July 2, 2012
Charity name of the game at TigerFest
By BOB KAPUR - SLAM! Wrestling
BRAMPTON, Ont. -- Though July 1 is Canada Day, the celebrations in Brampton Ontario also included elements of India, Japan, New Zealand, and even the streets of Harlem, New York. Such is the concept of TigerFest 2012, the fundraiser put on by legendary wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh and family as part of the city's festivities.
TigerFest was a main attraction at Brampton's all-day Canada Day party, held at the Powerade Centre entertainment complex. Though TigerFest was a free event, fans that made a donation -- with all proceeds going to the Peel Memorial Hospital -- got to sit in the ringside area, where in addition to seeing the show close-up, would also get a chance to meet and greet some of the stars after the show.
Before the matches, the couple of thousand fans seated at the ringside seats and bleachers, and the thousands watching from the hill beside the ringside area, were treated to a musical performances from international recording artists like Prita Chhabra and Canadian pop star Kristina Maria, in a program emceed by the Score's Arda Ocal.
Later in the afternoon, the wrestling card featured WWE legends Tatanka, Bushwhacker Luke, Big Daddy V, former ECW champion Steve Corino, TNA star Sonjay Dutt, and some of the best independent stars from Quebec and Toronto's Squared Circle Wrestling promotion.
After a couple preliminary matches featuring several of the SCT stars, the attention turned to the main stage where several of the show's sponsors joined Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell and the Lisa Raitt, Labour Minister and Member of Parliament for Halton Region, to present Tiger Jeet and his son Tiger Ali with their Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal certificates.
Afterwards, when the Tigers posed for pictures in the ring to celebrate this honour, they were attacked by the dastardly trio of Corino, Big Daddy V and Quebec's silent giant Darkko. They ambushed both Tigers, beating them down with a Singapore Cane and other violent shots.
The Tigers got their revenge in the main event, though, when Tiger Ali teamed with Dutt and Tatanka while his father watched from ringside. The two teams fought it out in an elimination contest which ultimately saw Tiger Ali down 2 to 1 against Corino and V. After doing the seemingly impossible and slamming the 400-pound V, Tiger Ali pinned both men in succession to win the match. Afterwards, he and his father returned the favour, smashing Corino with the Singapore cane to the delight of the pro-Indian/Canadian crowd, after having their arms raised in victory by celebrated Japanese referee Peter Takahashi.
SLAM! Wrestling spoke with some of the stars after the event, and they were unanimous in their praises not only for the event in general, but Canada, and of course the charitable works done by the Singh family through the Tiger Jeet Singh charitable foundation.
"It was great, mate," said Bushwhacker Luke. "I enjoy coming up for TigerFest, it's always a great cause. When you get on in life, you like to do these charity shows, because it lets you do something for people. You feel good to be able to give back. This is my third time coming to TigerFest, and I always enjoy it."
For Native American Tatanka, working a show like TigerFest is a continuation of the charity work he does in Florida with the Beaming Hope Church.
"I've been doing charity work heavily for the past 16 years. We feed people back in Florida, feed and clothe them for free. Not only homeless people, but also working class people who have been hit hard by the economy. It's a blessing to be able to give."
To be able to use his name and fame to help give back to the community is a blessing, he said.
"It's awesome to see someone take their experience, their talent, their name power and their relationships, and do something good for people. Not everybody is doing that. To take all the money and donate it, that's a rare and special thing. If you have the right heart and you use your success and your platform, like the Tiger family is doing, it's a wonderful thing."
It's also a wonderful opportunity for Tatanka to come and wrestle in front of his Canadian fans, something that he enjoys doing regularly for various independent companies.
"The heritage with wrestling is huge in Canada," he said. "Canada has a great history in wrestling. Even the guys that have not necessarily made it yet into WWE, they're so good technically, they have such great ability, they're in shape, they can work their butts off. I was just in Winnipeg for a tour, and everybody in the locker room was just fabulous."
For Corino, being part of a wrestling event in Canada on Canada Day was a particularly special honour -- this is, after all, his home and native land.
"Even though I've lived in a small town outside of Philadelphia for the past 34 years, I still have a lot of Canadian pride. My son was so mad that we couldn't get him dual citizenship. So to come up here for Canada Day, that's one of the coolest things I've gotten to do."
And to be part of TigerFest made it even cooler. He was very happy to be invited to do so by the Tigers -- which is something he never would have thought possible, given his first entanglement with the family.
"It's a funny story. Back in 1997, they were doing the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, and (Tiger Ali) had just come back to TV. I was called to do the tournament, but they told me that first I had to get a win on Shotgun Saturday Night to qualify for the tournament. I was the match right before Raw. Tiger Junior was the match before me, and he and the Iron Sheik went too long, so it completely ruined my tryout and I never got to get in the tournament. About a year later, we were both at Dory Funk's Dojo for WWF. He was rehabbing an injury, and I was trying to get a job. I was glaring at him throughout, arms crossed, just stewing and thinking to myself, ‘I'm going to go after this guy'. And then one night we were all talking, and he mentioned how he got heat this one time for ruining a kid's tryout. He looked across the table and recognized me and said incredulously, ‘It was you?!? I'm so sorry!' It was so funny. We had dinner that night, and after that we became good friends."
Since then, Corino has welcomed any opportunity to work with the family.
"I've gone to India with the Singh family. Whenever I go with Tiger Sr. to Japan, he always takes care of me. To be able to wrestle for him here for his TigerFest show, it's a real honour for me. Especially in front of a crowd like that (that's so pro-Tiger). A lot of the fans that were here today, they don't watch (wrestling), not even casually. So they don't know who I am -- to them, I'm just some white guy who's jumped on an Indian guy. So for them to chant 'Tiger, Tiger' before we even locked up, that's the payoff for me. That's when I know we've got them. That's the art of professional wrestling, and I love that."
As for the Tigers, they were positively thrilled with the outcome of the event.
"To be able to do such charitable works, to help the community, and to be part of such a special day, that's an honour for our entire family," said Junior. "With God's will, we will be back next year too."
TigerFest 2012 Match Results:
"Rocksteady" Alex Vega won a 7-man scramble match; Brent B pinned Marcus Marquez; Farhan Farouki and Bushwhacker Luke beat Boris Brezhnev and "Textbook" Tyson Dux; Leah Von Dutch defeated Gabriella Vanderpool; Tiger Jeet Singh was the sole survivor when he, Sonjay Dutt and Tatanka beat Steve Corino, Darkko, and Big Daddy V.
Bob Kapur is celebrating the rest of Canada Day weekend by drinking a bunch of Molson Canadians. E-mail him your hangover cures at firstname.lastname@example.org.