When I first walked in to the International Wrestling Syndicate (IWS) event Praise the Violence the
night of Saturday, January 21, 2023, I was prepared for the worst. I imagined a den of toxic masculinity:
sexist dudebros who abuse women behind closed doors all gathered in one place to fuel their excessive
need for violence as muscle-bound costumed men pretended to beat each other bloody for their
delight.

What a found wasn’t that at all. The audience was as varied in gender as it was in age, and when the
fighters or performers- how they prefer to be known depends on the wrestler – gathered around the
merch table to schmooze with their fans they were friendly and congenial, eager to hear feedback about
their performances.

“The IWS tends to bring in all sorts of people,” says wrestler Sonny Solay, The Rockn’ Roll General, who
speaks on behalf of his own experience, not the IWS. “Wrestling was generally marketed towards young
men, and as they got older they have their families and it’s more of a family show. The best way to
understand professional wrestling is we are the three ring circus: if you’re there for the lion tamer, you’ll
like the lion tamer; if you don’t like the lion tamer, you’ll like the clowns, if you don’t like the clowns,
you’ll like the guy who gets shot out of a cannon…There’s somebody for everyone at our shows.”

As for the concerns of women regarding toxic masculinity and sexism, there was at least one women’s
wrestling match at the event. Solay encourages women to give IWS events a shot, saying that the
perception of professional wrestling as an area where women were objectified may have been justified
in past wrestling eras, but since the women’s revolution in wrestling, that’s all changed.

“There’s a lot more women-forward promotions and the work that they’ve been doing in Japan, women
have shown that they can hang with the men and even surpass a lot of us as far as skill and intensity
goes. So I say give it a chance and you’d be pleasantly surprised,”

The IWS –initially named the World Wrestling Syndicate – is the biggest wrestling promotion in Canada. It was founded in Montreal in 1998 by pro-wrestler SeXXXy Eddy, with Manny Elefthriou and Nic Paterson.

In the year 2000, the professional wrestling promotion was renamed the Internet Wrestling Syndicate when one of the founders partnered with Wild Rose Productions, an adult entertainment company.

In 2004, following tons of pro wrestling matches including tag-team bouts, No-Rope Barbed Wire matches, and Tag-Team Championships, the promotion was renamed the International Wrestling Syndicate or IWS.

The promotion group based out of Montreal has helped launch the careers of such World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, formerly the WWF) stars as Sami Zayne and Kevin Owens, as well as IWS legends like The Green Phantom, who fought an intense table match last Saturday, wresting the belt from The Maniacal Maredes.

The IWS women’s championship match pitted Dani Leo, Melanie Havok, Jessika Black, and Katrina Creed against one another, with Havok emerging victorious.

Photo by Sebastien Jette

The matches were everything one could hope for from pro-wrestling: blaring high energy intros, breathtaking stunts, snazzy costumes, and performers with their ring personas on full display. As a martial artist and self-defense instructor, it was obvious to me when hits did not connect, and the faking of injuries rivaled what one would see in any FIFA match. The ring, according Sonny Solay, who spells his second name phonetically after the French spelling was butchered by one-too-many announcers outside of Quebec, is designed to maximize sound, thus giving the crowd a better show. As to whether fights are actually real, they are not, though whether the outcomes are set in advance varies.

“It’s not a matter of it being a real fight, but there are certain beats that need to be hit. I can’t really go into it too much without getting to specifics…It’s not a real fight, but the outcome is usually pre-determined. And when I say ‘usually pre-determined’ I mean sometimes things happen, sometimes there are surprises, that’s the magic of professional wrestling, that’s why people love going to the shows.”

In terms of the violence of the shows, Solay reminds me that shows are still a three-ring circus, and that sometimes things happen that wrestlers weren’t aware of beforehand. The show I saw involved a table match or two, in which an opponent could only be beaten when their bodies made contact with a wooden table hard enough for the table to break. Other times fluorescent light tubes are broken on the backs of wrestlers and both carry the risk of bloody but minor wounds. That said, Solay points out that any contact sport comes with risks, and more common injuries include cuts, bruises, and ankle and wrist injuries.

“Technically all injuries are possible, but we train to make sure that they happen as little as possible.”

Now let’s say someone wants to become a pro-wrestler. Solay says that every wrestler has a different road they travelled to get to the IWS.

He initially started as an athletic wrestler, only to stop due to injury. He got into the IWS via a friend, but ultimately joined the IWS Dojo which puts the emphasis on getting people in the ring, teaching them the basics and allowing them to explore the type of wrestler they want to be.

He recommends the IWS Dojo as a way of making sure someone can be the best wrestler they can, speaking highly of the mentoring and training offered by Super Star Shayne Hawke. Those 18 or over (or 16 and have parental consent) who are interested in becoming pro wrestlers are welcome to message the IWS Dojo’s Facebook page. They are more than willing to offer a one-time trial to see if it’s a good fit.

Featured image by Sebastien Jette

The IWS has monthly shows in Montreal that are entertaining and fun. Check em out and follow your
favorite wrestlers on social media.

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney are joined by Special Guest Andrew Jamieson to talk about the recent behind-the-scenes drama at WWE – Stephanie McMahon resigning, Vince McMahon forcing his way back into power and a potential sale – ahead of the company’s three shows in Montreal.

Follow Andrew Jamieson at WhoTheFuckIsAndrewJamieson.com or @fakejamieson on Instagram

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Kevin McCarthy finally being elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives on the 15th vote, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s collapse and recovery and Vince McMahon forcing his way back onto the WWE board.

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram