Part one of an interview with Randy “The Rage” Berry
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
If you grew up in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, you probably had an uncle, cousin, or neighbour who introduced you to professional wrestling. It was, after all, pro wrestling’s golden era. Young wrestling fans of this era were fascinated by the personas, the bone-crunching finishing moves, and the prospect of real glory. Watching Randy (Macho Man) Savage fly through the air and deliver his match-ending elbow was all it took for many kids at that time to decide to pursue a career as a professional wrestler.
Randy Berry was one such kid.
Growing up in Cornwall, Ontario, at a time when the local hockey team was winning Memorial Cup titles, wrestling was a secondary pastime for most—not so for Berry, who had chosen his profession in his formative years.
“Wrestling was the only thing I was going to do,” says Berry, as he shares a late-night drink with his childhood-friend-turned-news-editor at his Amelia Street home in Cornwall.
Berry went about developing as a pro wrestler at an early age, like most aspiring wrestlers do. He gathered some friends and performed in the backyard. As years passed, however, Berry became more entrepreneurial and began to keep record books, scout suitable backyards and parks, and gather a consistent roster of guys willing to take their bumps on hard ground. By 1993, Cornwall had a backyard wrestling promotion with a growing fan base.
“It taught us how to be disciplined and responsible,” he says. “Every day after school we knew exactly what we were going to do. Wrestling came first and nothing else got in the way.”
The Cornwall Outdoors Wrestling Alliance (COWA), as it was known, ran shows daily throughout the summer until 2000 and is largely credited with having been at the forefront of the explosion in backyard wrestling’s popularity throughout Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec in the late ‘90s.
While backyard wrestling had always been around, in the past it was largely seen as “kids being kids.” The organization of backyard promotions became troublesome as would-be wrestlers attempted some of the things they were seeing on television, prompting the mainstream pro wrestling promotions at the time (WWE and WCW) to start every televised show with disclaimers discouraging people from trying any of what they saw.
Berry, who as a backyard wrestling promoter largely dismissed television disclaimers, now admits there may have been some merit to them.
“That all started when kids started killing themselves, doing shit like jumping off roofs through flaming tables, among other ridiculously dangerous stunts. Major promotions had no choice but to put the ‘don’t try this at home’ message out there.”
Berry, in addition to being a mainstay in several wrestling promotions in Canada and the United States—including some off-camera work for the WWE last September—is also the promoter of Mecca Pro Wrestling and has been involved in founding other promotions in Eastern Ontario, including Canadian Grand Prix Wrestling. He believes that wrestling promoters have a responsibility to ensure that kids aspiring to be wrestlers remain responsible in backyards across the country.
“I’m not going to tell someone not to do it,” Berry says, referring to backyard wrestling. “I did it myself and I’m not about to become a hypocrite. But I do tell people not to get stupid.”
His advice: “Don’t pull off a stunt or a move you have any doubts about. Don’t take it too seriously and just play.”
Be sure to pick up next week’s issue of the Other Press for Part Two of my interview with Randy “The Rage” Berry, where we discuss his development as a professional wrestler and how backyard wrestling has impacted the pro ranks. For more on his wrestling career, check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/officialrandyberry