Since its initial event in January 2009, Canadian Wrestling’s Elite (CWE) has been bringing pulse-pounding action to fans throughout Manitoba. Now CWE is on the cusp of taking the next big step with the recent announcement that it will be producing a weekly one-hour television episode for the Neepawa Access Television (NACTV) starting on November 1st. What makes the opportunity so significant is that on that same date, NACTV will be picked up by Bell TV and MTS TV which will give the station bigger exposure.
The founder of CWE, Danny Warren — who wrestles as Danny Duggan — is living in exciting times. Warren said that NACTV initiated talks.
“They have been airing reruns of local wrestling from the ’90s over and over again and people are still watching it so they want to bring a new, fresh, and updated product to their airwaves,” Warren said. “We have been sitting on this deal for awhile now and could have started airing content awhile back but with their station across the province on November 1st I felt it was a wiser decision to launch with the station and be seen across Manitoba with our very first episode. It really is a game changer for us and we have had to completely refocus our game plan and our way of doing business moving forward. It is going to be a lot more time consuming than our operations now and holds a lot more responsibility. It is going to be a big challenge but I thrive under those circumstances.”
To reach this stage took a great deal of work. As Warren describes it, CWE was formed back in 2009 to give wrestlers in Central Canada an alternative to what had become a stagnant and boring wrestling scene. The central problem at that time was that all the wrestlers were working the same shows in front of the same people with the same opponents month after month in Winnipeg with no variation and little development. “The promoters running the scene at the time were very happy coasting on what they are doing with no motivation to expand or create opportunities for their promotion or its wrestlers,” he said. “CWE is geographically in the middle of nowhere in the grand scheme of the wrestling world so unless you can afford to branch out and go to a busier, higher traffic area there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity to expand or network. CWE was built with the vision in mind to bring in top tier talent from every level, from WWE to top indy talent to give Central Canadian talent the opportunity to learn from them and network. Manitoba and more specifically Winnipeg were chosen to establish the promotion as it is where I am based out of and 99% of the talent.”
With that vision in mind, Warren organized the first CWE event on January 23, 2009, which featured former CWE Champion and current Canadian National Wrestling Alliance (CNWA) Provincial Champion Mentallo versus WWE’s Daniel Bryan, who was then Bryan Danielson. Surprisingly, when starting up CWE, Warren found there were not many challenges due to the fact he had run spot shows earlier on and had been part of the booking process for many companies across Canada over the years. He also has been involved in wrestling since 1999, when at the age of 12 he first started carrying gimmicks from the ring to the locker room, later setting up the ring and being a referee and eventually working as a wrestler now for almost 10 years. However, the one area where he found there was a learning curve was how to effectively spend and budget money.
When looking back at that first year of CWE, Warren describes it as being very much an adventure. “It was a lot of fun getting together with a lot of your close friends in the business planting the seeds of your vision, and watching it grow, and become a success. My fondest memories of those days were the all-around drive and passion from everyone to succeed and get the company off the ground. That same drive and passion exists today but it is now geared at getting to the next level and continuing to see CWE expand.”
One of the highlights from that first year for Warren was the influx of a lot of the top Ring of Honor talent, including the likes of Daniel Bryan, Nigel McGuiness, Antonio Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli), The Brisco Brothers, Austin Aries, Seth Rollins (Tyler Black), along with establish names such as Nunzio, Justin Credible, Petey Williams, and Sonjay Dutt.
“We weren’t in the position when we first started operating to take the risk on higher-priced, established talent so we focused on good solid wrestling talent that really helped establish the brand with five-star matches month in and month out,” said Warren.
A key contributor to CWE since its beginnings has been Jeff Wallace, a Winnipeg native who wrestles as Shane Madison. Wallace believes CWE is taking wrestling to the next level and feels the key has been a core of talented local wrestlers that take the business very seriously.
“CWE consistently has the largest crowds, best in-ring action and most bang for your buck. I feel the best guys work for CWE and I am happy to have a small contributing part of the team” said Wallace. “I do a little bit of everything. If I am needed in the back for feedback, to help with finishes, creative advice or even something like a special referee I am ready to contribute. There is always an emphasis to be the very best professional in and out of the ring. It hasn’t always been easy and there have been many obstacles along the way, but I feel we have a good pulse on what the fans want to see. The TV deal will provide additional exposure to the very best wrestling talent in Manitoba and give these guys the opportunity to show everyone what they can do.”
One of the big turning points for CWE happened shortly after the company started. During those early development days the promotion picked up a great deal of momentum in the Winnipeg market place and decided to work with a partner that had been involved in some past large scale wrestling events. The reasoning was the partnership would provide CWE with the financial resources to tour and do shows on road.
“That partnership didn’t work out, to say the least, and it was his intention to have us cease running events if he wasn’t involved. That wasn’t an option for us and we have kept trucking along regardless of the obstacles he has put in our way,” said Warren. “The period following our split was a tough one for the company as it took a toll on me and my focus but I eventually got back on the track I needed to be. I literally lived wrestling every minute of the day on the road that entire year working on establishing our brand. It was a crash course for me in learning how to run the day to day operations of a full time functioning wrestling company and equipped me so much knowledge on countless levels moving forward.”
By 2010, CWE was running large-scale tours across three provinces, eventually expanding to over 30 markets across Manitoba, the western end of Northern Ontario, and Saskatchewan. The growth of the company continued steadily from that point onward and in fact, CWE will be holding its first out of province date in two years on Friday, November 9th in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The event will feature former WWE stars Tommy Dreamer, Carlito, Tito Santana and Gangrel.
Warren praised the wrestlers who act as standard bearers for the company. “The first two that come to mind are AJ Sanchez and Mentallo. AJ Sanchez lives and breathes CWE just as much as I do and my go to guy in operating the company. Without AJ, CWE wouldn’t be anywhere near where it has become,” said Warren. “He really helps things run smoothly, especially come event day. Not only has he been a god-send behind the scenes, he has produced dozens upon dozens of the company’s greatest matches. Mentallo was the first top guy in Winnipeg wrestling not directly associated in my clique to give CWE a chance. When we first started the company, Winnipeg had this wonderful thing called exclusivity which I was always dead set against where if you wrestled for one company you didn’t wrestle for anyone else. Mentallo was the first one to cross the line against his former promoter’s wishes which helped give us instant credibility to fans in the market place as he has been considered the guy in Manitoba for many years. With Mentallo came some amazing matches against a lot of those top ROH which really helped put the company on the map. Neither Sanchez nor Mentallo give it nearly enough credit but the feud the two had that headlined our first year was one of the best if not the best feud I’ve seen in Manitoba. The caliber of the matches was on another level.”
When asked about his involvement in CWE, AJ Sanchez, who was recently interviewed by SLAM! Wrestling, revealed that he has been involved in the company since its inception.
“CWE was a concept that Danny and myself had begun thinking about near the end of 2008. We were tired of the wrestling scene in Winnipeg at the time and decided to make a go of promoting with the intentions to bring in world class talent that the crew could work with, learn from and most importantly, make contacts with,” said Sanchez. “I personally have put in a lot of time, effort and money in to see CWE succeed and grow in every way possible. We took things to another level in 2010, becoming the only touring company in all of Canada. Things such as seminars with guys like former WWE stars Raven, Tommy Dreamer and most recently Konnan. Now in 2012, we embark upon another new and exciting challenge in the way of producing weekly television. Being that we like to test out new markets and run different towns, I feel the only impact the TV deal can have is a positive one. It is going to give the guys that have never had the opportunity to work for TV the opportunity to do so. And as it stands, the TV deal is set to reach communities all over the province of Manitoba.”
Another aspect that Warren has found has been vital in the growth of CWE has been social media. “Everybody has a Facebook or a Twitter in this day and age so it is very cost and time effective to reach a large amount of people in a short period of time without spending a dime,” said Warren. “With that being said, I firmly believe the reason we have had the success we have in the Manitoba marketplace is we never neglect the old school grassroots promoting methods. For almost four years regardless of how cold or how hot it is outside you’ll be sure to see a crew of people pounding the pavement flyering and postering for each and every event among other things.”
As for his ultimate vision of CWE, Warren sees that as being in-line with his original concept for the company all those years ago which was to provide Manitoba-based talent with the opportunity to expand their horizons.
“The likes of Mentallo have had a chance in Japan, myself in Japan and with ROH, AJ Sanchez with AAA in Mexico coming up. I’d really like to see more talent get the opportunity to show their skills on a grand stage,” said Warren. “I believe AJ Sanchez’s stock is about to explode once he gets to Mexico. Tyler Colton and Tommy Lee Curtis are two of our younger talents we’ve been grooming the last couple years who have an amazing future ahead of them if they apply themselves in the right places. We have countless wrestlers that have the ability to wrestler anywhere in the World as proven when matched up with the best in the world brought in, it is just a matter of who is hungry enough to go and get it.”
The first episode of CWE is scheduled to air on November 2nd. The television episodes will also air on the NACTV website and three times a week on the NACTV television network, Wednesday at 3:30PM, Friday at 9:30PM and Saturday at 10:30AM CDT. Check your local listings.