It Came From the Thrift Store: International Wrestling 1986

Here’s a day (or two weeks, I don’t know how badly this tape was edited) in the life of Lutte Internationale, better known to English-speaking people as International Wrestling. Located in Montreal, one of the traditional hotbeds of Canadian wrestling, International Wrestling was strong enough in Canada to be syndicated on a semi-national basis.

In 1986, International Wrestling was just winding down – it had briefly aligned itself with the WWF a year earlier and was being gouged for talent by that promotion. Things hadn’t become so desperate yet that Abdullah the Butcher and assorted talents from Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council would literally bleed International Wrestling to death. Even from watching this tape, I could tell that the lights were being turned off on the promotion. “New” talents I didn’t recognize were more prevalent than wrestlers I’d actually heard of. It’s not hard to spot when the talent pool is being drained.

Dino Bravo was perpetually the golden boy of International Wrestling. It’s impossible to talk about wrestling in Montreal without mentioning Bravo – during the time International Wrestling was subsumed by the WWF, his title became the WWF Canadian Championship. Bravo was co-promoter of International Wrestling with Gino Brito Sr. and Rick Martel, so he had a steady gig.

That still doesn’t excuse him from delivering this shitty promo hyping his match against The Great Samu. He stumbles through his promo points and makes many malapropisms. The VHS recording cuts out before Bravo finishes his promo, which is a blessing. I’m not sure how good Bravo matches of this era are, but if all his promos were like this I’m not surprised his face run in the WWF was a failure. It should be noted that this is before Bravo dyed his hair and hit the steroids heavily, so he still had some wrestling skill back in 1986.

You might not be familiar with Alofa the Polynesian Prince, but wrestling fans have seen him before. That’s right, this was Solofa Fatu, Jr. (d/b/a Kishi, formerly Rikishi) before he got fat and burned his Stinkface into the minds of unwilling wrestling fans everywhere. Eventually he became one half of the Samoan Swat Team. Some of you might have tried to forget him as The Sultan and/or Making a Difference Fatu. Here Alofa stumbles through his promo as seems to be the norm for International Wrestling, but at least he shows enthusiasm. He has a squash match on the tape I fast-forwarded through watched.

Eddie “The Brain” Creatchman isn’t too bad as heel managers go. In fact, he’s considered one of Canada’s greats. He did manage The Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher, so he had to be doing something right. Here he’s managing Sheik Ali, a white person (in this case, New Brunswick’s “Big” Stephen Petitpas) magically turned Arab via Middle Eastern garb and some facial hair. He’s no Makhan Singh, but few people are.

According to Slam! Wrestling Petitpas’ wrestling wasn’t bad. Why Creatchman speaks for him here is beyond me, unless the audience is supposed to believe Sheik Ali is really Arab and can’t speak English. Wrestling expects you to disbelieve 95% of the time, but I have to wonder how many people were fooled. Sheik Ali’s squash match just flew by me via the magic of fast-forwarding.

Bill and Scott Irwin crap on Tom Zenk and Dan Kroffat (Bill Irwin pronounces Kroffat’s last name Crawford for some reason), while Steve Strong puts down Rick Martel. Strong is surprisingly good on the mic, which makes me wonder why he didn’t become more well-known than he is. Creatchman promoted the Irwin brothers, since International Wrestling needed at least one manager to lean its heel wrestlers on.

Bill and Scott Irwin both had successful careers, especially in World Class Championship Wrestling. Bill would gain infamy in the WWF as The Goon, while Scott Irwin died of a brain tumour in 1987. Scott was a one-time NWA National Heavyweight Champion and once held one half of the WWWF Tag Team Championships, while Bill had his share of upper-card titles.

The match I saw on the tape was for the Canadian International Tag Team Championships against Zenk and Kroffat. It was actually decent, but seeing it twice was somewhat redundant. For those interested, the match ends when a masked Scott Irwin beats on Zenk in the middle of the Z-Man’s sleeper hold on Bill Irwin. The ensuing post-match run-ins are inevitable, but a feud is advanced and money is made. It’s hard to demand much more than that.

Here’s a not-very-good promo by Ron Ritchie. The announcer tries to set up Ron Ritchie as an up-and-comer, although he had been wrestling since 1978 and was only now starting to get career pushes. In fact, Ritchie was biding his time in 1986 between International Wrestling and Stampede Wrestling. Here Ritchie bigs up the importance of the Canadian International Heavyweight Championship, establishing his credentials in hopes of a good run in International Wrestling.

Ritchie’s greatest achievement was winning Stampede Wrestling’s North American Heavyweight Title, a feat only accomplished by five wrestlers that year. This isn’t a joke meant to denigrate Ritchie. In fact, this isn’t a joke; Stampede Wrestling was quite fond of short title runs. Steve Strong, under his real name of Steve DiSalvo, even beat Ritchie for the North American belt before flipping it to Bad News Allen a week later. Later DiSalvo became The Minotaur in WCW. *cough*

Samula Anoa’i was the other half of the Samoan Swat Team, but at this point in his career – I assume the tape is from June 1986 – he was challenging for the Canadian International Heavyweight Championship as The Great Samu. Here, the announcer is trying to fight Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” and failing. I know International Wrestling didn’t have the professionalism of WWF programming, and I don’t expect that from independent promotions of the 1980s. All the same, how hard is it to operate a mixing board? I also doubt International Wrestling cleared that sample, but at least the promotion is consistent with 1980s trends.

I don’t know if segments from two shows were spliced together on my tape or not, but it cuts to a backstage celebration. The Great Samu has won the Canadian International Heavyweight Championship. More of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” is cued, since when I think Janet Jackson I think a relatively obscure Samoan wrestler. I imagine this is Samula Anoa’i’s most significant heavyweight title win. As a special bonus, here’s a Samu/Bravo match where Samu is defending his title against Bravo. From the little I saw of Samu, he looked fairly good.

I should note that “Pretty Boy” Floyd Creatchman, Eddie Creatchman’s son and a fairly good manager in his own right, is speaking with Samu during the backstage segment. Unlike with “The Brain” and Sheik Ali, Samu is allowed to speak – not that he needs to say much with “Pretty Boy” Floyd speaking for him.

This clip marks a turning point in International Wrestling history. Bravo would not win the title back from Samu, and Samu dropped the belt in a few months’ time to “Dr. D” David Schults. By 1987 another regional promotion fell victim to the WWF’s North American expansion, as most of them did. Standard reasons are given for International Wrestling’s demise – not enough money made, not enough talent, the WWF stole everyone worth a damn – but I guess International Wrestling left with a bit more dignity than, say, the AWA or Stampede Wrestling.

This tape hasn’t made me want to seek out more International Wrestling right away, but it hasn’t turned me completely off the promotion. I will say this – if I have to watch another bad Dino Bravo promo within the next five years, it’ll be too soon.

C. Archer
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