There aren’t many places you can go on a Saturday night in Halifax to watch grown men slap each other across the nipples and hurl insults.
But, you can go to WrestleCentre.
About 100 people paid $20-$30 Saturday to crowd around the ad hoc ring at the Halifax Forum to watch the semi-scripted spectacle that is professional wrestling.
Organized by local company WrestleCentre, Saturday’s match featured primarily Maritime wrestlers and was recorded for the first time as a Fight Network TV special.
WrestleCentre has aired on the local Bell Aliant TV1 channel, but Fight Network is a much larger national cable channel that airs across Canada and in more than 30 other countries around the world.
Writer and producer Tyler Burns wants to use WrestleCentre to bring more Maritime talent to the ring. He says he’s tired of hearing well-known wrestlers come to Halifax and say they planned to “take it easy since they had ROH the next day.”
ROH is Ring of Honor, a wrestling TV show based in Philadelphia.
Since WrestleCentre started in 2014, Burns has brought a number of well-known wrestlers to Halifax. Saturday’s lineup included locals JP Simms, Steve Arsenault, Julian Young, Nick Diggz, Matt Bullen and Chip Chambers.
The lines and vendettas are often scripted, but the high-flying acrobatics and body slams into the French barricades that separate the wrestlers from the crowd are not.
During Saturday’s show, wrestler Richard Shinary from New Brunswick, climbed on top of one of the ring posts and flexed.
“Here comes the reading rainbow!” he screamed at the crowd, before jumping onto his opponent, Colt Cabana, who was lying in the middle of the ring.
Shinary’s wrestling character of the evening was a librarian. He started the evening by strutting around on stage wearing glasses and carrying a book.
Then Cabana gets into the ring and they argue about the pronunciation of Shinary’s name. This is all part of the “feud” the wrestlers create.
“I’m here to beat a dick,” said Cabana while pointing at Shinary (Richard ‘Dick’ Shinary, “Dictionary”).
“Beat that dick! Beat that dick!” the crowd screamed back at him.
There were a number of chants throughout the evening. One could hear, “We like carpet!” and “We love WrestleCentre!”
At one point, someone from the 18+ beer section yelled, “”Your nipples look like two little peppercorns!”
This and other insults make up the colourful tableau that is the experience of wrestling. There were also a lot of “You suck!” One spectator yelled, “Big fat dick!” at Shinary as he walks past.
“Shut up!” yells Shinary in response.
“You shut up!” screams back the fan.
Cabana was the celebrity guest of the evening. He’s an American pro wrestler known for his podcast, The Art of Wrestling.
During intermission, the crowd bought $3/slice pizza from boxes on tables and hot dogs from the kitchen in the back of the multi-purpose room. The hot dogs had the mushy consistency of cocktail wieners.
During the 10-minute intermission local band A Call for Submission spent 23 minutes setting up and then played a two-song set in the arena, during which the trampoline floor caused their mixer to bounce off the back of the amp. They finished and were rushed off stage. Back to wrestling.
Fans are expected to participate. Like a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, spectators come prepared with things to throw at the wrestlers. Mostly streamers, which explode across the arena as each wrestler is introduced and struts around while posing at the ring corners.
Later in the show, a fan gets a plateful of chicken wings thrown on him from the ring.
The crowd willingly suspends their disbelief as huge, beefy men pose and mug for the cameras as jets of streamer tissue waft around them.
When their opponents have them in a hold, they shake their legs on the mat and mimic a seizure like cartoons. From the back, you can’t always hear the punches land. Sometimes, it’s obvious they don’t.
The ultimate fight of the night was not a celebrity headliner. Instead, it was two local men. JP Simms from Halifax and Steve Arsenault from Truro. Arsenault attempted to take Simms’ IFWA Heavyweight Championship belt, but was left writhing in streamers on the floor of the ring.
Despite the profanity, there were plenty of young kids at the match. In fact, one youngster was hit in the head with a water bottle after Richard Shinary used it to shower the crowd by ‘jerking off’ on them and then threw the water bottle from the stage. Colt Cabana then proceeded to jump out of the ring and bring the kid to the ring to face Shinary.
If the above description doesn’t have you running to buy your tickets, you may also consider that it’s a great way to teach your kids to count. At least to three.
After the wrestling was done, people grabbed their coats and headed for the doors. It was almost midnight.
“I can’t believe some people think that’s fake,” one teenage boy said to another as they headed out.
About the author
Mel Hattie is a travel journalist from Canada's east coast. She's currently in the MJ New Ventures stream at the University of King's College....