Today marks Canada Day and it’s a big one for the Great White North – the Canada 150. We celebrate 150 years as a nation (not as a continent of people obviously). And within that 150 years, Canada has been a major player in the world of professional wrestling. Like the country itself, it may not have the bravado of the United States wrestling, the poise of the Japanese or the boisterousness of the Brits, but Canada’s have quietly gone about and done their jobs, apologizing just a bit more than we should, and created a solid legacy of greatness in this sport.
This marks the first part of a 10-part series. The Canada 150. Whether you’re a Canadian yourself, or just a fan of Canadian or international wrestling history, we present to you a list of 150 Canadian wrestling names that have made their mark on the world of professional wrestling. Some are legends from nearly a century ago, some are promoters or announcers, but most are professional wrestlers who have wrestled for some of the biggest promotions in the world. We’ve even thrown in some young faces you may not be fully aware of yet (but will soon). Chances are you’ve heard of most of them (and maybe didn’t realize they were Canadian), but if not, you’ll leave with a deeper knowledge of the impact Canada has had in professional wrestling since the sport’s earliest days.
In typical Canadian fashion, this list is alphabetical instead of ranked. We just didn’t want to offend anyone. Sorry.
ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER
A legend of the hardcore history of wrestling, Abdullah The Butcher was actually Larry Shreeve from Windsor, Ontario. His trademark fork was a weapon of mass destruction, making his debut in wrestling in 1958. By the 1970’s, Abdullah was one of the most hated heels in the world. His legacy took a major tarnish following the incident involving another wrestler (Hannibal) getting Hepatitis C from Abdullah during a match (Abdullah failed to let anyone know of his condition). Regardless of his later decisions in life, Abdullah The Butcher’s place in the history books are unwavering. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
Currently one half of the NXT Tag Team Champions, Authors of Pain alongside Rezar, Akam‘s prior wrestling background was more Kurt Angle in stature than the Road Warriors. Prior to joining the WWE, he was an Olympic hopeful known as Sunny Dhinsa, from Abbotsford, British Columbia. A standout freestyle wrestler, he was a gold medalist in the 2009 Canada Games and silver medalist in the 2011 Pan American Games. He was expected to be on Canada’s 2016 Olympic team, but opted to join the WWE instead. It’s proven to be a good decision, as he’s part of one of NXT’s most dominant tag teams of all time.
She recently competed in a qualifying match for the WWE Mae Young Classic, losing a close one to newcomer Bianca BelAir. But make no mistake. She’s on to bigger things. She’s been used sporadically in NXT for several months now, getting better and better, and her match this week with BelAir was her finest showing to date. With several NXT women on the verge of a main roster call-up, expect Aliyah to be front and centre when the opportunity presents itself to step up. Prior to WWE, she was an indie star as Jasmin Areebi, wrestling for such promotions as AIW and Smash.
She’s been one of Impact Wrestling (oops, Global Force Wrestling)’s best developed characters over the past year, and her current storyline with Rosemary is gaining in intrigue. Prior to joining Impact last year, this Toronto native was one of the top women’s stars on the indies as Cherry Bomb, where she was a regular for SHIMMER, SHINE, Smash and many other top promotions. Her real life husband is, in fact, her on-screen beau Braxton Sutter.
“HANDSOME” JOHN ANSON
Vancouver’s “Handsome” John Anson was a steady journeyman in the 1960’s and 1970’s, working all over the NWA territories, as well as a successful stint in Stampede Wrestling, where he was a 2x North American Heavyweight Champion. He also worked as a heel under the name Karl Von Schotz, often in a team with Kurt Von Hess, where the terrorized everywhere from the NWA to NJPW. They were a favourite heel team for The Sheik‘s NWA Detroit territory, winning the Tag Team titles four times.
MIKE “SPEEDBALL” BAILEY
Montreal’s Mike Bailey has quietly become of the top indie performers of the past four years, with an unassuming persona that explodes with brilliances of athleticism. He’s a big star with Ottawa’s C4 promotion, but he travels the world a lot. He won CZW‘s Best of the Best in 2015, competed in the 2015 PWG Battle of Los Angeles, and plys his trade in such promotions as wXw, RevPro, Smash and WCPW.
Speaking of Mike Bailey, earlier this year he had a qualifying match for WCPW’s Canadian entrants into the 2017 Pro Wrestling World Cup in Toronto. The man he faced was Brent Banks, one of the Ontario’s most outstanding young prospects. It became one of the match of the nights and a viral sensation. He makes the circuits in the Ontario scene with Smash, Alpha-1, BCW and more, but it’s only a matter of time before he starts taking his act on the road.
Many 1980’s wrestling fans will remember Bruiser Bedlam more as perennial jobber Johnny K-9, but most Canadian fans remember him as Bruiser Bedlam. He switched to the Bedlam moniker after moving to Smokey Mountain Wrestling in 1994 and never looked back. While he never got the spotlight in wrestling on a mainstream level again, he remained a respected indie wrestler for years to come, even when his alleged involvement with biker gangs emerged. Sadly, Hamilton’s Bruiser Bedlam passed away last year.
Arguably one of the greatest technical wrestlers and complete shoot package of the past 20 years, sadly his entire beautiful wrestling legacy will forever be encased in a black shroud due to one horrific weekend. One of the graduates of the Hart Dungeon era that produced Chris Jericho and Lance Storm, Chris Benoit defied the size odds and became a World Champion in WWE and WCW. From NJPW to ECW, to the Monday Night Wars defection to WWE from WCW, Benoit’s star just got brighter and brighter the further he moved on. Unfortunately, his legacy will forever be remembered for it’s unfortunate ending.
In 2007, Vancouver’s Angela Fong tried out for the WWE Divas Search but failed to get selected. But the WWE signed her anyway, and she began working in their developmental at Ohio Valley Wrestling. When things shifted to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in 2008, she debuted on FCW television as a valet, but within a year was the inaugural Queen of FCW (Women’s Champion) as Miss Angela. In 2009, she was called up to the main roster but was renamed Savannah and became a backstage interviewer, before taking the same position with upstart NXT. She was released in 2010. She returned to wrestling in 2014 when she joined Lucha Underground as the mysterious dark asskicker named Black Lotus. While her character began quite in and out, Black Lotus has emerged as a lethal mastermind.
Niagara Falls’ “Girl Dynamite” Jennifer Blake is a student of Cody Deaner and has been in the business since 2004 (when she debuted as a ring announcer) and wrestling since 2007. A year after her debut in the squared circle, she debuted for SHIMMER. She then proceeded to spend a lengthy spell in Mexico working with AAA, where she won the AAA Mixed Tag Team Championship alongside Alan Stone. In 2009, PWI ranked her the #38 best women’s wrestler in the world in their Women’s PWI 50.
Calgary’s Rick Bognar trained in the Hart Dungeon with legendary trainer Tokyo Joe, debuting in Japan with Frontier Martial-arts Wrestling (FMW) in 1989 as Big Titan, forming a successful tag team alongside future ECW World Champion Mike Awesome (then known as The Gladiator). He spent five years with FMW, as well as stints with other Japanese promotions like NJPW and WAR, as well as a brief stint in ECW. But to most, he’s best remembered for a brief stint in the WWF as the guy who replaced Scott Hall as the Razor Ramon character.
“Canada’s Strongest Man”, Quebec’s Dino Bravo began in 1970 on the Montreal circuit, after being trained by Gino Brito. He would travel the NWA territories throughout the 1970’s, mostly as a tag team specialist, until becoming a main event force in the strong Montreal territories. In 1978, he briefly had a run in the WWWF (the early WWE), winning tag team gold. He returned to the WWF as a singles star in 1986 and would become a prominent mid-card heel for much of his second run. He retired in 1992 and a year later, was found dead from an apparent gangland execution.
A student of Lance Storm, BC’s Tyler Breeze debuted on the indie circuit in 2007 as Mattias Wild, becoming a big star with West Coast promotion ECCW. In 2010 he was recruited to NXT by the WWE and became one of the promotion’s top antagonists – he routinely faced the biggest stars of NXT due to his reliability, including facing Japanese legend Jushin “Thunder” Liger at TakeOver. Since he’s been called up to the main roster in 2015, he’s had more downs than ups, but his partnership with Fandango in Breezango is currently as hot as they’ve been – thanks in part to both men’s stellar work in Southpaw Regional Wrestling and the recent Fashion Files series of vignettes. They seem primed to explode on Smackdown Live‘s tag team scene.
Montreal’s Gino Brito began training at the age of 17 with George “Babyface” Cannon and by the late 1950’s, was working for The Sheik in Detroit. He became a solid worker throughout the NWA territories and by the mid-1970’s was working for the WWWF, under the name Louis Cerdan – he was a former WWWF Tag Team Champion and was one of few men to hold the WWF International Heavyweight Championship – a title the WWF briefly had in the early 1980’s to be defended in Japan (it was abandoned in 1985). In the 1980’s, Brito formed a partnership with Andre the Giant to run a new promotion in Montreal – it was Montreal’s top company until Andre returned to the WWF full time. Brito took a position with the WWF as their Montreal promoter.