Quick - what can you tell me about Winnipeg?

 

Maybe you've heard that it's the Slurpee capital of the world? Or that Winnie The Pooh was named after the prairie city? Have you watched the National Hockey League's Winnipeg Jets? Perhaps you've heard that it's where the likes of Anna Pacquin, Will Arnett or Neil Young were born/raised? Maybe you remember the classic Simpsons line "That's it, back to Winnipeg!"

 

Oh... and while most people would think of Toronto, Montreal or Calgary as Canadian wrestling capitals, the city nicknamed "Winterpeg" for its long, snowy season also has tons of wrestling history to it.

A decade later, promoter Tony Condello became a fixture on the independent wrestling scene, giving early exposure to the likes of Lance Storm, Rhyno, Edge and Christian, among others.

 

Condello's "Death Tours" of remote Inuit reservations, navigating over frozen lakes in the dead of winter, has become a badge of honor to many a veteran competitor.

The Winnipeg Arena, which was open from 1954 to 2004, hosted numerous iconic moments in wrestling history. The AWA World Tag Team Championship changed hands in that building several times, with Nick Bockwinkel & Ray Stevens, The High Flyers (Jim Brunzell & Greg Gagne) and Verne Gagne & Mad Dog Vachon all capturing tag team gold in the venue during the 1970s.

In fact, the AWA toured Winnipeg at least once a month during its heyday.

Another survivor of the Death Tours was Winnipeg native Don Callis, who has also performed under the names The Jackyl (in the WWF) and as Cyrus The Virus (in ECW).

After spending time away from the business during most of the 2000's, Callis resurfaced again in the last few years. He hosted a podcast called "Killing The Town" with Lance Storm, Paul Lazenby and others and acted as a color commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling. More recently, he became an announcer and top executive for Impact Wrestling.

Speaking of Impact Wrestling.... Winnipeger Leonard Asper may not be known to most wrestling fans, but he's a media mogul who co-founded Anthem Sports, the company that owns Impact Wrestling, The Fight Network and AXS TV.

Of course, any conversation about Winnipeg and wrestling needs to include one of the biggest singles stars of this generation - Kenny Omega.

 

The EVP of All Elite Wrestling was named Wrestler Of The Year in 2017 by no less an authority than Sports Illustrated, and his collection of championships in New Japan and AEW proves that he is one of, if not the, top wrestlers today.

When you talk about all-time greats, Rowdy Roddy Piper is another one who called Winnipeg home -- in a manner of speaking. The WWE Hall of Famer, who was always billed from Glasgow, Scotland, was actually born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

 

Still, the Hot Rod quickly moved to Winnipeg once he struck out on his own and it was there he was convinced to try out a career in the squared circle.

 

By Piper's own account (though the specifics have been disputed in later years), his debut match against Larry "The Ax" Hennig lasted only ten seconds, which Hot Rod claims was a record-short match for the Winnipeg Arena.

If you think these are the only wrestlers to ever hail from Winnipeg, then guess what? YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!

 

While Chris Jericho was born in Manhasset, New York, the future Y2J was raised in Winnipeg and considers the prairie city to be his home. It was from watching monthly AWA shows live from the Winnipeg Arena where Le Champion eventually developed his interest in the squared circle, leading to a career where Jericho has become one of the most decorated champions of this or any era, capturing gold in ECW, WCW, WWF/E, NJPW and most recently, AEW. Along the way, Jericho has headlined WrestleManias, sold out the Tokyo Dome, created his own podcast and cruise, and held the Intercontinental Title more than anyone else.

On top of these names, Winnipeg has also been home to former ECW Champion Steve Corino, Impact Wrestling's Rosemary, retired grapplers Al Tomko, Tom Magee and many others. And the spirit of pro wrestling in The Gateway To The West lives on to this day, thanks to promotions such as Canada's Wrestling Elite, a group run by up and coming "Hotshot" Danny Duggan.

 

So when Chris Jericho once said to a fan "I'm from Winnipeg, you idiot!" he likely meant it as a huge source of pride.

  • Email
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

Learn More About Canadian Bulldog

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Email
Grappling Gamer logo.jpg
Wrestling Merchandise and Memories podca
Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard