-Montreal, June Twenty-Fourth, Nineteen Seventy-Seven, that was the day that Mickey Von Hess was supposed to become the NWA Champion of the World. Instead, he ended up bleeding to death in a shower in the backstage area of the Montreal Forum. It was all the result of greed, greed and bad timing and lousy location and a group of people, my people with a fucking obsession over three hundred years of history and resentment that means nothing to anyone else.
Now, see, the thing of it was that there was no way that Le Patriote was going to lose that belt in that building on that day, but you would have to be born in Quebec to understand why.
-Why would one day make any more difference one way or another?
-Well, think of it this way, if you were wrestling as an American Patriot, you would probably object to losing a match on July 4th, especially if you were wrestling in Washington D.C.
That’s sort of what we are talking about. First problem was the building. Montreal Forum. It’s hard to put into words how important that building was. Home of the Montreal Canadians, greatest hockey team in the world, the hockey equivalent of the New York Yankees. To Quebecois like me, it’s part museum, part shrine. And as far as wrestling goes, next to Madison Square Gardens, the Montreal Forum was the place for wrestling. There was something about wrestling in that building that gave you an extra lift to your step. They used to say that the Forum was full of ghosts, that Whipper Billy Watson or Yvon Robert was watching your every hold, every move. And the crowd, that Forum crowd, hottest fucking crowd in the world, and they knew their wrestling as well. So, if an important match was taking place it had to happen in that building.
-I don’t see the problem. Wouldn’t you want the title change to take place in the Montreal Forum?
-Well, that’s the problem. You would. But if you are a Quebecois like me, it’s like losing in your home town to lose in the Forum. It’s a bit of a Catch-22. You want to have the match in your home town, but you don’t want to lose the match in your home town. Of course, guys lose in their home town all the time, so if it was just that it wouldn’t be such an issue. But the date made it an issue.
-Why is June Twenty Fourth a problem? I thought the Canadian equivalent for July Fourth was July First?
-Well it is. Canada Day is July First. But St-Jean Baptiste Day is June Twenty-Fourth and that is the official day for Quebec to celebrate the fact that even though the English conquered Quebec more than three hundred years ago, we still speak French in Quebec and we still operate under French law and we still have the freedom to attend Roman Catholic churches to worship God in French even if most of us haven’t seen the inside of a church since Christmas or Easter.
So, yeah, losing the belt on that day was an issue, and that made the match tricky, but what really made it a problem was Le Patriote’s gimmick, and to explain that I have to explain Quebec history a little bit.
To make a long story short, for years Quebec was governed by a French figure-head who let the rich English alone as long as les Quebecois were allowed to speak French and such. The history books describe Canada as a “vertical mosaic” which is to say that the country is this vast multicoloured wall - each brick in the wall is a different ethnic community which keeps its own traditions and languages, and when they are all piled up it makes a strong wall - a strong country. Quebec was more like a mille-feuille - a flaky French multicoloured pastry held together by a thin (upper) crust of white icing. The white anglos ran things from the back, and a series of French strong men ran things in public, the big one being Maurice Duplessis who ran Quebec for most of the Fifties. Duplessis dies, gets replaced by Johnson who dies in turn and the Union Nationale, Duplessis’ political party falls apart and gets replaced by Jean Lesage and the Liberals.
Lesage leads what is called the Quiet Revolution which puts Quebecois in charge of their own destiny. Now the problem with Revolutions is that some people always believe that you haven’t gone far enough. So, you have one of Lesage’s lieutenants, a guy called Rene Levesque who thinks that Lesage hasn’t gone far enough so he breaks off from the Liberals and forms his own seperatist party called the Parti Quebecois. Now, when Levesque doesn’t win the next election, even though he does really well, a bunch of people start to think that Levesque hasn’t gone far enough and they form a violent group called the FLQ - le Front pour le Liberation du Quebec. They start blowing up mail boxes because the Federal government in Ottawa is responsible for the mail - so they figure that blowing up a bunch of Christmas cards is going to somehow bring them freedom when the whining bastards are some of the freest people on the planet. White Niggers my ass.
Anyway the FLQ goes too far and kidnaps a British politician called Cross and the Quebec Minister of Labour called Pierre LaPorte. Another one of Lesage’s lieutenants, you’ve probably heard of him - Pierre Elliot Trudeau - he’s Prime Minister of the entire fucking country at this point - I mean we Quebecois are so fucking oppressed you know, once of us is in control of the country and is in the process of forcing the rest of the country to speak French as well as English, but we’re being oppressed. Anyway, Trudeau’s no pussy right, two people have been kidnapped, and people have stopped mailing Christmas cards in fear of being blown up and Hallmark sales are down in Quebec so something must be done! So Trudeau calls in the army and gets shit straightened out properly and Cross ends up being freed, although poor Pierre LaPorte ends up dead. Yeah add that to the FLQ’s fucking accomplishments - killing a guy whose only crime is fighting for Quebecois to be paid better for their work - great fucking job there. I mean what the hell was going through their fucking minds - who should we kidnap - one of the Eatons - rich anglos - nope - one of the Bronfmans - even richer anglos - nope - hey let’s kidnap a French politician - sounds like a plan. Idiots.
Anyway this whole fiasco is called the October Crisis and Trudeau emerges smelling like a rose because even if you hate the prick you have to respect him. The Quebec prime minister on the other hand, Bourassa - another of Lesage’s lieutenants by the way, by the end of the Crisis which he mostly spends in his bunker under the Parliament buildings in Quebec City, well by the end of the Crisis, Bourassa is hated and no one respects him either. So, its no big surprise in the next provincial election when Rene Levesque and the PQ kick his ass to the curb and take over.
Right, so there you have the situation. A French seperatist party has just taken over Quebec. In most people’s recent memories there has been mail boxes exploding and politicians being kidnapped and the army roaming the streets. And it’s at this point that a Quebec wrestler called Rene Martin decides to dress up in a blue and white super-hero outfit covered in fleur de lis and call himself “Le Patriote”. Now Rene was a pretty good wrestler, considered amongst the very best in the province, maybe amongst the very best in the country. But he was also the guy who always seemed to get lost in the shuffle - never really had good story lines - always mired in the mid card - tended to be the guy who got that first title shot against a new champion, when you know that the challenger is guaranteed to lose.
But as soon as Rene walked out in that costume, man, the heat was insane. Even better, the guy was getting booed almost as much in Ontario as he was being cheered in Quebec. Now, Rene had worn the costume for barely three months before the bookers in Quebec had to make a decision. The NWA had decided to give them a run with the titles, and they wanted a heel to hold the title. Originally they had planned for “Le Monstre” my trainer to hold the title, but it occurred to the bookers that with Rene they could have it both ways, have a heel champion outside of Quebec, a guy that people would pay good money to see him get his ass kicked, while inside of Quebec they would have a strong hero that people would also pay to see.
So, the NWA brought their champion, Carl Brewer, to face Le Patriote in Montreal in a sixty minute match. And while they sold out the Forum, no one there seriously expected to see Le Patriote win. They expected to see a sixty minute draw or see someone get thrown over the top rope for the disqualification. And the match was built as though it was going to end too soon, as though Le Patriote was going to need that extra minute to get the pin that he just wasn’t going to get, and yet at the same time getting the audience ready to believe that it was possible. Brewer was doing the old brass knuckles gimmick, so when with fifty-nine minutes gone in the match, Brewer’s manager slid him in the knuckles, everyone thought they knew what was about to happen until Le Patriote ducked the knuckles and in one motion kicked Brewer in the face and while Brewer was wobbling out on his feet La Patriote jumped back to his feet and pulled Brewer down in a DDT... on top of the brass knuckles, rolled Brewer over and with barely seconds to spare held down Brewer - down for the pin.
When the referee held up old Rene’s hand in victory, there was an astonishing reaction. It started out small, because people couldn’t really believe that he had won and then it built and built and built and built until the old Forum was filled with this joyous noise as their hero had won the match that he never should have won and a Quebecois was the champion of the world.
And that there was the last straw you see, because Rene could agree to lose. But there was no way that the hero to all Quebecois was going to be pinned on the biggest day of the year for les Quebecois in the holy shrine of les Quebecois. Anywhere else, anywhen else, but not in the Forum on that night. But that was what was agreed to and that was what was going to happen and that is why Mickey Von Hess had to die...
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