There is an argument to be made that Quebec is the great undiscovered territory of indy wrestling. On any given Saturday night in Quebec there can be as many as ten different independent wrestling promotions running cards, maybe more. In Montreal alone, there have been nights where five different promotions have run cards. With the IWS, NCW, FLQ, ICW, NEW, MWF, CWA, CWE, CCW, CPW, GEW, FCL, SAW, WTA, and more Quebec is a veritable alphabet soup of competing promotions.
The number of promotions alone does not tell the full story. It is the wrestlers that make Quebec a great undiscovered reservoir of talent. Wrestlers like EXcesS69, Sexxxy Eddy, TNT, El Generico, Beef Wellington, Dan Paysan, Manuel Vegas, Fred le Merveille, Shane Simmons, The Arsenal, Franky the Mobster, and Stevie McFly. Tag Teams like the Hardcore Ninjaz, the Flying Hurricanes, Xtreme Revolution, le Syndicat de Lutte Internet, the New Breed, 2.0 and the Drunken Scotsmen. Each and every one of those men could make an impact on virtually any independent promotion in North America. And while the most talented wrestlers in Quebec tend to be the athletic cruisers, a number of talented heavyweights ply their trade in Quebec as well, like Dru Onyx, the Green Phantom, Chase Ironside, Jayson Reaper, Nova Cain, Crush and Sheik Tank Ali.
Quebec is an ignored territory partly because of language. Most feds operate in French, and many wrestlers speak only French or speak English with an obvious accent. Quebec is also not well known because not enough feds tape their shows. In Quebec, only the IWS and NCW make a concerted effort to tape and release their shows. A few other feds do it, or have threatened to do it, but never in a consistent or organized way.
Quebec wrestlers do not travel much to wrestle outside of the province. It is a vicious circle. Quebec wrestlers do not travel much because they are not well known, because many do not speak English fluently and because many do not have tapes of their body of work to show promoters from outside the province. And promoters in turn do not invite Quebec wrestlers to their promotions because they are not well known, do not speak the language and do not have tapes. Wrestling fans in the United States are more likely to see a wrestler imported from Japan than they are to see a wrestler from Quebec.
In addition, Quebec feds do not invite much outside talent to come in to wrestle. Part of that is because Quebec is very insular. The wrestlers that enough Quebec fans know, that would draw a crowd, are too expensive to import. Guys like Jimmy Rave, Colt Cabana, Homicide, American Dragon, and Lo-Ki, all considered indy superstars, are all simply unknown in Quebec. Again, it is a vicious circle. The guys that promoters can afford are not well enough known to draw a crowd big enough to justify bringing them in. The guys that could draw are too expensive for promoters to bring in and make a profit. So, the promoters when they do bring in someone tend to bring in someone who has enough nostalgia value to draw a crowd, but desperate enough to do it cheap. Which is why CPW had an arena show this year headlined by Abdullah the Butcher. That is not intended to be an attack on Abdullah. The man is a legend around the world, not just in Quebec where he is regarded with special fondness. But there is no way in hell that Abdullah, quite literally a senior citizen, should be in the main event of any wrestling show in 2003.
In other words, Quebec is an isolated and insular territory, where great wrestling can take place in front of, by indy standards, large and appreciative crowds. We are a small isolated pond in other words and within that small pond there is no bigger fish than Jacques Rougeau Jr. the former WWF Inter-Continental Champion and former three time WWF tag team champion, perhaps the most famous and successful Quebec wrestler of his generation.
For years, Jacques Rougeau Jr. has been just as isolated from Quebec indy wrestling as Quebec indy wrestling is from the rest of North America. He has a school where he trains wrestlers, asking for and getting $2000 a year per student. He also has a promotion: Lutte International 2000 or Lutte Familiale. But, until this year, for all the real impact that his school and promotion had on Quebec indy promotions, they might as well be located on another planet.
(One of the great ironies of Quebec wrestling is that despite charging by far the highest amount to train of any wrestling trainer in Quebec, Jacques Rougeau Jr. is nowhere near the best trainer in the province. Marc le Grizzly is the man who has either trained or polished virtually every good wrestler in Quebec, including finishing the training of some who were trained by Jacques Rougeau.)
Every time that Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s Lutte Familiale runs a show it is automatically the most successful show in the province. He is one of the few men in Quebec who can draw 10, 000 fans to an arena. But, until this year, these shows have been completely irrelevant to the Quebec indy wrestling scene. First of all, he only ran between two to four shows a year. More importantly, when he ran shows, he filled them with nostalgia acts from the glory days of the WWF Eighties along with his students.
Jacques’ shows are always a success, but they are a success in a vacuum. Since none of Jacques’ students wrestle for anyone other than him, they derive no lasting benefit from his shows. Which is compounded and worsened by the fact that Jacques never builds on the momentum of his shows. Drawing 10, 000 people to an indy show is impressive. But if you do it in December and do not have another show until June, how can you build any momentum? And how can your students really improve if they are only wrestling two or three times a year?
Jacques Rougeau Jr., in other words, was the King Log of Quebec Indy Wrestling. Everyone acknowledged that Jacques was the king, but he never actually did anything. The biggest impact that he ever had on the wrestling scene was when one of his students finally decided to leave the school. For example, when Beef Wellington and Kid Kamikaze decided to leave Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s Lutte Familiale, they had an immediate impact on the Quebec wrestling scene, thrilling crowds of the IWS, MWF, CCW and FLQ amongst others. It was always a one way street though. Once you left Jacques Rougeau, you couldn’t come back.
Beef Wellington: “After that [Molson Centre] show, we said goodbye to Jacques... we went to see him on a Saturday morning and told him that we wanted to wrestle elsewhere. He thanked us for telling him in advance unlike some others had done, then proceeded to put us over in front of all his students.”
The event that changed everything happened earlier in the summer when Pierre Carl Ouellet made the decision that the only way that he could make it back to the big time was to wrestle more. A decision that lead to a dark match with the WWE in Montreal and a break with Jacques Rougeau Jr. No one other than those two men knows exactly what took place or what caused the split. The only thing that we can tell is that as a poster at http://www.lewebzine.net cracked “Ben, de façon plus claire... PCO ne luttait pas vraiment avec Rougeau... Donc, PCO lutte maintenant!” or to roughly translate “Now that Pierre Carl Ouellet is no longer wrestling for Jacques Rougeau Jr., he actually wrestles.”
And then an astonishing thing happened. After the break with his long time wrestling partner, Jacques Rougeau Jr. actually became relevant to Quebec wrestling. In one of the many ironies that fill Quebec wrestling, after fighting with Pierre Carl Ouellet because PCO wanted to wrestle outside of Lutte Familiale, Jacques Rougeau Jr. allowed all of his students to wrestle for whoever they wanted. Suddenly, Quebec indy wrestling was filled with the biggest influx in trained talent that they had seen in years. Sheik Tank Ali in the FLQ and CWA, Crush in the CWA, Eric Mastrocola in the IWS and the CWA, and best of all, Kevin Steen in the IWS, CWA, MWF and CPW.
No one benefitted more than the wrestling fans who began to see dream matches that they never thought in their wildest dreams that they would see: Kevin Steen vs. EXcesS69, PCO and Beef Wellington vs. Kid Kamikaze and Kurt Lauderdale, PCO vs. Kevin Steen. And these matches so long dreamed of, more than measured up to expectations with many being declared on the spot as “Match of the Year” only to lose that label as soon as the next dream match happened. In fact, one of those dream matches, a three way dance between PCO, Kevin Steen and El Generico at IWS Blood Sweat & Beers was so good that the fans of the IWS swarmed the ring after the match to pound on the mat and chant “Match of the Year!” It is rumoured that a fan cam of that match given to Don Callis helped PCO land his job with TNA/NWA, and that the tape not only helped PCO get hired it also determined the direction that his character would take in NWA/TNA.
But Jacques Rougeau Jr. did more than just release his students to wrestle where they wished. He also announced that for his annual Christmas Family Wrestling Gala instead of featuring stars of Jacques glory days with the WWF, it would feature the best indy wrestlers in the province selected from across most if not all of the province’s feds. Suddenly, Jacques annual gala, this year to be called Lutte-Mania I, seemed important.
Jacques Rougeau Jr. also announced that he had arranged for a dark match tryout with the WWE in February for two of his most promising students: Eric Mastrocola and Kevin Steen. (Again it was rumoured that the three way dance featuring PCO, Steen and El Generico had an impact. Rougeau’s recommendation was obviously all important, but supposedly the tape played for the WWE to show off Kevin Steen was of that match.)
Truly for fans of independent wrestling in Quebec, it seemed like the dawn of a new Golden Age of wrestling. Crowds were up, the wrestling was better, promoters were cooperating with one another, down was up, black was white. This truly was an “annus mirabilis.” The inactive King of Quebec wrestling was awake. King Log was dead. Long Live an active King Rougeau.
Then of course, the other shoe dropped...
Jacques Rougeau Jr. and Paul Leduc of the FLQ announced a new cooperative agreement. FLQ agreed to follow Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s guidelines for proper family wrestling: No Tables, No Ladders, No Chairs, No Brawling on the Outside and most importantly, No Swearing. In return, Jacques Rougeau Jr. gave the FLQ exclusive access to his students. From now on, Crush, Sheik Tank Ali, Eric Mastrocola and Kevin Steen and all the others would wrestle only for the FLQ.
The first consequence of this was that a number of Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s students cancelled bookings that they had already committed to. Jacques Rougeau Jr., the man who had praised Beef Wellington and Kid Kamikaze to his students for keeping their commitment to him before leaving, was now actively encouraging his students to abandon their professional obligations.
The fed most damaged was the relatively new wrestling promotion CWA who had gambled big by importing Don Callis to be the foil for Pierre Carl Ouellet. As part of that story line, Pierre Carl Ouellet agreed to wrestle Sheik Tank Ali in a match where PCO had to beat him in five minutes or less. If PCO won, he would get the chance to put his hands on Don Callis. If he did not pin Sheik Tank Ali in five minutes however, PCO would have to retire from active wrestling in Quebec. Backing out of any match is bad, but in this particular case, by backing out of a heavily publicized main event scheduled for next week Tank has placed the organizers of the CWA in a very awkward position.
Amongst Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s other students, Eric Mastrocola, while not actively breaking commitments, left promoters uncertain whether they could count on him or not, leading some promoters to cancel his appearances rather than take the risk of him not showing.
Kevin Steen is the man with the hardest dilemma of all. On one hand, by refusing ever to consider cancelling his bookings, Kevin Steen built on his already shining reputation in this province for professionalism. On the other hand, at 19 years old, the most promising technical wrestler this province has ever seen must decide between continuing to thrill crowds and fill halls from Quebec City to Montreal to Ottawa, but in so doing give up a chance of a dark match for the WWE.
The oddest thing about all of this, other than Jacques Rougeau Jr. developing guidelines for wrestling that make Bill Watts look like John Zandig, is that the exclusivity helps no one and hurts everyone. The FLQ is a French wrestling federation owned by Paul Leduc that runs weekly, exclusively on Fridays and targets families. So Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s guidelines were a natural fit and the addition of Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s students were certainly welcomed by the FLQ. On the other hand, many Quebec wrestling observers question whether the FLQ’s roster of wrestling stunt men are up to the challenge of confining the action within the ropes.
Oddly, the FLQ does not compete with the other wrestling federations in Quebec in any meaningful way. They are the only wrestling fed to routinely run shows on Fridays. Most wrestling feds in the province run on Saturdays. The FLQ also targets French families almost exclusively. Most English wrestling fans would never set foot in a fed that has the same initials as the separatist terrorist group who kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and murdered Quebec Liberal Minister of Labour Pierre LaPorte. And many of the other more successful wrestling feds run shows in bars and target an audience that is 18 years or older.
In other words, the audience that the FLQ gets is completely different from that of most Quebec wrestling feds. It doesn’t even run on the same night as other wrestling feds in Quebec. So there is no reason other than ego for Jacques Rougeau Jr. to prohibit his wrestlers from wrestling for any one other than FLQ.
Even worse, the FLQ is one of the feds in Montreal who do not pay their wrestlers. So Jacques Rougeau Jr.’s students find themselves giving up other non-competing gigs that would pay them to wrestle.
(It should be said that even the best paid wrestler in Quebec, Pierre Carl Ouellet, does not get paid what he is truly worth, considering the effort and passion that he brings to a match. But being forced to wrestle for free just adds insult to injury.)
The other great irony is that the fans of the FLQ have already demonstrated their antipathy to Jacques Rougeau Jr. and his vision of family wrestling. The fans of the FLQ may be children, but they resent being treated like children. It’s not like the FLQ ever used a lot of tables, ladders, chairs, brawling to the outside or cursing. In fact, it is usually said that the crowd at a FLQ show is more foul mouthed than any of the wrestlers. But it is one thing not to offer something, it is quite another to tell a crowd of juvenile delinquents drunk on the sugar rush of Mae West’s and Pepsi that they can not have something.
On Friday, November 22nd, Jacques Rougeau Jr. appeared in front of the crowd at FLQ for the first time and announced his alliance with the FLQ and his new guidelines for family wrestling... and promptly got booed out of the building. In fact, young fans rushed the ring barriers chanting the very obscenities that Jacques Rougeau Jr. wanted to protect them for hearing.
Jacques Rougeau Jr. has a vision of family wrestling that he would like to offer the people of Quebec. He is convinced that it is a successful formula. He may very well be right. He certainly has the right to hold that opinion. It is the job of a wrestling promoter to have a vision of what kind of product he wants to offer the public. No one can accuse Jacques Rougeau Jr. of lacking that vision.
On the other hand, Jacques Rougeau Jr. wants to impose that vision of wrestling on the rest of the province. In the process, he is trying to deny the wrestling fans of this province of the chance to see one of the best wrestlers that this province has ever produced: Kevin Steen. Along with Eric Mastrocola, Sheik Tank Ali, Crush and all of his other students.
In the fable, the frogs of the pond decide to rid themselves of Old King Log, because he does nothing. They decide that they need an active, vigorous King. Of course, once their new King, King Stork takes over they find themselves longing for their inactive King Log.
Jacques Rougeau Jr., King Log is dead. All hail, Jacques Rougeau Jr., King Stork. For better or for worse, Quebec wrestling will never be the same.
I like the piece, Oz, but I wonder - seeing as Rougeau has already and recently (I presume) made two big changes of stragety, what makes you think that this is the one that's going to stick? While this definetely has a determental effect on the wrestlers currently, what's to say that Rougeau won't come out in two weeks and proclaim "Now, everyone with me must wrestle in any promotion BUT FLQ" before doing an evil dance of some sort. (Perhaps a tango.)
Also, taking the long view - while it's not everything you could've hoped for, if we cut out the middle piece, you've gone from "Rougeau's group of wrestlers wrestle four times a year" to "Rougeau's group of wrestlers wrestle every Friday." Which is at least something.
Experience has shown me that one well orginized indy is much better for everyone than one indy that only lets people wrestler there competting outlaw groups that allow everyone to wrestle everyone, but no one can figure a way to do that without causing trouble.
If there wasn't the languague difference, I don't think Quebec wrestling would have any 'name' issues than everyone outside of the New York/Philly circuit has; those groups have the advantage of being trained to booster their product's status from years of ECW.
Tod - You're right, I really need to come down to Quebec City to see some CCW. If only because I think that the storyline going on right now is GENIUS!
(Nightmare Manson suffered a real-life concussion and they incorporated it into the storylines. He has forgotten a year's worth of story lines, so he doesn't know who his friends/partners are and he thinks that he is still tag team partners with a guy who is his enemy.)
cubs- Man, when do you sleep?
Originally posted by thecubsfanI like the piece, Oz, but I wonder - seeing as Rougeau has already and recently (I presume) made two big changes of stragety, what makes you think that this is the one that's going to stick? While this definetely has a determental effect on the wrestlers currently, what's to say that Rougeau won't come out in two weeks and proclaim "Now, everyone with me must wrestle in any promotion BUT FLQ" before doing an evil dance of some sort. (Perhaps a tango.)
Well, given that the fans at FLQ accused Jacques of being a pedophile, called him "Jacques le Cock" and chanted "Shut the FUCK up!" odds are pretty good that Jacques is warming up his dancing shoes.
(For the record, since someone at ITVR already asked this question, no, to the best of anyone's knowledge Jacques is NOT a pedophile, although it is pretty funny that they called him that, and implying that Jacques might have an ulterior motive for promoting family wrestling shows more subtlety than I would given those punks credit for.)
Originally posted by thecubsfanAlso, taking the long view - while it's not everything you could've hoped for, if we cut out the middle piece, you've gone from "Rougeau's group of wrestlers wrestle four times a year" to "Rougeau's group of wrestlers wrestle every Friday." Which is at least something.
Yeah. And if Jacques had just announced in August that his students were going to wrestle in FLQ, he wouldn't be getting the flack he is getting now. Although his rules for family wrestling are a little wacky. I was going for a be careful what you wish for vibe because for years people were begging Jacques to let his students actually wrestle, and they finally got their wish only to have it yanked away from them.
Originally posted by the cubs fanExperience has shown me that one well orginized indy is much better for everyone than one indy that only lets people wrestler there competting outlaw groups that allow everyone to wrestle everyone, but no one can figure a way to do that without causing trouble.
Tod's boss Sunny War Cloud is on record as saying that Montreal could stand to lose about a half dozen feds. Most people tend to agree with that, but no one can agree on which feds should go away. (Not to mention no one's going to go away on their own.)
Originally posted by the cubs fanIf there wasn't the languague difference, I don't think Quebec wrestling would have any 'name' issues than everyone outside of the New York/Philly circuit has; those groups have the advantage of being trained to booster their product's status from years of ECW.
You are probably right but Quebec's fortress mentality doesn't help matters much.
Trade secret: Fictional characters don't need sleep.
Argh, darn you space bar, my deeply rooted enemy. I shall have revenge on you by trying to finish this post for the third time today.
Yeah. And if Jacques had just announced in August that his students were going to wrestle in FLQ, he wouldn't be getting the flack he is getting now.
Act first, think later - the secret motto of wrestling actions everywhere.
From the outside, it seems like Rougeau's actions are an attempt to stop the siphon of talent from his school by giving them chances to work more often, but the last change runs counter enough to that - one promotion, you work every Friday but have no plan of being paid - that I almost wonder if he really had other plans.
If you wanted to be sinster about it, you could say that the window of time where he let his pupils wrestle anywhere was just an oppurtinty for their names to become more known and attract attention, so when they were back to being confined and controlled, they had a bit more star power for whoever they worked for. I just don't exactly see how Rougeau benefits from having them work for someone else rather than just doing his own thing. Well, money and ego, with less effort spent then doing it yourslef, I guess - why deal with logistics when you can just impose your ideals on promotion and have them carry it out.
But that's just idle speculation meaning nothing
Although his rules for family wrestling are a little wacky.
Definetly. It's one thing for a promotion not to opt not do something that's they no longer feel is worth the crowd reaction, but to tell the fans they're not longer getting what they paid for previously - that's just being dumb.
I mean, I'm 90% sure CMLL has enacted a no-blade policy recently - when wrestlers with many marks into the foreheads enter and leave a cage match without any red liquid spilling, it's kinda of a tell - but it's not a big deal because they're not making a big deal out of it. It's completely unneccesary to mention it.
Yea, I kinda went a little bit neurotic to get all the TV - I suppose you could probably just save some cash (or spend on something else and broaden horizons) and just get the (on average) one big show each month.