Barrie Wrestling is the promotion you haven’t heard about, but should. You wouldn’t think in the basement of a small church tucked away in the backroads exists such a vibrant culture of wrestling, excitement, yelling fans, and storylines that run on for months, but it does. It’s not Broadway, and it’s not the circus – it’s somewhere in between.
The promotion had its first few events held inside of a bar on Essa rd. in Barrie two years ago. Those events held around 50 people, and hovered around that number even as they switched venues into a church gym.
And that’s when Shawn Gibson was offered some great advice.
“My pastor, who’s the same age as me, and is a huge fan, said ‘Dude, you could do this.’ And it’s great for the community, it’s good for the church. So, I messaged the guy and said Hey Chris, do you mind if I take over. He’s like ‘Have at it, I’m done’. So, we did, and now we’re two and a half years into it and we’ve gone from his crowd of 45-50 to our last show where once we hit 300 we stopped counting.”
Featuring wrestlers from as far away as Mexico and England, the wrestlers themselves travel a circuit that takes them all across Ontario, Montreal, and the United States. Barrie Wrestling also had Jake The Snake Roberts, a prominent but retired wrestler, to promote the event in March.
For some it’s a full-time job, and others it’s a supplemental income. But one thing all the wrestlers share is a common enthusiasm for performing.
“I like the fact that there’s no rules,” says Freddy Mercuria, a wrestler on the circuit. “But there’s nothing saying you can’t jump from there. You can’t do it with special twist. You can’t go to an audience member in the middle of your match and give them a high five. There’s no limitation. It’s just how creative can you be?”
Johnny Atlas, echoes that sentiment. During the show, Atlas had a memorable verbal spat with two fans in the front row that had the whole gym laughing.
“And it’s total fan interaction. That’s how we get better in this business. We take our fans on an emotional rollercoaster, and we tell a story with our bodies.”
Atlas – a former linebacker for the BC Lions – almost never wrestled at all. Always harbouring the desire to be a wrestler since his high school days, he was told by his parents to go to University and get a degree first. And so, he put the brakes on going after his wrestling dream, until one fateful day in Victoria.
“I had an accident. I was working in a bar in Victoria and I got shot in the leg. It was one of those things, where life sort of flashes before your eyes and you only get one shot at life, no pun intended (laughs). It was something I hadn’t tried, and always wanted to do. And once I started doing it I never looked back.”
Barrie Wrestling will host an event coinciding with Canada Day this year, from June 30th to July 2nd at the Five Points in Barrie.