It is no big secret that I work for the IWS (International Wrestling Syndicate). Actually, it is not a secret at all. In fact, given the way I broadcast it, I could not be any less subtle than if I wore a sandwich board advertising the fact that I worked for them.
There have been times since I started working for the IWS when I wonder if I have sold out by moving from being an outside observer to being an inside participant. I comfort myself by remembering two things: first, to sell out, I would have to actually get paid; second, there are very few wrestling fans who would not throw their Mother under a bus to get a chance to work for a wrestling promotion. (There are some who would do it just to work for an e-fed.)
Now, in the same way that the signature match of the old school NWA was War Games, and for Atlantic Grand Prix was a chain match and for the WWF is the Royal Rumble, the signature match of the IWS is Fans Bring the Weapons. Other promotions use the match, but few promotions are capable of inspiring their fans to the fever pitch intensity and creativity which the IWS fans bring to this event. One reason for this is that in the IWS, Fans Bring the Weapons, like War Games, like the Royal Rumble, happens at most once a year. So, when it happens… it is an event.
But the truth is, and this is not something I broadcast, normally Fans Bring the Weapons leaves me cold. I have no interest in it. The wrestlers are so busy hitting each other with weapons that they do not have much opportunity to actually wrestle or tell stories in the ring. I am also always a little concerned for the participants’ well being.
This year is different though. This year, I am actually looking forward to Fans Bring the Weapons. I was trying to figure out why, when it suddenly occurred to me that the new ingredient this year was… hatred.
Any old school wrestling fan can tell you that hatred makes wrestling better. Consider Magnum TA threatening to gouge out Tully Blanchard’s eye with a broken piece of a wooden chair to make Tully quit. Magnum never would have stooped so low if he did not hate Tully Blanchard; the fans would never have accepted it if they did not hate Tully as well. A more modern example would be Mick Foley’s final matches against Triple H or Randy Orton.
Without hatred, ultra-violence is just violent; with hatred violence has meaning, emotion, weight. Violence without hatred is simply shocking; violence with hatred tells a story. This year, Fans Bring the Weapons is happening for a reason…
When We Were Marks Fans Bring the Weapons: A Build-Up of Hatred
1. The Firing
The phone rang just after three a.m. At that hour, there could only be one man on the phone: my boss, PCP Crazy F'N Manny.
"That Son of a Bitch has finally done it. He's fired. You hear me Mike, he's fired."
"What has the Arsenal done this time?"
"The stupid cock sucker went on to czwfans and pissed all over the Smart Marks deal."
In independent wrestling, there are good days and there are bad days. The day before had been one of those good days. We had just finalized a deal that would see Mike Burns of Smart Mark Video drive 800 miles to our shows every month, tape the event, drive back 800 miles, edit the footage, and then release it on VHS within a week and on DVD within two weeks. Our shows would be available for purchase faster than they ever had been from one of the most well respected tape vendors anywhere.
Now, the Arsenal, besides being the Montreal Death Match Champion, is also Derek Arsenault, my (distant) cousin and at the time the IWS video editor. The Arsenal is one of the most talented guys I know, both in the ring and out of it. He is also one of the most self destructive. The Smart Mark Video deal had come together so fast that no one had thought to tell the Arsenal that we were getting someone else to edit the shows. Obviously pissed off, the Arsenal had posted that we would not need to get Mike Burns to edit our footage if he (the Arsenal) had gotten the support that he needed to get the footage done quickly. Which may have been true, at least in part, but there was a time and a place to say it. In public, on a message board, pissing all over the best news that we had had in months was not the time or the place. Especially since, in Mike Burns' place, I might have been tempted, instead of making an 800 mile trip, to simply mutter darkly about how the IWS was filled with ungrateful fucks and stay home.
Which, I hope, explains why instead of arguing with Manny, I simply listened to him rant for a while and then rolled over and went back to sleep. I am not proud of this. But for a brief moment I was equally pissed with the Arsenal, so I did not defend him to Manny when I should have. Not that it would have made a great deal of difference, I never win arguments with Manny anyway, but at least I would have tried to stop it.
A few days later, on Saturday, the day of Freedom to Fight, September 2003, the Arsenal showed up at Unison during the early afternoon. Manny asked the Arsenal for the high-light reel and once Manny had it in his hands, he told the Arsenal to take his bags and clear out. That's my boss, all class.
Suddenly, a man who had sacrificed his body for close to five years; a man who was in a way synonymous with the IWS - was gone. And immediately, everyone realized that a mistake had been made. Everyone, but Manny that is.
2. The Arsenal
The first thing that you notice about the Arsenal is his size. It is unavoidable. The Arsenal is not a big man. The second thing that you notice about the Arsenal are his strikes. You realize that the Arsenal punches and kicks like a man twice his size. The third thing that you notice about the Arsenal are his throws. They are always crisp and strong and tight.
The classic Arsenal moment is his match against El Generico at Un F'N Sanctioned 2003. The two men fight on and over and through the railing of the balcony before the Arsenal gets the upper hand and grabs El Generico to give him a Death Valley Driver off the balcony through five tables. Unnoticed by many in the bedlam? The Death Valley Driver is perfect.
The final thing that you notice, the most important thing that you notice about the Arsenal is his smile. The Arsenal smiles throughout his matches. Whenever he smiles, something bad is about to happen, usually to his opponent. The bigger the smile, the worse things are about to get.
Some fans have asked: Why does the Arsenal smile?
It is very simple, really. The Arsenal smiles because he is enjoying himself. Arsenal likes inflicting pain and he is very good at it. He enjoys hurting people because he is a sick twisted misanthrope who is turned on by the suffering of others, but at the same time it is the one thing in the world that the Arsenal does really well, and like any craftsman, the Arsenal takes pride in a job done well for its’ own sake.
The wrestling ring may be the one place in the world where the Arsenal can do what he does best without being arrested for it. It is definitely the only place in the world where he is encouraged to indulge in his depraved fits of destruction. (Especially, since Saddam was captured.)
So, when Manny fired the Arsenal, he did not just deprive the Arsenal of a way of making a living; he prevented the Arsenal from doing the one thing in the world that the Arsenal enjoys doing. It was possibly the cruellest thing that Manny could have done to the Arsenal.
On March 26th, the Arsenal will have a chance to thank PCP Crazy F’N Manny for his six month forced absence from an IWS ring. I strongly suspect that the Arsenal will be… smiling.
3. The Beer Pitcher
To understand Kurt Lauderdale, you have to understand that he comes from Hemmingford. My favourite cider, Mystique, comes from Hemmingford. Like Kurt, it is simple, earthy and it will knock you on your ass if you are not careful. For most people in Hemmingford the high-light of the month is driving up to the big city and watching their home town hero wrestle, while they drink excessively. They take their wrestling seriously in Hemmingford, serious as cancer. Maybe too seriously.
It is the only thing that explains why someone would throw a beer pitcher at Kevin Steen during the main event of Born to Bleed. I mean, who wastes beer by throwing away a pitcher of it? Kevin Steen, naturally, was a little upset. Security ended up racing around the ring to defuse the situation.
At the time, Kevin Steen was the IWS champion. During that match, Kevin lost his title and he has not been in an IWS ring since. The two things are not necessarily related. After all, given the choice between spending time in Montreal in the winter or flying to California, I would probably choose California too. But the fact that Californians are not known for throwing pitchers of beer at wrestlers probably helped Kevin’s decision.
What is important is that Manny blamed the beer pitcher incident for Kevin choosing to wrestle in California instead of Montreal. Most people would punish the fans involved. Not my boss. That would be too simple. Manny decided to punish all the fans, but especially the ones from Hemmingford by firing their hero: Kurt Lauderdale. And to add insult to injury, Manny decided to fire Kurt in the ring which he did during Season’s Beatings, December 2004.
(The fans reaction to this was to literally drag the Arsenal out of the crowd and throw him in the ring with Manny. IWS fans do not respond well to having things taken away from them.)
4. Career Killer, Kurt Lauderdale
Face of a baby, body of a monster, soul of a serial killer. That is Kurt Lauderdale in a nut shell.
From the very first moment that Kurt Lauderdale stepped into the IWS ring, he has proved himself to be dangerous, violent and without the slightest shred of restraint or remorse. When he made his debut in January of 2003 as Hi-5’s bodyguard, Kurt immediately destroyed Wailing Jimmy Handjob, Zero and Irish Mike Luger, giving Irish Mike Luger a concussion. None of the three have been seen in an IWS ring since and Irish Mike Luger has not wrestled anywhere since that day.
But this year, two things motivated Kurt Lauderdale to elevate his game and become even more deadly. First, during the IWS’ Fifth Anniversary Show “V”, Kurt Lauderdale stood toe to toe with Sid Vicious. While the team of Kurt Lauderdale and Kid Kamikaze did not beat the team of Sid Vicious and Pierre Carl Ouellet, since that day Kurt Lauderdale has walked with the swagger of a monster who knows how big he is. It was as though just being in the ring with Sid Vicious and seeing that he was just as big as one his heroes, that Kurt realized just how big he really was.
Then during the following IWS show, Hardcore Heat, the Evil Ninja slashed open Kurt’s arm with a ninja sword. Suddenly Kurt was motivated to hurt people, but especially Ninjaz. The feud with the Evil Ninja climaxed with Kurt destroying the Evil Ninja during Freedom to Fight in a barbed wire board match.
So, on March 26th, you put a monster, possibly the most dangerous man in Canada, in the ring against Manny, a man that he hates because Manny fired him and against the Evil Ninja, a man that he hates because the Evil Ninja scarred and disfigured him, and you hand Kurt Lauderdale weapons to make him even more dangerous…
What do you think will happen?
Personally, I expect blood, rivers and rivers of blood.
5. The Evil Ninja
Some people would say that the Evil Ninja’s route to Fans Bring the Weapons has been the most circuitous. After all, since the summer, the Evil Ninja has taken orders from, ironically enough, the Arsenal; from Commissioner Joseph FitzMorris; and most recently from PCP Crazy F’N Manny. If you understand Ninjaz though, the truth is that the Evil Ninja’s path to Fans Bring the Weapons has been the most direct.
Ninjaz go where the money is. They are mercenaries with no sense of loyalty. After all, the Evil Ninja betrayed his own brother. If your own kin can be sacrificed for a better pay day, how can anyone else expect loyalty?
So, when the Arsenal was fired, the Evil Ninja did not even pause to consider whether he should follow his “friend” out of the IWS. He simply shrugged and got himself a new boss, a new pay master. When Manny told the Evil Ninja before Breakout that Commissioner FitzMorris was going to be fired and that from now on the Evil Ninja was taking his orders from Manny, the Evil Ninja accepted the change without blinking.
As I say, it is a simple path, if you understand Ninjaz. Of course, I do not expect the Arsenal to be so understanding. The Arsenal’s world is also simple. The Evil Ninja betrayed him; the Evil Ninja will pay for his betrayal. That is all that the Arsenal knows and all that he needs to know. Kurt Lauderdale has his own reasons, his own scars to give him a reason to hurt the Evil Ninja.
What both men are in danger of forgetting however, is that the art of the being a Ninja is a martial art that (amongst other techniques) trains its followers to use many forms of weapons including improvised weapons. The Evil Ninja is never more dangerous than when he has a weapon close at hand. The more weapons that he has available, the more dangerous he is. On March 26th, the Evil Ninja will have enough weapons available to make him one of the most deadly men on the planet.
The other thing to consider? It does not matter how hard you hit a Ninja or what you hit them with, the damn Ninjaz just keep getting back up. They are like Michael Myers after a diet and a wardrobe change. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, the only two life forms guaranteed to survive are cockroaches… and Ninjaz, and the Ninjaz will probably be eating the cockroaches.
6. The Fans
In a way, the fans are like a sixth participant in the match (the refs being the fifth) influencing everything that is to happen, and in this case on the side of Kurt and the Arsenal.
There is a reason that it is called FANS Bring the Weapons. Perhaps the reason that the IWS fans get so excited about this event is because it is the one match where the fans know that they can affect what happens in the match. Wrestling is all about the fans wanting the power to affect what happens. Sometimes, like say in Montreal after WrestleMania X8, the fans get their way with terrifying repercussions.
Add to that the fact that the fans of the IWS are heartless, blood-thirsty connoisseurs of the ultra violence, worse they are also fiendishly creative in the construction of their weapons. Then, factor in that they have a grudge against Manny for having fired Manny and Kurt Lauderdale. This gives them an even bigger incentive to go back to the drawing board and build Weapons of Manny Destruction.
7. PCP Crazy F’N Manny
No villain ever considers himself to be the bad guy. The same is true for Manny. The Arsenal had been warned by Manny on various occasions to keep the back stage, back stage, to not talk about back stage issues on public message boards. When the Arsenal defied Manny and did it again and worse endangered Manny’s livelihood in the process, Manny felt that he had no choice but to fire the Arsenal.
By the same token, when Manny warned Kurt Lauderdale to keep better control of his fans and keep them out of the back stage, he felt that he had no choice but to fire Kurt when Kurt’s fans got out of control.
(Looking at Manny’s obsession at keeping things separate, I have to wonder if he was one of those kids who insisted that his foods could not touch on the plate…)
I do have to wonder though how Manny allowed himself to be maneuvered into the Fans Bring the Weapons match against the Arsenal and Kurt Lauderdale. I mean, at first glance, you have to ask: Is Manny suicidal? Does he want to get killed? And then somewhere back, back in the back of my head, I can hear B’rer Rabbit yelling, “Don’t throw me in the briar patch, B’rer Fox! Anywhere but the briar patch!”
Manny fired the Arsenal to punish him. Manny fired Kurt to punish Kurt and to punish the fans. No doubt, he would like to continue punishing them.
The IWS has had three Fans Bring the Weapons matches in its history, Manny has been in all of them. If you count his drive-by cameo in the second Fans Bring the Weapons match, the only other person to be in all three matches is the Evil Ninja.
So, the two men who appear to have the whole world against them, the underdogs in this match, are also the ones with the most experience in this kind of match? And they are the owner of the company and his hired gun? And Manny started working out again, started going to the gym, started getting in shape the day after he fired the Arsenal? (He got in shape ridiculously fast too, but that is a whole other discussion.) It’s almost like Manny has been planning this from day one… “Don’t throw me in the briar patch! Anywhere but the briar patch!”
Why do I have a sudden vision of the Arsenal in a Rebel Alliance Admiral’s outfit yelling, “It’s a trap!”?!?
Just because Manny is the villain of this piece does not mean that he is stupid. Just because he is the villain, does not mean that he does not have skills and experience. Most importantly, just because Manny is the villain, perhaps especially because he is the villain, does not mean that Manny is not dangerous. Manny too has been building in his heart something that will be unleashed next Saturday. Something not unlike… hatred.