The International Wrestling Syndicate out of Montreal, Quebec doesn’t need an introduction to hardcore indy wrestling fans, but to those that have overlooked the Montreal scene over the last 22 years, the IWS not only is a promotion that needs your attention, but it deserves your respect as well.
After all, you can’t get away from it, even without knowing about it. Many of the stars you love to watch from week to week at three of the major wrestling promotions out there had previously cut their teeth in IWS.
It’s funny, but even this past week, with Sami Zayn, who started his adventures as El Generico, was on the WWE’s Broken Skull Sessions with Steve Austin, and really I couldn’t help but think of IWS the entire time I was watching as he spoke about his rise in the industry. It was the same for many, including two of the men that are responsible for what the IWS promotion is today: Manny Eleftheriou and The Green Phantom.
And Zayn is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Matt Menard and Angelo Parker of the Jericho Appreciation Society in AEW; Stu Grayson, PCO and “Speedball” Mike Bailey at Impact; and Zayn’s pal Kevin Owens was known as Kevin Steen when he worked at IWS.
And that’s not including the plethora of special guests IWS has had at its many events over the last 22 years since the promotion’s inception: Sid, Sabu, Rey Mysterio, John Morrison, RVD, The Young Bucks, Brodie Lee, and that list only goes on from there.
At Scarred 4 Life, the upcoming event on Saturday, August 6th, and the biggest IWS has had in a while, it’s a promised return to IWS’ roots, with plenty of hardcore experiences.
And what of the guests this time around? You’ve got Ruby Soho, Joey Janela, Matt Menard, Angelo Parker, “Speedball” Mike Bailey, as well as IWS originals and stars from the current roster.
I had the privilege of sitting down with two of the men that were there from the very beginning in one capacity or another. One was The Green Phantom, who is legendary in Montreal and started out as an IWS fan, and the other was Manny Eleftheriou or PCP Crazy Manny, as he’s known in the ring, and is one of the men responsible for the phenomena that is the IWS. The founding members are Manny himself, SeXXXy Eddy, and Nic Paterson.
To walk up to them at first is intimidating. It is double intimidating if you look at all the matches they’ve put on in their day — the hardcore matches, and especially the tables incident from their 10 Stages of Hell match from IWS X from a few years back — a match between the two that is still looked at today among loyal fans as one of the greatest moments in hardcore wrestling.
These men have done a lot of damage to their bodies over the years and all for the sake of spreading the IWS gospel, which is hardcore wrestling and it’s still very much alive and well, as hype for its forthcoming show undoubtedly proves.
In person, somehow Manny is as soft-spoken as a bedside nurse. As for Phantom, he absolutely did not break kayfabe during the whole experience, but was articulate and thoughtful. What came through is that this legacy they’re leaving behind is very important. Just one look at the Phantom’s backyard proves just that — murals are painted on the brick featuring the stars of the past: “Mean” Gene Okerlund, The Iron Sheik, Luna Vachon and, of course, The Green Phantom himself.
That attention to wrestling detail continued down to the glasses he provided at the table, all adorned with old school and modern day wrestling decals. The latest WWE symbol stared at me across the face of a frosted glass, the ice floating in the water on a cool Montreal evening, and all as I spoke to these giants of a movement that started 22 years earlier.
But what started all of this for founding member, Crazy Manny? He was a wrestling fan early on and was brought back to the sport when the New World Order (NWO) started in WCW, a huge moment in the history of professional wrestling. “Scott Hall showed up on Nitro, and it caught my eye … just watching on a Saturday afternoon,” recalled Manny of the show on CFCF-12, which is now CTV Montreal. From there, he watched the Bash At The Beach pay-per-view where Hulk Hogan joined Kevin Nash and Hall to form the NWO. After event, things changed for him.
Then came Rey Mysterio Jr. versus Psicosis (or Psychosis) in WCW, which led Manny to seek out ECW at the dawn of the internet age. A whole new world opened up.
Manny started dabbling in wrestling himself, and convinced Dawson College in Montreal to allow them to promote a show — even if Manny and his pals didn’t know enough about wrestling yet. They essentially winged it.
“We had a wrestling show at Dawson College and we had wrestling banned at Dawson College for life,” chuckled Manny. Not a good start, but really it got the ball rolling — and it was where he met SeXXXy Eddy.
Next up was Wally’s Pub and that would really got things started, as they drew big crowds.
Manny and pals began without a ring at Wally’s, roping four columns with gym mats on the floor. By word of mouth and through the hard work of Manny, his partners, and stars that joined up because of those early shows — like The Green Phantom a tad later — the IWS developed a cult following. With the new-found fanbase came others that wanted to be a part of the action, and bringing in the bigger names validated all of the work these men had begun.
A young Green Phantom got the proverbial wrestling bug at Wally’s, and that bug bit hard.
“I was in that crowd, and then the next show,” recalled Phantom, who started training right away. “I wanted to be in there so badly.”
It was a time when fans still traded video tapes, and both Phantom and Manny were into seeking out adventurous shows.
“I could never have imagined what it turned into,” said Phantom, of the tape trading growing into something much bigger. Fans elsewhere started seeking out IWS shows on tape, and then DVD, too.
Unexpectedly, IWS — and Phantom and Manny — found itself known in other promotions. They would cross the border to wrestle and find wrestlers who knew their work. Joey Janela, who is coming in for the IWS show on August 6th, was one of those fans.
“We forget that sometimes because we’re here,” Manny explained. “Quebec has its own wrestling culture, and we came out like a bunch of psychos breaking tables, drawing bigger crowd after bigger crowd. We’re known across the world; now we roll in with road cases, it’s all business stuff now. I could not imagine that it would have gotten that big.”
Notable are the loyal crowds IWS attracts. “We have this cult status in Montreal, fans that come to the show aren’t even wrestling fans, they’re IWS fans,” Manny said.
IWS was mostly inactive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is onward and upward now.
“Post-pandemic, we’re really killing it,” said Manny. The Olympia, where Scarred 4 Life will be, is a “dream” location, to him, “one of the last great venues to conquer.”
Phantom quipped: “Who can do that? Who can run Metropolis and Club Soda month after month and get big crowds?”
“Only Arcade Fire, a big mega band who won Grammys,” Manny responded.
“Hey…where’s our Grammy?” demanded Phantom.
While there will not be a Grammy in their future, the reward is the appreciation of the fans, and seeing names that were a big part of IWS succeed elsewhere. Matt Menard and Angelo Parker went to WWE’s NXT, where they were Ever-Rise, before getting released and ending up in AEW, where they were back to 2.0, or 2point0 or even 3.0. (So many name changes.) Menard and Parker are returning for the upcoming show.
AEW’s Ruby Soho (who was Ruby Riott in WWE) is another who was a fan of IWS and is apparently excited to appear on August 6th. Manny tried to explain some of his reasoning for bringing her in: “Ruby Soho, who doesn’t really do indies… when I thought of her, I had Matt and Jeff (Menard and Parker), I had Joey, I was like, ‘Man, who can we bring in?’ Because we’re big music fans, it’s summer, there’s a lot of festivals, and just before the pandemic, Rancid was supposed to play Montreal, and it got postponed because of the pandemic. So we thought those people that missed that, what can we give them, something similar to that, especially our fans? Who can we bring in? And we thought of a woman who while in WWE main-evented a lot of their shows; if we can get her it would be awesome, and we reached out to her.”
She agreed, telling Manny: “You guys are awesome and I want to do IWS.”
“It was the same way we brought in the Bucks,” Manny added, referring to AEW’s Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson.
“We never brought in a major female star,” noted Phantom. “This is a new way.”
“They were all in WWE and we couldn’t book them,” said Manny of the past.
The guest stars are great and all, but IWS is known for its violence. It is a fair guess that Ruby Soho will not be be set on fire or fly through a collection of light tubes. That is for the IWS faithful.
It goes back to what Mick Foley used to say during the height of his hardcore popularity — in the end, he sacrificed for the fans. To this day there are wrestling purists that believe hardcore matches aren’t necessary, but Manny and Phantom would beg to differ, as would their legions of fans.
As much hype as Ric Flair got for his so-called “last match” on July 31, there should be some love thrown towards Crazy Manny, who claims he will be wrestling his last match at Scarred 4 Life. Manny promised that he will be going out in a violent blaze of glory, and now wants to concentrate on work behind the scenes.
The Green Phantom is not going anywhere though. He has had many news sources in Montreal do profiles on him and that’s because of what a draw he is. The Undertaker would be a good comparison, albeit on a smaller scale, because Phantom understands the value of character, staying in that character and giving that level of believability in his character. Joseph Fitzmorris, school teacher by day, is The Green Phantom.
I saw it happen; it wasn’t the man I’d seen on news profiles without the mask, it was The Green Phantom that invited me into his house, proudly showed off the memorabilia that adorns his walls. It was an experience I will never forget because I got a glimpse into a Montreal-based phenomena.
Really, both Manny and Phantom opened up to me on that Tuesday evening.
I wasn’t the only one asking questions. There is a Fans Bring the Weapons type of deal at the Olympia show. Phantom asked me what weapon I was bringing to the show; thinking quickly, I said my camera. Phantom argued that my actual weapon was my pen. To be able to spread the word for these two men, for the entirety of their roster, and for all they’ve done for the sport of professional wrestling in Montreal and for the influence they’ve had that’s still felt at major promotions through the many stars that fill those respective rosters, I’ll take that charge, and I will wield my weapon proudly and unrelentingly, just as they have for so long.
To conclude, I had to ask if they had anything else planned, like a surprise, set for the Scarred 4 Life show. Manny answered with a sly smile: “Anyone can show up at any IWS show. I’m not saying someone else is, but you never know. We do not stop working till the day of the show.”
And he left it at that.
As per IWS’s social media here are some of the scheduled matches for Scarred 4 Life event on August 6, 2022:
- Manny’s final match: Fans bring the weapons: Green Phantom & PCP Manny vs TDT
- IWS Women’s Championship: Melanie Havok vs Veda Scott vs Ruby Soho vs Kristara
- 4 Team Ladder War for IWS Tag Team Championships: Sexxxy Beasts vs Tiger & Wolf vs Black Quebecois
- Scrapper James Stone vs Savage Alex Silva
- LuFisto vs Jessika Black
- Big Magic Security Scramble Match: Martin vs Mainz vs Archer vs Yarymowich vs Ortmanns vs Maze
- Casanova Productions vs Jericho Appreciation Society
- Speedball Mike Bailey vs Bad Boy Joey Janela
- Kevin Blanchard vs Tarik