INNISFAIL – When grappling comes to town the kids are alright.
Actually, they are well beyond that. They are true diehard fanatical fans. They even dress the part to salute their ring heroes.
They came in droves to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 in Innisfail on Sept. 17 to watch a full line-up of wrestling stars who burst into the ring with monikers like Daniel Mayhem, The Prophets, Davey Dysaster, Son of Irish and the always entertaining Canadian Badass.
It was the return of the CanAm Wrestling at the legion, a show first held in town last Aug. 6 that attracted an enthusiastic crowd of 160 grappling fans. The show was well-received and organizers were clearly happy with the bigger crowd of up to 180 that attended on Sept. 17.
The kids, as well as the adults, were a raucous crowd.
“It was really good; a lot of enthusiasm and energy from the crowd,” said Don Harrison, the legion’s entertainment chair. He emphasized today’s professional wrestling shows are “good family entertainment.
“You know we look at Captain Marvel, or the superheroes. I talked to a lot of those children and young adults and they all know the wrestlers. They know that circuit. They knew the names. Unbelievable,” said Harrison. “And they are all coming back. That is what I like.”
Harrison and organizers were especially pleased about the size of the crowd as the successful Innisfail Harvest Festival was also being held that weekend; an event that attracted hundreds.
Nevertheless, young and old grappling fans came.
Professional wrestling, which before the August show had not been staged in Innisfail since 1984, proved to be still popular. CanAm Wrestling is returning to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 in Innisfail on Friday, Nov. 18.
Otto Gentile, the chief executive officer of CanAm Wrestling, said his team, especially his stable of wrestlers, have already connected with Innisfail; enjoying the warm response they have received so far.
“They love it here. It was a great turnout. Our guys love coming to a community where they're well received. The people seem to enjoy themselves,” said Gentile, who is not only a top promoter for his sport but a longtime grappler since 1988.
He is also the founder of the Alberta Wrestling Academy (AWA), which provides training and life skills for young up and coming grapplers to succeed in the modern era of professional wrestling.
However, Gentile insists an important component for CanAm Wrestling is giving back to the community.
Along with Ed Andersen, the organization's chief financial officer, CanAm Wrestling is always seeking ways to help underprivileged youth and families.
They noted for the Sept.7 show there were Innisfailians in attendance who won tickets through a promotion published in the Albertan.
“It’s pretty cool to just give people a chance to win a ticket to come see this event,” said Gentile. “We do have a program available that we can help families that can't afford it. Just give us a call.
“If families are struggling and they want a night out just to release the stresses of life, come and have a good time and yell, scream or laugh their butts off. That's what we're here for. We're here to entertain people."
But will Innisfailians get a chance to see Gentile, known as Vinnie Fever in the ring, wrestle and entertain?
“I actually just wrestled my last match at the Wild Rose Sports Association’s professional wrestling invitational tournament last weekend. It was my last match. I’ll never get in there again,” said Gentile, adding he’s still all in with his beloved sport.
“With professional wrestling I’m a promoter. I’m a ring announcer. I wear many different hats.”