The WWF swung through Calgary and Edmonton this week for its weekly TV taping. It gave local fans the WWF action that they had been craving.

But it also gave a number of local wrestlers a chance to strut their stuff for the WWF, working shows like Jakked and Metal, and dark matches. tracked down a number of the indy wrestlers who worked the two shows, and got their thoughts on their experience.

Rick Vain, 24, has been a wrestling fan since he was five years old. He’s been wrestling for about two and a half years now, and works for Stampede Wrestling at the moment. Monday night, he got to the opportunity to wrestle Edge in a match that was taped for Jakked, which will air this weekend. “He was fantastic. He’s a great worker,” Vain said of Edge. The WWF stars “know what people want to see, and they can feel it, and how the match is going to go, and what not. They don’t want too many highspots, just regular stuff, maybe a highspot here or there for a crowd pop. So instead of me coming up with the match, I just listened to him. He led me through it. It was really easy. It was like a night off.” Tuesday night in Edmonton, Vain faced “Prime Time” Greg Pawluk with the cameras off.

Bill Yates, 27, also got an opportunity to wrestle on Jakked during the taping in Calgary. He put over Test. While he wasn’t totally happy with the way things went in the ring, outside the ring, Yates was pleased. “I didn’t get a good vibe from [Test] at all. I don’t know, it’s one of those guys that really hasn’t paid his dues all that much, and I wasn’t able to get too much on him. Regardless, it’s an experience that I haven’t had yet, wrestling in front of 20,000 people.”

Gary Williams, 28, came away surprised by how talented Billy Gunn was, whom he fought on Jakked as well. “I was surprised. He was really, really easy to work with. I wasn’t expecting that he’d be that easy. Great guy, great worker,” said Williams, who is known in the Maritimes as Wildman Austin. After four years in the business, Williams is almost a veteran of the tryouts now, having done WCW shows and tapings in Winnipeg and Toronto.

A number of the wrestlers also appeared as security guards on RAW and Smackdown!

What most don’t realize, though, is just how worked up the indy wrestlers get before their big opportunity to showcase their skills – a four-minute, intense job interview, if you will.

Ali, The Beast from the Middle East, is new to wrestling, and his dark match on Monday in Calgary against Pain (aka Cyborg on the Alberta scene) was only his 22nd match. For Ali, 28, the stress is gone. “I am so glad that that is over with, I tell you. For two months, I’ve just been just a wreck. Now I can relax,” he said.

“Hot Shot” Johnny Devine and Eric Freeze fought in a dark match in Calgary, and according to Canadian wrestling legend and trainer Leo Burke, who was backstage at RAW, they put on a “helluva match.”

The match was thrown together, according to Freeze. “I thought we’d get to work one of the [WWF] guys, but then Johnny Devine and myself ended up getting thrown together because they had their guys for the TV tapings,” he said. “I was glad to get a chance to go out there and show my stuff.”

The match was pretty well a five-minute spot-fest. “Everything went really well. I think it was smooth, it flowed, it was really high impact. We had a lot of highspots. I did a moonsault off of the second rope to the floor onto Johnny. He did a Shooting Star. We did power bombs. It was good,” said Freeze, 31, who was trained by Ron Ritchie 10 years ago.

The next night in Edmonton, Devine got a chance to wrestle again in a dark match, this time against Highlander, who is also known around Alberta as Rob Roy, but this was a different match altogether – as ordered by the WWF. “We got into a bit of trouble, not so much trouble, nobody gave us a lot of direction before our Monday night match between Freeze and I. So we went out there and did a lot of highspots, did all of our stuff that we wanted to get in to show that we could work. The next night, Kevin Kelly came and said, ‘You’ve got to tone it down, take out all of your highspots, keep it a very, very basic match because we don’t want the dark matches being better than some of the other matches.'”

His match against Highlander became a challenge then. “You want to show them what you’ve got, but they’re just there to see if you can work. And it’s kind of like a test for us too, to see what we can do with very limited resources,” Devine said.

Freeze fretted about his match with Devine. “We had the opportunity to show off our stuff, so we wanted to throw in as much as we could. Unfortunately, they thought we showed too much,” he said. “[It’s a ] double edged sword, we either do too well or we don’t do enough and we look like crap. I don’t think there’s any middle.”

After four years in the business, Devine, 26, was pleased with his showing and thrilled by the reaction from the local fans. “The pop all the guys from Calgary got was a lot bigger than we expected,” Devine said. “We got a good reaction. I was fairly impressed.”

All the wrestlers had friends and family in the crowd. For Freeze, it was a disappointment not to get to wrestle in Edmonton, where he lives.

Vain did his best to forget that family and friends were in the crowd in Calgary. “I was really nervous before I went out there, and as soon as I stepped out, and I just took a look around, I calmed right down. It was easy being out there. All my friends and family and everything were there. Once I got out there, nothing else mattered. I was having a great time out there.”

John Cozman, who wrestles as Principal Richard Pound in Stampede, was backstage rooting for his friends, as was Marty McFly, who was injured. “I hope everything goes good for them,” Pound said. The WWF didn’t have a spot for Pound this time around, and have invited him for a tryout, probably in July out in Tacoma or Seattle, Washington.

All the wrestlers were equally impressed with the backstage environment, and they certainly got to experience it for a long period – the indy wrestlers were asked to arrive at noon at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary for a show that didn’t actually start until 5:30 pm locally.

“It ran extremely smooth. It was incredible. You had no idea so much stuff was going on. Everything just went off without a hitch,” Yates explained. “All the guys were super, with the except of a couple of guys. For the most part, everybody was very professional, especially the McMahons themselves, all of them, it was just incredible how they treated us with respect.”

“Everyone was nice, really friendly. Everyone was really upbeat,” Ali said. “Everybody was more than polite. You have a different picture in your mind when you go in, then it all kind of got distorted. I was pretty impressed. They were professional, to say the least.”

And being wrestlers, the menu mattered as well. “The food was excellent,” Yates said with a laugh. “They had first-class catering and it was great.”


How to get your tryout
All of the wrestlers arranged their tryout with Kevin Kelly of the WWF. The usual process is to mail in a tape to the WWF to his attention. He’ll call if they are interested.

But that isn’t always the case.

Johnny Devine kicks himself thinking about what could have been. Many times, Calgary-area veterans like Bad News Allen would come up and tell them to call the WWF. This time when the WWF came through town, he was involved, but it took another wrestler getting booked to get him to act.

“One of the guys here, Ali, called up Kevin Kelly, who said to send a tape in and got himself a match. For those of us who’ve been in the business longer than six months like Ali has, it gets kind of frustrating seeing a guy that green getting a try-out. So normally, I’m a pretty laid back guy, I don’t look for anything more than I’m given. But I had to call him, I had the number. So I just called up Kevin Kelly, said who I am and that I’d like to send a tape, and he said ‘Don’t worry about it, we already know who you are. You’re in.’ It was pretty cool. But there’s the lesson to be learned, Don’t sit back and wait. Nothing comes to you.”

The mailing address for the WWF is:
WWF, 1241 East Main Street, Stamford, CT 06902