Looking for a place to take out your new date? Somewhere quiet where you can listen to each other talk about your passions, enjoy a good glass of wine and maybe some fresh tapas. You’re looking for a place lit with chandeliers where you can listen to classic jazz sink into a comfortable red satin banquette? I have the perfect place for you.
At the venue I’m proposing here, you are more likely to hear more obscenities than you would in a jail, have hyper-active kids spilling their energy drinks on you knees, distorted metal and the mixed smells of chicken-dogs and sweaty chests. Those are my memories of a night spent at the Northern Championship Wrestling (NCW), the largest independent pro-wrestling federation in Montreal right now.
After reconsideration, an amateur wrestling gala might not be the safest choice for a first date.
Wrestling has always held an important place in the Quebec sport scene. In the 1950s, Montreal was considered the “Mecca of Wrestling” and it was common that fights would gather crowds of more than 20,000 people, which no other sports would come close to. At that time, wrestling was by far more popular than ice hockey.
The Montreal Forum was the main venue and with the appearance of television, the sport was religiously broadcast every week on Radio-Canada. Quebec has produced a lot of international athletes and families of athletes who may be unknown to the younger generation, but surely ring bells for anybody over 40 years old. Test it out – ask your parents if they ever heard of the Rougeaus, the Vachons, or names like Yvon Robert, Gino Brito, and you’ll be surprised. For a feeling of the wrestling nights of the time, you can watch here the documentary, La Lutte, by Michel Brault, on the National Film Board website.
With the advancement of bigger American federations such as the WWE and the WWF, wrestling stopped being broadcast in Quebec in 1987 and since then, the sport has become more quiet, but surely not dead. You can still attend great fights every week-end thanks to some independent federations such as the NCW.
The NCW holds a gala every Saturday night in a communal center next to the St-Barthelemy church. Wrestling rings in Quebec have never been very far from churches. Their huge basements and their central locations offered the perfect spot to organise events, especially in rural Quebec, where other large spaces were rare. The Church has always been happy to open its door to the wrestlers and their fans, who would generate some revenue and help pay the bills.
Don’t get me wrong, though. There is nothing Catholic about wrestling, except for the Good vs Evil side of the show. If you’re not a native Quebecer and are looking for an occasion to improve your french swearing vocabulary, you should definitely bring along a notebook to the next wrestling fight. People of all ages pour their hate out on men wearing leather Speedos for reasons that even God ignores.
Wrestling is one of the rare sports where the public is literally part of the game. Booing the fighters when the show is getting boring, bitching at the referees, making insults for the sake of it, and even offering their shoes or chair to a wrestler to use on his opponent, crazy fans will make sure to make their $10 worth it. You will see old men with hate in their eyes screaming at wrestlers as if they were facing the murderer of their own child.
The truth is that the crowd often cheers for the bad guys, as the good ones have the tendencies to boast and be arrogant. In wrestling, if you’re too shiny, too clean-cut, or without enough tattoos, you won’t be loved. I guess they take the place of all the annoying winners in real life that you can’t swear at.
The quality of wrestling offered at the NCW is quite good. It’s a different style than what you’re used at the WWF, but that’s for the best. There’s less talking, less showing-off and more sport – more actual fighting and acrobatics. The show draws fans from Ontario and the US every week, in addition to the local crowd. International athletes are sometimes invited for special events. Superstars such as Necro Butcher, Kevin Steen, or Abdullah the Butcher have fought in the NCW. Discovery Channel made a documentary on the NCW that you can watch here.
Necro Butcher, who appeared with Mickey Rourke in the movie The Wrestler was the special guest of the 2010 Christmas Gala in a “street fight” against Mobster 357 where they hit each other in the face with DVD players and other weapons they would find under the tree. Fans had been promised a bloody Christmas and they got it.