When the government of the Northwest Territories announced phase one of its Emerging Wisely plan, Totally Arctic Wrestling (TAW) founder Dez Loreen figured he had some elbow room to get his wrestlers back in the ring.
However, the GNWT has put a sleeper hold on his hopes to host an outdoor show — or even produce a theatrical video — in June. He said he’s now looking towards the one-year anniversary of TAW’s debut last November to throw the COVID-19 blues off the turnbuckle.
“There’s human lives at stake. Wrestling is high impact, it’s very close quarters, you’re sweating on the other guy, so I definitely see the risk of spreading the virus,” said Loreen. “That being said, we’re a group of four people who don’t travel, in a community that doesn’t have any active cases, in a territory that doesn’t have any active cases.
“So it’s not like I’m running a professional wrestling league with 20 people flying into my city every week.”
A May 20 letter from the GNWT reads, “The social distancing requirement remains in effect for Phases 1 through 3 inclusive. So unfortunately, unless changes are announced during the latter phases, wrestling is not be an activity we could approve at the present time.”
Having had to eat the costs of a cancelled pair of shows in April, one in Inuvik and one in Tuktoyaktuk, Loreen estimated since COVID-19 shut down he was out at least $3,000 in cancelled flights, posters, t-shirts and other investments.
“Right now we have a soft-booking for November 14 that I’m holding onto right now because this is an ever-changing situation,” said Loreen. “Who knows what it’s going to look like June 21? I don’t want to clip its wings right now.”
Other wrestlers said they completely understand the GNWT’s concerns with bringing talent in from outside the territory and the concerns about a large audience being a vector for infection, but noted none of the four in the TAW stable have left the Beaufort Delta since the crisis began.
“It’s such a small town,” said Noel Cockney, aka Nolerbear, the latest addition to the TAW line-up. “We’ve been up here the whole time.”
With the GNWT’s policy of allowing a household to have five special friends who can visit or stay, Loreen said he had explored the idea of just getting together to train and shoot videos until he could get out of the headlock on full shows, but the government told him in no uncertain terms that physical contact was not part of phase one.
So, with his hopes pinned, Loreen said his squad is focusing on working out and preparing more promo videos.
In spite of getting tossed around by COVID-19, Loreen noted TAW is making some serious noise in the wrestling community.
“It’s unbelievable. Chris Jericho follows Totally Arctic Wrestling on Instagram,” said Loreen. “It’s like Wayne Gretzky showing up at a pee-wee hockey game and saying ‘this kid has got it.’ To have that kind of rub is crazy.
“I’ve got Chris Jericho, Chavo Guerrero, Vickie Guerrero, plus dozens and dozens of Indy wrestlers across Canada, promoters across the United States; we even got a following in England.
“Totally Arctic Wrestling has gotten a lot of attention. So it’s really important to us that we do this right. We’re not going to break the laws or put on a show when we can’t, but we’re still making content and we’ve got a story arc we want to finish here.”
Loreen said as soon as he gets the go ahead, there would be a show date announced.