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Saturday, December 30, 2000

Rougeau mega-show covers the bases

By ERIC BENNER -- For SLAM! Wrestling

 MONTREAL -- Jacques Rougeau Jr.'s Lutte International 2000 promotion is all about taking chances. Rougeau himself plays it safe, covering all of his bases with excellent production values and a solid roster of wrestlers. It's the wrestlers who take the chances. For the youths, many of them students at Rougeau's own wrestling school, it's their first chance in the business, their first chance to wow an audience and make their mark. For more experienced grapplers like Pierre Carl Ouelette, it's all about second chances. For older wrestlers like King Kong Bundy and Ray Rougeau, it's about last hurrahs. A few more chances to have their loved ones watch them wrestle, or wrestle in front of a big crowd.

The Verdun Auditorium in Montreal's west end was cold, but it was just about full, with about 4,000 in the building.

After the crowd had finally stopped trickling in, half an hour after the originally slated starting time of 7:30, the festivities begin. This show has all the trappings of Rougeau's previous efforts -- Mr. Potato Head had toys for the kids, announcer Marc Blondin from RDS had an extremely long list of sponsors to read out, and even Youppi and Touchdown (mascots for the Montreal Expos and Alouettes, respectively) were on hand to entertain.
King Kong Bundy puts the squeeze on Pierre Carl Ouelette. (Photo by Greg Oliver/SLAM! Wrestling)


When everyone finally got down to business, two of Rougeau's recent students, Gladiator Serge Demers and Gorgeous Mike, fought in the opener. I'm not sure what kind of expectations their mentor had for them, but I reckon they surpassed them. Gorgeous Mike has the kind of talent that oozes from most big name wrestlers -- he whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his pretty boy routine. He's cocky, entertaining, and very hateable. Gladiator pulled his own weight, but for both men that wasn't much, as neither could really weigh in at much more than 200 pounds. Still, the match was strong, with solid psychology and adequate wrestling, and the face Gladiator won the match with a sunset flip reversal.

The second match was one to watch. Two more young wrestlers, Handsome Blonde and Nicholas Gracie, faced off in a strong match. The bout had its share of moves, for hurricanrana, ankle lock, and European uppercut fans alike. After the heel Blonde used every trick in the book to win the match, he failed dramatically as Gracie locked him in the Sharpshooter in the center of the ring for the win.

Next up was Triple B (not Bam Bam), a muscular red-haired heel, taking on Bulldozer. This match was short but sweet, as the two competitors traded power moves -- with Triple B dominating most of the time -- until Bulldozer pinned a very surprised Triple B with a roll-up.

At this point, King Kong Bundy walked out and delivered one of his excellent-as-usual promos, insulting all of Canada and making Pierre Carl Ouelette, his opponent later tonight, a face in the process. Apparently fans can take pictures with him during the intermission, but only if they've got American dollars. Bundy doesn't need Canadian dollars, he says, he has plenty of toilet paper at home.
Raymond Rougeau has a sleeper hold on Richard Charland. (Photo by Greg Oliver/SLAM! Wrestling)


Prior to the intermission, Mike Lyons and Steve May fought The Prisonniers, a mainstay tag team of Lutte 2000. There was an obvious size difference here, with the heel Prisonniers outweighting the young faces by a combined 300 pounds or so. Lots of power moves, and lots of high spots by Lyons and May. The Prisonniers cheated as much as they could get away with, but when presented with the chance to win, deliberately stopped the count. I presume this was to inflict maximum punishment. When Lyons began to take advantage of their sloppiness, they initiated an awesome double-team finisher, in which the younger one of the very large Prisonniers sommersaulted off the top rope, over his partner's head and onto their opponent for the convincing pin.

After the intermission, some more prizes were given out, and then the action got underway. A wrestler called Crush, another of Rougeau's students, emerged but was barred from wrestling for allegedly injuring four of his fellow students. I guess we'll have to wait for the next show in May to see where this goes.

The first match of the second half pitted Tiger Jackson against Little Broken in your standard midget match, only local CKOI DJ Eric Nolin refereed. All the standard hijinx here, the only payoff being that both competitors pinned the popular Nolin the end the "match". Fun for the whole family. The plastic bat was a nice touch.

Next up, 'Black Stallion' Eric Mastrocola took on 'The Kid' Kevin Steen in a match of Rougeau's two most impressive students. You wouldn't have had to tell me that, as these two put on a bout that had me on the edge of my seat, actually concerned about who would walk out the victor. Mastrocola and Steen have a gift for wrestling, this is clearly a craft for them. Steen lacks size, but then again, he's only sixteen so he may grow yet. After lots of power moves and high-flying stunts by both men, Steen executes a superb firebird 450 splash for the pin and the win. Wow.
Pierre Carl Ouelette in the midst of table debris. (Photo by Greg Oliver/SLAM! Wrestling)


Co-main eventing the card, Raymond Rougeau defended Jacques Rougeau's top title against common enemy Richard Charland. This match was what you'd have expected it to be -- long, slow, but full of psychology and as real as it gets. A throwback to the wrestling days of yore, Charland and the elder Rougeau put on a clinic for the boys at the back and reminded us in the stands what put wresting on the map in Quebec in the first place. Lots of stalling by the heel Charland, lots of impressive comebacks by Ray Rougeau, and following a long sequence of reversals (ten or twelve), Rougeau won via clean pin. Ever the whiner, Charland continued to play the heel after the match. Steamboat-Flair this may not have been, but out of its league it was not.

Main eventing this indy bonanza was King Kong Bundy vs. Pierre Carl Ouelette. Ouelette's entrance was impressive to say the least, featuring a pretty valet, a motorcycle, and pyros that flew across the rafters. He announced that Jacques Rougeau was his manager from now on and that Jacques would support him against Bundy. KKB's entrance was equally impressive, but just because he's King Kong Bundy. He ran through his never-tired pre-match heel spiel, proclaiming himself King of Montreal and then running down us and our women. This match saw Bundy continually knocking Ouelette out of the ring and refusing him re-entry, and this went on for a good five or ten minutes before Ouelette powered his way in. At one point, Bundy even 'accidentally' knocked his opponent through the ringside table, and Ouelette bled hardway on the back of his bicep. Bundy still dominated, but in the process bumped the ref. He took advantage of the opportunity to choke out the former WWF Pirate on the ropes, and Jacques Rougeau saw that as his signal to run in. He nailed Bundy from behind, and the two hometown faces joined forces to bodyslam King Kong. Jacques woke up the ref, who counted the 1-2-3 pin and sent the fans home happy. Ouelette will apparently be a mainstay in this promotion from now on, and this is a heck of a start for him.

Sure, the pyros weren't a gigantesque as one might see on a Monday night. There was no RougeauTron. The main event featured two guys who haven't seen big league action in years. The average age of the card was probably about thirty, but it was made up of guys in their early twenties and early forties. Still, everyone had a good time and the crowd went home happy. Maybe that's all that matters. No, not maybe.

Notes

  • A few legends around in the back: Andre Roy, who was the mainstay referee around Montreal Grand Prix in the early 70s. ... Also dropping by was Deepak Massand, better known as the former wrestler and manager to Abdullah the Butcher, Mr. Deepak Singh.
  • Paul Leduc was running a small show in another part of Montreal the same night.
  • Rougeau held a press conference yesterday at the gym where he trains his wrestlers, and King Kong Bundy and Pierre Carl Ouelette squared off. The Montreal media was out in full-force for the event, and it got play in both Le Journal de Montreal and La Presse.
  • After the show, both Rougeau and Ouelette stuck around to meet and greet their fans.

    -- with files from Greg Oliver



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