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Video Game Wrestlers Go For Broke

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Scorpion versus Super Mario…FIGHT!


Video games have made big business out of courting high-concept cross-overs. At the arcade and on home consoles, Marvel Comics properties have gone toe-to-toe with the brawlers from Street Fighter, the Green Lantern has squared off against Mortal Kombat’s Raiden, and against all conceivable odds, Super Mario has even bopped all over the spiky blue head of longtime rival Sonic the Hedgehog (in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl). So obviously it follows that if you’re going to put together a night of real-world wrestling, it just makes sense to dress up like video game characters. Obviously.
Since last summer, Ross Aitken has been putting together Wrestle Crisis, an elaborate video game–themed wrestling match slated to go down at the Toronto Underground Cinema this Sunday. Based on the success of the anime-themed wrestling matches that Great Canadian Wrestling (GCW) stages at Mississauga’s annual Anime North convention, Aitken hatched a plan to bring similar pugilistic excess to downtown audiences. “They do comic book characters, anime characters, video game characters—people will wear the costumes and wrestle as these characters,” says Aitken of the Anime North matches. “We’ve had such a good turnout that I thought it’d be great to do an event outside of Anime North.” A scheme worthy of Dr. Wily himself!


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RJ City teaches Scorpion that wrestling’s not a game.


Wrestle Crisis brings together video game stars (Aitken will be wrestling as Nintendo’s flagship paesano, Super Mario), comic book characters (Marvel Comics’ omniscient ombudsman, The Watcher, will serve as timekeeper), and other personages lifted from one or another dorky property (Astro Boy and Darth Vader are scheduled to show up, as well as a handful of other surprise guests). Taking its name from DC Comics’ recurring “Crisis” plotlines—in which the multiple universes and alternate timelines that regularly pop up in comic books are condensed into one singular, more manageable chronology—Aitken’s aim with Wrestle Crisis is to whip together dorky cross-franchise potential into a perfect storm of nerdery. Just check out the poster (designed, incidentally, by Torontoist contributing illustrator Rey Ortega), which features Mario, Pac-Man, Street Fighter’s Zangief, and half a dozen others. Add to this crossover madness a pre-game concert (and wrestler intro music) by Toronto electro duo bossFYTE, and you’ve basically got the live-action fanboy equivalent of Robocop vs. Terminator vs. Alien vs. Predator vs. Ash.
But not everyone’s jazzed about the potential collective geekgasm that is Wrestle Crisis. Local indie wrestler RJ City (a.k.a. “The Midnight Special” a.k.a. “The Man Who Put the ‘Entertainment’ Back in ‘Sports Entertainment’”) plans to show up just to express his discontent with the event. “I think all this shit’s ridiculous,” City (whose real name is RJ Skinner) chirps. “Wrestling is not a game. This isn’t a grade school themed birthday party. I’m a professional athlete. This is way beneath me.” In keeping with the sport’s penchant for lavish drama and pageantry, City plans to play the heel: the repository of the crowd’s communal ill will. After all, every match needs a villain. And who in their right mind would boo Super Mario?

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Finish Him! Fatality! Flawless Victory! And so on.


As for the venue, Aitken approached Underground co-manager Alex Woodside last October to begin planning for Wrestle Crisis. If you’ve ever been to the cinema, you’re probably aware that it doesn’t contain a regulation-size wrestling ring. But with a few quick adjustments (including removing a few rows of seats), Woodside says the space will be ready for action come Sunday. It’s also a nice trial run for Woodside, who is currently working (with Aitken’s assistance) to script a dramatic wrestling show at the Underground in time for this year’s Fringe Festival, tinged with elements of Greek tragedy and everything.
Wrestle Crisis also speaks to how versatile the Underground is proving. Beyond their sundry film programmes, they’ve also hosted concerts, parties, and now, indie wrestling. “This city really lacks good-sized venues that are accessible to people trying to do interesting things,” says Woodside. “There’s not a lot of venues that are just willing to do random shit in the city. Especially downtown.”
And you can’t get much more “random shit” than people in Super Mario and Scorpion costumes wrestling each other. It’s all part of the cinema’s larger, extra-cinematic programming mandate. “As long as it sounds cool,” says Woodside.
Photos by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.

Wrestle Crisis brings the smackdown to the Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Avenue) Sunday, April 11. The pre-game bossFYTE concert starts at 6:30 p.m. followed by live combat at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $10, and available at A&C Games (706 Spadina Avenue). Door tickets are $15.

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