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What a maneuver! Pro wrestling invades Hacienda

It was an afternoon of bodyslams and burritos at Hacienda Santa Teresa when Catch Concourse Canada brought its wrestlers to the downtown patio

It’s tough to beat tacos. Unless, of course, you can eat tacos while watching people beat each other up.

That was exactly the situation at Hacienda Santa Teresa in Bradford Oct. 30 as Catch Concourse Canada held a professional wrestling event on the patio of the downtown Mexican restaurant. Four bouts were held over the course of an hour, featuring talent from the Greater Toronto Area and south of the border, as traditional Lucha Libre-style wrestling was showcased in two of the matches

It was the third event held by Catch Concourse Canada, a wrestling school in Hawkestone earlier in 2022, founded by Innisfil resident Buck Gunderson

“I moved up to Innisfil during the shutdown; I got sort of cabin fever being in the city, so I brought my family up to the Innisfil area,” Gunderson said. “I bought my own ring in February 2020, which was bad timing. The week of my first usage of the ring, my first rental, was the shutdown. It was just rusting away in my garage, so I decided to open a wrestling school.”

Gunderson has a background in teaching and opening a wrestling school was a natural extension of the work he’s previously done. While competing as a professional wrestler for several years – including being the first Canadian to wrestle in mainland China – he’s also coached beginners at Battle Arts, a gym owned by former WWE superstar Santino Marella.

“I just felt with some of the restrictions, I wanted to get some use out of the ring,” Gunderson said. “We do have our local regulars – guys I’m training from scratch - and a few guys who are experienced who use the ring to keep sharp… We offer that catch style, and they want that for their utility belt.”

Gunderson has plans to make Bradford a regular stop for the Catch Concourse performers.

“Our last event was at the Bradford Sports Dome (and) we will be back in their next off-season, in the spring,” he said. “We’ll be running regular events in Bradford, and of course, closer to our home base in the Barrie area, we hope to find a regular venue.”

Past Catch Concourse Canada shows have been held at the Barrie Curling Club and the Bradford Sports Dome, with the likes of Clash Kincade, Tomer Shalom and Joey Valentine returning to wrestle in Bradford at the most recent show, after previously lacing up their boots on other local cards.

One of the loudest cheers of the day, however, was for a debuting wrestler. Dylan “Backbreaker" Broda was entering the ring for the first time in North America as he fought Karou in the penultimate bout of the afternoon.

Broda, a Toronto native, has spent the past eight years in Finland. His route to the ring put him in a striped shirt as a referee before getting in the thick of combat.

“It was, in my opinion, probably one of the best ways to get into it because you see everything from a perspective you wouldn’t get from being a wrestler and get from being a fan; you’re like in it, but you’re not at the same time,” Broda said. “I had a different view of the whole thing than I used to have. And when I started actually training to wrestle about three years ago – and having matches for just over two years – it felt like a little bit easier to grasp the concept.”

In Finalnd, Broda said, professional wrestling is just catching on, with a niche audience of mostly adults, and not like it is in North America. For Broda, wrestling has been in his blood all his life, with his grandfather being one of the operations crew at Maple Leaf Gardens that put the rings together and his grandmother being in the stands taking in all the action.

Such exhibitions of strength and science aren’t new to Bradford as the superstars of Maple Leaf Wrestling found themselves at the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre beginning in the 1950s for bouts during the summer when the ice was out, with local legends such as Whipper Watson, Billy Red Lyons and Sweet Daddy Siki performing for the crowds.

More recently, professional wrestling has been an integral part of Carrot Fest weekend, as cards featuring up-and-coming talent from southern Ontario have often entertained at the old rink, among the likes of WWE Attitude-era stalwarts including Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno.

The Carrot Fest shows always have two events: a nighttime ticketed card and a free matinee to make sure youngsters can take in the sport. Giving children the opportunity to grow up loving wrestling as he did is important for Broda.

“Those are the ones that seem to be getting it, rather than the adults,” Broda said.  “’Ah, fake fighting.’ But the kids, they don’t ask the question,'is this real or not?' They just say, 'it’s wrestling.'”

Not that the adults entirely get it here either. After one of the matches, an older bystander caught the attention of the referee as he was getting ready for the next bout. Between drags of his cigarette, the grey-haired fellow suggested he might be willing to get in the ring and take on one of the competitors. The referee laughed it off and carried on with his business as the next set of combatants made their way onto the patio.

Win or lose – Broda ultimately fell to Karou after the villain resorted to underhanded tactics to secure a victory – it’s all part of the job for those who put their bodies on the line every time they step between the ropes.

“It’s a form of artistic expression – everybody knows the deal nowadays – but in my opinion, it’s one of the most unique forms that exists,” Broda said.  “It comes across as one of those things where you can’t seem to explain it to somebody who doesn’t get it…. The idea of performing; it’s kind of this weird idea when I’m in there. I almost feel as though I’m not performing. I’m doing it. It’s like an extension of me.”

For information on upcoming events, follow Catch Concourse Canada on Facebook.