The “Glorious” History of the (Canadian) RWA: Part 1

Writers note:

The events written about in this article took place nearly 20 years ago and are true (to the best of my recollection). 

"Dangerboy" Derek Wylde locked in an abdominal stretch.
“Dangerboy” Derek Wylde locked in an abdominal stretch. (Photo courtesy of Flikr)

The “Glorious” History of the RWA: Part 1

by Angus T. Saks

It was spring 1998. I had just turned twenty years old, was out of school and seriously under employed. While surfing for what then passed for the Internet, I came across an article for an upcoming pro wrestling show near my hometown of Toronto. The site is writer Greg Oliver’s SLAM! Wrestling website and it was/is a great source for all things Canadian pro wrestling. This website, along with my now quaint sounding paper based subscriptions to the Observer, the Torch and the Apter mags, is where I attempted to educate myself about the business in a time when news was not that easy to come by. The company promoting the event was called the Renegade Wrestling Alliance (RWA) and the show was taking place at a Canadian Auto Workers Hall in Burlington, which is only a short drive from my home.

I’d never attended an independent wrestling show before and was very keen to see what it was all about. I went with my friend Chad who was a part-time pseudo wrestling fan (mark) and really couldn’t care less that I wanted to attend a rasslin’ show. I was fairly smart to the business at this point and was what you might now call a smart mark…before being a smart mark was cool!  I was forced to sell the idea to my pal Chad as a fab and groovy way for us to get drunk and stoned Trailer Park Boys style whilst taking the piss out of the “shitty” local wrestlers.

After indulging in an “herbal jazz cigarette” in the car we bought our tickets, two beers each and found a couple of seats near the back and prepared to mock the show. The wrestlers had names I’d never heard of like: L’Artiste, Custom Made Man, “Dangerboy” Derek Wylde, Pete Rokk and “Sexy Baby” Jaime Jackson. There were also more than a few blend word Justin Credible-ish gimmick names that were popular at the time in the business like: Dane Jarris, G. Rease (a mechanic…get it?) and perhaps the RWA’s most distinguished alum “Total” Lee Awesome.

To my surprise these guys could really work and were doing manoeuvres and high spots that were ahead of their time. The crazy bastards had picked up this style from watching the top three promotions of the day; WWF, WCW and more specifically ECW. Apart from watching tapes of ECW, AJPW, NJPW and FMW, I had never seen this type of wrestling live before. These kids were performing high spots that I had never seen on television before and they made them look great! I was very impressed.

One thing I noticed is that apart from a couple of the guys on the show, I was pretty much bigger than every wrestler on the card. I was 6’5” tall and weighed about 230 lbs. of skinny fat flesh and for the first time felt that this was maybe something I could do?

The main event started and was RWA Heavyweight Champion Pete Rokk versus headliner, and only wrestler I had heard of previous to the event, former IC champ and Strike Force  legend, the great Tito Santana. It was a good match and for a show at a C.A.W. Hall in suburban Canada with maybe 100 people in attendance. Tito worked his ass off and sent all the old-time fans home happy by hitting the Flying Burrito and shouting “Ariba!” several times while pumping his fist in the air.

After the show finished most of the fans started to filter out, apart from a couple of kids who hung around to get some autographs from the boys. By this time in the evening I was no longer high and had consumed enough beer to give me the Dutch courage to go up and ask one of the boys what I had wanted to ask five minutes after arriving at the hall. I told Chad to wait for me outside, as I was a bit embarrassed about what I was going to do.

I walked up to one of the wrestlers who had worked that night who went by the name of L’Artiste, a French artist gimmick and was a foot taller than him. I reached out my hand and said “I really enjoyed your work out there man!” He smiled and reciprocated shaking my hand and said “Merci!” We spoke for a few minutes about wrestling and he didn’t really kayfabe me that much but he didn’t give any trade secrets either. Finally, I’d worked up enough courage to ask him what I came over to ask when he asked me.

“Did you ever think of wrestling yourself brother?” he said.

“Um, yeah I’ve thought about it.” I said. “It’s pretty much all I think about!”

My passions were drinking, smoking, women and pro wrestling. I wanted to be one of those guys who traveled the world wrestling and then got into crazy booze fuelled adventures in between shows, in the cars and the bars. To some people the lifestyle sounded crazy but that was one of the most appealing things to me. I wanted to live the crazy life of a wrestler!

I attended my first live wrestling show The Big Event at the CNE in Toronto in 1986 that was main evented by Hulk Hogan vs Paul Orndorff and fell in love with the business right then and there. I never thought it would be possible to become a wrestler myself. I mean, how the hell did you get your foot in the door?  I was about to find out.

Part 2 coming soon.