June 9, 2008
Wrestling alive and well on the indies
By GARY HOWARD - For SLAM! Wrestling
The common lament from old time wrestling fans is that todayís version of the game simply doesnít measure up to the standards set by the professionís legends in the Kayfabe era.
Everyone criticizes the present state of the game but no one seems to have a solution to restore it to its past glory. Nor does anyone have any great desire to renew the interest that was once so prevalent among the fans.
But there is an alternative to the glitz and glamour we are seeing packaged on television and it lies in the small, independent wrestling promotions that exist across North America.
Specifically, I speak of the Ontario Indy Scene and one particular promotion that has recently come to my attention. Capital City Championship Combat -- C*4 -- is fronted by new age promoter Mark Pollesel and operates out of Ottawa.
As a writer and author of a book covering the history of old time wrestling in the Ottawa Valley, I was compelled to attend the performance of C*4 at the Petawawa Civic Centre on Friday, May 30th, to have a first-hand look at a fledgling wrestling promotion.
This is a no frills organization and despite the fact the show was held in close proximity to one of Canadaís largest military establishments, the eveningís performance certainly didnít bomb.
Weíre not likely to ever forget wrestling as we once knew it. That history-laden era of the game is forever perpetuated on the multitude of wrestling internet sites. Everyone in the industry deserves full credit for creating a game that true fans still pine for and remember with much fondness.
But also remember, they tricked us. They marked us in and left us panting for more. They hung us from the top rope and left us out to dry. We were kayfabed to death. For every fan that remained loyal to the game, nine others turned their back on wrestling never more to return.
And the young wrestlers of today are forever living with the fallout. But that hasnít stopped these aspiring mat men from pursuing their dream in small promotions such as Polleselís.
I wanted to get an unjaundiced view of the operation so I made it a point to arrive far in advance of bell time. As I made my way out on the arena floor, there was much activity as bodies dashed here and there setting up the ring. It seemed everyone connected to the show was out on the floor but it was difficult to differentiate between the wrestlers and the roadies.
Amidst a flurry of movement, the ring was finally set up and video cameras were manned. I was given a table beside Emilyís merchandise stand.
The fans, some who had been waiting for over an hour, streamed into their ringside seats. Soon, Tony the ring announcer grabbed the mic and it was show time.
If wrestling is now truly entertainment, it must be critiqued in that light.
What followed was a highly energized and entertaining show and despite the usual small crowd for an Indy card, fans seemed to get full value for the ticket price.
These guys knew how to wrestle and they had the swagger of the old timers. There was much banter and trash talk between villains and spectators. The fans were into the action from the opening bell and none of the verbal diatribe the heels dished out to them seemed to have any effect.
The proverbial sign guy was there and the sign was scrutinized by each heel as they entered the ring. Although all feigned outrage at the sign and attempted to destroy it, none succeeded.
For the next three hours, over 20 talented wrestlers treated the fans to a night of honest, hard work. And they could wrestle and draw heat with the best of the TV lot.
Most impressive and experienced of the tag teams were the Flatliners -- Matt Burns and Asylum (Nick Foti). Best showman may have been Sweet Ní Sour Larry Sweeney who did a perfect Curt Hennig.
Several masked men were on the card but the only masks to come off were those on the merchandise table at $10 and $20 a pop.
In this new age of wrestling there were a string of intriguing names such as Jagged, Icarus, Twiggy and Hallowicked not to be outdone by El Sombra, Player Uno, Stupefied and Extremo. These are characters that play havoc on an old memory when trying to put faces to names.
More conventional names like Beef Wellington, Shane Matthews, Vin Gerard and J.Rennalls conjure up images of long ago wrestling cards and "The Prince of Persia" Rahim Ali would be a showstopper in any lineup.
The on-going gimmick in the promotion is a feud between MVP Michael Von Payton and Mr. Wrestling Kevin Steen who have yet to meet. One suspects the promoter will milk this feud until the timing is right to settle it.
Most amusing scene was a villain kayfabing a group of kids and getting a middle finger salute in return for not signing autographs. Kids in this area usually salute the flag at Base Petawawa.
While it was non-stop action during the course of the evening, the busiest person seemed to be promoter Pollesel who was in constant motion for most of the evening.
But mainly it was an interesting and entertaining evening for an old writer who was once a kid hooked on kayfabe.
Gary Howard is the author of The Rassler From Renfrew. He is always on the lookout for wrestling stories both old and new at firstname.lastname@example.org.