Sunday, May 21, 2000
NCW delivers at Challengemania 8
Ouellet vs Kulka just icing on a great cake
Last night, at the NDR Center on Villeray in Montreal, two former Titans collided, as Pierre-Carl Ouellet took on Glenn Kulka. Formerly Jean-Pierre Lafitte the pirate and CFL all-star, respectively, they headed up the eighth annual NCW extravaganza, Challengemania. For the uninitiated out there, NCW is a hot, up and coming indy federation in Quebec and I have to say, they put on a hell of a show.
The venue was unmistakable. Walking down St.-Hubert Street, there was no denying that we had come upon the site for the night's festivities when, somewhere in the distance, we saw the massive church steeple sticking out above the surrounding structures. What, hold a wrestling event in a church? No 20,000 fan arena, with announcements of the next Britney Spears concert flashing on a neon sign outside? Not a chance -- this is indy wrestling, baby!
It wasn't technically held in a church, more of a church annex. As we rounded the corner of the street and finally took in the beauty of the church, it was clear that the event would be taking place in a building connected to it. A large grouping of fans were hovered around an entrance to that building, many of them wearing logoed black t-shirts. Yeah, this had to be the place.
We waited around for the crowd to disperse a little, then headed in ten minutes prior to start-time. In reality, it was more like an hour until start time, but hey, we didn't know. The insides were something along the lines of what you'd expect from a church annex, like somewhere you'd play basketball or hold a church dance or something. But once you took in the actual area where the event was taking place, there was no doubting what was going on. Aside from the disco ball suspended above the ring. That was the only red herring.
The ring was set smack in the middle of the area, whatever you want to call it -- let's say a gym -- and it looked good. I remember having watched a news bit about NCW a few months ago, and they stated that Bertrand Hebert, NCW's promoter, had bought the ring second-hand. Great buy, I say. It looked smaller than even a WCW ring, but there was still enough room for these almost-behemoths.
Guard-rails surrounded the ring. Seats -- some folding chairs, some stackables -- were placed all around the guard-rails and packed the place. I don't think they could have fit another chair in the joint, and that bodes well for business. There were concessions in one corner, mostly hot dogs and stuff. Ticket-takers were at tables at the entrance. There must have been at least a dozen or two security guys, all in black NCW Security t-shirts.
Now the impressive stuff. There was a great sound system hooked up, and I didn't even have to see it to tell you that. The songs they were blasting before the show to pump up the crowd were totally audible and not at all muffled. In addition, there was a sizeable video screen placed near the ceiling of the room, and half-decent spotlights pretty much all over the place.
Me, I was sitting in the balcony area, with the family of the wrestlers and -- I think -- other journalists.
The crowd was packed in like sardines, and they were happy to be there. The show was starting late but no one cared. The people were young, younger fans who had probably recently been made fans of the 'sport', used to catchphrases and hardcore wrestling, and they were also old, fans reminiscent of what used to be a grand and glorious sport in Quebec. And back in the day, there were no quotation marks around the word 'sport'. Around here, it was like it was for real.
Ahhh! Something's happening. The lights go dark, the video screen fires up, and the music turns off, replaced by the video's audio. A recap of the seven previous Challengemanias fires up, and I'm suitably impressed by the video quality, or heck, that there are videos at all for the seven previous Challengemanias. The action from the previous shows looks solid, and I'm more psyched now than I was a half hour ago about the potential of this show.
Oh yeah, and the fans are really loud. Either they're rowdy, they recognize all these guys in the highlight videos, or both. I suspect the latter.
By the way, it's nice to see a video with all the montage special effects and cheesy dramatic music, for once. It occurs to me at this point that I can't see one of the ring turn-buckles because of a basketball net and that that's a strange problem to have at a wrestling show. It wouldn't matter later, though, as you'll see.
The recaps are over, and now we're watching something taking place backstage. Promoter Hebert is there with some of his talent -- I recognize Iceman who has been on one of Jacques Rougeau Jr.'s International Wrestling 2000 shows -- and he receives a phone call. I didn't follow what went on, but I get the idea.
There's a ring announcer here, dressed up and everything, and just now I notice that the lights are back on, a combination of red-and-white lights pointed at the walkway and the ring. Oh yeah, there's even a ramp. I feel right at home. The announcer makes the standard pre-show threats, and the crowd hates him for it, but I think that's sort of a joke. Now we're treated to a recap of some previous happenings which I guess lead up to the first match, and say hello to the referee. Why didn't the WWF think of putting a woman in a really tight striped shirt instead of those old Hebner guys?
Finally, and I mean that in sort of a good way, the first match is getting going. It's a TV title match, which strikes me as strange. TNT, who seems to be a heel, is the champ, and he's wrestling a guy whose name, I think, is something Sensation. Oh wait, I have my match card right here. Dennis Sensation, his name is. The match is pretty spectacular, by indy standards. In the opening minute or two, I count: two suicide dives, one hurricanrana, a spinning heel kick, a moonsault, no two moonsaults, and a corkscrew something-or-other. And then more of the same for the remaining three or four minutes of the match. The finish sees the challenger (aspirant in French) hit a top-rope splash for the win, and he's the new champion!
Fellow writer Steph Waters, who's with me, notes that the match was good, but that they may have just opened up with a hot match and maybe these other guys won't be as good. Boy, I'm glad she was so wrong.
In the second match, a guy who is apparently really old (something about being at all eight Challengemanias) is taking on a younger guy. Just on the off chance we don't know to root for the old dude, who I see is called Phil Belanger, the young guy comes out speaking English. That seals the deal -- boooooo! Well, to our credit, he did insult the French language and French people and everything, so he kind of deserves it. More video of these guys' previous matches (not together) is shown, and I'm struck by how much video they have in stock. In the video, the old guy does a pile-driver to just about everyone, and that's just how he wins this strong technical match. He doesn't look at old, but he keeps referring to it.
Two more good matches followed, as a tag team called Vertigo takes on The Juggallos (Insane Clown Posse II), and Black Eagle wrestles against El Diablero Jr., two more strong matches.
I'd been scribbling every little detail of the show onto my trusty pad up to this point, but it was around here that I stopped. The show was so good that I didn't want to miss the rest of it. I'd had my doubts going in, but there's no doubt in my mind that that show was as good, as fun as anything I've seen live in about two years.
Granted, that surprises me, but it's a different atmosphere. There are less fans, but they're the really devoted ones. They cheered with all their hearts the whole night, including some chants I wouldn't dare regurgitate here, on a family web-site, and a lot of stuff reminiscent of ECW. In fact, that's what the show reminded me of -- what I'd imagine ECW was like before the days of TNN, pay-per-view, and even syndication. Well, minus some blood. Minus all of it, actually. One table did break over the course of the night, but there wasn't too much more extra-curricular violence than that. And I didn't miss it.
Check out our NCW results page for full results of the rest of the card -- me, I was happy to put my pen down and just enjoy the show.
I came to the NDR Center to see Pierre-Carl Ouellet take on Glenn Kulka, but I left with a healthy respect not just for the effort that these indy guys put into their shows, but also for the not-to-be-underestimated results they achieve. NCW has a very strong roster of guys with a variety of skills, and I look forward to my next NCW experience.