This Friday, C*4 Wrestling out of Ottawa, Ontario will be hosting it’s annual ‘Fighting Back 9’ benefit show from St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall. The show is an annual event in memory of Phrank Morin, who died in 2011 at age 23 after being diagnosed with cancer. 100% of the proceeds from the show go directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.
This year’s event will feature such names as Cody, MJF, Joey Janela, Dark Order (Evil Uno & Stu Grayson), along with many others.
POST Wrestling had the opportunity to speak with C*4 Wrestling’s Mark Pollesel, who puts together this show each show and runs the promotion out of Ottawa.
POST Wrestling: First off, can you share with our readers your role within C*4 Wrestling and what your workload is like on a typical week leading into a big event?
Mark Pollesel: I am the creator, co-promoter and booker of C*4 (Capital City Championship Combat). Generally, the biggest things to deal with in the final week are last-minute changes which inevitably arise. From possible talent cancellations and changes, to match order changes to accommodate traveling talent, etc.
Promoting-wise there is always last-minute hype and pushes that need to be done.
Thankfully C*4 is at a place where a lot of things run a lot smoother than they did during the early days. But I’ve also learned to delegate and trust the team we have working together on the show, both in front and behind the curtain.
Was promoting professional wrestling something you aspired to or fell into?
I guess at some point in my fandom I did go from wanting to be a part of the show, to being somebody who helps run the show. I became a fan in the early ’90s (Warrior and Papa Shango voodoo angle / Summer 1992 Superstars and WCW Power Hour on TSN are my earliest memories).
I was a huge fan throughout the ’90s. And now that I’m answering the question, I only am realizing that working behind the scenes was something I wanted to do. Here’s a story… sorry, haha… I recall writing hand-written letters to both Jim Ross and Vince McMahon repeatedly (c/o Titan Towers, thanks to my PWI Almanac providing the addresses) in late 1996 / early 1997. I specifically recall the timeframe because I wrote to them to see if I could shadow them one day the following year for Grade 9 “Take your Kid to Workday”. I lived in Ottawa, and I knew it was a ridiculous thought… but part of me thought maybe they’d read my enthusiasm in the letter, and I’d suddenly get flown down to Stamford. Needless to say, that didn’t happen – but – one day I came home from school to find a white cardboard envelope from Titan Towers. In what was probably the most exciting moment of my life, I opened it, and there was simply a Vince McMahon 8×10 signed “To Mark, Thanks for your loyalty… Vince.” I’ll attach a photo.
Anyways, long story even longer, my love of wrestling kind of came and went, specifically around fall 1999 until right around the closure of ECW and WCW buy-out. During this time, I got involved in the local independent film scene, and really wanted to start working in that direction. After high school, I went to college for scriptwriting. It was around that time I thought of using wrestling as a creative outlet to tell stories. and that is basically was when I decided I wanted to try putting on shows.
If someone has never attended one of your shows, what is the ideal experience you are aiming to deliver for first-time consumers?
More than anything else a good time. I always say to people… There are two types of people in Ottawa, C*4 fans, and those who haven’t been yet.
I take great pride in the fact that our audience is pretty much split between traditional wrestling fans and a crowd of people who are just coming out to have a good time.
I’ve found that putting on a really strong in-ring product is the way to win over everybody.
I want people to have a good time and is looking forward to coming to another show – and even more importantly – being excited to tell their friends about making sure they check us out.
How would you assess the local wrestling scene for your promotion and the support you receive from the fanbase?
The local scene has grown into something very special.
For context, when we started in 2007, there was essentially nothing here. Geographically, while we are the capital of Canada, the city is always in the shadow of Montreal and Toronto.
Montreal was coming off a really hot period (Kevin Steen and El Generico really blowing up from 2004-2006), and there were about 20 feds across the city. While in the GTA, I’d say UWA Hardcore had truly created an identity for themselves, and then you had Squared Circle, etc behind that. However, Ottawa was and still is to a degree, an island unto itself – and quality independent wrestling hadn’t touched the city.
Over the years we have gone from getting maybe 120 fans in the building to selling-out our venue several times a “Season”, of over 650 fans.
So, when we started there was us running Ottawa proper, and a few smaller places running around the outskirts of the city. So essentially the local scene didn’t exist.
We have a fan base that wants to have a good time. They come for a great show, and to drink and be social. They don’t come to sit on their hands and be overly critical (although even if they were, I feel the product holds up). Many talents who have worked the top indies across North America will frequently say C*4 is their favorite place to work due to the hot crowds.
On August 16th, you are running a special charity wrestling show with all the proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society in honor of Phrank Morin – can you share with us a little bit about who Phrank Morin was and what led to C*4 making this an annual event?
Phrank Morin broke into the business alongside Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, the Dark Order (formerly the Super Smash Brothers). Phrank, along with Uno and Stu were “Day One” guys on our roster. He was their best friend, and they worked a three-way match on the first C*4 show.
Phrank was beloved by so many people locally. He was always a joy to be around, and a friend to myself and many others involved in C*4 – as well as other Canadian indies (such as InterSpecies Wrestling – where he was one of their top guys, where he wrestled as Stinky the Homeless Guy).
In late 2010, at age 23, Phrank was diagnosed with generalized cancer. In January 2011, he was told that he had one year to live, to the shock of himself and everybody around him. When that diagnosis was given, me and several others including Uno and Stu, decided we wanted to put on a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society in his honor.
The idea was that we would put on a show that he could attend and see that he had tremendous community of support around him. However, once the wheels were in motion for the show (set for August 2011), it became clear that Phrank’s sickness was much worse than doctors had anticipated.
On April 1st, 2011, Phrank passed away.
With the support of his family (and ongoing support of his sister), the show was decided to go on. And it did later that summer. That show was entitled Fighting Back: Wrestling with Cancer.
The main goal of Fighting Back is to give 100% of ticket sales (not a percentage of the profits, or a dollar or two from each ticket, donated – everything raised from ticket sales) to the Canadian Cancer Society in Phrank’s memory.
After the first year’s show was successful and raised over $10K, I knew we had to do it again. And since then, annually, the August show has become a real cause that the local wrestling scene comes together for. Local talent volunteers their time, and we all help raise money to cover costs – and then we have an amazing memorable night, every August.
In the past, we’ve had guests such as the Young Bucks, Ultimo Dragon, Bobby Lashley, Tommy Dreamer, Chavo Guerrero Jr, and others.
Fighting Back has become a very important night for all of us involved – and despite the personal pressure and stress it causes me every year (the feeling I need to top the previous one), it’s something I can never see myself not organizing.
Tell us a bit about the card and the notable names that are scheduled to wrestle on the show.
This year’s event our guest headliner is Cody, being presented by All Elite Wrestling. He jumped at the opportunity when Evil Uno approached him and the company. He’s bringing along MJF (who has competed in C*4 several times before).
Also, the show will see “Bad Boy” Joey Janela bid farewell to Ottawa. Janela has been a part of C*4 since about 2014, and as busy as he got always made time to come back here.
The card has a triple main event.
Cody and MJF will team against two of C*4’s most popular stars, Mathieu St. Jaques and Thomas Dubois, better known as TDT (Tabarnak De Team).
Next, Joey Janela teams with C*4 Tag Team Champions, Kobe Durst and Matt Angel, against Evil Uno and The Butcher and The Blade (Andy Williams & Pepper Parks), in what will no doubt be a wild brawl.
And the show will be capped off with the annual Fighting Back Invitational, this year contested under a 30-ish person Over the top, Rumble-style match, where the winner is crowned the Fighting Back 2019 Champion and will be granted a future C*4 Championship show. Some of the notable names announced for this so far are Stu Grayson, Daniel Garcia, Tony Deppen, Jody Threat, Danhausen, Fight or Flight (Vaughn Vertigo and Gabriel Fuerza) and Kevin Blackwood. Lots more names to be announced for this.
In addition, we’ve got a really exciting undercard set featuring talent from across Ontario and Quebec.
Who are some of the local names that the audience at large should keep their eyes on?
In terms of Ottawa grown talent, the one guy I’d suggest people keep an eye on is Sheldon Jean. A graduate of the Can-Am school in Windsor, the Ottawa native has tons of raw potential. He recently competed in the Toronto try-outs. He’s about two years into his career and has all the tools to go far.
Obviously, the Dark Order are local – but I think many are already paying attention to them. They have opened a training school in the last six months, something that has been sorely lacking locally – so that should really help the Ottawa scene in terms of newer homegrown talent. It’s already helped provide a place for more established locals to hone their craft more regularly too.
Stretching local to both the Ontario and Quebec scenes, I’d include TDT (St. Jacques and Dubois)- who have been tearing it up for years, but are just waiting for their opportunity to blow up internationally.
Matt Angel and Kobe Durst (both former C*4 Champions, and current C*$ Tag Team Champions) are two younger guys who steal shows wherever they are booked.
And then going beyond that, the Buffalo brothers are some of the most exciting talents from one concentrated area, I’ve seen in years. Daniel Garcia who debuts in Evolve next month has less than two years in and working with the confidence of a 2003 era Daniel Bryan. Him, along with Kevin Blackwood, Kevin Bennett, PUF and Andy Williams are all going to be making waves in the years to come.
It’s hard to name all the names that deserve attention, as there is so much talent across Ontario and Quebec. It’s a deep scene with tons of talent that should be noticed. A little bit of a shameless plug – which really isn’t intended to be that, but I’d encourage everybody to sign-up to independentwrestling.tv/ (and register with promo code C4CANADA for three weeks free) and you’ll be able to dive into our library, as well as other Canadian indies (Alpha 1, Demand Lucha, NSPW and others) featured on the service and really get a taste of what’s going on out there.
What are the biggest changes you have seen on the independent level over the past five years?
Good question. The indie scene has really come into its own over the last five years. I feel professional wrestling is the healthiest it has been in close to twenty years, because of how well indies are doing. Major indies in every North American market are drawing healthy numbers on a monthly (sometimes more often) basis. It’s really been an exciting growth period. It’s also something I think all of us who do what I do, felt was coming.
Gone is the generation of carnie indie promoters looking for one big crowd, and not caring about building something. Today, the standard is building up a high work rate product that keeps the crowds returning. The current generation of successful indie promoters is guys in their 20’s and 30’s, who seem to be interested in building up their scenes, rather than making a fast buck off an ex-WWE talent, or wannabe workers playing the main eventer on their own shows.
In terms of changes, there are far more opportunities now for talent to make a living today at wrestling than there was five years ago. As a result, that has certainly accelerated the way I would book talent, or plan to use talent. Whereas four or five years ago, I could spend a couple of years building up and relying regularly a “Speedball” Mike Bailey, Joey Janela, or Josh Alexander, as I could count them being around on every or most shows – it’s tough to do the same with the current group of newer standout talent, as there are so many more international and high profile opportunities that might come up and take them from the crop of available talent. And I don’t feel bitter about that at all – I wouldn’t be doing my part properly it talent I used was available forever (and it would speak poorly of my eye for talent too I suppose). I want talent to succeed. It just forces me as a booker to be more resourceful, and constantly on the lookout.
The talent level is higher than ever right now, and it’s really exciting. Indie wrestling is in a very healthy place, and while the turnover level is going to be a lot higher for top-level talent. I am very optimistic as to where things will be in another five years.
Finally, how can those reading find out more information in the event and how they can support this cause?
For those wishing to support – most years I would say “buy a ticket” – however, the event totally sold out several weeks ago.
The two main ways I would suggest are:
Our friends over at newLEGACYinc (https://www.twitch.tv/newlegacyinc/) are once again partnering on us with the fundraising. Since 2014, they have held wresting game streams marathons over our event weekend. The money they raise from that is always given to us to include in our grand total. Of the 200K + donated by Fighting Back since 2011, half of that money wouldn’t be there if not for the efforts made by them. So, if you’re looking for a good time on Twitch on August 15th and 16th, at 2 pm each day, and donate to them.
Alternatively, we ask everybody to head over to cancer.ca/donate – and select a donation in “memory of” – and from there make the donation in memory of Phrank, or anybody who you may have lost to the disease. In the notes, please mention Fighting Back: Wrestling with Cancer 2019. Once you make the donation, please let us know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will count your donation toward our total.
And if none of that works for you, just send anything you wish via PayPal to email@example.com, and that will go to the final donation.
For all information about the show, please visit C4Wrestling.com!