In this glorious current world of streaming, where you can watch just about whatever you want on demand, it feels like the Olde Days of Yore when that wasn’t the case.

And, as I write this on Canada Day, it’s notable that there have always been variances between the US and Canadian markets, which continues today. Some shows available, say, on Netflix in the US aren’t available north of the border.

So, kiddies, gather around the old lemon tree while I tell you a story of one of the most influential men in the history of Canadian pro wrestling, who has just left this world at the too young of an age of 63.

Bill Custers.

The thing is that few of you will recognize his name, which is the way Bill would have wanted it.

But he was the man who controlled much of pay-per-view in Canada, from its infancy until 2011.

Through the years, the titles and the ownership may of changed, but Bill was, as quoted often here at, “Director Of Programming and Marketing at Viewer’s Choice Canada.”

So it was his decision to add ECW PPVs to Canadian televisions, or to remove them. Ditto for the controversial early days of mixed martial arts and UFC.

He brokered deals to show old AWA footage, and, even better, arranged for me to talk to Verne Gagne about the new shows. At one point, he experimented with past WWE PPVs being available to buy, like the famed 1992 Royal Rumble.

He and his crew organized some major press conferences in what was then the brand-spanking new BCE Place (now Brookfield Place) in downtown Toronto, including a huge one in 1999 with Edge, Christian, Test, and Val Venis.

Bobby Roode and Bill Custers in the BCE Place atrium.

Bobby Roode and Bill Custers in the BCE Place atrium.

Bill championed the little guy trying to make a buck, too, not just WCW and WWE/WWF.

Aaron Weiss had arranged to buy a ton of footage from a variety of sources and put together PPVs and DVDs, including one we reviewed here. (He has since sold most of it to Scott D’Amore and isn’t involved in the wrestling business.)

Or MatRats! That’s a whole other deep dive for another day, but that was 2001 and the idea was a high-flying, stunt-based wrestling show with young kids, many of whom ended up become rather significant names, like TJ Wilson and Teddy Hart. In an article for a PPV that never happened, Bill told John Powell, “We’re always looking for new programming that we think will appeal to people. I’m always interested in any sort of new programming, not just wrestling.”

When TNA came along, Bill was very supportive, believed in the product, and a number of the interviews conducted by the staff at SlamWrestling were done in the offices of Viewer’s Choice Canada, set up by Bill and his amazing team.

Natalya and Harry Smith answer Greg Oliver's questions in the Viewer's Choice Canada boardroom in March 2010. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

Natalya and Harry Smith answer Greg Oliver’s questions in the Viewer’s Choice Canada boardroom in March 2010. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

There were plenty I did there, and the one that stands out the most was during March Break in 2010, when I brought my four-year-old son, his buddy and his mom along to the interview with Harry Smith and Nattie Neidhart, meeting up with photographer Mike Mastrandrea. Those are great memories.

Slam’s Bob Kapur worked next door to Bill’s office, so was often the writer of choice to pop by to do an interview.

“Bill was always generous with us when we were doing interviews regularly at the VCC offices. We’d always share a few words before the interviews,” recalled Bob. “I know that he always appreciated us doing the interviews.”

My own interactions with Bill were not confined to Toronto, either.

As one of WWE’s partners, he would be flown down to major events like WrestleMania. We spent time together in Houston at WrestleMania X-7 in 2001. Bill made sure that an ink-stained wretch like me got invited out on WWE’s dime for a fabulous dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse.

Bill Custers and Maria Kanellis

Bill Custers and Maria Kanellis

See, Bill appreciated the media and he understood TV. He wrote about it just before retiring in late 2023: “An entire career has gone by, and now, at the end of October, I’ll be retiring from an industry that has given me so much. I’ve been blessed. There have been so many people along the way who have helped me, from previous employers, teachers, mentors and friends, and I can’t possibly mention or thank each of you individually.”

Born in 1961, and growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario, Bill studied Broadcasting, Radio and Television at Niagara College, graduating in 1983. From there, TV was in his blood.

  • Four years at Maclean Hunter Cable TV
  • Nine years at Cable 14 in Hamilton, rising to general manager, where he no doubt had something to do with the various wrestling shows, like Johnny K-9 and Bullwhip Johnston promotions, on the station (we must have talked about that!)
  • Five years at Western Co-Axial Limited, rising to VP, Programming and Marketing, where pay television really started
  • Fourteen years at Astral Media / Bell Media / Viewer’s Choice Canada

I remember touching base with him after the heartless Bell Media gassed him and many others in 2011. He knew he’d be okay. His note to me then shows that he was seeking an easier lifestyle:

well, i have lots of work to do to find something new but i have some time to find it… i just want to be alot happier than i was … lots of stress and something had to break for me… the 5am – 10pm days were killing me after 14 years

Sure enough, he ended up back at Cable 14 Hamilton, and then a variety of “lesser” jobs. I put that in quotes because the VP title wasn’t always important to Bill, and he never carried himself like he was better than anyone else.

He retired from work in late 2023, and the City of Hamilton named him to the Order of Hamilton 2023. “Sometimes the universe sends you messages,” he posted to LinkedIn, with a photo of the honor. “As a local broadcaster (at least for another few days), nothing feels better than recognition from the Community that you serve. Thank you Mayor Horwath and your entire team.”

Two photos of Bill Custers with Dana White show Bill's weight loss.

Two photos of Bill Custers with Dana White show Bill’s weight loss.

We kept in touch, like so many do, through Facebook. Last time we chatted was over the death of the iconic Angelo Mosca, and I did an appearance on Cable 14 to talk about Big Nasty. I saw Bill’s health journey and (quite amazing) weight loss, many marathon runs. The marriage to Sue Smiley.

It was Sue that informed the world of Bill’s death on the morning of Sunday, June 30, 2024, after a short battle with liver cancer. He is survived his wife, Sue, daughter Heather and her husband Josh, and stepsons Greg (wife Laura, grandsons Philip and Henry) and Eric (wife Miranda, granddaughter Liara). Bill will be cremated and a celebration of life will follow.

Thanks for everything, Bill.

Canadian wrestling fans owe you a debt of gratitude, even if they don’t know it.

TOP PHOTO: Bill Custers with Mick Foley; Kevin Nash with Bill Custers. All photos courtesy Facebook