Q&A: C*4 Wrestling promoter Mark Pollesel on the effects of COVID-19

In the first of a series of Q&A features, we spoke with C*4 Wrestling promoter Mark Pollesel on the early and potentially long-term effects the COVID-19 crisis will have on his promotion.

Everyone is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and here at POST Wrestling, we have reached out to several independent wrestler promoters. We asked them a series of questions regarding the immediate and long-term problems they are facing as well as alternative ways that fans can show their support while live events are not an option.

In our first Q&A, we spoke with Mark Pollesel of C*4 Wrestling out of Ottawa, Ontario. In the coming days, we will hear from Matt Farmer of DEFY Wrestling.

What are the early effects that the COVID-19 crisis has already had on your business?

We had our next event scheduled for this Friday, March 20th.  And the immediate effect is the need to cancel that show.  Pretty sure our scheduled April date is off the table too.   I am perhaps foolishly hopeful that we can run by the end of May – but nobody knows.

So personally, from just a planning and booking perspective, it’s thrown that for a loop.

The general uncertainty that so many of us feel right now is caused by the basic informed opinion that nobody knows when things will “go back to normal”, and nobody knows how bad things might get.

What is the attitude of your wrestlers towards moving forward with shows?

Good question.  I guess to look towards the future and talent’s mindset, you have to look at where we are today and the last few months.  And I really will be speaking of my own recent personal experience to give an answer.

In the last couple of months as COVID-19 made its way across the globe, I really don’t think many of us in North America took things as seriously as we should have.  It was in China.  It was in Korea.  Then it was in Iran.  Then suddenly all over Europe. So for me personally, I knew of it and I was concerned – but once it popped up in North America,  I don’t think any of us truly understood the ramifications that it could and will have.

Early last week, as cases were popping up in the U.S, I know as a booker and promoter, I was very much of the mindset that the show would go on.  And every wrestler I spoke to was of the same mentality.

As last week went on – as it seemingly did for all of us – each day brought more news and painted a better picture of where things were going.

So last Thursday (12th), when there was only one travel-related case in Ottawa, we released a statement.  We said we were still hoping to run as planned, as we believed our crowd of 650-700 really didn’t seem all that dangerous.  And I believe most talents agreed with that.

24 hours later, a couple more cases locally (and across Quebec), and other local promotions started canceling shows.   The recommendation from the city of Ottawa was groups of 250 or less for gatherings.   Quickly I discovered our presale was in that neighborhood, so I suspended ticket sales and announced the show would go on for those fans.   We would be running at a loss to do the show, but we would be doing right by fans and talents, and that was important to me and my business partner.

Talent, for the most part, was behind this.  As for many, this would probably be their final show or one of their final shows for the foreseeable future.  So I carried that pressure with me.

Heading into the weekend and knowing the ongoing international travel headaches, I removed many of the international talents from the card.   We were able to pick-up some other talent (several high profile talents, who would have been a good tradeoff for the cancellations we would have to announce) who had lost shows in the meanwhile.  Now, we did have some talents say they didn’t feel comfortable performing – and I respected that.  We also heard from some fans and staff who shared their own concerns.  I didn’t want anybody in that possible venue who didn’t want to be there.  And to be honest, as more and more information was known, I really didn’t feel entirely comfortable running.

As the weekend came,  so did the announcement that the number of local cases was up to 10.  And with that, I made up my mind that we shouldn’t do the show.

Monday, I spoke to all the talent and told them we were postponing indefinitely the show – and they all agreed and understood.  They appreciated that we tried to run, but also knew the risks. The venue also supported our stance. We announced it, and fans all seemed to be in the same boat.

So as for talent going forward, I feel we have their support.  I think they are all eager to continue performing in all of the places they regularly do.  I hope that nobody rushes back to wrestling and potentially runs the risk of getting ill or spreading the virus.

We all want what is best for the community as a whole.  And hopefully, talent will make the right decisions looking towards the future, and if they are uncomfortable working with other talent or locations, that they speak up and get out of those situations.

What are the long-term issues you are bracing for over the next several months regarding your company?

I’m not going to lie.  Losing out on our March card is a big financial blow.  Traditionally March has proven year after year to be our highest attended show of the season.  April is also quite an important show for us in that regard too.  So from a purely financial perspective, we are damaged by the loss of money that would have gone into C*4, and then been reinvested into other shows we do that aren’t as highly attended.

Fortunately, aside from being out on a flight and some advertising costs for the show, we were able to pull the plug without losing too much.

And then there is the fact that our biggest asset in terms of growing our audience is word of mouth, and new fan’s coming out and experiencing our shows – and then spreading the word about us.  This word of mouth always brings lots of new fans to every show.   I fear that losing one of our most attended events of the year, also hurts us for the future, as it stops that momentum building.

I certainly hope that in a few months when we are able to run again – fans are hungry and excited to come out and support us again. That people will be craving live entertainment and communal experiences.  And hopefully, we won’t miss a beat.  And this is the same for indies across the world that are really in the midst of a boom and golden age.

However, I really fear that the pendulum will swing the other way.  Will people be fearful of gathering in large groups?  Will people enjoy the experience of being able to keep themselves entertained at home, and not feel the need to come out to shows?   And this goes for all sorts of communal events.  Movie theatres.  Love sports.  Theatre.  Live music.

Hopefully, when we come out on the other side of this, we will be ready to enjoy life as we did a few weeks ago.  But who knows?

And finally, which will lead to the final question you asked – we will certainly hurt our momentum in terms of building an international audience via our presence on IndependentWrestling.tv and sales on SmartMarkVideo.com.  With having consistent releases every month on these platforms, we have continued to grow an audience outside of our live events.   I worry if those people won’t come back to us.

For readers and listeners that would like to show their support in lieu of going to live events, are there other areas of your business you can direct them towards?

The best way for us would definitely be by going to independentwrestling.TV or iwtv.live and subscribe, using promo-code “C4Canada”.

Signing up with that code will see us compensated if you become a regular subscriber – but more importantly for all of you, is getting a free five day trial to the service.

And I can’t say enough good things about IWTV.  They’ve got literally thousands of different shows streaming from promotions across the world, on-demand. Some of the bigger promotions on the service include Beyond Wrestling, GCW, AIW, CZW, and Chikara.  They’ve got so much great stuff, and right now, since all the self-isolation has started, they’ve been streaming events every day, from different promotions back catalogs.  Over 180 promotions are represented on the service.

But really, aside from signing up with our promo code, go here and dive into our content:

We’ve got hundreds of hours of shows up there and so much good stuff we’d love people to deep dive into.  Every moment you guys watch of ours does make an impact on our bottom line and financially supports us.

If you prefer physical media/ownership, I strongly urge people to go to Smart Mark Video:


You can buy our shows on BluRay, DVD, and MP4.

And besides that, you can just follow us on social media, and stay tuned for our latest news and updates.