July 15, 2007
Old-school grapplers draw poorly in London
By AMANDA ROBINSON - London Free Press
Throwback wrestling was a tough sell last night in London.
Fewer than 200 fans showed up at the Western Fair Sports Centre, an arena that seats nearly 2,500, to catch WrestleRock London, the first event launched by The League, a local professional wrestling club.
"I'm disappointed for the guy running it," said former WWE wrestler Tito Santana, one of last night's main attractions. "When you get a small crowd, it's so hard to get them into it."
Santana returned to London for a rematch against against Greg (The Hammer) Valentine, who beat him for the WWE Intercontinental title in 1984 at the former London Gardens.
The largely family crowd last night contained fans dedicated to old-school wrestling, before the sport was sexed up and repackaged to become the show-biz phenomenon it has become.
A group of guys from Bothwell walked into the arena with Santana and Valentine dolls and a sign supporting one of the wrestlers, Eric Young.
Lyndon Woods came with his son and two grandsons.
"We're wrestling fanatics and my son wrestled in high school," Woods said.
"We prefer old-school matches because it's made more for the kids."
For Mike Hendriks, 23, getting up close to the ring is a thrill because he dreams of becoming a pro wrestler.
Hendriks, a wrestling fan since age 13, said he wants to go to wrestling school.
Before the matches started, fans could approach Santana or Valentine for a picture and autograph or to just chat.
Most of the time, the former WWE stars sat alone, occasionally talking to the few fans that trickled into the arena.
But Valentine said independent wrestling matches like last night's that harken back to the 1980s, remain popular because of the sport's hard-nose, in-your-face style.
"It's a lot of show biz now and we're just about wrestling," he said.