Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wrestling Six Packs: Canada's Greatest Wrestling Contributions

Bret watches father Stu stretch a student in the Dungeon
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Today is Canada Day, the anniversary of the day in 1867 when the British Commonwealth granted America's sizable neighbor to the north her ability to autonomously function as a nation-state without nominally leaving the Empire. While the Great North is the butt of many jokes in terms of military history and popular culture, one place where it cannot be fucked with is in professional wrestling. Canada is full of rabid wrestling fans and has produced some of the finest shows, wrestlers, and moments in the history of the art. The following sixer will list, in my estimation, the six most magnificent things I've enjoyed in wrestling that are Canadian in origin.

1. The Hart Family

Stu and Helen Hart and their progeny have earned the moniker of first family of Canadian wrestling through decades of promotion and performance. While I don't know as much about Stu's early days as a wrestler or the Calgary territory before 1980, his name is revered enough for me to respect those contributions. But when his kids came of age and started to wrestle, the family name grew from a noble house in the Canadian West into a premiere dynasty. Bret is rightfully revered as one of the greatest technicians of all-time. Owen was one of the most naturally talented and easily charismatic men to grace a ring.

The other brothers like Bruce, Keith, and Smith maybe didn't make their marks stateside, but in their home country, they held down the fort. The family extended past bloodlines to include regular tag partners like Jim Neidhart, close friends as rivals like the British Bulldogs (one of which married into the family), and graduates of the infamous Hart Family Dungeon like Chris Jericho and Lance Storm. Sure, the genepool may be a bit diluted today thanks to Teddy, Nattie Neidhart, and Tyson Kidd, and the genealogy may have been pock-marked by tragedy starting with the despicable Montreal Screwjob, but the countless memories provided by the Harts and their extended family far outweigh any negatives brought on in any circumstance.

2. Kevin Steen and El Generico: Frenemies for Life

As a tag team, Kevin Steen and El Generico were outstanding, an A-plus addition to any card where they were booked. As enemies, however, they lit arenas on fire, carrying Ring of Honor when its title scene was bogged down by the exploits of Roderick Strong and Davey Richards, and elevating Pro Wrestling Guerrilla from awesome promotion to GOD STATUS. I don't know what it was about about the friends turned enemies turned friends that made anything they touched together turn to gold. Maybe Steen's asshole side complemented the ebullient likability that Generico exuded. Maybe Steen's ability to hit hard made the insane bumps that Generico took feel that much more bone-rattling. Or maybe they were just two friends who trusted each other completely and gave into whatever story they wanted to tell, whether as friends or foes.

All I know is that the only time I ever cried watching a non-Chikara related wrestling show (my favorite promotion gets me a bit too emotional at times) was at the end of DDT4 2013, when Steen and Generico embraced after their loss to the Young Bucks in the tournament final. As Sami Zayn, Generico has moved on, but their link may not be as broken as one might think. Steen is rumored to be getting signed to a WWE developmental deal soon, and the WWE audience is ready to experience what indie fans have already known about.

3. LuFisto and Her Heiress Apparent, Jewells Malone

It can be argued that the most hardcore wrestlers of the last decade were mostly women. Mickie Knuckles made her bones tangling with the men in IWA Mid-South. Rachel Summerlyn dove right into wrestling as a deathmatch competitor. But the most intense, craziest one of them all may have been Quebec's own LuFisto. What made her the best, and what continues to make her the best to be honest, is that for as intense as she is in the ring, she's never one to take herself too seriously. Her bubbly Super Hardcore Anime persona combined with the loving affection she showers on her inanimate life partner Pegaboo both belie her all-out warlike nature in the ring. I'm not sure how much she has left in the tank as she's already suffered a stroke and is wrestling on a bum knee. How she's able to wrestle at such a high capacity astounds me.

However, she has a fellow countrywoman waiting in the wings to join her now and ascend as the next in line in Jewells Malone. She's only burst onto the American scene recently thanks to turns in Women's Superstars Uncensored and Beyond Wrestling, but in her short time, she's established herself as one of the craziest wrestlers anywhere. Go watch her Uncensored Rules match against Knuckles at this year's Mutiny card. She stapled a dollar bill to Knuckles' sensitive area before taking a pumphandle bomb through a goddamn dollhouse. That kind of delicious craziness is welcome in my pro wrestling anytime.

4. In Your House: Canadian Stampede

WWE has a shortlist of pay-per-views/special events that could reasonably be argued as the greatest of all-time. WrestleManias X-7 and XXX both have the extra grandeur of being home runs on the biggest stage. Extreme Rules '12 may have been the most outstanding in terms of top-end matches, while Money in the Bank '11 had several seminal moments go down. But Canadian Stampede, the last of the two-hour In Your House events, felt like it was the first time WWE REALLY got the concept of stacking a card. Everyone talks about the main event for good reason. The hyper-nationalistic partisan crowd in Calgary provided a surreal backdrop for the overly moralistic Hart Foundation to play hero instead of villain. On the other side of the ring stood five men as disparate as could be. What other reason would bring Ken Shamrock, Goldust, the Road Warriors, and Steve Austin together other than a common foe?

Yet the match capped off a show that also included an overlooked gem in the excellent series of matches over a five year period between Triple H and Mankind/Mick Foley, a jaw-dropping exhibition between TAKA Michinoku and the Great Sasuke, and a perfectly cromulent HOSS FIGHT between Undertaker and Vader for the WWE Championship. In front of any American crowd, that show would have ruled, but the Canadian crowd elevated the show to GOD status just for how hot it was and how much of an eerie dynamic it gave the aforementioned main event.

5. Chris Jericho's List of 1004 Holds

Chris Jericho, in an attempt to one-up the Master of 1001 Holds Dean Malenko, came out with a list of the 1004 holds he himself knew on the March 30, 1998 episode of Monday Nitro. While he had established himself as a proficient in-ring general before in Japan, ECW, and prior WCW, this moment cemented him as the ALL-ENCOMPASSING GAWD OF RASSLIN that most fans would know him as for most of his career (Cool Dad Jericho stage in his most recent return notwithstanding). The reading was a blatant comedic spot that was meant to be served up for fodder on a show that at this point was still dominated by the melodramatic telling of As the (New) World (Order) Turns, but it turned out to be more memorable and longer lasting than anything that involved the nWo in the calendar year of 1998, at least in a positive light. Plus, he gave wrestling fans the world over an excuse to shout ARMBAR at random moments, created awesome move names that actually came to fruition like the moss-covered, three-handled family credenza, and gave him a chance to rehash the moment on RAW a few years back with his list of superstars he'd defeated.

6. The Quebecers' Theme Song

Words can't describe its awesomeness. Watch the damn video, nerds.