Tuesday, August 10, 1999
Rougeau show old-style and solid
MONTREAL -- Last night, history was made. In a small, local venue in Montreal something outright amazing happened. I was shocked. I was amazed. I was flabbergasted. Last night, I watched a good, live wrestling show. You know, one of those shows where the millionaires mail in their performances because they have a live television show to film the next day? Except, you know, the performers weren't millionaires, didn't have any show to worry about but this one, and actually tried to entertain the fans.
When I arrived at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau, a small arena near the Olympic Stadium, I didn't know what to expect. Maybe I should have, since this is the third International Wrestling 2000 show I've ventured to this year. With independent federations, though, it's just impossible to know what you're going to get. That's because big-league wrestling has become such a cookie-cutter sport that I know what to expect every time I sit down to watch Raw or Nitro and every time I drive down to the Molson Centre for a live show.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of wrestling, and the WWF and WCW happen to have a really great cookie cutter which I can enjoy week after week, but it's a different experience altogether to watch something and to have no expectations, for everything to be a surprise, and a pleasant one, at that.
As I walked over to where my seat at ringside, it became very clear to me that Jacques Rougeau is getting very good at this promoting stuff. Almost everything that could have been improved from the last show was just that, improved.
Gone were the awkward-looking video screens with bad video feed and the static-ridden audio system used to broadcast interviews from backstage. In their place was a much better quality sound system, just right for opening themes, and replacing the backstage interviews was a mini-stage set-up near one of the entrances, so that all the fans could see the interviews live. No video, no audio. Great fix.
Gone were the steel chairs in the media section of the seats - replaced, they were, by much more comfy small office chairs.
Gone were the awkward fire-based pyros akin to Kane's entrance, in were a more manageable and appropriate fire-works shower type of pyros.
Gone was the unfinished look of the place. This was replaced by a very nice array of red curtains, large signs marked "Lutte Internationale 2000," and even seat-number markers.
Almost an hour before the show would start, and before I'd seen any of the talent, I was already impressed. You have you understand that Montreal is a city that's gone without any major indy wrestling for a long time, so this was a big deal to me.
The show started late, but I was having fun so my eyes were not on the time. Eric Nolin, francophone DJ from CKOI 96.9 FM, as always, served as ring announcer. He got the crowd going real fast, with his charm, his charisma, and mostly with the umpteen prizes he was throwing into the audience, mostly CKOI T-shirts and Koosh/Nerf toys.
It wasn't long before he introduced long-time Quebec wrestling legend (and boy, do I mean legend) Edouard Carpentier, who was replacing Paul Leduc as interviewer for the evening.
In the first match, Iceman took on Jacques Comptois, two relative 'veterans' of this new league. Just so you knew he was the heel, Comptois came out to be interviewed by Carpentier on the stage, where he demanded applause from the crowd. He was shocked when that demand was met with boos.
Iceman's entrance, as always was spectacular and well-done for an indy guy, as he ran to the ring with great timing with his music, ran around a few times, got the crowd riled up, and then bowed on one knee in the middle of the ring, raised his hands in the air, and spit out some kind of blue liquid. Liquid ice, maybe?
Comptois dominated the match early on, using his size and power advantage over the cruiserweight Iceman, but Iceman countered with some impressive maneuvers, including a top-rope plancha out onto the floor. Comptois took control again, and displayed some awesome moves of his own, highlighted by a top-rope superplex. After some back-and-forth action, the bigger man took the win, as Comptois executed what looked like one-half of the Headbangers' finishing move. You know, the half where the guy flips off the top rope and lands, seated, on his unconscious opponent. One, two, three.
The second bout of the night pitted Drago, the Russian Powerhouse, a heel from previous IW2000 shows, against Shackles, also a heel of previous shows. But Drago came out to be interviews by Carpentier, and he just yammered ("Russian," I guess) gibberish and waved his flag around, so I guess Shackles was doing face duty that night.
This match was solid, one of my favourites of the night. Drago relied mostly on power moves such as the powerbomb and power submission holds like the bear hug. Utimately, though, it would be Shackles who came out on top, after a beautiful top-rope frankensteiner and a really beautiful spring-board top-rope reversed plancha for the pin.
Match number three saw Little Broken take on Tiger Jackson in a return match - a return midget match - from the first IW2000 show. Most of the match was filled with comic relief, but the fans were loving it. Little Broken, who looks more like a short guy than a midget, earned himself some good heel heat. Who wouldn't cheer for the hometown hero Jackson, who's seen WWF action as Dink the clown? Tiger took the win after a spinning fireman's carry which probably has its own name. Impressive strength, on Tiger's part, to spin his larger opponent around atop him.
The fourth match, a question mark as always with women's matches - they're good if the women are allowed to wrestler - proved to be one of the big pleasant surprises of the night, as Amanda Storm gave Precious Lucy a good combination of technical and brawling opposition before Lucy scored the pin with a top-rope splash.
Storm spoke with Carpentier before the match, and infuriated the crowd with her English remarks, remarks which mostly related to us being 'stupid and ugly frogs.' The crowd didn't even have to be behind hometown hero Lucy to cheer for her, but they were anyway, so that only added to their noise level during this match.
Oddly enough, Storm came out to the same rendition of broken glass that Stone Cold Steve Austin uses in another, slightly bigger wrestling federation.
Match the fifth saw Nelson Veilleux take on Ron "The Doorman" Trottier in what has to be the Doorman's biggest - and only - challenge to date. The Doorman, as always, came out on a motorcycle with valet "Mrs. Doorman."
Veilleux did an admirable and credible job of working Doorman's legs, but ultimately, Doorman's size and power advantage were too much for him. Veilleux caught a break, though, when King Kong Bundy came to ringside and distracted the Doorman, challenging him to a match at the next IW2000 show. Doorman, though, stayed strong, and beat Veilleux with the torture rack, of Lex Luger fame.
In a super heavyweight tag team match, the sixth of the night, the Prisoners took on Lionel Robert and Denis Gauthier. The latter tag team weighed in at about 450 lbs. total; the former, over 700.
Continuing the precedent set by the match before this one, the underdog team of Robert and Gauthier scored the upset victory as cheating by the Prisoners' manager backfired and he nailed one of his own with a cane. Robert and Gauthier showed impressive power in being able to lift and slam the Prisoners, who must way a legit 300 lbs. each or more, down to the mat.
After an intermission, the night's two main events took place, the first of which, the seventh match of the night, had King Kong Bundy taking on Richard "the magnificent" Charland with manager Frenchy Martin. Bundy's so good with the crowd that it takes him one line with the mic to let everyone know - and convince everyone - whether he's the face or the heel tonight. If he says "I declare myself God of Montreal," I know he's the heel, and if he says "Montreal rules!," well, then he's likely the face. And the crowd loves it.
After a lot of stalling on the part of Charland and a good, solid wrestling bout, Bundy did the job as the Doorman came to ringside and distracted him just long enough for Charland to nail him with a loaded shoe. Bundy went down and out for the count.
The main event, and certainly the match and highlight of the night for anyone who was there, featured the Rougeau family - Jacques Jr., Raymond, and Jacques Sr. (!) in a six-man contest against Jimmy Garvin, Ronnie Garvin, and Michel 'Le Justice' Dubious.
The crowd was really into it for this one, hotter than any other match, and the Rougeau's know how to keep them into it. The match went the way of a lot of tag matches, with the heels using everything at their disposal to keep a lone face, in this case Raymond, in the ring from tagging out. Of course, there were lots of tags made while the referee wasn't looking, and the crowd just ate it up when Ray would make the hot tag to Jacques Jr., only to be voided by the ref, who didn't see it as he was distracted by the opposition.
They kept at it like this for a good twenty minutes, and Raymond, who's still in terrific shape, got beat down horribly by all three of his opponents. Michel Dubois looked to be in fine form, as did the Garvins.
Finally, when the crowd was at their breaking point, Ray made the tag to Jacques and a three-on-three brouhaha resulted, in which the brothers Rougeau out-wrestled the Garvins, and a very, very impressive Jacques Rougeau Sr. out-wrestled Michel Dubois. He wasn't just in there throwing a punch or two, he was really wrestling, and looking mighty fine for his age - possibly better than some of the WCW main eventers, whose years have been less kind.
The finale saw the Garvins ejected from the ring and Michel Dubois stuck in the middle. After first ducking a punch from Jacques Jr. and then a punch from Raymond, he was faced with Jacques Sr., who clocked him, knocked him out, and scored the pin. The crowd went absolutely nuts.
From a wrestling stand-point, the show was very solid, with an emphasis on the old-style method of wrestling, which basically means clean pins all around and when you do screw-job, it's with a foreign object, not fifty run-ins.
From a story-telling perspective, there are several possible return matches for the next show, which will take place on December 29th and is themed "Quebec vs. USA." Already set is Ron "the Doorman" Trottier versus King Kong Bundy, which should be great, and who knows who else we'll see?
IW2000 is coming along nicely as an independent federation, and it's nice to see Jacques Rougeau, whom Edouard Carpentier rightly called 'one of the bravest men in wrestling today,' finally have some success as a promoter. At this rate, it will only continue.