HULL – It wasn’t even close to being the type of venue that Gino Brito was accustomed to performing in. It was not the Paul Sauve Arena, it was not the Robert Guertin Arena. It was a simple school gymnasium in Hull, Quebec.
Despite this, the Canadian wrestling icon once again donned his robe and walked to the ring, receiving the loudest ovation of the evening from the fans in attendance. Pacing back and forth on his tip toes like a prize fighter, he removed his robe, proudly showing off a red, white and green singlet, a bold declaration of his Italian heritage.
At 63 years of age, Gino Brito came back to wrestle.
“It felt a little… not strange,” said Brito, fresh after his match this past Saturday night with the Hull based CPW promotion. “I started wondering ‘Am I doing the right moves’ at 63. But once I got in there, I forgot about everything. I felt like I could have gone a lot harder, but I didn’t want to push it. It felt very good.”
Brito joined fellow CPW grapplers Pierre Carl Ouellet and Wild Dangerous Dan in a six-man tag team main event. Their opponents would be none other than the Ministry of Brutality (MOB), consisting of Tray Hugh Mongus, Thunder & their manager, JJ Crooke. As it turned out, Brito and his team would come out on the short end of the stick, but that is but a blip on the radar.
What is of significance is the mere presence of Brito, in a day and age when others of his status no longer can or choose to be involved in the business. For CPW, having Brito involved in the promotion has elevated it to heights that not that long ago, seemed insurmountable.
“For me, Gino is the foundation of CPW,” said Joel Racine. Racine is JJ Crooke, the wiry squawk box manager of the MOB. With his trademark fly swatter in hand, he has become one of the most hated personalities within the promotion, not to mention reviving the lost art form of the wrestling manager. His ringside antics eventually lead to the in-ring showdown with Brito in the tag team bout. But away from his alter ego, Racine will be the first to tell you how invaluable Brito is to CPW.
“Before his arrival, we were just a bunch guys promoting small wrestling shows without any directions or any knowledge on how to actually promote a wrestling card. When he came, he actually put CPW on the map as a serious promotion; that could be more than just a local federation.”
Experience aside, Brito also brought an aura of respect extended to him by those outside of the wrestling industry, familiar with the man and his professionalism. “Everywhere we go, when we mention we want to produce a wrestling show with sponsors or local promoters, as soon as we mention Gino Brito that makes the whole difference. Everybody knows Gino in Quebec and Ontario as the owner of International Wrestling and they know how big it was.”
With Brito’s guidance, CPW has elevated itself to holding two shows a month in Hull, with occasional shows in outlining communities within Quebec. Just last year, CPW held an anniversary show at the famed Robert Guertin Arena in Hull, drawing a huge crowd not seen in recent memory with other Canadian independent promotions. “Even though CPW is nowhere near the status of the old International Wrestling, I’d say we’re in the top three federations in Canada as far as potential,” Racine said.
Perhaps the most important leadership quality that Brito displays is a willingness to put the promotion first. “He was the one who came up with the finish,” explained Racine, reflecting on their recent match where Racine wound up pinning Brito in the ring, with some assistance via outside interference.
“He was really excited about it. When he spoke to me, he said no one would expect me (Brito) to get pinned by a manager,” Racine went on. “He actually made a point of telling the guys before the match that when I (Brito) get in the ring, no one is going to believe that at my age that I can actually go toe to toe with Thunder and Hugh Mongus who are 6-foot-2 and close to 300 pounds.”
In keeping with that common sense outlook booking wise, Brito kept a limited presence in the match and let the younger grapplers take most of the credit. “That just shows how far he’s willing to go. He puts the business before himself. This can help CPW in getting more people to the show and more media attention. He’s doing it for the love of the business,” Racine said.
For Brito, passing along a life time of knowledge comes quite naturally.
“I can say quite humbly that I can give them a lot of tips,” admitted Brito. “The first tip I give them is behave yourself. After that, look like a wrestler; keep in shape as much as you can. No matter what people say, yes this is entertainment, but you still have to go out there and put out. If you go out there after two or three minutes and you’ve run out of wind, the people will know. The people are not dumb.”
His words are founded from the 25 years he spent as a wrestler. It was a day and age where six-pack abs and blaring catch phrases would not keep your head above the water in the rocky sea of professional wrestling. Kayfabe was alive and well, people believed and the wrestlers had to deliver in the ring.
“I was wrestling years back in New York when the smallest guy there, besides Tony Parisi and myself, was 260 pounds and we still got by because we were in shape and we working hard. That’s what I want my guys to do, I want them to behave and be professional.”