Hundreds of spectators turn out every month for indie wrestling matchups at 260 MacArthur Avenue in Vanier.
Did you know Ottawa has a thriving independent wrestling scene? That’s the type of question being asked by Apt613’s newest web series. In an Ottawa Minute we’ll explore corners of the city you may have never visited and niche scenes from indie wrestling to fringe theatre, burlesque, the escape room boom, new breweries and offbeat events. So, not “niche” in the sense that niche tastes will be required… but this is probably the kinda stuff you’d have to hear about from a friend.
For the first Ottawa Minute episode we visit the Columbus Club in Vanier, where spectators pack the hall to see monthly indie wrestling shows. We hear from several pro wrestlers, superfans, and others involved in the extremely popular C*4 Wrestling League, which has been running for over a decade.
Afterwards we got to catch up with promoter Mark Pollesel, who founded the Ottawa-based league in 2007. Watch the episode on 613TV and read our Q&A with Mark Pollesel below.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Where do you find the wrestlers? Do you scout for talent?
Mark Pollesel: We have a mix of talent from the Ottawa area, across Quebec, Ontario, and the North-East USA. In addition, we frequently fly in talents from across the US. So in terms of “finding” wrestlers… we keep an eye out for talents that are making waves in different scenes, and try to book them here, in an effort to provide local fans with a a product that is truly world class. It’s always been something we have done since day one, as to keep things fresh, and to mix things up.
Does C*4 host open auditions?
The closest thing to this was three annual events held from 2015–2017 which were called “Underground”. These events were held to get a look at talents we didn’t normally use. Through this we discovered some awesome wrestlers, and have booked them regularly since.
How often does the team meet for training? Who coaches the wrestlers?
In terms of training, everybody we use comes in fully trained. However, since they all come from different areas, their access to working out, in-ring, varies. The vast majority of our roster is already wrestling two, or three times a week, so they are always getting better due to that.
We lost tons of money in those years. However, we built a reputation… Consistency and quality was always so important to me. And thankfully that has paid off.
C*4 regularly sells hundreds of tickets in a night. But were you confident an audience would turn up to your first show?
In a word, no.
Longer answer… Ottawa historically hasn’t been a wrestling town. While promoters have run here in the past, nobody was able to grab a regular audience. WWE barely comes here once a year, and generally draw pretty low when they do. Unlike the GTA or Montreal, we don’t have a great history of pro wrestling locally.
When I started with C*4, I knew we had to build up an audience. The first show, and the average for the first couple of years, was somewhere between 100 and 150 fans. We lost tons of money in those years. However, we built a reputation, which to me was more important. We built a reputation among talent, that we were a quality place to work. We built a reputation among fans in terms of the quality of the shows and talent appearing.
Consistency and quality was always so important to me. And thankfully that has paid off.
Can you tell us about how your events got started and how C*4 has grown over time?
My passion is writing, and I love cinema. I went to school for script writing at Algonquin College. I am an aspiring screenwriter.
There is a very unique theatrical experience in professional wrestling. It’s an art that is like nothing else. As a writer, I am able to work with 30+ performers on a show to collaborate on something that will have an immediate reaction from an audience.
So my wanting to tell stories, and being a wrestling fan collided, and thus, C*4 was born.
In terms of growing… Word of mouth – 10000% – is what has caused our audience to come out. I have always believed once somebody comes out to a C*4 show, they will become a fan. With that said, the struggle over the years has to be getting people out. Once they come out, I feel we have them. And that’s why I strive to always put on an awesome event, show after show.
Where and when did the first C4 event take place?
November 10, 2007, was our first show. We ran at our longtime home, 260 McArthur Ave.
Was it easy to find a venue?
No. Not at all. Ottawa suffers from a lack of mid-sized venues. Any concert promoter knows this locally. Thankfully we found an amazing venue, and partnered with them for the last decade. We have been very lucky.
I spent years searching for a venue. Besides a lack of venues, the fact we were professional wrestling was a major strike against us. I mean, despite everything being controlled, and planned out, it still is very difficult to convince people that we are probably safer than most concerts or countless other events.
Can you tell us what’s going to be the biggest matchup in 2018?
Whatever the next match on the next show is! Seriously though, I have a few ideas, but I am never sure of where things may end up.