Only a handful of active independent Canadian wrestling promotions can say they’ve been going strong for 14 years with no signs of slowing. Edmonton’s Monster Pro Wrestling, founded by Sean “Massive Damage” Dunster in 2002, just crested that milestone.
Once a month at Alberta Avenue Community Hall, Edmonton-based wrestlers and many from around the country throw down in a 20×20 foot ring.
Chris “The Irishman” Koenig holds MPW’s Heavyweight Title. The 38-year-old has been pinning opponents in the ring for 19 years.
“I’m a brawler,” says Koenig. “I’m kinda the big move, the big punches, the big hits type of guy.”
Originally billed as “The Insane Irishman,” Koenig reevaluated his fighting style and dropped the “Insane” after a scare during a match where he blew out both his knees.
“I was told by doctors that I would never walk properly again,” says Koenig. “Yet, here I am: heavy weight champ. I honestly did a lot of stupid things that I look back and watch on tape right now going ‘what was I thinking,’ but at the same time as soon as the fans start cheering for it — that’s what I’m thinking.”
The oft-questioned authenticity of pro-wrestling rarely crosses the wrestlers’ minds as they perform. Many matches may be guided to fit within a predetermined narrative so that fans keep coming back each month, but that doesn’t diminish the physical and theatrical feats that the wrestlers train at least three days a week to pull off.
“I just found out when I got here who I was wrestling,” says Koenig an hour before he was set to defend his Heavyweight Title against Dunster on Saturday. “We haven’t had any time to practice. We haven’t had anytime to go over anything. We haven’t done any of that, so 90 percent of the stuff that you see is called ‘in the ring.’”
After stealing Dunster’s spot in the fight and ignoring the technicalities of the match, underhanded wrestler Krazy Kore whacked a 12-year-old referee in the face with a bamboo sword. As if that wasn’t enraging enough for everyone in the room, the ref was also Koenig’s son. The tirade of death threats and slurs Keonig hurled while straddling the turnbuckle in the aftermath would make any wrestler smile, and next month’s grudge match between the two seems unlikely to disappoint.
Koenig doesn’t see himself slowing down any time soon either, even though fans often ask when he plans to retire.
“My answer is always the same,” he says. “As long as I can keep up with the 18 and 19-years-olds that we’re training right now—which I can. I can still out-wrestle them all—until they can out-wrestle me, I’m still good to go.”
Dunster echoes that feeling wholeheartedly. “When guys tell me I can’t do something, it makes me work for it harder.”
After being denied his title fight against Koenig earlier in the event thanks to some shady ring-side politics by the ‘bad guys,’ Dunster slid into the ring for an impromptu tag-team match during the finale.
Alongside former WWE pro Harry “British Bulldog Jr.” Smith, Dunster rocked the ring, won the final match, and left 300 fans (toddlers, grandparents and everything in between) in the sold out hall chanting his name. Just like he and his roster of wrestlers at MPW have done for years.
“Massive Damage! Massive Damage! Massive Damage!”