Sunday, May 28, 2017

Throw Back Thursday – One Ring Circus

ORC Cover One Ring Circus was written and published in 2002.

Photographs and Text by Brian Howell

Copyright 2002 by Brian Howell

Following are some experts from the book.













ORC Title







Wrestling in North America is dominated by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), a wrestling promotion formerly known as the WWF, and whose extravagant televised matches are watched by millions around the world. The ‘Minor leagues’ of of the wrestling world are the purview of independent operations such as Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW), headquartered in Surrey, BC, whose territory is the Pacific Northwest. ECCW shows travel as far north as Prince Rupert new the Alaskan board, across the Gulf of Georgia to Vancouver Island, and over the line to Washington state. The wrestlers perform in towns and smaller cities, in community centres, high school gymnasiums, Legion Halls, and other low-overhead venues, in front of diehard fans who treat them like stars. Again and again, they put on their masks, costumes, and makeup, and get into the ring, where promised grudge matches are fulfilled, old challenges met, and new tag teams created to fight ‘for the first time ever’. At the end of the evening, the lights go up, the ring is dismantled, and chairs are stacked; autographs are signed and bloodied faces washed clean. But the age-old story of good versus evil will play out again: familiar characters will soon be back. And so will the fans.”


ECCW is a stopping-off point for wrestlers working the West Coast. Veterans like Giggolo Steve Rizzono from San Francisco heighten the stature of the shows when they are booked in for a few weeks. Rizzono has the qualities of the old school wrestler, big tough, charismatic, great with a microphone, a good worker. In the late ’90s, Dave Republic (background) came in as an investor and ring personality, and took the role of ‘commissioner’. He took his share of abuts in the ring, both verbal and physical, while behind the scenes he was dealing with the pressure of making ECCW a financial success.”






There were once two movies theatres in downtown New Westminster – grand old halls with balconies, backlit marquees, and all those light bulbs. One of them now houses a lapdance club, and the other bacame the Eagles Hall and lost its architectural beauty in a bad renovation. The movie screen has been replaced b a stuffed eagle in a glass case mounted high on the wall. Once a month ECCW would come in with their ring and set up beneath the chandeliers. It was a perfect venue for wrestling.”






Scotty Mac says: ‘Every wrestler’s dream is to make it to the WWE, that’s the big goal. Whether anyone’s gonna make it there is different story. If I continue doing this on the side until I’m forty I’d be thrilled because I’d still be wrestling. If I didn’t have the ability to advance I’d be happy here, but I do hae the ability to go further and I will.'”






Scan 13“THE RING

The wrestlers assemble at the hall in the afternoon, usually around three o’clock, and begin unloading the ring and other equipment off the trailer. Getting the ring up is a heavy, dirty job, much like a carny crew assembling a ride. The ring takes about an hour to assemble and is 16X16 feet square and made up of twenty-four 2X8X16 floor planks laid edge to edge. A thin layer of foam is laid over the planks and tied down with a tarpaulin. Multi-coloured ropes hold the corners of the ring together and can be adjusted by loosening and tightening a series of turnbuckles.”






Seats at the show are ten bucks, fourteen if you want the front row, although you can usually move up to the front once the show starts. Bill and Virginia are long-time loyal fans and they always pay the extra four bucks for the front, which is also a good place for Bill to sell the smoked salmon he keeps in plastic bags under his chair.”







Backstage at the Bridgeview Hall in Surrey, Scotty Schnurr waits behind the plastic curtain separating him from the crowd of two hundred. This is his night: he’s to be crowned ECCW Heavyweight Champion. his opponent is Black Dragon, who is already in the auditorium, working with crowd from the Cage. Scott’s faithful fans are shouting insults at Black Dragon and calling out for Scotty. The voice of the announcer rings out over the cracked sound system: ‘And now, from Sun City, California, weighing in at two hundred and fifteen pounds – Scotty Maaac!’

Scotty Mac has never been to Sun City, California. He was born in Kelowna, BC and raised in Richmond. But once a week somewhere in a darkend auditorium, he becomes the superstar wrestler from California. U2’s ‘Elevation’ blasts rom the speakers and Scotty Mac vursts through the plastic curtain. The fans are on their feet cheering and whistling, and the teenaged girls are screaming and wailing.”

Scan 4“CAGE

Scotty Mac battles hard with Black Dragon for a quarter of an hour, and then Black Dragon is down, laid out on the canvas, unable to move, Scotty starts his slow climb up the wall of the cage, his bleached blonde hair stained with blood from a cut on his forehead. The roar of the crowd gets louder as he climbs. They know a huge finish is coming. Scotty gets to the top of the cage and stands up and looks down at his opponents lying prone twelve feet beneath him. He leaps without hesitation and hits the mat in a perfect leg drop. Then finally, triumphantly, he pins his opponent. The crowd is chanting, ‘Holy shit! Holy Shit!’ Some of the girls in the audience weep for joy. Scotty goes backstage where the other wrestlers congratulate him. Wrestler Layne Fontaine peers out from the curtain and is visibly moved by the tears streaming down the faces of the teenaged girls.”



Cathy and Linda have been wrestling fans since the ’70s and they were regulars at the New Westminster shows. Their favourite spot at ringside was always help for them, even when they were late, as they were for a packed night at the Eagles Hall when they rushed in halfway through the show and their chairs were waiting for them as they pulled off their raingear. They had a big green garbage bag with them filled with signs they’d prepared earlier that day and some they had collected from previous shows. One of them read: ‘Hey Gigolo you sexy thing. Can I have your hotel key?’ The wrestlers know Cathy and Linda by name and always stop by on their way to the ring for a high-five or a lapdance.”



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