Tucked away in the hip neighbourhood of West Broadway behind beloved local eatery The Tallest Poppy, The Sherbrook Inn isn’t really a place where you would expect live wrestling to be a hit.
When he organized Winnipeg Professional Wrestling’s (WPW) first event at the hotel’s bar last December, even co-founder Devin Bray had his doubts.
“We thought it would be like a fart in church,” he says. “We had no expectations. We thought we were going to lose money. We thought we were going to piss people off.”
Bray founded WPW along with several other longtime wrestling enthusiasts. Their first event was attended by over 300 people, massively exceeding their expectations.
“It was weird, unlike anything I’d ever seen at a wrestling show before,” he says. “It really reaffirmed what we’re doing and the fanbase that we’re going for – the Wolseley, West Broadway, (University of Winnipeg areas), people our age that live around where we live around.”
Bray says they wanted to put a contemporary spin on a style of wrestling with a long history in Winnipeg.
“It harkens back to when the Winnipeg arena would have wrestling shows 30, 40 years ago in smoke-filled arenas, and people (were) buying into what was happening 100 per cent,” he says.
“We wanted to bring that back, that atmosphere and that edge but also make it a little more progressive ... I have my phone number posted, and we have a set of rules for fan and wrestler conduct ... We want to blend stand-up comedy and live theatre with athleticism and violence.”
Tyler Colton, a.k.a. The Canadian Hercules, is a local independent wrestler who performed at the inaugural event and is slated to fight at WPW’s upcoming Feb. 28 show, also at the Sherbrook Inn. Going into his first match for WPW, he was skeptical.
“It’s not very often – I don’t think ever before in Winnipeg – that a show has been run by people that don’t have experience in the wrestling business besides being fans,” he says.
“I’d never stepped inside the Sherbrook before I met with (WPW) to talk about the show. So when I stepped in, and I looked around, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, the ceiling is very low’ and ‘Oh my god, this place is small’ ... But once we were there and were set up, I think it went really, really well. After every show, people tell you, ‘That was a really great show.’ But that one got real genuine. People were like, ‘That was super, super fun.’”
For Bray, wrestling is a multifaceted spectacle, and he wants WPW events to showcase this.
“Professional wrestling as an art form is complex, and we want to present it in several different ways throughout the night in the three-hour (performance),” he says.
“We want to see it like a movie or live show, not just the baseline grappling.”
Bray says wrestling fans new and old can expect the unexpected, good beer and adrenalin at the Feb. 28 fight.
“We’re really lucky that Half Pints (Brewing Company) has stepped up and been the sponsor,” he says.
“We have a huge surprise that I can’t let out ... You can expect sanctioned party violence, all in the bar. It’s a good atmosphere.”
Tickets can be purchased at the front desk of The Sherbrook Inn, Into the Music (97 Osborne St.) or at www.firstrow.ca.