August 16, 2004
Wrestlefest an interpromotional success
By COREY DAVID LACROIX - SLAM! Wrestling
HULL - While the vast majority of wrestling fans in Canada were focused on the WWE's Summer Slam PPV being held in Toronto this past Sunday, a small gathering of the faithful converged onto a small, but significant event in the province of Quebec.
Hosted by Hull based CPW International, Wrestlefest 2004 made its debut this past Saturday, hosting competitors from six different Quebec based promotions.
"The idea actually came from some of the camera guys who work for us here at the CPW arena," said Joel Racine, the lead organizer of Wrestlefest, also known for his alter ego, hated manager J.J. Crooke. "Since a few years ago, they always thought it would be cool to setup a show where all the feds would get together."
Split into an afternoon and evening shows, Wrestlefest provided a grand opportunity to view the diverse talent base that Quebec has to offer in professional wrestling. Participating promotions included host CPW, Championship Wrestling Association (CWA), Elite Wrestling Revolution (EWR), Federation Lutte Quebecoise (FLQ), Internet Wrestling Syndicate (IWS), Montreal Wrestling Federation (MWF) and Northern Championship Wrestling (NCW). Of these, five are based in Montreal while EWR is located in Quebec City.
"We actually invited seven federations, besides CPW," explained Racine. "Only one of them refused."
Although the crowds for both shows were not sell outs, the achievement did not go unnoticed among pundits who thought that such an event could never be pulled off.
To understand the skepticism and ultimately the significance of Wrestlefest, one must first become acquainted with the Quebec professional wrestling scene, notorious for petty rivalries and politics. With Montreal as ground zero for this maelstrom of egos, an explosion in the number of promotions concentrated within the city gestates continually, most given birth by disenfranchised wrestlers.
"A lot of the smaller federations start when there's a difference in views with another federation and they say screw you, I'm going to start my own thing in your backyard and we're going to show you we're better than you. That's how it starts. That's why there's three federations within a square mile in Montreal. Everybody wants to be the King of the Hill," Racine told.
It is a vicious cycle that repeats itself all too often, with no shortage of wrestling shows to choose from for fans, while dividing that very same fan base at the same time. The end result, small crowds with small pay offs to the promotions and workers.
"It's a little bit too rich of a scene in Montreal," Racine commented. "There's at least a dozen federations. There's a lot of political stuff going on because everybody is so close to each other. Basically they're killing each other because they're splitting the crowd, instead of having a decent crowd for one good show. Everybody is wrestling in front of 75 to 100 people. It's hurting wrestling and it's hurting their pockets."
But with CPW based in Hull, some 200 kilometers plus west of Montreal, the location would turn out to be the only practical place for Wrestlefest to take place.
"With the current situation in Montreal where there a lot of feuds between the promotions, the only place where we could do this kind of show was Hull," said Racine. "We're on good terms with every federation. Basically, we're on neutral ground. Everybody was warned that no politics or any trouble of any kind would be tolerated."
As Racine explained, most the promotions who were invited responded almost immediately with a desire to join up, while others extended their willingness to participate through their wrestlers.
"The process of actually contacting the people began three months ago and making sure that no one would book on the same day (of Wrestlefest). Everyone was really professional about it," Racine said.
That professionalism carried through, as fans in attendance were treated to a diverse card. Racine acknowledged that the main goal was to showoff both variety and depth. "The main goal was to give the fans a view of all the different styles that are out there (in Quebec)," he said. "We wanted to get the best workers from each federation, to have the champions come and defend their titles."
In acquiring feedback, Racine commented on how a prevailing sense of relief was communicated about such an event actually taking place, without incident. "I wouldn't say they were surprised, but rather, glad that finally someone was able to pull off this kind of show, without all the bullshit," Racine commented.
"That was the major question at first; whether some workers would not come because other guys from another promotion are coming. When we started speaking to the other promoters and bookers, they basically said you don't have to worry about us, we're going there to showcase our federation and to help the wrestling scene."
And a showcase of wrestling it was, with a commitment to hold another Wrestlefest next year. "We were really please how the show came off. The crowd was really into it and we're definitely looking to repeat it. It was a success."
Among those participating in the ring was indy standout Kevin Steen who praised the concept of Wrestlefest, while at the same time, expressing his initial concerns that 'inter-fed' egos would come to bare.
"I kinda was expecting a clash between the feds," Steen admitted. "Everything actually went great. Everybody seemed happy to be here and I had a great time. I think it's a really good event. It's the first one of its kind and I'm really hoping to be a part of a second one, if there is one next year."
Echoing the sentiments of Racine, Steen agreed that such an event could not have taken place in Montreal. "The problems between feds doesn't just stop at the wrestlers. Some fans actually hate other fans' feds," he said, further describing a recent show where fans from a particular promotion blatantly chanted 'boring' during matches involving wrestlers from a rival promotion. "That led to some trouble. If this event had been held in Montreal, who knows what would have happened because you would have had a lot of fans from a lot of different feds. I always enjoy wrestling in CPW because of the relaxed atmosphere in the locker room and I think that's what helped everyone who came here today."
Steen had his work cut out for him at Wrestlefest, wrestling in two standout title bouts.
"It was a challenge but in the last year, I've had at least four or five shows where I've had to wrestle twice the same night. I enjoy wrestling, I'll take every opportunity I can get and if it means wrestling twice, I don't mind. As long as the fans are happy."
Here are the results from Wrestlefest 2004.
Corey David Lacroix can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.