 2013, it was in July or June, and I went there, and that’s where I met my current boss, Tom Carlucci, who’s really one of the two people, one of the two big reasons I work with WWE now. It’s him and Michael Cole are the two that are really the big reasons I’m there.” Cole is the voice of the WWE.
“Tommy took a liking to me,” Ocal said. That process, I still didn’t get hired — they hired another guy who only lasted a month.”
Disillusioned, Ocal put his dreams on hold and started working for The Weather Network, even relocating to Canada’s West Coast.
“I had left The Score, and I started doing weather. At that point, I honestly thought, in and around that time, that I may never do anything in wrestling again because I was like, at that point, I kind of lost, I don’t know if I’d say I lost the passion, but I just felt like I needed to branch out.”
But a phone call changed everything.
“I had a really good conversation with Michael Cole over the phone about a year ago. He told me to keep my head up and good things will happen. That really rejuvenated my optimism.”
After getting another look at WWE’s NXT brand in January 2014, Ocal’s passion was fully restored. Then came the best birthday present ever.
“On my birthday … in May, Michael Cole called and said, ‘We’re going to hire you.’ Man, you couldn’t ask for a better birthday present, right? That was pretty sweet.”
Ocal’s lifelong dream became reality.
In the first six months of his career with WWE, Ocal says he’s made himself a human sponge, soaking up knowledge, advice and experience at the WWE headquarters in Stamford, Conn.
“I do a lot of stuff for international. I’m a broadcaster that’s assigned to the international department, so I do the News Slams for Canada. I host a couple of international magazine programs. One of them is called Bottom Line and another is called Experience. I do World Tour reports, that kind of thing. One thing that I’m really doing right now is, I’m still sort of in a learning phase. I’m definitely going around both the TV studio and the Tower and asking people what they do. I’m just making myself seen and heard, and understanding how different departments work. WWE is a big machine. It’s unbelievable how many working parts there are and how they work in synergy.”
“It’s just such a fascinating thing, especially for somebody who grew up watching WWE, just to see all these moving parts and learning about them is fascinating. So I’m there all the time, even when I’m not working, just learning from different departments — like how does the merchandise department work? How do they come up with designs and concepts? How does the licensing work? What do they do?”
Ocal joins another former Torontonian and Aftermath alum in Renee Young, who is an on-air personality with WWE on all of its programming.
Ocal is proud of his friend and her success.
“Renee’s phenomenal. I know that because I worked with her for so many years, and now the whole WWE Universe knows that because she’s doing such great, awesome stuff.”
The dream job has been everything Ocal imagined and more and he could not be happier.
“Working for the company has been an absolute dream. It’s always been my dream. It’s the only thing I that I ever wanted to do with my life. If you look back at my career, every decision that I’ve ever made has been working towards this goal. For that reason, I couldn’t be more proud. I love working for WWE.”
Sunday, he gets to experience his first WrestleMania as a member of the WWE family.
“I’m going to soak it all in,” he said. “I’m so excited. I literally going to have a big smile on my face all day.”
So will most of Canada.
Arda Ocal speaks to what he most misses about Canada:
- “I miss ketchup chips, buddy, I really do. I miss ketchup chips. It’s funny because Renee also posts pictures, I think she just posted a picture a couple of days ago of a fan bringing her a bag of ketchup chips, so she feels my pain as well — and it’s been two-plus years for her. But I am on serious withdrawal of ketchup chips.”
- “I miss Smarties being chocolate as opposed to those Rockets; apparently Smarties are Rockets here in America.”
- “I miss everyone saying sorry all the time, I really miss that. There’s not enough apologies in America. We need more apologies, there’s not nearly enough apologies, so I miss that.”