INNISFAIL – Big-time professional wrestling is ready to slam the mat in town next month in the auditorium of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 in Innisfail.
The event is being put on by Calgary-based CanAm Wrestling, an organization that is currently providing all the city’s best grappling slams with big-time plans to tour smaller markets in central and southern Alberta.
CanAm Wrestling is led and enthusiastically promoted by Otto Gentile, who has been in the wrestling business since 1988 when he began training under late Stampede Wrestling legend Steve “Dr. Hannibal” Gillespie.
In the ring he was known as Vinnie Fever and earned several championship belts but today at the age of 56 its mostly promoting.
“I still every now and then get in there and have some fun,” said Gentile with a chuckle.
Gentile 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. Bruce Hart, a member of the legendary Hart wrestling family, is the head trainer for the AWA.
This summer CanAm Wrestling is on a mission to get professional wrestling out to smaller rural communities in Alberta, with Innisfail being the first, followed by shows in Airdrie, Okotoks, Strathmore and Medicine Hat.
“What we're doing is really trying to help every community that we go to in some way, some form, some shape,” said Gentile. “I reached out to the legion and said, ‘would you be interested in having wrestling there? We can do a fundraiser for you guys.' They said, ‘yeah, that'd be a great idea.'”
Legion manager Chris Pickard said the branch has been previously approached about bringing in professional wrestling and its finally happening now.
“We're trying to get a little more open to different events and possibilities. It's been a tough couple of years. And we have to be a little more proactive in what we do around here,” said Pickard. “This is one of those ones they've kind of pushed to the side a few times, and now everybody's starting to get a little more relaxed and open to different options.”
He said while the legion agreed to providing the venue, it’s CanAm Wrestling’s show and they will bring in everything necessary to ensure its success for wrestling fans.
“CanAm Wrestling will bring in everything, and I believe they have their own lighting and their own ring. They set the whole thing up,” he said.
Innisfail’s big CanAm Wrestling date with some of the sport’s best up and coming wrestlers has been set for Saturday, Aug. 6. Gentile is promising attendees a great rip-roaring mat-smacking time.
“We model ourselves after Stampede Wrestling due to the fact that Bruce Hart is our head coach at the academy. He's built that old school kind of vibe. You'll get to see an entertaining show,” said Gentile. “It's a family show. You don't have to worry about swearing or anything like that. When you bring your kids, they'll have an incredible time.”
Gentile said the VIP Meet and Greet doors will be open at 5:30 p.m., with all other attendees getting access at 6 p.m. The ring will see wrestling action beginning at 7 p.m.
Tickets for VIP Meet and Greet will be $30, with advanced tickets set at $20. On the day of the event the charge will be $25. Kids from five to 15 can get in for $10, while any child five or under it will be free.
Most importantly the wrestling event is designed to support the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 in Innisfail.
“Obviously, there's always show expenses and everything else,” said Gentile of the expenses that have to be covered. “All the food and drinks sold at the event is going towards the legion. The big 50/50 draw is also going towards the legion. I also told (the branch) if we sell it out that we would present them with a big, generous offer to help them as well.”