Several months back, I booked a four-day trip to Toronto and sketched out an itinerary that catered to all of my nerdy interests. Through careful consideration and coincidence, I’d be able to eat an assortment of meats, see Roy Halladay pitch against the Blue Jays and catch shows from Bad Religion, The Flaming Lips and Radiohead.
Nothing short of inventing a masturbatory time machine could please my inner 16-year-old more. But plans changed.
I returned from the trip earlier this week and can report the following: Halladay got hurt because he hates me, I skipped Bad Religion, tragedy struck the Radiohead show and while the Flaming Lips were/are great, it was my third time with the band and I think it’s time we started seeing other people.
The meat, however, was great, retractable roof baseball is fun regardless of what million-dollar arm is chucking the ball, I caught a surprisingly enjoyable hip hop show and I got to indulge another of my shameful interests, independent professional wrestling.
(Brace yourself for a flurry of nerd words. If you’re my mother, I’ll explain what they mean when we chat on Sunday.)
That’s the best photo I could get because, you know, you can’t get THAT close to the animals.
Toronto is the cultural capital of Canada — or at least the capital of commercially viable culture — and I did my best to burn it to the ground, paying $15 to watch a dude dressed in an Elmo costume and a woman undressed like Nintendo’s Princess Toadstool pretend to fight a gang of copyright-infringing Mortal Kombat characters — only one of which was a racial stereotype.
So, yeah, Wrestle Crisis — Toronto’s video game-themed pro wrestling league — is a pretty great night out for hyucks and geek-gasms. Indie wrestling isn’t big league entertainment, and this promotion suffered from some familiar pitfalls — technical difficulties and poor attendance — but its stable of not-ready-for-prime-or-day-time players still delivered the kind of fun best described in caps lock.
The highlight of the show would’ve been my view up Princess Toadstool’s skirt — technically a skort, I googled it — BUT THEN a better-than-Topher-Grace’s Venom choked out Elmo with a rope, only to be saved by Spiderman, who delivered a top-rope Canadian Destroyer to his rival (just like in the comics, I presume). Memorable, for sure, but I’ll never forget THAT TIME WHEN Chuck Norris and Waldo came to Super Mario’s rescue, who would later use a bat, wrapped in barbwire, to escape harm instead of, you know, just turning into a raccoon and flying away like he’s totally capable of doing. Weird, I know. ALMOST AS WEIRD AS the Jewish wrestler, Tomer Shalom, who wasn’t a totally insulting caricature, although he was still a little bit of an insulting caricature. Pro wrestling has taught me to keep my expectations low, so I was happy to see Tomer doing strong guy things and not just stealing gold chains from pro wrasslin’ Cuban immigrants while yokels yell “Punch him in the change purse.” Neat. Good for pro wrestling.
Oh, and there was a Power Ranger, a Foot Clan member, a muscley snake guy …
The 16-year-old me didn’t get everything he wanted out of Toronto, but the nine-year-old me was ecstatic.
I’m racking my brain to remember more from the show. It’s difficult, because for part of the night I was distracted by SMITH HART’S BACK TAN. Uh huh. The brother of former WWF champion Bret Hart entered the show from the stands. Part-time wrestling fans would’ve guessed he was Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler, but the saddest folks in the audience knew he was doing a dead-on impression of his father Stu, the patriarch of Calgary’s most famous carny family. And longtime Canadians would’ve picked up on his imitation of former prime minister John Diefenbaker when he overstayed his welcome.
Smith threw popcorn at another wrestler, threw some punches and threw off his shirt, before returning to his seat, three rows ahead of me. AND THEN I WATCHED a kinda naked middle-aged man eat popcorn as another dude, dressed like fictional Italian plumber, defended America’s honor, or something.
As a kid who grew up watching Smith’s shirtless brothers, Bret and Owen, on WWF television, this was a big deal.
Needless to say, if I ever get married, it’ll be in front of a Wrestle Crisis card. To a very unhappy woman. Or a tolerant Princess Toadstool.
Dan Yates is skipping the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of ‘Something Uninteresting’ to check his emails at email@example.com.