By Leslie Knibbs
SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION –The Canadian Wrestling Federation (CWF) put on a spectacular show in a “square circle ring” at the Lifestyles Centre in Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) on Nov. 18 much to the enjoyment of the youth and families that attended the matches. It wasn’t “just one more Saturday night” in Serpent River – something special was happening—and it was something very cool.
Anticipation filled the air when spectators entered the gym. Giant speakers were blasting out Rock and Roll with a heavy baseline, strobe lights were flashing uncontrollably, and lively coloured spotlights were darting around the room. The ring sat in the middle of the large gymnasium with the word Adrenaline emblazoned on all sidewalls of the ring. This event was organized by the Carole Day of the Community Awareness Unit. What better way to educate and inform children and youth about how harmful bullying is than to have a group of seasoned and novice professional wrestlers, known for their fighting prowess speak and perform in the ring.
Kryss Thorn, CEO of the CWF says his group of professional wrestlers travel the country promoting anti-bullying and positive change as well as providing family friendly entertainment. “In everything we do we push towards positive messages. We do not believe in negativity.” Thorn and his group travel to over 90 communities annually, most of which are First Nations across Canada. “All of our shows are family friendly.” The CWF is also involved in Boot Camps for youth and has an affiliation with “Dance Fit Canada”, a dance studio, as well as operating a wrestling school.
The CWF has been promoting matches across Canada including remote northern communities for 22 years. During the months of February and March, the group goes on a seven-week tour called “Ice Road Wrestling” travelling to the far north using the ice roads to access remote First Nations. Currently, the CWF can be seen on FITE Television. A documentary on the group is in production and will be aired on VICE TV as well as their website. According to Thorn, calls have been made to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in an effort to begin a collaboration in a production, however, he has had no response to date but is hopeful something may come from his efforts.
The reaction of Saturday night’s crowd was not unlike what you would see or expect at a major wrestling match on TV or at a large venue—there was a lot of hooting and hollering going on throughout the entire show.
Prior to the start of the matches Tony Caribou, a member of CWF from Waskaganish First Nation in Northern Quebec stood center ring and spoke to the audience. With the stage name of “Shadow Extreme”, he had a daunting appearance all dressed in black with a long black pony tail down his back. Tony delivered a message of how anything is possible in life. Growing up, Tony used to watch the wrestling matches on TV with his Uncle. Impressed at an early age, Tony told his friends: “I want to be a wrestler when I grow.” The CWF put on a show in his community after which there was no turning back for Tony, he enrolled in the CWF wrestling school and began to carve out a career as a professional wrestler. “If you guys have a dream, something you’ve always wanted to do, nothing can hold you back,” he said. “Just go for it, make your dreams come true.”
One of the highlights of the evening was a championship match between current CWF Champion Cody Deaner and challenger Rex Atkins, known as “Big Bear” in the wrestling community. Although at the end of the match, Big Bear was announced the winner, he was disqualified by the judge for having a forbidden device hidden in his trunks. Throughout the bout spectators noticed the device and screamed a chorus of “Cheater…Cheater…Cheater.” Following an intermission, a rematch was ordered with a triple tag team match with the winner being declared champion. Following a crazy melee with six grapplers in the ring, bodies flying through the air and it was decided Deaner would hold onto his championship belt. A badly beaten Big Bear was carried to the dressing room by his two team members. The message was clear, “Cheaters never win.”