Wrestling

Dick Durning loses to Cody Rhodes, wins WrestleCentre championship

IFWA champion J.P. Simms pays for decision to interfere in Durning's retirement match

Cody Rhodes (in green) launches a flying attack on Dick Durning.
Cody Rhodes (in green) launches a flying attack on Dick Durning.   Matthew Scrimshaw

Dick Durning may have lost the battle, but he won the war.

Despite losing his retirement match to Cody Rhodes on Thursday night at the Halifax Forum, Durning captured the IFWA championship for the first time in his career.  It was a night of theatre for the record-breaking crowd of over 300 fans.

A 15-year veteran of the Atlantic independent wrestling scene, Durning had initially planned to wrestle his final match on Sept. 23 against fellow Maritime wrestler Chip Chambers. Years of travel, a number of injuries – including knee surgery, broken teeth and a broken hand –  and a desire to spend more time with his wife and seven-year-old son had Durning looking forward to retirement.

“I don’t think I’ve had a weekend off in five years,” he said ahead of the match.

He was coaxed into one final bout for local wrestling promotion WrestleCentre thanks to a challenge from former WWE superstar Cody Rhodes.

“I’m not the son of a hall of famer, but what I am is a man with nothing to lose, a man willing to leave it all on the line,” he said. “I may not be part of a legacy (like Rhodes), but I’m a part of something a lot bigger and that’s the Maritimes.”

Rhodes, the son of WWE Hall of Fame member Dusty “The American Dream” Rhodes, has been touring independent wrestling organizations across the world in recent months, seeking out new opponents and crossing names off his wrestling bucket list. He chose to square off against Durning after Durning was recommended by another independent wrestler.

“I spoke to Christopher Daniels and he said ‘that’s the guy’ to wrestle out there,” said Rhodes before the two met in the squared circle.

While professional wrestling often has defined faces (heroes) and heels (villains), the popularity of both Durning and Rhodes left many fans split on who to cheer for.

Logan McLeod, 17, travelled from Mount Uniacke to see the match.

“Independent wrestling is just a different experience; you never know what will happen,” said McLeod.

‘Awesome’ main event

Nowhere is this sense of unpredictability more clear than in the evening’s main event.

As Durning makes his entrance, the crowd roars “we want Dick” in unison. The chant that is decidedly juvenile, embarrassingly hard to resist, and strangely fun quickly fades as the match begins. It becomes clear in their first exchange that Rhodes and Durning are better at wrestling than many of the earlier performers: the strikes look more realistic, the impact is louder and their timing is more in sync.

The crowd’s earlier chant is now replaced by a different one: “This is awesome.  This is awesome.”

The fight quickly spills into the crowd, with Rhodes dumping Durning over the ringside barricade and into the front row.  Before they make their way back to the ring, a garbage can has been upturned on Durning’s head and a fan’s beer has been spit in his face. When they finally make it back to the ring, somehow the referee has been knocked out and no one is left to enforce the rules.

J.P Simms, the IFWA Heavyweight Champion, suddenly appears through the crowd and bloodies Durning with his belt. The attack allows Rhodes to pick up the victory.

As Durning slowly picks himself off the mat, the disappointed crowd begins yet another chant: “Please don’t go. Please don’t go.”

Simms can’t resist gloating after the match and lets Durning know that his decision to retire “doesn’t make him a b—ch; it makes him a pu—y.”  Looking down on the already busted up Durning, Simms offers him a shot at the only Maritime championship he’s never held: WrestleCentre’s IFWA Championship.

A brawl between Simms and Durning results in two more referees being knocked out and when Durning pins Simms, there is no longer a referee to make the count.

With the referee (bottom right) unconscious, J.P. Simms tries to cheat by attacking Durning with a chair.
With the referee (bottom right) unconscious, J.P. Simms tries to cheat by attacking Durning with a chair.   Matthew Scrimshaw

Harold Kennedy, a local wrestling personality known as New Scott, quickly runs in from the crowd.  Ripping the shirt off one of the unconscious referees, he makes the three count to award Durning the championship.

Durning wastes little time celebrating. He rushes through the crowd, runs out the arena’s front door, and makes his way towards a waiting car in the parking lot. As he’s running, he can be heard screaming to the fans who followed him out of the arena: “Who’s the b—ch now J.P?  You’ll never see this belt again!  Dick for Mayor!”