The seventh part in our 10-part series looking at 150 Canadian names in pro wrestling, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Part 7 of the Canada 150, an alphabetical listing of Canadians’ impact on pro wrestling from the 1920’s to today.
Montreal’s Carl Ouellet was trained by Gino Brito in 1987 and working in Puerto Rico with WWC, where his stiff working was relished. A meeting with Jacques Rougeau in 1993 and he went to the WWF to join him in his new tag team, The Quebecers. He would become a 3x WWF World Tag Team Champion, under the name Pierre Ouellet, and wrestled under Rougeau’s retirement in 1994. Ouellet was repackaged as an eye patched pirate named Jean-Pierre LaFitte (supposedly descended from real life pirate, Jean LaFitte) in 1995 and got a surprising push against main eventer Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, that resulted in the underrated classic match up at In Your House 3. Unfortunately, he fell in disfavour with The Kliq backstage and was released by year’s end. He jumped to WCW in 1996 and reunited with an unretired Jacques Rougeau as The Amazing French Canadians (and back to his real name). He lasted a year and then spent the next several years bouncing in and out of WCW, WWF and ECW, with short runs that only lasted weeks. Following the collapse of the Monday Night Wars, he primarily bounced around the indies, barring a 2-year stint with TNA in the mid-2000’s, before retiring in 2011. Contrary to some rumours, Ouellet never damaged his eye during his wrestling career in between his Quebecer and pirate gimmick. He was already half blind when he joined the WWF – when he was 12 he accidentally shot himself in the eye with a pellet gun and lost 90% of his vision in his right eye. That’s why he could wrestle equally well with an eye patch on and not have it affect his timing – he was already blind in that eye.
One of the undeniable faces of the New Era of the WWE, Kevin Owens, formerly known as Kevin Steen in the indies, has had an incredible run with the WWE so far – in just under three full years, he is already a World Champion, 2x Intercontinental Champion, 2x US Champion and NXT Champion. A pretty impressive trophy cabinet. But his 14-year career prior to joining the WWE Universe was the stuff of indie legend. A long time star on the Quebec circuit since 2000, he branched out into American indies in 2004, first with CZW, then PWG a year later, where the Kevin Steen character exploded. He made hanging out with the Young Bucks cool long before Kenny Omega did. His career long feud with his real life childhood friend Sami Zayn (as El Generico) is equal legend unto it’s own. In 2007, he began a three year run with Ring of Honor, cementing his legacy as one of the indie world’s all time greats. If ever there was a classic underdog, it was Kevin Owens. Always bet against, but won the house every time. The WWE has just scratched the surface with what they’ll do with Kevin Owens – his best is yet to come.
“ALL EGO” ETHAN PAGE
Hamilton’s Ethan Page has quietly emerged as one of the current North American indie scene’s most effective heels, becoming the maniacal Lex Luthor of wrestling in EVOLVE over the past year, which culminated in a brutal match against Darby Allin at EVOLVE 79. His Joe Average smugness coupled with terrific mic work makes him instantly unlikeable, but he backs it up with intelligent ring work and psychology. He’s a regular across the country in AIW, AAW, and WrestleCircus, breaking into the UK with Southside Wrestling Entertainment (SWE), plus runs his own top promotion in Canada, Alpha-1 Wrestling, in his home town – he’s one of the hardest working men in the industry right now and getting better by the month.
Windsor, Ontario’s Louis Papineau debuted in 1946, wrestling the circuits around Detroit and around Ontario. He slowly built a reputation of diversity and change that he became one of the most interchangeable journeymen in the industry – he worked multiple territories at once, with a different persona in each region. During his career, he wrestled under his real name, but also used all of these gimmicks, many at the same time: Gino Nicolini. The Bearded Terror. The Great Mephisto. Lou Trompe. The Sheik (in Montreal, pre-Ed Farhat). He didn’t win any Championships or make any big headlines (at least not until the end), but he was a strong and reliable enhancement wrestler who got little pushes here and there. And he worked for everyone. Sadly, his passion for the industry would be his death. In 1964, following a match against Quebec wrestling legend Gino Brito, Papineau stumbled backstage after their match and had a massive heart attack. He was dead at the age of 36. Rugged, versatile, handsome. He would have been just the gem someone like Vince McMahon Sr. could have plucked for his WWWF had he remained alive and turned into a star (much like what the NWA did with Ric Flair from the AWA). A 17-year love affair ended by a broken heart.
TONY “CANNONBALL” PARISI
Niagara Falls, Ontario’s Tony “Cannonball” Parisi debuted in 1961, wrestling primarily in the Detroit area. In 1966, he signed with the WWWF and he was introduced as the cousin of WWWF World Champion Bruno Sammartino. He soon entered the WWWF’s tag team division, winning tag team gold with the WWWF US Tag Team titles and the WWWF World Tag Team titles. He would travel the 1970’s working for nearly every major NWA territory and when he returned to the WWF in the early 1980’s, he became the company’s first WWF International Heavyweight Champion, the title they had for defending in NJPW (similar in idea to what NJPW just did with their new IWGP US Heavyweight title), in 1982, holding it for the first six months, before going on to such legends as Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu (it was retired in 1985). He spent his last years in Montreal with Lutte Internationale, before retiring back to Niagara Falls, where he ran a local promotion. He passed away in 2000. His nephew followed his uncle’s footsteps and became a wrestler, even using Johnny Parisi early on in his career. But most people know him today as Johnny Swinger.
Born in Vancouver and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Sandy Parker fell in love with pro wrestling in Seattle and Detroit as a teenager. While living in Windsor, she began training to become a wrestler across the river in Detroit in the late 1960’s. As she progressed, she was advised to advance to The Fabulous Moolah‘s school, where she headed to in the early 1970’s. She enjoyed it at first, but soon became one of the few women to stand up for herself and walk away from Moolah’s lure of fame and fortune – she found out Moolah was pocketing her trainee’s cuts of matches so constantly stood up to Moolah at every turn. Parker was also a lesbian, but Moolah would always try and set her up with other men. And she forbade her from hanging out in gay bars. Moolah’s demands were too much and Parker left her company and went to train in the camp of Moolah’s rival, Mildred Burke. She won tag team gold in the NWA with Sue Green, but found greater success over in Japan with All-Japan‘s female promotion, All-Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (AJW). In just over a year with the company, she was an 8x Tag Team Champion and even reigned as their World Champion. She retired from the sport in 1986. Her life story would make an amazing Hollywood biopic – a strong female lead film about a girl who braved Detroit in a politically charged late ’60’s to follow her dream, fight the oppression of woman on woman, and became a World Champion in Japan. This has Oscar all over it.
He’s considered one of the most creative minds in professional wrestling history. Montreal’s Pat Patterson debuted in the Montreal circuit of 1958 and moved to the US scene in 1962, starting in Boston. Fellow Montreal Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon brought him to Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) in Portland shortly after, where became one of wrestling’s first openly gay characters “Pretty Boy” Pat Patterson. Ironically, it was never thought of as that then – Patterson was still very much in the closet, so the crowd assumed it was a poke at the gay community, not a living representation of it. In 1965, he moved to the San Francisco area. He died his hair blonde and, paired with Ray Stevens, formed The Blonde Bombers, arguably the best West Coast tag team of the 1960’s. In 1977, he went solo in Florida, before reforming the Bombers in the AWA in 1978. In 1979, he did a tour of NJPW before arriving in the WWF in 1980 to become the inaugural Intercontinental Champion. In 1981, his boot camp match against Sgt. Slaughter was selected as the Match of the Year by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Upon his retirement in 1985, Patterson became an integral part of the WWF creative, essentially becoming Vince McMahon‘s right hand man and one of the few in the industry who could bend his ear. His vision to push emerging young talent through the storm paid off and he was a big part behind the Attitude Era and the eras that followed. He was like the Sir Alex Ferguson of the WWE – he started off with a rough squad, worked them into Champions through several roster changes, and then got out just before the wheels fell off again. Still a creative consultant with the WWE, Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Archibald Peck moved to Texas in 2001 to become a wrestler, training with Texas legend Skandor Akbar. He wrestled the Texas and surrounding indie circuit for years, most notably with Anarchy, until debuting in Ring of Honor in 2010, as R.D. Evans. A year later, he made his debut with CHIKARA as the marching bandleader Archibald Peck, where his combined wrestling technique and comedic timing were a perfect fit. He remained with CHIKARA until 2014, when his character was killed off by Deucalion‘s choke slam (although through time travel, he appeared the following year in the 2015 season finale). In the fall of 2016, Peck retired from in-ring competition to join the WWE, where he joined WWE’s Creative team, where he currently works as one of the writers for Monday Night Raw.
Brockville, Ontario’s Portia Perez debuted on the wrestling scene in 2003 and made her debut on the Ontario and Quebec indie scene at the young age of 17. It didn’t take long for her to begin working the US indie scene as well, hitting Ohio with regularity. By 2006, she debuted with SHIMMER, where she frequently tag teamed with fellow Canadian Nicole Matthews in the Canadian NINJAS (National International Nation of Jalapeño Awesomeness) and Ring of Honor shortly after that. She continued to expand her presence, wrestling in the UK as well as Japan with Pro Wrestling Reina and Stardom. A 2x SHIMMER Tag Team Champion, she was forced to retire in 2015 following a severe neck injury, at the age of 27.
ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Considered by many to be the greatest heel and trash talkers in the industry, the Rowdy Scot, although of Scottish heritage, was actually from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (although he grew up in Winnipeg and Northern Ontario). He debuted in 1969, and worked NWA territories for most of the 1970’s, but it was his run in the WWF during the 1980’s – most notably as the foil to Hulk Hogan – that cemented his legacy as one of the industry’s all time greats. Piper crossed into the mainstream pop culture as an actor as well, in the sci-fi cult classic They Live in 1988. He finally retired in 2014, before sadly passing away due to in 2015. Despite being a main event player for decades, Piper is usually considered the greatest wrestler never to win a World title in any of his promotions.
Originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Cat Power moved to Windsor, Ontario in 2004 to become a professional wrestler, training at the Can-Am School with Scott D’Amore and Tyson Dux. She worked in the Ontario indies before joining SHIMMER in 2008. In 2015, she made the jump to Japan with Pro Wrestling Reina and has returned home to work with ECCW in Vancouver, where she’s currently the ECCW Women’s Champion, a title she’s held over 400 days, as well as a frequent tag team partner with Nicole Matthews.
North Bay, Ontario’s Patricia Williams entered the world of professional wrestling with her real life husband, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin, in 1983. Originally the assistant for Garvin’s regular valet, Sunshine, she soon took her spot and became Garvin’s valet instead (she was called Sunshine II as the assistant, but became Precious when she became his valet). She would remain his valet for the duration of his career, throughout WCCW, AWA and WCW, even during Garvin’s time as part of the Fabulous Freebirds. She retired from wrestling in 1992.
Abbotsford, British Columbia’s Mauro Ranallo is one of the world’s leading combat sports announcers, whose resume includes MMA, boxing and his first love, pro wrestling. He started his broadcasting career as a 16-year old with Vancouver’s All-Star Wrestling in 1986, before becoming a radio DJ. In 1999, he joined the revived Stampede Wrestling, working alongside Bad News Allen as part of the broadcast team. Throughout the 2000’s, he was the voice of Pride and Strikeforce, before returning to wrestling as the English announcer for NJPW in 2015. He finally joined the WWE last year as the lead announcer for Smackdown Live, but due to various reasons, he left the position earlier this year. He’s returned to WWE programming as the new lead announcer for NXT.
Verdun, Quebec’s Yvon Robert began wrestling in 1932 as a 17-year old and it didn’t take long for “The French Canadian Lion” to make his mark as one of the nation’s top shooters. In 1935, he began working with the American Wrestling Association (the Boston territory, not Verne Gagne’s promotion that started years later) as well as becoming a huge local star in the Montreal circuit. He would win the AWA World title in 1936, beating Danno O’Mahoney, before heading to the NWA in 1940. There he became the first Canadian NWA World Heavyweight Champion, defeating “Wild” Bill Longston in 1942 (although he wasn’t the first Canadian born NWA World Champion – Bronko Nagursku was born in Rainy River, Ontario, but was raised in the US from the age of 5). Robert remained a huge star until he retired in 1959.
Booby Roode made his wrestling debut in 1998, trained by former WWE Superstar Val Venis in his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. He was a frequent traveler in the Ontario indie circuit as well as WWC in Puerto Rico. In the early 2000’s, he was a frequent enhancement with the WWE, but his big break came in 2004. He’d been working with BCW in Windsor, Ontario and debuted in TNA as part of Team Canada, a stable led by Scott D’Amore and featuring BCW grads Johnny Devine, A1, Eric Young and Petey Williams. He would go on to an illustrious 12 year career on Impact Wrestling, as an 8x Tag Team Champion (five of which were with the tag team Beer Money with “Cowboy” James Storm), plus two reigns as the TNA World Champion – his 256 day reign is still the longest reign of any TNA World Champion. He left TNA for the WWE last year and immediately became the top heel in NXT, capturing the NXT title from Shinsuke Nakamura in January.