A wrestler presumed to be from Ontario was jailed after a one week tour of India by 16 wrestlers, mainly from Canada, disintegrated in controversy and a near riot as the organizers announced that it was cancelled during the initial press conference.
According to the Times of India, Tiger Jeet Singh’s Universal Wrestling Stars Inc., a Canadian wrestling company, was scheduled to do a “India vs. Rest of the World - War of Legends” tour in Patiala, Ludhiana and Jalandhar. The shows were cancelled after organizers failed to obtain permission from the Indian security agencies and the sports department. In addition, they were asked to pay a 125% tax on the tickets sold.
During the press conference, the wrestlers expressed their anger at coming all the way to India only for the tour to be cancelled. The most angry was the “Russian” Nikita who flipped a table in the general direction of the press, called them “ugly Indian cheats” (which was described as a “racial epithet” by the local press) and challenged any Indian to wrestle him, saying “I am here to kill you.” He was subsequently arrested and his passport was seized.
In reality, the “Russian” is almost certainly Ontario wrestler Alexander the Great aka Jason X, travelling with Ontario promoter, trainer and wrestler Ron Hutchison. Various Ontario wrestling insiders confirm that it was him, based on videos of the press conference and posters of the tour.
Needless to say, the Indian press accepts that Nikita is Russian and some have even speculated that the incident will affect relations with Russia. From a Tribune opinion article by Shastri Ramachandaran (hopefully with tongue firmly wedged in cheek), “It is a relief that the organisers will be around to put up a fight another day, and leave the country to now proceed with a policy debate on what the fracas means for India-Russian relations. Was this simply a tactical blunder or is it a strategic failure with long-term consequences for India, Russia and all those smaller countries in between? Is it in anticipation of this clash that top Russian politicos gave a wide berth to Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony when they were in Moscow recently?”
Also on the tour were high profile wrestling stars Sonjay Dutt, Jerry Lynn and Steve Corino.
Four joshi (women wrestlers) from Quebec and Ontario were also scheduled to appear: Kacey Diamond, the first champion of ALF (Association de Lutte Feminin) the only monthly joshi promotion in Canada; Josianne the Pussycat, a veteran of Carmen Elektra’s Naked Women Wrestling League; respected veteran Misty Haven, wife of Ontario’s Michael Von Payton; and Portia Perez.
Former International Wrestling Syndicate Canadian Champion, Dan Paysan was also booked on the tour, scheduled to feud with Sonjay Dutt as the masked “Mr. India”
All of the wrestlers are staying at the Hotel Park Plaza in Ludhiana, waiting for their previously scheduled return. In other words, despite the tour being cancelled, the wrestlers are in India for the duration of what would have been the tour.
Now as I type this it is almost 4am Indian time (6:28pm EST) on Sunday October 28 and I am in Ludhiana, India. I am sick as a dog with the worst case of stomach cramps and diarrhea that I have ever had and it’s lasted almost three days. But that doesn’t even come close to describing this tour.
I was booked by WWWSS of Canada to tour India for the UWS group and do three events in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and Patiala. All three of these events were expected to have at least 25,000 people at them and maybe upwards of 50,000 in Ludhiana. Both Tiger Jeet Singh and Tiger Ali Singh are huge stars in India and they hadn’t wrestled here since 1994 so the buzz was huge.
When we arrived at the Amristar airport the crew was welcomed with over 1000 fans, a band, and about 40 press people. I know you guys are all yelling “Bullshit” as you read it but go to my My Space (www.MySpace.com/SteveCorino) and check out the photos I put up today. And the funniest thing was it was 5am when we arrived! Me, Sonjay Dutt, Jerry Lynn, Misty Haven, and Nikita (George King aka Jason The Legend) were in total shock at what we were seeing.
It was about a three hour ride from the airport to the hotel. Along the way I saw a lot of poverty, which made me sad. Once we arrived to the hotel we had time for a meeting and it was going to be a rest day. The next morning in the morning paper there is a article that the shows are in trouble because the tax agency pulled their entertainment tax exemption from the shows even though it was reported that over 60,000 tickets have been pre-sold for the shows. Not good.
Finally we get called into a meeting before our press conference and we are told that the shows would be postponed because of the problems. The office had informed us that we would all still get our agreed fees and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
We then went down for the press conference and that is where all hell broke loose. There were literally 250 press people from all over India covering this. I grabbed the microphone and told the press that the foreigners were frustrated and I made a challenge to Tiger Jeet Singh for the next tour. Everything seemed fine and George, doing a Russian gimmick called Nikita, was stressing on how pissed off he was and he saw someone laugh. He got mad, stood up, took his shirt off, and yelled at the reporter. Then he threw the table over and that is where the stampede started. All of these press people were running for the doors. It was crazy. Tiger Sr. gets them back in the room and challenges Nikita. And then Tiger Jr. does to where I stand up and it looks like there is going to be a pull apart. Nope, all hell broke loose again when stampede number two started and Nikita chased the press all the way outside.
All the heels went upstairs and figured that even if we went a little overboard it was still great heat and something they had never seen before. Well I was right about it being something they never seen before but then the media went to the police and filed charges against him! Yes, real criminal charges.
The next thing I know Sonjay calls me and tells me to turn on the TV. It was all over the place. Within an hour it was on every Indian TV channel.
A few hours later security leads me and Nikita through a back elevator, which scared the hell out of me because at that moment I thought someone, was going to kill us. I had been told by the staff that we shouldn’t go outside because we could get robbed or kidnapped. WTF?
We were sent to a special room where me and Nikita sat for about two hours. Why they wanted me there I have no idea. It might be because I was the agent for Nikita so I was responsible for him. After waiting so long the chief of police comes and says that everything is OK and we can go back to the rooms. At this point I think it is the end of story. Nope.
The next morning we are on the front page of 15 newspapers!
So the next day I get a call and informed that Nikita is going to be arrested and charged with VERBAL ASSAULT. Yep, verbal assault. Can you believe this shit? Either could I. So I spent all of Friday in a room actually negotiating with Nikita, lawyers, and the cops how they were going to arrest him. Nikita wanted to call the Canadian embassy (he is a Canadian citizen obviously) but we were running out of time. He had about five minutes to either give himself up or armed guards were going to come in after him. And I saw these guys with their guns. The police tell Nikita that they will help him but he will have to give up his passport during the inquiry. Afterward we felt OK and thought everything would work itself out. Nope.
When I wake up yesterday I grab the morning paper and on page 2 “Russian Wrestler Charged On 10 Counts”. WTF? I thought he was out of trouble but I guess not. I have a bad feeling it is going to get worse before better.
By the way, pooing 30 times a day: NOT COOL.
Now this morning the Indian office calls me and tells me to put on my suit and go with Nikita to a press conference, where he will read a statement apologizing to the press. Once again when we get there they have almost 200 reporters there. It felt like the press conference between Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa from Rocky IV. But Nikita apologized and the press accepted so hopefully all the charges will be dropped now.
18 hours and I am out of here! But will return? I’m sure but I am also packing a gallon of Pepto!
The Quebec stars who are over there are Josianne the Pussycat, Kacey Diamond, Misty Haven and a certain foremer IWS Canadian Champion from Italy wrestling as "Mr. India". I think Portia Perez is also over there and there is at least one more male Quebec wrestler over there. Jerry Lynn, Steve Corino and Sonjay Dutt were all on the tour.
The "Russian" Nikita who was jailed for flipping a table in the general direction of the press is almost certainly not Russian. I was guessing that he's from Ontario. Meltzer thinks that he is from Puerto Rico. Wrestling insiders from Ontario speculate that Nikita may be Ontario's Alexander the Great aka Jason X.
Media bashing by Shastri Ramachandaran
IT is a very thin line that separates a media bash from media bashing. In fact, there is no telling when a scheduled press conference can turn into bashing, as journalists learnt to their great discomfort in Ludhiana on Thursday.
The “occasion” was to announce the surprise “postponement” of the international wrestling events to be held in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala. The organisers knew that the news of the fixtures being put off would go down badly. So, they beat a hasty retreat from the scene and left the media folks to face the wrath of the wrestlers from abroad who had come with great expectations. It appears that the organisers had not got the necessary clearances for staging the events, although there could be other, unstated, reasons.
The wrestlers — 15 of them, including four women — went ballistic when they heard that they had come all the way from their respective countries for an event that was not to be. One of them, Nikita from Russia, more than turned the tables against the media; he literally picked up a table and threw it at the journalists.
Caught unawares, and at the receiving end for a change, the mediapersons ran helter skelter. Forget the story — it would have made for a good reality show on televison — the journalists were desperate to save their skin, and possessions like spectacles, mobiles and cameras.
The only thing worse than tangling with a wrestler is being in the presence of an angry wrestler who has come on a long-haul flight to find that he has been done out of a stage for the promised contest. The predictable outcome is media wrestling in the literal sense of the term.
It may be a different matter that this media wrestling was for real, not the stage-managed clash of heaving bulks of flesh that one sees on television. But it takes a spectator to observe that this was for real; it was not fun and games either for the wrestlers or those they wrestled with.
The media people, many would say, deserve a good bashing. In this instance, clearly it was not deserved. It would be incitement, to suggest that the organisers of Universal Wrestling Stars should have been the punching bags on the occasion; for it is they who brought in the wrestlers and they should have wrestled with the problem of coping with the ire of these imported pehelwans.
Put differently, since he who pays the piper calls the tune, he should be the one to face the music even if the accompaniments to the unexpected action that erupted off-stage were not very musical.
It is a relief that the organisers will be around to put up a fight another day, and leave the country to now proceed with a policy debate on what the fracas means for India-Russian relations. Was this simply a tactical blunder or is it a strategic failure with long-term consequences for India, Russia and all those smaller countries in between? Is it in anticipation of this clash that top Russian politicos gave a wide berth to Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony when they were in Moscow recently?
We will never know the answers unless the media can stand up to the heavyweights in the ring.
(edited by Llakor on 28.10.07 1021)
(edited by Llakor on 29.10.07 1400) "Don't Blame CANADA, Blame Yourselves!"