When people think of professional wrestling, many conjure up the mental image of larger-than-life personas such as John Cena, The Rock, Hulk Hogan and many more. Played out on television multiple times a week, it is a fantastical world of heroes and villains, who both have grudges but also fight for the honour of being crowned champion.
For many professional wrestlers, though, it takes quite a while to get to that point, if they do at all. For every wrestler in a promotion like the WWE, AEW, or Impact, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who ply their trade in front of crowds of hundreds, like the one that gathered at McKenna Hall Tuesday night in Weyburn.
That crowd at McKenna Hall was there to see the live event presented by Canadian Wrestling's Elite. The night would see five matches – ten wrestlers – performing athletic feats, pumping up the crowd, and providing two hours of entertainment for fans of all ages.
One of those wrestlers is Hotshot Danny Duggan. He is currently the CWE Heavyweight Champion, and wrestled in the main event, defending his title against The Zombie Killer Mentallo. Even on the independent circuits, the personas are larger-than-life with the goal to elicit various responses from the crowd, be it cheers or jeers.
While CWE is based out of Manitoba, they tour relentlessly, with shows in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and some parts of Ontario as well. It is a lot of miles each year for the wrestlers who are part of the promotion, and the guests they bring along on the tours.
“I just celebrated my 20th year in the business, and those bumps and bruises and all those miles are starting to add up,” Duggan said. “The body doesn’t like it but the heart and mind still do so we’re still trucking along.”
Duggan’s career in professional wrestling has seen him spend much of those 20 years on the road. He has wrestled throughout western Canada, has performed a number of shows throughout the United States and made the trek to Japan. He has wrestled with some well-known names in professional wrestling, such as Kenny Omega, Vampiro, James Storm, D-Lo Brown and more.
While there have been a number of accolades throughout his career, Duggan has also spent a lot of time away from home. With a four-year-old at home, it has presented a lot of challenges as well.
“I’m very lucky that I’m in a situation now where a lot of times I can bring my family on the road, which is very, very nice for me, but before being able to do that it was tough, especially as a new dad, being on the road and missing some of those important formative moments in your child’s life, so you definitely have to make some sacrifices to do this, but there’s a balance somewhere.”
The toll on the body does come from the high-intensity action in and outside of the ring. There is a misconception that professional wrestling is fake. While the outcomes are predetermined, the bumps and bruises the wrestlers end up with are very, very real.
“I really wish I could say it was. I wish my body could say it was,” Duggan laughed. “The truth of the matter is what we do is very, very physical and there is a lot of contact behind everything we do. Yes, we’re trained professionals and we know how to hit each other in a way that’s not going to take someone’s head off, sometimes. There is still a high risk of it doing that, but to think about what we do – we're not trying to hurt each out there, but there’s no physical pain or discomfort is completely dismissive of what the art of professional wrestling really is.”
The night Tuesday opened up with a match between Levi Night and The Headline Shaun Martens. Night is originally from southeast Saskatchewan. Carnduff, to be specific. As the opening match, part of the job is to get the crowd energized, and pumped up for the rest of the card. The personality of Night shone through for the crowd, as the kids would end up mimicking his dancing and high energy throughout his match, and into the rest of the card.
“It’s really cool coming to all these towns and making it a fun night for all these kids,” Night said during the intermission, as he was signing autographs for the fans of all ages who came to his merch table. “I grew up in one of these small towns so if there was wrestling in my town growing up, I would have been so excited, so it’s really fun to bring some entertainment to all these kids.”
The latest tour that CWE is on is the celebration of 14 years for the promotion. They have a number of dates throughout Saskatchewan sometimes covering up to 5 hours on the road, before arriving in a new city, setting up the ring themselves, getting the lighting done themselves, and then performing for two hours. This particular tour will wrap up Sunday night in Estevan before the wrestlers head home to rest up and get ready for the next tour.
By the end of the night, though, it is the smiles on the faces of the fans that keep many of these wrestlers at all levels, whether the independent touring promotions or the biggest promotions in the world, that keeps them going night after night, mile after mile.