There have been many Canadian heavyweight titles through the years, but most were promotionally-based, and not something defended in this great land known as the True North, Strong and Free. That changes on Saturday night, in the central Alberta city of Red Deer, where eight men from British Columbia to Manitoba will vie for the new CNWA Canadian title. All have their reasons for being there.

The tournament is a part of a Canadian National Wrestling Alliance show at Festival Hall, and brings together regional champions from across the west four provinces, and their belts, in a tournament of champions to decide the best of the best.

The new CNWA National title, created by master designers Reggie Parks and Rico Mann.

The show is promoted by wrestler/historian Vance Nevada, who also finds himself challenging for the NWA World title on the same card, attempting to topple champion “Scrap Iron” Adam Pearce.

“Wrestling was historically a territorial system,” said Nevada. “In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Stampede Wrestling champion was the top dog, in Vancouver it was the All Star champion, Winnipeg recognized the champion out of Minneapolis for the AWA, further east Toronto had a version of the Canadian title which was Ontario based. But wrestling has never had ONE champion for the whole country – as well, it was rare for championships to cross jurisdictions, except for the World title. We’re excited to be doing that now.”

The champions participating in the tournament include:

  1. Bobby Sharp – Pure Power Wrestling (Lethbridge) champion
  2. Tyler James (T.J. Roy) – Monster Pro Wrestling (Edmonton) champion
  3. Disco Fury (Nathan Burke) – All Star Wrestling (Vancouver) cruiserweight champion
  4. Principal Richard Pound (John Cozman) – Gold Dragon Wrestling (Moose Jaw) champion
  5. K.C. Andrews – Big West Wrestling (Kelowna) champion
  6. The Mauler (Stuart Brown) – Maniac Wrestling Alliance (Prince George) champion
  7. Kyle Sebastian (Kyle Kristensen) – Cauliflower Alley Club Future Legend award winner
  8. Mentallo – CNWA Provincial champion

It was complicated getting them all on the same page, said Nevada, but as much from their home promotion’s point of view as the wrestlers’.

“As excited as I am about the roster of talent that we have assembled for this event, I believe it may be even more historic that we were able to get consensus from eight promoters,” said Nevada. “Trying to get wrestling promoters to agree on anything is about as easy as getting elephants to mate. But we agreed on one thing — this tournament has to feature wrestlers in the prime of their careers — those wrestlers who are still actively on the ascent of their careers. That was an easy sell to every promoter and booker across the board.”

There is no shortage of ego involved, and rightly so.

“Being the only one in this tournament that has defended a National title in Japan, England, USA, and Canada I assure you that I am more then qualified,” said Disco Fury, the current All Star Wrestling (Vancouver) cruiserweight champion and former NWA Canadian Junior Heavyweight champion. “I don’t mean to sound cocky but truth be known I think I was the logical choice to be a part of this. Now don’t take that wrong. I am honoured to be apart of this show! The people in my community look forward to every step I take in the ring. I dedicate a lot of my matches to those who really love wrestling but can’t wrestle themselves. Being in this is a privilege and I am honoured.”

Like Disco Fury, the mysterious masked man Mentallo has been to Japan, as well as tours in Mexico.

CNWA Provincial champion Mentallo.

“The CNWA National Championship Tournament is very reminiscent of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Super J-Crown Tournament in the fact that everyone in the tournament is a champion in their respective home promotions,” Mentallo said. “The CNWA has previously already established a rich history, and the tradition will be continued this Saturday. I’m very much looking forward to making history myself by not only being the first National Champion, but by simultaneously holding the CNWA Provincial Title as well.”

To a man, they all talked about what an honour it was being in a tournament like this.

“I always wanted to be the best at what I do, and a this tournament puts me and the other guys in a very good spot to claim that,” said Bobby Sharp. “Plus the fact that this is the first time in decades that promoters have gotten together and agreed to recognize one champion is just huge, I’m very proud to be one of the selected guys.”

The unique backgrounds of the competitors makes for a difficult to predict series of matches.

The Mauler, from Prince George, B.C., has five years of amateur wrestling and the associated tournaments — including the provincial championships when he was just Stuart Brown — to go with his pro wrestling background, which has included “death matches” with barbed wire and glass.

Bobby Sharp.

He said that getting ready has been a breeze. “I have been a part of many tournaments so there is no preparation there. As for multiple opponents there is no problem there,” Mauler bragged. “I have beaten three of the seven other opponents and have gone to no contest with two more. I have never faced Principal Pound but have youth and insanity on my side, and I have never faced Mentallo but he has seen my hardcore abilities and fears me.”

Kyle Sebastian might be considered an underdog, being still young and coming off an injury that kept him on the shelf for months.

“The difference between myself and everyone else in the tournament is that I’m not currently carrying a championship. However, I still have the 2011 Future Legend Award,” Sebastian said, referring to the honour from the Cauliflower Alley Club. “That award is a championship of its own, very few people have received this award and I’m grateful that I was one of them. So anyone who says I don’t deserve to be in this tournament, let’s see their Future Legend Award.” Sebastian is also the only competitor listed in the just-released Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500.

Like Sebastian, Tyler James from Edmonton is a youngster on a roll. “My style of training stems from old school roots. Leo Burke trained my trainer Massive Damage and I was also trained by Japanese star and former WWE superstar Phil Lafon,” explained James. “Combined training makes me the present and youngest MPW Heavyweight champion, as well the only wrestler in Monster Pro Wrestling history to capture all three championship titles and the CNWA provincial championship — all in under a year. My momentum is only shifting to a higher gear; nothing is slowing me down.”

K.C. Andrews, the champ from Kelowna, B.C., is cramming for the test. “I watch a lot of tape, study all possible opponents, and prepare for any possible wrestling style. I also do a lot of cardiovascular training to prepare my stamina for what could be a very long and challenging night,” he said. “There are no weak links in this tournament.”

Asked to pick a winner, Nevada could not identify just one competitor that has an edge. “Take a look at each wrestler and what they’ve accomplished. Some of these guys have toured internationally, some have scored major upsets here at home … others seem to be on the verge of breaking out in a big way and this tournament could be the platform to do it. I’ve personally been in the ring with each of these contenders and have surrendered victories to each over the years — they’re all tough.”

Once a champion is crowned, the expectation is that the title will be defended in all the participating promotions at some point, and perhaps others in Canada down the road as well.

In short, while all roads point to Red Deer for Saturday night’s big event, it really is just the start of a longer journey for one of the eight.