Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The History of Professional Wrestling in Canada

Many people consider Canada to be one of the best places to visit, one reason being its pro-wrestling scene. Professional wrestling has a long and rich history in Canada, dating back to the early 20th century. The first known wrestling promotion in Canada was the Vancouver-based Carl Berch Promotions, which ran shows in 1905. It was followed by many other promotions that also ran shows for a short period of time. The first promotion to run shows in Canada for a long period of time was Maple Leaf Wrestling, which was founded in 1930 and ran shows until 1984. Maple Leaf Wrestling was the most popular promotion in Canada and it joined the NWA in 1949, representing the organization well as it was able to draw 16,000 fans. Maple Leaf Wrestling helped to launch the careers of wrestlers who became well known in the industry, such as Wladek Kowalski (who later become known as Killer Kowalski), Raymond Rougeau, and Rocky Johnson, three wrestlers who later went on to have successful careers in WWE. And speaking of WWE, from 1983 to 1984, Maple Leaf Wrestling was co-promoted by Jack Tunney, who in 1984 began the role that he is best known for- figurehead President of WWE (known as WWF at the time).

This was a result of Jack Tunney removing Maple Leaf Wrestling from the NWA and aligning himself with WWE, along with controlling interest of Maple Leaf Wrestling being transferred from the Tunney family to WWE. Although Jack Tunney's role as President was merely a character role, in real life he was given the position in WWE of head of Canadian tours.

Another wrestling promotion that is a significant part of Canada's history is the Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling, which was co-founded by Stu Hart. Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Dynamite Kid became standout talents on the Canadian wrestling scene during their time wrestling in Stampede in the early 1980s, and WWE signed all three of them in 1984. Stampede featured more wrestlers later that decade who also had big success, including Owen Hart and Brian Pillman.

Throughout the 1980s, WWE consistently introduced the world to Canadian wrestlers. Along with the aforementioned Bret Hart, WWE also featured Owen Hart (as Blue Blazer), Roddy Piper, and Earthquake. In the 1990s and 2000s, Canadian wrestlers continued to very successful in the industry, with Chris Jericho, Edge, and Christian being amongst the most popular ones.

Other Canadian wrestlers in history who are notable internationally include Kenny Omega, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Natalya, Trish Stratus, Santino Marella, Robert Roode, Kyle O'Reilly, Jinder Mahal, Maryse, Luna Vachon, and Sarah Stock. Special mention should also be given to the successful wrestling promoters that Canada has produced. Along with Stu Hart and Jack Tunney, other Canadians in the wrestling industry who have promoted include Impact Wrestling President Scott D'Amore, former Stampede Wrestling promoter Bruce Hart, and former WWE promoter Gino Brito.

Today in Canada, although Maple Leaf Wrestling and Stampede are no longer active, there are many promotions to continue to provide fans with live wrestling entertainment and give wrestlers a platform to show Canada what they have to offer. The promotions include International Wrestling Syndicate, Smash Wrestling, Border City Wrestling, Great North Wrestling, North Shore Pro Wrestling, and Canadian Wrestling's Elite. Many promotions in Canada also make their events available via streaming.

Also, although Impact Wrestling was founded in the United States, in 2017 it was purchased by Canadian multinational media company Anthem Sports & Entertainment and now has shows in the country regularly. This year's Impact Wrestling events in Canada have included Slammiversary, which is one of the company's “Big Four” pay-per-view events and took place in Windsor.

Canadian wrestling has had a significant impact on the global wrestling scene. Canadian wrestlers have won world championships in all of the major promotions, and they have helped to shape the style of wrestling that is seen around the world today. With 94% of Canadians having access to the internet at home, the Canadian promotions of today have an advantage that the promotions before them did not. In the past, promotions were limited to television or radio stations in their local area, while the promotions of today can publicize their events outside of that area, and can even stream their events on the internet and make them accessible to a global audience. Streaming will only become more popular in the near future, so right now is a great time to have a promotion in Canada and online, as the promotions will grow even more in visibility, show attendance, and streaming consumption, as they create new history on top of Canada's already-rich wrestling history for many years to come.

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