International Wrestling Syndicate Montreal Scarred 4 Life 2022 interview

Montreal’s International Wrestling Syndicate delivers “notoriously ultraviolent entertainment”

We spoke to some of the wrestlers participating in Scarred 4 Life 2022 tonight, the last “fans bring the weapons” event for the IWS.

All good things must come to an end, as they say. 

For local wrestling institution the IWS (International Wrestling Syndicate), this coming Saturday will be the last “fans bring the weapons” event in the promotion’s history. The 2022 edition of SCARRED 4 LIFE, going down tonight, Aug. 6, at the Olympia Theatre, will also be the final match of “PCP Crazy F’N” Manny Leftheriou’s wrestling career. In fact, they’ve even gone so far as to call it the “biggest IWS show ever,” between this and the rest of the night’s programming.

“The IWS is a constantly growing and evolving thing,” says Joseph Fitzmorris, known by wrestling fans as the Green Phantom. “So really, it’s almost like every show becomes the biggest show we’ve ever done before, because we keep growing in this direction.” 

Having evolved from holding events on mats in bars to being broadcast on TV to more than a million viewers monthly, the IWS now airs their matches on the Fight Network in 22 countries. To this day, the promotion remains completely independent and self-funded since its founding in 1998.

This show will mark the first time the association has staged events at the Olympia, as they normally take place monthly at venues like MTelus or Club Soda. A host of wrestling stars will be on-hand for the event, including the Jericho Appreciation Society (headed by former WWE star Chris Jericho); former IWS Tag Team champions “Daddy Magic” Matt Menard and Angelo Parker (known as the duo 2point0); Laval native “Speedball” Mike Bailey; Joey Janela; and Ruby Soho, marking the latter’s first time wrestling in Montreal. 

But of course, the big draw for the evening will be Manny’s final bow in the ring for the IWS. So why was now the right time for him to say goodbye?

“Manny’s in a place in his life where he is just mentally and physically drained from in-ring competition,” says IWS executive producer Andrew Stott, whose wrestling name is ‘Professor H’ Shayne Hawke. “This man has given his heart and soul to professional wrestling, and specifically to the IWS, to the point where he has it tattooed on his body. Multiple times. 

“There’s just so much that the body can take, and so much the body can handle before it breaks. Manny would like now to focus on other things; for example, producing the shows, because he’s a technical wizard in terms of IT and also for audiovisual equipment.”

PCP Manny will also be teaming up with the Green Phantom for the latter’s final match, against TDT (Tabarnak de Team). The two Quebec wrestling icons will be fighting in what will be the final time fans get to bring weapons into the match — something Fitzmorris describes as “notoriously ultraviolent entertainment,” and not for the faint-hearted. 

Also, expect a lot of glass to get thrown around the place.

“I’m already worried about cleaning up afterward,” Stott says. “But we will suffer for our art!”

Ever since the IWS started hosting their “fans bring the weapons” matches in 2001, they’ve helped establish the promotion as a force in the wrestling world. For Stott, these matches wouldn’t have put them on the map, had it not been for Manny, Green Phantom, or other local wrestling heroes like SeXXXy Eddy and the Arsenal.

“If not for these founders in Montreal wrestling, then there would be no exodus of Montreal wrestlers to the United States,” he says. 

“Without these deathmatch wrestlers doing ‘fans bring the weapons’ — specifically SeXXXy Eddy drinking his own blood in a Tournament of Death — Kevin Owens and Sami Zayne never get to the United States. Dark Order, the Jericho Appreciation Society — anybody you can think of who came from Quebec, that door was open because of a match like this, with these very competitors.” 

Even if its popularity locally has ebbed and flowed over time, Montreal has always been a wrestling city — just look at stars from past generations like Gino Brito, Édouard Carpentier and Dino Bravo for proof. But the city’s place on the wrestling map has been solidified thanks in large part to IWS, and the international stars who came from it.

For Fitzmorris, Manny’s retirement is a particularly significant one. Having battled with and against him multiple times over two decades, crediting Manny as the “reason” he’s become the Green Phantom, and why he’s pursued a professional wrestling career.

“We’ve both scarred each other’s bodies and brains up over the years. There’s so much that goes through my mind,” he adds. “No matter what happens at the end of the match, we’ll be bloody and emotional.”

Though Fitzmorris says he’s missed one or two “fans bring the weapons” matches as the Green Phantom, Manny has been in every single one — essentially, the “fans bring the weapons” matches are synonymous with Manny himself. As far as the weapons actually being used? Fans have been known to get “sadistically creative,” in Stott’s words, with the kinds of things they’ve brought to these events.

“There are some photos on the IWS’ social media of people who have already, for months now, been designing implements of destruction,” he adds. “It’s a little bit violent, and a little bit hard to recover from.” (“You’re using the word ‘little bit’ wrong!” Fitzmorris replies.)

More fittingly, the question would be what kinds of weapons haven’t been brought, rather than which ones have been. In that regard, the weapons have run the gamut: barbed wire dildos; chainsaws; katana swords; crutches with light tubes on them; food (e.g. entire holiday hams, cakes with thumbtacks and barbed wire in them); a cow’s leg; and a bat adorned with lightbulbs, skewers and plastic forks.

You can also expect to see virtually every glass-based household item you can think of, as well as the non-glass ones like ironing boards (including ones covered in mousetraps, razor wire and other such painful instruments), cheese graters, baking pans and even cupboards.

“Everything — even the kitchen sink — has been brought,” Fitzmorris tells us (guns and knives are not allowed, however). One fan in particular, Bob Otis, brings a weapon every year of his own creation: the hardcore cactus. 

“He takes several light tubes, puts them in a flower pot, paints them green, and then individually glues thumbtacks to them, for them to use in the ring,” says Stott.

“I saw on the IWS Facebook that he’d shared some of the weapons he’d made this year. He’s even got his daughter making Lego boards, because it’s an all-ages show. She’s making and painting these wooden boards, but with Lego pieces on there to be thrown and bashed.”

The overall intensity of the violence shown in these events has become more tame over the years, to avoid damaging their hopes of getting corporate sponsors for their TV broadcasts. But they’re bringing back the “fans bring the weapons” event for this very occasion, even if worries about spilled blood on network television — and subsequent heavy cleaning — remain.

The IWS also isn’t done building their brand anytime soon, as they have several other events and projects (including a TV show) in their pipeline for the rest of 2022. The promotion has also built partnerships with Prohibition and Lagabière. Despite all the success the IWS has experienced over the last 23 years, there’s still a sense of feeling like a lesser-known commodity in your own hometown — “best-kept secrets,” as Fitzmorris says.

“You go to other countries, and we have a little bit more notoriety,” he continues. “Whenever I go to wrestle in the States, or wrestle in England, they know about the IWS. It’s a big thing. Even though we have a good fan base here in Montreal, it seems there’s a lot of people who aren’t aware of this jewel that’s been roasting and cooking for the past 20 years.”

Though they’ve put about a year’s worth of planning into this event to make it the biggest IWS show ever, there’s too much history within the promotion over the past 23 years that you can’t pick and choose which parts of it have truly been the best.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty to look forward to on Saturday night — especially as PCP Manny calls it a career and allows future generations of IWS wrestlers to have their shot.

“It’s a culmination of so much time, blood, sweat and tears all being put together,” Stott says. “I’m not sleeping very much, because there’s just so much to do for the show. But I truly believe it’s going to pay off. It’s really going to be the #BiggestIWSShow.” ■

SCARRED 4 LIFE 2022 is happening at the Olympia Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 6, 8 p.m., $36.25

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