After New Year’s, my one big resolution was to write something new every day. We’ll see how long that lasts, but over the course of the first week, I put together four profiles of IWS wrestlers that sort of examines how feds identify themselves, and how as wrestling fans we see different kinds of wrestlers. How a wrestler can represent an individual fed, and how a wrestler can also represent us. Deep thinking behind a bunch of shills, basically. Anyway, I edited all the profiles together and here they are. Enjoy.
When We Were Marks The IWS: A Symphony in Four Movements
While I was transcribing the notes for Blood, Sweat and Beers 2006 recently, it occurred to me that the main event match between the Hardcore Ninjaz and the cobbled together super-team of IWS champion Viking and the number one contender “Canadian Dynamite” Maxime Boyer was nothing less than a fight for the very soul of the International Wrestling Syndicate!
That may very well have been a teensy tiny bit over the top, comic-book level rhetorical exaggeration for effect…
There is an argument to be made that each of the wrestlers in that match represents one facet of the identity of the IWS. One face of the diamond, one piece of the elephant, one movement of the symphony.
We could start with any of the four men in that match, but let’s start with EVIL~! After all, EVIL~ is more fun.
The Evil Ninja: The Unsung Hero
The IWS has a reputation for being a garbage fed that can only do hardcore matches. In fact, in certain circles, we are known as “Le Fed Canadian Tire!”, because of all the hardware that we use. Under normal circumstances, I tend to ignore this criticism, because it is almost always made by people who never actually go to see our shows. There is no point in arguing with people who have already made up their minds, before they have even seen the product.
There is also the fact that my reactions tend to appear to be a little bit hypocritical, since I usually find myself saying simultaneously, “We do more than just hardcore!” “Just hardcore? Doing hardcore wrestling properly is actually quite difficult!” “Besides, what is wrong with hardcore wrestling anyway?”
The truth is, our shows usually do feature hardcore wrestling. It is our foundation after all. But not in every match. Doing hardcore in every single match tends to dilute the effect. You end up having to ratchet up the violence continuously as the show proceeds. By the time you hit the main event topping what comes before requires monumental, almost suicidal, effort. See any “Tournament of Death” as a clear example.
Part of what makes me bristle at the criticism of our fed as a hardcore wrestling fed is the sneering implication that hardcore wrestling takes no skill, or that it is the refuge of those with no talent. This is far from the case. Pacing a hardcore wrestling match is actually quite difficult. You have to know when and how to introduce the plunder, how to tease its use and finally the critical emotional moment for it to be used.
Nothing drives home how tricky hardcore wrestling is than to see it being done badly. I have seen hardcore matches where one of the wrestlers has hit a high impact move, and while their opponent was stunned, took advantage to assemble a table - only to go for a pin fall once the table was put together. A completely ridiculous sequence. First of all, no one in the crowd is going to believe that a pin fall is going to happen with an unbroken table in the ring. More importantly, what kind of an idiot puts a table together before going for the pin? If you hit your opponent hard enough to win the match, then win the damn match. Don’t stop, put together a table and then go for the pin. Why would you give your opponent a chance to recover?
More nonsensically still, the owner of the IWS, PCP Crazy F’N Manny, once fought a match in another fed (who I will not name to protect what tatters remain of their reputation.) The climax of the match was for Manny to be covered by two barbed wire boards. Once the local boy jumped off the top rope and broke the boards, he would cover Manny for the win. Simple, right? WRONG! When it came time for the boards to be brought out the local wunderkind laid one on top of Manny with the barbed wire side face down. Then, to Manny’s surprise, he laid the second board on top of the first with the barbed wire facing UP! In other words, to break the boards, he had to jump into the barbed wire! To this day, Manny has no idea what his opponent was thinking, although as he usually points out laughing, he was hardly in a position to correct his foe’s mistake.
You can be certain that neither of these mistakes are ever likely to occur in a match featuring the Evil Ninja. No one in the IWS has done more matches. No one has done more hardcore matches. No one (with the possible exception of Manny) has been able to bring more heat to a match featuring hardcore plunder.
The Evil Ninja is the Cal Ripken of the IWS. Like Cal, he is always there. Since his debut, he has never missed a match due to injury. He has never missed a show for personal reasons, or to accept a booking elsewhere. Like Cal, his technical ability is often overlooked. George Will, in his baseball book Men at Work, made the argument that Cal Ripken was on the same level defensively as Ozzie Smith in that both men made the same number of defensive plays, only where Ozzie Smith used his athleticism to increase his range to make more plays, Cal used his baseball knowledge to be in the right place to make those plays. Cal did more, in other words, by doing less, and by being smart about it.
In the same way, the Evil Ninja uses an economy of motion to do more to his opponents. Like the best ring generals, he knows where he is in the ring at all times and has the uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time to inflict the maximum damage to his opponent.
If you consider his career, the Evil Ninja also has the uncanny ability to be in matches and feuds that gathered spectacular heat, sometimes to the astonishment even to those cheering for the match, those caught up in the emotion. Whether it is beating the behemoths of Iceberg and FOD; whether it is earning his name Evil Ninja by provoking his brother into their famous “Ninja vs. Ninja - Brother vs. Brother - Flesh vs. Steel - No Ropes Barbed Wire” match, at Freedpm to Fight 2003; whether it is his spontaneous Christmas Tree Death Match against Beef Wellington, at Season’s Beatings 2004, the winter that the Green Phantom was injured and couldn’t do his signature match; whether it is facing Manny in a red-hot Fans Bring the Weapons match, at Un F’N Sanctioned 2003; or backing up Manny in a Fans Bring the Weapons Match, at Un F’N Sanctioned 2005; or, in a match that perhaps defines him best, his match against Dru Onyx for the IWS title, at Scarred For Life 2003, the Evil Ninja has been involved in some of the most passionate feuds and matches in IWS history.
(I’m not arguing that the Evil Ninja’s match against Dru Onyx was his best match ever. It would be hard to, when he suffered a concussion about two - three minutes into the match. It is his reaction to being concussed that to me defines the Evil Ninja. You can almost feel his spine stiffen when it happens. You can almost see in his glazed eyes the decision being made. “I know that I’m just supposed to soften up Onyx for the Arsenal, but FUCK THAT! I’m going to wrestle the son of a bitch until he drops dead of a heart attack.” It takes fifteen minutes of hard work for Onyx to keep the Evil Ninja down as, like a cockroach, he simply refuses to die.)
The Evil Ninja is more than just the backbone of the IWS. He IS the IWS. Like him, we are the unsung hero of Canadian wrestling. We have delivered quality matches for years. We are sometimes underrated because of a fondness for hardcore wrestling. And we have red-hot fans pounding the mat in tribute, either clamoring for victory… or demanding death.
Hardcore Ninja Number One: The Underdog
There is one fact that even the most ardent fan of the Hardcore Ninja Number One is forced to admit… (even, yes I checked, his mother): the Evil Ninja is a much better wrestler than his brother is. Still, at the same time, virtually all of the fans of the Hardcore Ninjaz will say in the same breath and are frequently puzzled to admit this… (even, yes I checked this as well, their mother): everyone likes Hardcore Ninja Number One more than his brother.
It is not, as you might guess, because the Evil Ninja is well, EVIL~! In fact, for most of the bloodthirsty psychopaths who pound the ring at our shows being EVIL~ is a virtue, not a fault. Most fans of the IWS are not the analytical sort in any case. They are not sure why, exactly, they like Hardcore Ninja Number One more than the Evil Ninja. They just do.
This was true, in any case, even before we knew that the Evil Ninja was EVIL~! In the same way that we knew, even before the two brothers faced off in their famous No Ropes Barbed Wire match, who the better wrestler was. We may have rooted for Hardcore Ninja Number One, but, deep in our hearts, we knew that the Evil Ninja was the better wrestler and destined to win.
If there is one wrestling skill or trait where Hardcore Ninja Number One surpasses his brother, it is his ability to sustain and recover from damage. The Green Phantom probably summed it up best one night at Le Skratch in Chomedey, Laval. While watching from the elevated balcony, that the IWS used as a backstage area, as Hardcore Ninja Number One was being pummelled by Iceberg, Phantom shook his head and said, “The only two things guaranteed to survive the end of the world are cockroaches and Ninjaz and I’m not sure about the cockroaches.”
Not, I should point out, that the Evil Ninja is a creampuff. He can take damage with the best of them. Still, given a preference, the Evil Ninja would rather give punishment than to receive it. Hardcore Ninja Number One, on the other hand, seems to relish the bumps that he takes. In fact, as a team, the strategy of the Hardcore Ninjaz sometimes seems to be “Hardcore Ninja Number One takes a beating, but survives, until the Evil Ninja figures out how to win.”
If I had to hazard a guess why we like Hardcore Ninja Number One better than the Evil Ninja, it would be the Rudy Kay factor. Growing up in the Maritimes, wrestling fans were raised on Rene Dupre’s Dad, Emil’s old school wrestling promotion, the Atlantic Grand Prix. In much the same way that Calgary Stampede revolved around the Hart family, Atlantic Grand Prix revolved around the Cormier family, only in typical Maritime modest fashion, you had to be in the know to realize that they were all related, because the four brothers did not use their real names. There was the great technical champion, Leo Burke; the shaggy hardcore brawler, the Beast, whose definition of chain wrestling involved stainless steel chains; and the tag team, Bobby and Rudy Kay.
Bobby Kay was the tall good-looking hero. Rudy was shorter, better looking, and always getting the crap kicked out of him while Bobby watched helplessly. It was much the same dynamic as Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson in the Rock ‘N Roll Express. The smaller Ricky Morton was the one usually isolated and beaten to within an inch of his life before Gibson finally made the save. Fans loved Bobby Kay and Robert Gibson, but they adored Rudy Kay and Ricky Morton.
In fact, I think we resented Bobby Kay and Robert Gibson almost more than we admired them. They tended to wait until the absolute last minute to save their partners. Somewhat like the smug British officer in A Bridge Too Far saying with a smirk, “We're the cavalry. It would be bad form to arrive in advance of schedule. In the nick of time would do nicely.”
For most of us, we are not the cavalry; we are not the tall, good-looking hero bulging with muscles…
(Just a second, I have my boss, IWS Owner, PCP Crazy F’N Manny, on the line. “HEY! Speak for yourself Llakor! I AM tall, good-looking and bulging with muscles!” That’s my boss. 50% ass-hole, 50% idiot, 100% ego… plus he can’t add. Didn’t the Greeks invent mathematics? For Manny’s sake allow me to repeat myself… FOR MOST OF US… “So, you’re not talking about me?” ***SIGH*** No, Manny. “Oh. Carry on then. I’m enjoying this.”)
For most of us, we are not the cavalry; we are not the tall, good-looking hero bulging with muscles. We are the guy beaten down by life, by work, by family. Our standards of heroism are more realistic. It is like Rocky says in Rocky Balboa, “But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward.”
We identify with Rudy Kay, with Ricky Morton, with Hardcore Ninja Number One, because they get beat down, but they keep getting back up. We know that in our own lives we will get beaten down, and we can only hope that like these underdogs, that we will have the courage to keep getting back up. We identify with Rudy Kay, with Ricky Morton, with Hardcore Ninja Number One, because we ARE Rudy Kay and Ricky Morton and Hardcore Ninja Number One.
But it’s not just his ability to take punishment, this Rudy Kay factor, that endears Hardcore Ninja Number One to his fans. It is his creative ways of creating dangerous environments in the ring that really make him stand out.
Sometimes, this creativity can cause problems for the Hardcore Ninjaz. It was at Hardcore Ninja Number One’s suggestion that the Hardcore Ninjaz faced Iceberg and in a Flaming Tables match, at Scarred For Life 2002 (and lost the titles); faced Hi-5 in a Barbed Wire Ladder match, at Payback’s A Bitch 2002 (and lost the titles); faced Hi-5 and the team of Dru Onyx and the Green Phantom in a Christmas Tree Death match, at Season’s Beatings 2006 (and lost the titles.) Starting to see a trend here?
As long as we are talking about creativity gone berserk… Who in the blue hell thinks that it would be a good idea to combine barbed wire and ladders? I’m not saying that Hardcore Ninja Number One invented the idea. But if he didn’t, it was an idea that he probably shouldn’t have borrowed.
It is also thanks to Hardcore Ninja Number One’s berserk creativity that I found myself arguing with the Hardcore Ninjaz' official translator, the Motivator of Madness, just hours before the start of Un F’N Sanctioned 2006, when he called me to inform me that the Ninjaz needed 50, 000 thumbtacks, “Moty? Are you insane? The show is in three hours! You couldn’t have told me last week when I started raiding every dollar store in a three-mile radius for goggles and facemasks to give to the fans before the Fans Bring the Weapons Match? Hey, aren’t the Ninjaz going on first? You have a table? You have lighter fluid? You have a fire-starter? Fine, You don’t need thumbtacks. Light the damn table on fire and be done with it. It’s too damn late to pick up 50, 000 thumbtacks. Besides, I am not going to explain to PCO at the end of the night why he is picking thumbtacks out of his ass. It’s just not going to happen.”
On the other hand…
It was Hardcore Ninja Number One who came up with the idea of facing Iceberg and FOD in a Japanese Death match in the title rematch, at Un F’N Sanctioned 2002, where they regained their titles. Earlier in 2002, it was Hardcore Ninja Number One who spotted the scaffold at Tournament of the Icons 2002 and pointed out to his brother that if they could get Iceberg on a table in the ring, then someone could jump off the scaffold, splat Iceberg and win the match, and defend their titles.
(The standard response to these suggestions by the Evil Ninja as I understand the translation? “You do realize that you’re crazy? You’re right, but you’re still crazy.” For the record, it was, in fact, the Evil Ninja who lept off the scaffold. I understand that he drew the short straw. It was still Hardcore Ninja Number One’s idea.)
It was Hardcore Ninja Number one who came up with a way of calling out 2.0 for their match at Un F'N Sanctioned 2006, spraying lighter fluid on a table in a pattern to spell "2.0" and then lighting the table to the delight of the crowd.
Most importantly, it was also Hardcore Ninja Number One who spotted that Jagged was afraid of fire and came up with the strategy that won them back the IWS tag team titles for the third time as a team at Un F'N Sanctioned 2006. The way the Motivator of Madness translated the strategy session for me later went like this, “We know that Jagged is terrified of fire, so we set off a flaming table. If he goes through the flaming table, we win the match. If he reverses me, and I go through the table instead, he will be so relieved that he didn’t get burned that he will be easy pickings for you to ambush and pin.”
That is how he planned it and that is how it worked out.
(For the record, Jagged didn’t get burned and was so relieved that he was easy pickings for the Evil Ninja to… well you know the rest.)
Hardcore Ninja Number One is more than just the underdog that the fans love because he dies for us in exciting gruesome ways. He IS the IWS. Like him, we are a cockroach who refuses to die no matter how big the hammer. We feature bumps that you will see nowhere else in Canada. We unleash a berserk creativity that produces matches that no one else in Canada even dreams of putting on.
The Hardcore Ninjaz: Masked, Silent & Deadly
Before I move on to Viking and “Canadian Dynamite” Maxime Boyer, I feel the need to make a few remarks about the Hardcore Ninjaz as a team, because they violate all of the accepted rules, all of the conventional wisdom of what works in North American wrestling.
Which is proof, if you like, that at the end of the day, no one knows nothing when it comes to wrestling. One of the reasons that even the WWE has angles and gimmicks that never take off, that end up being introduced, and disappearing just as quickly, is that no one can predict what will work, and what will flop. Some of us are just better guessers than others.
Good example: there are TWO El Generico’s. One has wrestled in ROH, PWG, CZW, JAPW, Chikara (I think), IWS (natch), as well as overseas in Britain and Germany. Not to mention being in the same ring with Mick Foley. The OTHER El Generico… Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but he sucks.
You try stuff. You throw it up against the wall and you wait to see if it sticks. If it works, if the crowd reacts, you run with it. Sometimes, you do something, almost by accident, and the crowd reacts so well, that a throw off idea ends up being a permanent change. Sometimes, you try something that everyone in the back is convinced is genius, and it flops like a lead balloon, and the next morning every ring-side booker on the internet is busy trying to figure out what drugs you were on when you came up with that bone-headed idea.
The accepted wisdom is that in North America, masks don’t work. That’s why Kane eventually lost his. That’s why WCW had Rey Misterio Jr. drop his. (Although to the WWE’s credit they did put the mask back on Rey, proving also that they understand nothing about the wrestling mask’s traditions.) The accepted wisdom is that in North America, you need to be good on the mike to get over, or you need someone else who is good on the mike to speak for you and get you over with the crowd.
Which is why a masked team who don’t talk, the Hardcore Ninjaz, are amongst the most popular wrestlers that the IWS have ever had. Makes total sense.
In fact, the Hardcore Ninjaz have been managed, at times, by mouthpieces, or linked with wrestlers who will speak for them: Iron Mike Patterson, James FitzMorris, PCP Crazy F’N Manny, and the Arsenal as examples. But the man who has managed their careers the most, the man, well skeleton, most associated with them is the Motivator of Madness… who wears a mask, and at least, in public, NEVER TALKS!
And it’s not like the Hardcore Ninjaz are the exception that proves the rule. I sometimes think that the IWS has more masks than the rest of the feds in Canada combined: the Green Phantom, El Generico, the Motivator of Madness, Player Uno, Kenny the Bastard, Shinjiro, Latino Mysterio and Takao, who wore face paint before wearing a half-mask. (Iceberg and FOD both also wore face-paint. When NovaCain of NCW wrestled in the IWS as the “Insurance Policy” he did so in a mask.)
Neither Kenny the Bastard nor Player Uno talk. Takao rarely spoke, until the Flying Hurricanes won the tag team titles. Shinjiro didn’t talk. El Generico has his own weird private language. He doesn’t wear a mask, but Stupefied apparently doesn’t talk. I know the never wore a mask Chris Bishop can speak, but you would never be able to prove it by his involvement in the IWS. And yet, Bishop got himself so over with the usually xenophobic Quebec fans, without saying a word, that when he won the Extreme Dream 2005 tournament to crown the first IWS Canadian champion, not one IWS fan objected to someone from Ontario winning.
(Well technically, Kid Kamikaze did object, but everyone thought that he was being a sore loser, which he was.)
The Hardcore Ninjaz are not just a team, masked, silent and deadly. They are the IWS. Like them, we wear masks because masks are cool. And we let our actions speak louder than our words.
Chicks dig masks.
Viking: The Overnight Success
Last year, during Praise the Violence 2006, Viking finished off his long-running feud with the SLI-USA, disposing of their leader, Fred la Merveille. The question was: What would Viking do next? For the man who was just emerging from years of being in the shadow of other wrestlers, it was an important question. No longer was Viking just “Damian’s fat side-kick” or “Fred la Merveille’s fat side-kick”. The fans didn’t have long to wait for the answer. At the end of the show, Viking came out to confront IWS champion EXesS, and to announce that he was coming after EXesS’ title.
On paper, it seemed like the perfect feud: EXesS’ fit, good-looking baby-oil-wearing prissy metrosexual vs. Viking’s fat, scarred, beer-swilling slob; EXesS’ technical submission wrestling vs. Viking’s violent hardcore brawling. Similar to the feud between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin that helped launch Austin to the stratosphere. On paper, it seemed like the perfect feud. The question, of course, was: How would the fans react?
It must be one of the most nerve-wracking moments in the career of a wrestler: that moment when you throw your hat into the ring and announce that you are taking a step up and going for the title. If the crowd yawns, you may not even get your promised title shot or, at best, you end up being a notch on the champion’s belt, one and done. If the crowd roars, you have a shot at climbing the ladder.
At Praise the Violence 2006, Viking made his challenge for the IWS title…
… And the crowd roared.
A lot of wrestlers pay lip service to the notion that they owe their success, their title to the support of the fans. When Viking says it, he really means it. As the feud between Viking and EXesS rumbled on through the spring and summer, it seemed that EXesS was always coming up with new ways of hanging on to his belt. Finally, in July, at Break-Out 2006, IWS owner PCP Crazy F’N Manny made himself referee, when the original referee was knocked out. At the first opportunity, Manny disqualified Viking, and awarded the match to EXesS. It was only the imminent threat of a riot by the incensed IWS fans (and their ring-leader Beef Wellington) that forced Manny to restart the match, leading to Viking’s title win.
(Although, ironically, to this day Viking has never even worn the IWS belt. EXesS claimed that he lost the belt and Manny, in a fit of pique, has refused to spend a dime replacing the belt… at least while Viking is still champion.)
… And the crowd roared.
Just like that, Viking became an overnight success.
Of course, just like any overnight success, Viking’s triumph was founded on years of hard work.
One year before his overnight success, Viking first flirted with breaking out from his status as side-kick in an incredible, and incredibly violent, match with his former partner Damian, during Breakout 2005. The IWS fans did not know what to think. They expected great matches out of Damian. Was the match great because Damian was in it? How much was Viking contributing to its greatness? The one thing that was certain, the fans wanted to see more.
Unfortunately, Viking was just a stepping stone for Damian’s real feud with Fred la Merveille. Then fans got reports of a match during CZW’s Trios Tournament 2005 featuring Damian, Viking and Dan Paysan. Damian won, Dan Paysan got good reviews, but it was Viking that really made an impact, as CZW fans on the spot invented the “Viking scale” to measure the intensity and violence of his slaps.
Philadelphia gave one additional, final chance of recapturing the magic of the original match, as Viking and Damian were scheduled for a rematch, during the IWS’ Freedom to Fight 2005 show at the historic Viking Hall, the ECW Arena. Sadly, both men went into the match with nagging injuries, and the match met neither their standards, nor that of their fans. Any further rematches were derailed by those injuries, and Damian’s feud with Kevin Steen.
Viking turned from one former partner, Damian, who had betrayed him, and found himself betrayed again, this time by Fred la Merveille. Viking changed his look, draping himself in the Quebec flag; changed his music, adopting as his theme song a Quebecois novelty song called “L’Age de la Biere” which featured belching rather than a chorus; began drenching himself in pitchers of beer during his matches, like an alcoholic Popeye; and began to tear his way through Fred’s new stable, the SLI-USA. Beginning with the cardboard cutout of George W. Bush and working his way through Jagger W. Bush, Shayne Hawke and Maxime Boyer, before finally reaching Fred la Merveille. As the competition got more intense, so did Viking, and more violent, and the matches got dirtier as well. As Viking became more intense, and more violent; as the matches became dirtier, the crowd got louder and louder, until Viking finished off Fred and challenged EXesS for the title.
… And the crowd roared.
The foundation of Viking’s overnight success though, comes years before even Damian turning on Viking, when Damian and Viking were still known as the Angry Aryans. They were caught up in a repulsive angle involving the team of salt and pepper monsters: Iceberg and FOD, and their multi-racial family. The climax of the feud was a Flaming Tables match, during Freedom to Fight 2003. FOD was so incensed over comments made by Damian about his wife, that when it came time for him to pour the lighting fluid on the table, the bottle split open in his hands and the fluid spilt everywhere.
I have never been sure if FOD’s next move was an incredible blunder, or a malicious deliberate escalation. FOD grabbed a second bottle of lighter fluid and emptied it on the table. When the table went up, the heat was so intense that I could feel my eyebrows withering. When Viking went through the table, he came back up in a ball of fire, as the IWS crowd, sadistic psychopaths to the last, chanted, “Burn! NAZI! Burn!”
And then something extraordinary happened. Not the visit to the hospital, that was to be expected. Not the burns on Viking’s arms that have left scars to this day, that was to be expected as well. What wasn’t expected was Viking, against his Doctor’s wishes, checking himself out of the hospital that very night, so that he could return to Le Skratch, and watch the main event, the “Brother vs. Brother, Ninja vs. Ninja, Flesh vs. Steel, No Ropes Barbed Wire” match.
When you saw Viking happy, but in pain, cheering for the Evil Ninja, you knew that this was a man who loved wrestling, a man who would climb any obstacle, overcome any barrier, to wrestle at the highest level.
It just took the rest of us a while to catch up.
Viking is more than just an Overnight Success. He IS the IWS. Like him, we love wrestling to death. We bear our scars proudly. And we have worked for years, getting ready to be the next Overnight Success.
Maxime Boyer: The Throwback
The first thing that you notice about Maxime Boyer: he looks like a wrestler. The second thing that you notice about him: he moves like a wrestler. The third thing that you notice: he wrestles like a wrestler. He wrestles like he is a throwback to the days when the ring was filled with shooters and hookers, men who knew their profession and were proud that they could win a match with their bare hands alone, augmented by an almost surgical understanding of how to inflict pain by popping joints, twisting muscles and tearing cartilage.
The sound that you hear in the background is the buzz building for Maxime Boyer. There is a reason for it. The kid is for real. Wrestling promoters see him wrestle just once, just briefly, and they want to see him wrestle in their rings. It is not so much that Max does anything complicated in the ring, it is more that he understands something very profound about the business: when you do the simplest things with utter conviction, everything that you do looks better as a result.
Naturally, for someone who calls himself “Canadian Dynamite”, Maxime Boyer patterns himself after the light heavyweights that he so closely resembles: Chris Benoit and the Dynamite Kid, Tom Billington. Like any Canadian wrestler who works a technical style, a comparison must also automatically be made to Bret Hart as well. To Max’ credit, while he is influenced by all three men, and acknowledges that influence, he is no slavish imitator either.
It is one of the paradoxes of the IWS that we have a reputation as a hardcore wrestling fed, and yet, many of the wrestlers most closely associated with the fed have a strong technical background.
Or maybe, it is not such a paradox.
Mick Foley rather famously observed that a good wrestling show is like a three-ring circus. If you don’t like the dancing bears, you can follow the strong men; if the acrobats do nothing for you, you can wait for the clowns.
In the case of the IWS, it must be admitted that as a federation, our first instinct, and that of our fans, is to go for the props: the chairs, the tables, the ladders, the barbed wire, the light tubes, the fire, the thumb tacks, and so on, and so forth.
But we also admire those who can perform without props; those wrestlers who do not need weapons, who disdain them because they have transformed their own bodies into weapons.
Which is why, over the years, the IWS has featured wrestlers like the Evil Ninja, the Arsenal, TNT, Kid Kamikaze, Beef Wellington, EXesS, Kevin Steen and, most recently, Max Boyer.
(Just to answer quickly the objections that are sure to arise, yes, the Evil Ninja, the Arsenal and Beef Wellington are all fine technical wrestlers… when they choose to be. The Arsenal’s most famous stunt is giving El Generico a Death Valley Driver off a balcony through five tables. He is most proud of that move, not because it was off a balcony; not because it was through five tables; not because it won him the match, and allowed him to defend the IWS title, but because the move was technically perfect, crisp and flawless. If you like, think of the Arsenal and the Evil Ninja and Beef Wellington as technical wrestlers who have been corrupted by hardcore wrestling, whose first instinct is to reach for a weapon - or in Beef's case a banana peel - when they could just as easily win without it.)
It is perhaps as a break from the hardcore wrestling that the IWS and its fans turn to technical wrestling. It acts, perhaps, as an amuse-bouche that cleans out our palates between bouts of hardcore wrestling.
There could also be a bit of defensive justification involved. See, we may be saying, we know how to appreciate technical wrestling, the hardcore wrestling is a choice that we make to perform and to enjoy, it isn’t something forced on us because of a lack of talent.
Both could be true in equal measure.
On the other hand, the oddest thing about the IWS’ attraction to technical wrestlers both by the fed and its fans, is that we both truly begin to appreciate a wrestler when he proves that he can get a little dirty.
Kid Kamikaze and Beef Wellington were both despised by the fans and considered true heels for their Rougeau background, until they won the tag titles off the Hardcore Ninjaz in a barbed wire ladder match, during Payback’s A Bitch 2002. After that, the IWS fans booed them, but more to humour Hi-5, who kept insisting that they were heels, then because of any real dislike for the team. At the first opportunity to cheer for Hi-5, which came when Fred la Merveille formed his Syndicat de Lutte Internet during Body Count 2003, the IWS fans began cheering for Hi-5 so fast that the whiplash reaction made Beef Wellington’s head spin.
When EXesS first joined the IWS as Mathy 69, during Season’s Beatings 2002, his first match was against the Arsenal. EXesS immediately demonstrated that while he was a great technical wrestler, he was also a suicidal maniac, prepared to take enormous risks. The IWS fans fell in love at first sight.
Kevin Steen was initially greeted with a certain amount of skepticism from IWS fans. His first match against EXesS at Un F’N Sanctioned 2003 certainly demonstrated his technical prowess, but the verdict was still out, until Steen, incensed at losing to EXesS, threw his opponent into the ropes, and when EXesS got tangled up in a hangman, destroyed him with a vicious chair shot. Never have IWS fans been so conflicted. On one hand, Steen destroyed EXesS with a brutal chair shot, and the fans loved EXesS. On the other hand, they loved the chair shot even more. In much the same way, IWS fans still talk in hushed, admiring tones of the forearm shot that Kevin Steen delivered to D-Vyn, during Scarred For Life 2004.
When Maxime Boyer first debuted in the IWS in a six man tag match at Extreme Dream I 2005, he looked like a man amongst boys grouped with the other rookies of that 2005 class. But the moment that the IWS fans sat up and took notice of Max Boyer; the moment that they fell in love with Max Boyer, happened during the now famous hardcore brawl between Max Boyer and Viking, during Season’s Beatings 2005. It was bloody; it was violent; it was dirty, and we loved every second of it. By the end of that match, we remembered why we loved Viking, and we had a new found respect for Maxime Boyer. We already knew that he was a fine technical wrestler, you only have to watch Max for a few seconds to see that, but that night we discovered that he could get dirty; he could get violent; he could get hardcore, and we fell in love, because we could see that deep down, Max loved the hardcore just as much as we do.
Maxime Boyer is more than just a great technical wrestler. He IS the IWS. Like him, we are not afraid to get a little dirty to win, and we love hardcore wrestling. We are throwbacks with a taste for blood.
So, at the end of the day, what is the IWS? Are we the Unsung Hero? Are we the Underdog? Are we the Overnight Success? Are we the Throwback? We are all four.
“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes).” -Walt Whitman (1819–1892), U.S. poet. Song of Myself, sct. 51, Leaves of Grass (1855)
Originally posted by Sec19Row53While I can't imagine that I'll ever get a chance to see the IWS, I never fail to enjoy these articles.
SmartMarkVideo.com is your friend. (Or heck e-mail me or PM me I can get you a "W" discount or something.)
Feedback is always appreciated, especially since (as some people know) I wasn't doing these for a while, while I struggled with my doctors to find the right medication to deal with my diabetes. It's only been the last month that I have had the creative spark (or frankly the energy) to do one of these.
I thought it was a really good show. In a perverse way, I find that frustrating -- I was sort of thinking I could just write TNA off and clear some extra time on my schedule. But this show was a lot of fun.