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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Canadian Wrestlers Of The Eighties
November 9, 2006 by Derek Kered


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Like most of my fellow Canuck wrestling fans, I've always taken a particular interest in wrestlers from Canada.

Many fans, young and old, might think first of Stu Hart's "Stampede Wrestling" out of Calgary, Alberta, when they hear the words "Canadian wrestling". Obviously, Stu's son Bret "The Hitman" specifically comes to mind. Bret's partner in "The Hart Foundation", Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart was also a product of the modest-sized promotion, as were the "British Bulldogs" and "The Crippler" Chris Benoit - also a Canadian.

However, it was the WWF that, as in the U.S., caught the attention of most Canadians by the mid-eighties. There were several names, some imported from other promotions, competing in cards booked by men like French Canadian and former wrestler Pat Patterson. Canada had its own list of jobbers to face superstars at shows held north of the border, while Rick Martel ruled the AWA as World Champion. Dino Bravo, like Patterson and Martel another grappler from the French Canadian province of Quebec, was at the time impressing crowds as a highly-capable fan favorite.

A tag-team from Quebec, Jacques and Raymond Rougeau, were hard workers and talented in the ring, but as babyfaces they just didn't make the splash Vince McMahon Jr. had been hoping for. The Rougeau brothers found a slightly larger measure of success both as the anti-American heels, "The Quebecers", and Jacques on his own as the despicable "Mountie".

Former NWA World Champion "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin can't go without mention. His defeat of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in 1987 guaranteed the native of Montreal, Quebec an important place in wrestling history.

Then of course, there were the Vachons. Luna, her father Paul "The Butcher", and uncle Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon. All three were the nastiest sorts of heels, in and around the ring.

Although Quebec may well be Canada's highest wrestler-producing province, we can find competitors who made it big in the eighties throughout the entire country.

Calgary-born Bret Hart and his brothers (most notably "The Rocket" Owen) obviously deserve special mention, but did you know that the Rock's father, Rocky Johnson, was born in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia" Abdullah the Butcher (if you're not familiar, think Kamala, but even more Kamala-ish) is from my place of birth, Windsor, Ontario - and not, as you might already have guessed, from "Darkest Sudan".

And of course, there's the "Scottish" bagpiper (he really can play the bagpipes, by the way), "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Born in the province of Saskatchewan, Roddy began his career in Canada, eventually wrestling for all of the "Big Three" at the time (the AWA, the NWA, and the WWF). Previously a babyface, Piper ended up taking the number one heel spot from the Iron Sheik in the WWF - during the single most exciting period in the history of professional wrestling.

One of my all-time favorite wrestlers, a heel jobber named "Iron" Mike Sharpe, hailed from Hamilton, Ontario, and regularly refered to himself as "Canada's Greatest Athlete". Sharpe yelled audibly while wrestling, and was too large and overbearing to realistically play the role of a "walkover" jobber, so I always found his matches entertaining.

Another Hamilton bad man was Dewey Robinson, who shaved a large portion of his head, painted his face green, and became "The Missing Link" in the mid-eighties. An unforgettable character, if you'd ever seen him, but Link didn't last long in the mainstream.

British Columbia offered the four hundred, sixty pound "Canadian Earthquake" John Tenta to the world of pro wrestling. The impact of John's death this year at the too-young age of forty-two made clear his unforgettable persona as a heel "heavy".

Prior to the eighties, Canada boasted names like the legendary Gene Kiniski of Edmonton, Alberta, and Windsor, Ontario's master of the knee-drop, "Killer" Kowalski. More recently, we've seen the hugely-talented Chris Jericho spring out from Winnipeg, Manitoba, while Adam "Edge" Copeland, Jason "Christian (Cage)" Reso, and Andrew "Test" Martin all add to Ontario's roster of notables. TNA's "Team Canada" are also worth considering, particularly (in my opinion) the trained comedic actor "Showtime" Eric Young, also born in Ontario.

There are obviously many names left unmentioned in this short article, but none are forgotten. One thing I can guarantee is this: So long as there are Canadians making their way to the squared circles of the world, I for one will be rooting for the "home team".

By Derek Kered


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