September 18, 2009
Photo by Mark Ferguson
By Mark Ferguson
“Ring-A-Ding-Dong-Dandy” was a familiar catch phrase to those who listened to Ed Whelan, the Saskatoon-born TV host of Stampede Wrestling. An exhibition of the same name in the Library’s Link Gallery will examine and celebrate old-school wrestling in Canada as documented by Regina-based photographer Bob Leonard.
Leonard's photos tell a colourful history of wrestling on the Canadian prairies and the exhibition, which opens Sept. 25, is just one of several events to be held during what has turned into wrestling month on campus. Wrestling month will also include displays of Huskie wrestling history on the second floor of the Physical Activity Complex (PAC), a reception and book launch Oct. 28 for Lessons from the Squared Circle, an illustrated history by pro-wrestler Vance Nevada, and a seminar by sports historian Nathan Hatton entitled Thrashing Season: Roughness, Respectability and Professional Wrestling on the Canadian Prairies before 1930, to be held late in October.
Dwayne Brenna, head of the Drama Department, thought this was the perfect time for a performance of Trafford Tanzi, a play about a young woman who liberates herself by becoming a wrestler. But such a performance would require his performers to know a thing or two about the squared circle, so Brenna asked Leonard if he knew anyone that could help the actors train for their performance.
“The play is dependent on wrestling and the skills in the ring,” said Brenna. “So I asked Mr. Wrestling, Bob Leonard, and he suggested a guy named Brian Bailey.”
Bailey (aka Crash Crimson) lives in Regina and wrestles all over the world. He and colleague Roberto Ureta (aka El Asesino) were on hand recently for two weeks of training with the actors in Trafford Tanzi.
“I'm not into plays that much,” said Bailey. “But this seems interesting.”
On one particular evening, the fourth instructional session for students with Bailey and Ureta, the actors are going through the motions of an entire match. They have already been taught how to fall properly, which is the most important skill to avoid injury according to Bailey. Not only do they hit the mat with ease, but the sound is enhanced thanks to a technique of slapping the mat with their hands when they fall.
Brenna said his actors have already learned the Irish whip, the back-hammer and many other moves. “They've learned a little bit, and they should give us a reasonable facsimile of what it looks like in the ring during the performance” when Trafford Tanzi debuts Oct. 8, in Greystone Theatre.
Neil Richards, a retired employee of the Library’s Special Collections, is the mastermind behind the entire project which stemmed from him cataloguing wrestling photographs last spring. He thought, “I'd really like to do an exhibition on wrestling on the prairies.” Then, conversations with Brenna about Trafford Tanzi sealed the deal for the campus-wide wrestling month.
“I'm interested in all pop culture and theatre history, and pro wrestling is another form of theatre,” said Richards. “I want people to explore it as entertainment and the people in the wrestling industry are often very bright and very talented. It's their business. It's their entertainment.”
Photo by Bob Leonard