Promotional Consideration is an on-going series at Last Word on Pro Wrestling that sheds spotlights on some of the top indie promotions around the world for your consideration, discovering their stories, the struggles, and their triumphs, directly from the promoters and owners mouths themselves. This week’s spotlight is on Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s Smash Wrestling with an exclusive interview with Smash owner/wrestler “The Endorsement” Sebastian Suave.
In 2012, the Toronto independent wrestling scene changed forever with the launch of Smash Wrestling. Within a few years, it became a provincial promotion, touring around Ontario. Now, in 2019, they are a national Canadian promotion aired weekly on The Fight Network, putting on partnership events this SummerSlam week in Toronto with the UK’s PROGRESS Wrestling, Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), and US indies SHIMMER and RISE Wrestling. We spoke to Toronto’s Sebastian Suave, a 32-year old Canadian indie wrestler who started Smash Wrestling from the ground up and talked to him about Smash’s story.
You started wrestling about 2007 in the Canadian indies. You launched Smash in 2012 after working many Ontario indies. What inspired you to launch a new promotion, and only a few years into your own career starting?
Sebastian Suave: I ran a charity show for my wrestling school one time and it went well. When the school’s primary event platform folded a year or two later I offered to run events for the school so the alumni and students had somewhere to still work. After a year of doing that and knowing those shows were in good hands, I fed the itch to run my own vision. Smash Wrestling was that vision.
You went big out the gate. While you obviously showcase a lot of homegrown talent, why was integrating international a priority out the gate?
This isn’t a knock on other promotions back then but among a small circle of us, it was notable that five promotions within a 1.5 hour radius used the same 12 guys as their core. You saw the same guys and the same matchups on different shows. There was a chance for me to mix up the best in the Ottawa, Montreal, Cleveland and Ontario scene along with a fly-in name. This always provided fresh matchups and would showcase the top Ontario or local guys we believed in. Even if they opened the show, they were in a relevant or fresh match up. A lot beyond that was taking a leap of faith that the buzz that came with Johnny Gargano, Kevin Steen, Chris Hero, Lance Storm and so forth was paying off long term and I’d like to think it did.
Smash has become one of Canada’s premier promotions now. At what stage did you realize that things were clicking and Smash was taking off as a legit promotion in the tough Ontario circuit?
There were a few notable points. The second show featured Gargano vs. Steen and we had a near-sellout show with an external buzz. We were new but the buzz and event atmosphere wasn’t something I experienced in Ontario in a long time. The big one for us was when we showcased Chris Hero versus Lance Storm right off his release followed by Hero versus AJ Styles the show right after. It was around that time that expectations were unrealistic and high. We would resort to bringing in The Young Bucks, PROGRESS Wrestling and all that eventually lead to our spot on The Fight Network. That is the quick time-lapse of Smash Wrestling.
How did you get your own start in pro wrestling as a wrestler?
I was an obsessed superfan, more extreme than any fan you see at any show. I would obsessively read WWF news on the internet and eventually that lead to being exposed to ROH and local indies. As soon as I realized there was such a thing as a local wrestling promotion and school the thought of training crossed my mind and I wasn’t going to say no. Up until then, I thought you had to go to Florida and train with the WWF where I was too small. I trained with Squared Circle Training in Toronto under Rob Fuego.
While you’re the founder of Smash, who is the “brain trust”? Who is your team for making sure Smash runs smoothly each time?
The current trio that is atop Smash Wrestling are Alan Taylor and Scott Hunter with myself. It’s criminal to just credit the three of us as there were past stalwarts and current stalwarts that play key roles and collectively shaped the Smash Wrestling culture.
You guys started as a Toronto brand, but you’ve since become an Ontario brand, touring multiple cities. When did you realize it was time to take Smash on the road?
Before I was a promoter I found it criminal that London never had a regular promotion outside of this occasional show that was marred by controversy. So that was always a goal of mine. As well, market saturation in and out of Smash Wrestling has long been a disdain of mine. You can’t control other events and nor should you. Control what you can control and the reality is entering a new market can reward a promotion on several fronts. It just comes with risk and requires patience.
You now have a sister promotion out of Quebec, in Federation de Lutte Quebecoise (FLQ). How important was it to expand outside the province?
You also have a TV show that’s shown nationally so that exposure is important. Optics are always important and getting a chance to be exposed to the Quebec market was important. You go from a municipal promotion to a provincial promotion to a national promotion.
One of the FLQ promoters and I have a long-standing relationship. They showed impressive strides and growth so we worked out a business relationship that mutually benefited both sides.
Your shows have essentially become tapings for your show on the Fight Network. How did the Fight Network deal come to place?
My goal was to be on the Fight Network probably two years prior to its finalization. John Pollock (of POST Wrestling), who used to work with them, was always a big supporter of myself and Smash Wrestling. He made the right introduction. Since that introduction, I asked what we needed to do to get a Canadian promotion on this Canadian owned network. We never had big money, just big balls to be blunt. So we gradually chipped away until we were ready for TV.
Was there a reason to go that TV route instead of doing separate PPVS on a streaming platform?
Live streaming and PPVs are live. They are more expensive, they are more high risk and other factors. We never did any of them before. It would have been foolish to just jump to that blindly. There are a dozen other factors to such decisions even today. Most important of all, we had a great relationship with Fight Network and you can’t take good business relationships for granted. The relationship never disallowed other platforms. We still had our On Demands and other services.
Smash has helped elevate a lot of homegrown stars, both Canadian and US. Who are some of the stars you’re most proud of for having cut their teeth in Smash?
Tarik becoming Tarik was truly special and a homegrown, long term, high-risk angle. At the end of the day, any measure of success we achieve is a two way street with talent. The credit does go to Tarik in the end. I’m just proud to of been there for the journey and to have had his trust.
I can say the exact same thing about Kevin Bennett as I didn’t know how he would react to me suggesting to him to use his real-life skills as a character. Once again, it’s all him in the end. He put in the work. He produced diss tracks over traditional wrestling promos.
The Well Oiled Machines was another organic homegrown success story and I will happily yet again credit both Psycho Mike and Pepper Parks for running with it. There are many others.
The character of Rosemary was constructed and built in Smash in the classic Courtney Rush/Rosemary vs Kimber Bombs/Allie feud. Did you know Courtney was changing her character to that for TNA or did her character in TNA come out of the stuff in Smash? It definitely adds so many layers to the entire Dark War on IMPACT to know their Smash history.
During the feud, Courtney Rush suffered an injury and pitched her character development. We were all in on running with it, working it into the angle and working with her to add layers to the character. Not to sound redundant, but it was a team effort and wouldn’t have been possible without the talent’s ambition and creativity. No one wishes for an injury, but that allowed for several months of character work without either girl touching for months. It was a joy to watch it all unfold.
It was so cool, cause Courtney was a burgeoning star as Courtney Rush, in SHIMMER, etc., but that change to Rosemary was explosive!
Absolutely. Truly explosive. Hard to pick out an example that grew and picked up as much momentum as she did with the change.
Will we see the day that Smash has iPPV events outside of the Fight Network show?
I don’t rule out any kind of event distribution and it’s stuff we talk about every year on the regular but again, we’re not made of money and it’s important that we don’t try to be bigger than we are. Much like with everything else, the right time and place so it’s done right without a burnout.
This August, you have a huge opportunity as the primary “host” for so many international promotions for SummerSlam week, with shows with wXw, PROGRESS, OWE, and The Summit with SHIMMER, RISE, and Femme Fatales. How did you make all these great connections?
We had a previous relationship with PROGRESS Wrestling and we have been on speaking terms with wXw before. They’re honestly top of the class people. Being a promoter and wrestler, I’ve crossed paths in person or in conversation with all but one of The Summit promoters. Lastly, OWE had a hidden gem affiliate who is just a fantastic human being and he connected both sides. Much like anything else, taking a chance and dialogue lead to building rapport at times. Both sides not being complete strangers helped.
Are there any big things coming up for Smash that we should be aware of that are on the horizon?
There are but I won’t leak anything as I’d like our team to catch their breath after the Slam week along with the fact that in wrestling sometimes near materialized opportunities don’t materialize. You can be sure that some exciting news is on the horizon.
How will Smash Wrestling in 2020 surpass 2019?
To be brutally honest, I don’t know the full answer today. We work on that month-to-month. We hit home runs that sometimes we expect and others that surpass what our expectations were. We do know that throughout our history doing so has always been as a result of thinking outside the box. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what and when defines 2020 for us!
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch Smash Wrestling every Friday at 8:30pm on the Fight Network or catch them on the wrestling streaming service PowerSlam TV on Roku, Apple TV, and other streaming providers. You can download Powerslam TV for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.