Ethan Page “vividly” remembers the time the CBC attended his native wrestling present in Hamilton in 2012.
“It was the primary time anybody ever gave me any native publicity, and my wrestling promotion any native publicity. So it was like an enormous victory for me,” he stated.
Page’s exhibits for Alpha-1 Wrestling within the Germania Club often drew about 250 followers.
This week, greater than 10 years later, Page (actual identify Julian Micevski) is gearing up for a particular form of homecoming — in entrance of a a lot larger viewers.
He’ll be a part of a duo of wrestling exhibits for All Elite Wrestling — Dynamite on Wednesday, Rampage on Thursday — in Toronto’s Coca-Cola Coliseum, in entrance of 1000’s of followers stay, and plenty of extra on tv.
Page is a part of a cadre of recent era wrestlers who grew up idolizing stars like Bret Hart and Iron Mike Sharpe. As he and others have by no means wrestled often for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), these AEW exhibits are arguably their first huge highlight on Canadian soil.
“It’s a dream come true. But this was at all times the purpose,” he stated.
“It’s cool that I get to return again to Canada and form of present everyone like, ‘Hey, I stated I used to be going to do one thing, and I form of pulled it off.’ “
All Elite Wrestling was based in 2019. Owned by Shahid Khan and his son, Tony Khan — the billionaire homeowners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars — it is gained momentum as the primary main North American competitor to WWE in 20 years.
Its roster contains a number of longtime and up to date former WWE performers — together with Winnipegger Chris Jericho, who’s set to headline Dynamite in opposition to Bryan Danielson.
Conspicuous in his absence is fellow Winnipegger Kenny Omega, who can also be one of many firm’s co-founders and govt vice-presidents. He and a handful of different wrestlers and workers, together with CM Punk and the Young Bucks, have been reportedly suspended following a backstage altercation in September.
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Pandemic delayed Canadian debut
“It’s completely wonderful … to wrestle in Toronto, which is among the largest wrestling markets on the earth, and the place I lower my enamel as an unbiased wrestler for the final practically 20 years,” says Ottawa-based wrestler Nicolas Dansereau.
Dansereau is best recognized as Evil Uno, a masked wrestler and co-founder of AEW’s Dark Order faction.
Uno says AEW was planning to carry a present in Toronto a lot earlier, till the COVID-19 pandemic shut down worldwide journey. He says it will likely be his first time in no less than 4 years performing in Toronto, a metropolis he used to go to no less than 3 times each month whereas working the unbiased circuit.
Laura Dennis-Guilmette, who wrestles underneath the monikers Allie and The Bunny and grew up in Toronto’s Downsview neighbourhood, says it is “thoughts blowing” to be a part of the exhibits.
She attributes her preliminary love for pro wrestling to her father, who used to observe matches in Maple Leaf Gardens, a northern wrestling mecca for a lot of many years.
While All Elite Wrestling is probably going essentially the most notable breakout story lately, the pro wrestling panorama as an entire has modified considerably within the final decade or so.
Certainly, essentially the most dramatic growth got here in July when Vince McMahon retired from his function as World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) chairman and CEO, following allegations of sexual misconduct and hush-money funds.
But past that, a handful of unbiased wrestling firms have grown their profiles in North America. Streaming subscription companies have launched new audiences to worldwide promotions, significantly in Japan.
It’s led to one thing of a golden age for novice and veteran performers trying to ply their commerce.
“When I used to be breaking in, in ’94, ’95, you already know, it was just about unattainable to earn a residing simply being an unbiased wrestler,” stated Kitchener, Ont., native Christian Cage (actual identify Jay Reso).
“Whereas now, you possibly can earn a really, superb residing wrestling independently. And that is form of a testomony to the place we’re at, as far as the business as an entire goes.”
Cage is not a stranger to big-time wrestling exhibits in Canada. In 2002 he wrestled at WWE’s WrestleMania 18 in entrance of tens of 1000’s of followers within the Rogers Centre (then the SkyDome).
Now 48, he is taken a locker-room veteran’s function, usually wrestling in opposition to and alongside youthful expertise like Jack (Jungle Boy) Perry — son of the late actor Luke Perry.
Today’s wrestling stars construct on-line manufacturers
Before becoming a member of AEW, Evil Uno paid the payments working for the federal authorities as an online designer.
“I’ve wrestled for nearly 20 years, however I’d even have two to a few jobs always. There’s this view that everybody in pro wrestling is wealthy, which isn’t the case. The choose few on the high are,” he stated.
“When AEW employed me, it was the primary time I used to be in a position to absolutely decide to pro wrestling.”
Uno, Page and Dennis-Guilmette are additionally a part of a brand new era of wrestlers with a larger on-line presence, posting video blogs documenting their travels across the continent, but in addition connecting with followers over their different hobbies, such as video video games, snack evaluations and motion determine gathering.
“I can form of construct my model how I need, current it to the audiences that I need, and AEW has allowed us to do it,” stated Page.
That inventive freedom made AEW a gorgeous choice for some wrestlers. In 2020 the WWE got here underneath fireplace for insisting on taking a lower of any exterior appearances their expertise made, together with donations obtained whereas livestreaming on gaming platform Twitch.
Toronto’s ‘infamous’ wrestling crowds
Cage says your complete AEW locker-room is “fairly pumped” for Dynamite and Rampage to happen at the Coca-Cola Coliseum.
He says Toronto specifically has at all times been a “infamous” crowd recognized to cheer on villains and boo heroes relying on their moods.
“I’ve at all times been of the opinion that … in the event that they’re reacting, whether or not they’re cheering or they’re booing, in the event that they’re making noise, meaning they care. If they’re quiet, meaning you are in hassle,” he stated.
Dennis-Guilmette is wanting ahead to reconnecting along with her hometown exterior the ring as effectively.
She’s planning to choose up some all-dressed chips for her snack weblog, stroll down Queen and Yonge streets — and even drive the much-maligned Gardiner Expressway.
“You’ve acquired to go at midnight. I’m not speaking about going throughout rush hour,” she stated.