The independent wrestling game is a grind but thanks to the response of Kamloops fans in 2019, it's a grind that Interior-based Thrash Wrestling is going to continue pursuing here in 2020.
Last spring saw Thrash return to Kamloops for the first time in a decade. The promotion is based out of Vernon; after years of staying in the financially-sound Okanagan Valley, local Justin Griffore helped draw shows back to the Thompson region.
"I've been watching these guys for a while and had been pushing for a few years to come to Kamloops because we knew it would do well," says Griffore, director or Northern promotions with Thrash Wrestling. "But it was one of those things where they really didn't want to take the risk of losing the money, so I took the responsibility of things. I did advertising, plugged away and was lucky that they trusted me after bugging them enough. And it's been successful."
In total, Griffore says Thrash puts on about 40 to 50 shows a year around the Interior. Most of the staff are volunteers, working jobs during the week and giving up their weekends for the love of the sport.
"It's pretty random. We have guys in construction, painting, business; you get a little bit of everything... It's kind of surprising to see what some of the jobs are. We have one that's a court stenographer. You write notes in the courtroom by day and beat people up by night," he says.
Locally, Thrash's first Kamloops show was so successful, they held three more all-ages shows at Moccasin Square Gardens last year.
Now, this weekend they'll be trying something new, hosting a 19-plus event at Cactus Jack's tonight (Jan. 11). The move is partly to provide a different, more "hardcore" atmosphere than their previous shows and partly because of the difficulty of finding a location that meets their specifications.
"It's a matter of proving yourself again," says Griffore. "Getting a venue in this town is really hard. There's not a place in (Kamloops) that's under $1,000 to rent that has a 15-foot ceiling, that you can serve alcohol in. The school gyms, you can't serve alcohol or you have conference centres that are very expensive. I wasn't much for the performance centre before but when I realized I needed a venue, maybe we do need a performance centre in town? Your mind changes when you become a promoter and realize you don't have a place to put my event."
If tonight's "New Years Wrestlution" goes well, there could be more shows at CJ's in the future. But Thrash won't be abandoning their all-ages events at Moccasin Square Gardens either: Griffore says there is one planned for this March.
Along with more shows in Kamloops, Thrash will also be visiting other markets they haven't been to in a long time. Earlier this week, they were supposed to hold their first show in Merritt in a decade, before the weather forced a postponement. They'll also be announcing a Barriere show soon.
Thrash isn't just trying to expand their reach to new communities, they're also looking to help out by pairing with local charities. Tonight's show will donate the 50-50 proceeds to Royal Inland Hospital's ICCHA/Wish Fund.
"It's not about the money and you know that once you see it. It's all about the love of the industry, love of the people in it. It's like a family and we're just trying to make people happy; whether you're donating money or just making them jump out of their seat by going through a table. It's all worth it," says Griffore.
Doors to tonight's show open at 6 p.m. with matches starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are just $15 and are available online.
To learn more about Thrash Wrestling, click HERE.