How do you thank an entire city?
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself a lot since Dec. 2, the night our annual Chinlock Wrestling charity show packed the Kingston Gospel Temple, culminating in a night I’ll not soon forgot.
All told, the show generated $25,715 for local charity, an absolutely stunning number for those of us who worked behind the scenes for months on end putting this show together.
To give this context, allow me to travel back two years, where it all began. I was approached in 2015 and asked for ideas for raising funds around Christmas. My only tangible idea, one that I could envision myself being able to help out with, was a pro wrestling show. So I connected that person with a wrestling promoter from Cornwall who had run shows in Kingston. Red flags were almost immediate, and during a return trip from a, go figure, wrestling show, I got the call that the promoter had pulled out.
Feeling responsible for helping set it up to begin with, I insisted I could help keep the show on track, despite it being a mere three weeks away. I called my best friend Justin Cousineau, whose enthusiasm blended perfectly with my determination. Before I had driven from New York to Kingston, we had called in dozens of favours and the show was to go on. We had iconic former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas, famed Canadian wrestling trainer Ron Hutchison, TV’s Spencer (Spenny) Rice and a host of local and regional independent wrestlers ready to step in and help our cause.
In a mere three weeks, it did, raising a few thousand dollars in the process for Hands of Hope. The after effects of that night were lasting. We were proud. We’d done what seemed impossible. We were fulfilled, having helped families in need at a time of year when it’s tough to see anyone struggle. And we were ready to do it again.
And we did, again organizing a charity wrestling show around Christmastime in 2016, this time in support of Youth Diversion Kingston. I wanted to grow the event in just its second year, and we did, thanks to the support of a big sponsor in Gino’s Pizza & Spaghetti in Amherstview, which helped us bring WWE Hall of Famer The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase as a special guest at our show.
Ted’s presence allowed us to put more than 200 people inside the gym at Kingston Gospel Temple, where he signed autographs and posed for photos in exchange for donations to our toy drive, which supported Immigrant Services Kingston Area. It also helped us eventually raise just over $8,000 in support of Youth Diversion Kingston, which supports underprivileged and troubled youth in our community. In a year, we more than doubled our fundraising efforts.
Again, we were left humbled and in awe. And again, we vowed to continue to give back through pro wrestling, something that has been so important in my life and in Justin’s.
By spring this past year, we were champing at the bit to get going again. In May, we announced Chinlock Wrestling would return for a third charity show in December. Gino’s sponsored the purchase of a championship belt, which we announced would be awarded to the winner of a championship rumble at our show.
Next, we reached out to our special guest, who came highly recommended. After an email exchange with hall of famer Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, he agreed to come to Kingston to be a part of our show.
Over the next several months, we worked hard, with the help of our amazing designer Jason Rees of Jaybird Digital Arts, our sponsors and supporters to build what we believed would be the best wrestling show Kingston had ever seen. Along with Steamboat, Korderas and Rice also agreed to return, as did local TV icon Bill Welychka and local MMA fighter and strongman Mike Martelle. Jackie Redmond of Rogers Sportsnet agreed to be our host, but eventually unfortunately had to withdraw due to work commitments at her new position with the MLB/NHL Networks in New York City. Former WWE announcer Arda Ocal graciously stepped in in her place.
By November, we had the makings of a special show in support of Youth Diversion once again. A rumble to crown our new champ, the hometown debut of Jessie Mack (who is from here but trains in Toronto), a number of great matches, a special match donated by C*4 Wrestling out of Ottawa and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat. The icing on the cake came when local cable network YOURTV Truly Local came on board and offered to record the show and broadcast it throughout the region afterward.
Like DiBiase in 2016, Steamboat graciously agreed to host our toy drive, which this year supported Children and Family Services’ Tree of Hope campaign, which meant in exchange for a donation to our toy drive, guests got a photo op with the WWE legend and an autograph from him.
Honestly, from the day we announced this show, it felt like it was destined to be special. The day tickets went on sale, a local Kingston entrepreneur, Courtney Huffman of Bubbles – Kingston Residential Cleaning, purchased 50 tickets and donated almost all of them back for us to distribute to those who could benefit from them. Other entrepreneurs and friends of Chinlock Wrestling also purchased large numbers of tickets and donated them back.
Before we’d even had tickets on sale an hour, we had sold 60. By the week of our show, with tickets scattered around the city and word of the show spreading like wildfire, we truly were the hottest ticket in town. In fact, we had to stop online ticket sales three days before the show, unheard of. We held a limited number of tickets to be available at the door. We knew by the Thursday before our show that the Kingston Gospel Temple was going to be hoping.
Even still, there’s always that seed of doubt in your mind that maybe people won’t come. But Kingston, you sure came. In droves! People were lining up hours before showtime and when the doors finally did open, the line of people just kept pouring into the venue.
While we’ll never truly know exactly how many people attended, when we consider volunteers, talent and guests, there were 600 people sitting inside the gym when I took the ring right before showtime.
And what unfolded over the ensuing three hours was nothing short of magic. Together, we laughed, we cried (believe me, we cried backstage a few times), we suspended our beliefs and we succumbed to the sports entertainment magic that is professional wrestling.
Kingston, once thought to be a dead market for indy wrestling, was anything but on this night. It was a night I’ll not ever forget, despite taking a metal garbage can to the head (if you were there and saw how upset my oldest daughter was, chances are you’ll never forget either).
While the cameras rolled, our roster performed magically, the night culminating with the only logical fairytale ending, crowing Kingston’s Jessie Mack our first champion in front of her mom and family and a room full of Kingston supporters. The icing on the cake was watching my little buddy RJ celebrate with Jessie after CJ Felony (he hit me with the can, FYI) was felled by the Dragon.
Jessie won the match, and the title, but Chinlock Wrestling won hearts, our talent won fans and local charity was the true winner, to the tune of more than $25,000. Just a staggering number.
Like I said, how do you thank an entire city? Thank you, Kingston. For us, that will come in the form of our fourth annual charity next December.
In the meantime, we’d like to thank some others:
Thank you, Ted DiBiase and Ricky Steamboat. Two classier icons there can’t be found. Thanks for taking a chance on us.
Thank you, Spenny, Jimmy Korderas, Arda Ocal, Ron Hutchison, Rob Schamberger (and his wife Katy), Bill Welychka, Mike Martelle, Ryan (Sideshow) Lemmon, Paul Soucy, Andy McNamara, Ben McLean, Monica Lapajne and all of our special guests. You humble us.
Thanks to Bill Welychka, who not only helps spread the word about our show, but who puts his heart and soul into it, along with his body as well by participating in a match every year. You’re amazing, Bill.
Thank you, Noele, Aryn and Joe and the entire Gino’s Pizza family. You believed in us before anyone else and we can never thank you for all of your support.
Thank you to Graham Forsythe and the Kinsmen Club of Kingston for your generous donation.
Thank you, Mark Fardella from SBT Comics & Games, who helped bring the amazing Rob Schamberger here and who is also a huge supporter of local business and charity at home.
Thank you, Mohamed, from the Jiffy Grill. You worked tireless on our behalf all year in support of this show. We’re grateful for your support.
Thank you, Jason Rees. We’re so happy the world is waking up to your talents.
Thank you to Dave Pinkerton, Scott Meyers and the small army of volunteers from YOURTV Truly local, who care as much about this show and Chinlock Wrestling as we do.
Thank you to Dustin Saunders and Sarah Seward of Thriftlodge Kingston, which generously donated rooms and more to our show.
Thank you to Justin Chenier and the Kingston Frontenacs.
Thank you to our dear friend Ryan Dennee.
Thank you to MCpl./Cplc. Colin Buchanan, Capt. Denis Lopes and the amazing folks at Canadian Forces Base Kingston.
Thank you, to all of the amazing talent, past and present, who have come here, put your bodies on the line in the name of entertainment, many of whom who’ve donated back their pay. Whether a wrestler, referee or manager, we count on you all to make the shows a success. Here’s to a bright future.
Thank you to C*4 Wrestling, Bertrand Hebert, Pat Laprade, the WrestleManiaks, Justin Muia, Scott Neville, Aaron Jankowski, Greg Oliver, Kari Williams, Steve Argintaru, Thomas Champagne, Paul Potvin and so many others who have given up their time to help us with our shows. Please know that I’m trying to name everyone but if I’ve left you out, it’s not intentional.
Thank you to the dozens of Kingstonians, businesses and individuals who have contributed to our silent auction. Your support and your generosity are greatly appreciated.
Thank you, Shawn Quigley, Jackie Franklin, Mariah Rowe and all of the volunteers with Youth Diversion. Shawn, your guidance is invaluable. You are family.
Thank you to our friends, families, colleagues and co-workers, who put up with wrestling talk for months on end leading up to our show, absences from work and home and more.
Thank you to our wives, who support our obsession and cheer us on from the front row.
Thank you to the fans. Without you, and your support, this show doesn’t happen. Your support is incredible and greatly appreciated.
Finally, I’d like to thank my partner and best friend, Justin. You sit by humbly, while people toss praise at me. While I accept that I’m the face as the promoter, just know that I know that this doesn’t happen without you. Thank you for all that you do and I wouldn’t do this with anyone else.
Jan Murphy is the news and features editor at the Kingston Whig-Standard, the co-creator of Chinlock Wrestling and chinlock.com and a diehard pro wrestling fan and journalist.