When an Honest Promoter Meets a Crooked Commission...
On a recent trip to Winnipeg, Bruiser Bastein and I were guests of CWF
owner Ernie Todd and booker Gene Swan at a card held at the Sherbrook Hotel.
This brought back a flood of forgotten memories of the early 90's.
Bar shows, in dimly lit venues in front of professional sceptics, are a
part of everyone's education in the ring in Manitoba. A young wrestler needs
to work in front of real crowds to learn. Bars are often a weird environment
and can actually teach bad lessons to young wrestlers. In a community center,
a lowblow was a pure heel move. In a bar, the drunk loogins were likely
to yell out "do it again!". Hecklers were as popular as the workers in some
places like the Royal George and the Maryland Hotels.
I came out for an opener once against Frankie Starr and the locals, familiar
with me from my straight career as a crusading activist and as the taxi
driver they loved to tip (50c), as well as my days as the face of New Brand
Wrestling on CKY, cheered wildly. So much for me working as the heel that
night. Poor Frankie.
It was not always like that. Bar shows were unheard of in the old days.
In 1990 Dave "CryBaby Levinsky" Pinsky, working for a well-regarded talent
agency, began booking WFWA cards into bar venues. This was lucrative but
the boys were not happy with Bulldog Bob Brown's booking. I first met Swan
on November 10, 1990, when Brian Jewel dragged him along to a card held
by Walter Shefchyk at the Concord Hotel beverage room, I believe under the
Wildcat Wrestling name. Jewel, broken in by Walter at the age of 17, had
brought his new partner to see if the promotion had a hope of generating
paydays for the languishing local talent. We were already surrounded by
My own attempt to operate a promotion with Pinsky in January 1990 had been
arbitrarily halted by the Manitoba Boxing and Wrestling Commission before
our first show. Mysterious documents, including a supposed requirement for
a $10,000 line of credit and references, had been supplied to Pinsky thereafter.
Yet I had run in 1989 with no such "requirements" or complaints about the
Pursuing justice, I had a run-in with the Commission in court in July of
1990, and all of the comments and responses from their legal beagle, Charlie
Phelan, rang untrue. Starting with their tenuous explanation of jurisdiction
on Indian reserves. If the Department of Education was powerless to help
schoolteachers (like my ex-wife) who got stiffed on pay by the bands, how
could another provincial agency have jurisdiction over something as unimportant
as pro wrestling? And the special rules just for Marty. He claimed I was
a threat to the public interest. I knew something was being covered up.
Allow me to explain further.
The shut down was in January 1990, when Pinsky was told by Buck Matiowski
that I faced a "lifetime suspension" for not having permits before pushing
the show...which had never been an issue for Condello, Ernie Rheault, or
anyone else, including me the year before. Dave was also told I had not
been licenced the previous year, a blatant lie.
Then in February hot on the trail of anything I could find on them an injured
boxer who they tried to force to fight led me to a trail of boxers who had
not been medically tested at the December 15, 1989 boxing card. Trying to
force an injured fighter into the ring??
I wrote a freelance story published in the March 2, 1990 Sun. This led to
a TV documentary that exposed Buck Matiowski lying about the tests having
been required, and squirming on-camera with a litany of excuses why 7 fighters
were allowed to risk their lives for his payday. "It was a fiasco, I admit
that." Matiowski was humiliated.
So the confrontation in court in July was acrimonious. I helped prove that
the Commission invented rules as they saw fit, picking on people with no
due process, were not truthful, and they told the Court I was a meddlesome
troublemaker with no grounds for concern.
I was working on the case when Walter phoned me after I returned to Winnipeg
in October from working 2 shots with Steve Ray in Kansas City, where my
talent was respected and my supposed reputation as a troublemaker didn't
matter to promoter Bob Geigel.
Walter had folded up New Brand Wrestling on May 17, 1984, after a failed
run with George Wells, and had promoted some shoot sumo-style fight cards
in 1985, but now the bug had bitten him again. "McMartin, it's time to come
out and play...". I told him about my research and said I would work with
him, only if he gave the Commission the legal bond amount.
Guided by then opposition leader and now Premier Gary Doer, I had already
acquired from the Legislative library a copy of the Act, which said the
bond was $500. The Commission, led by one Buck Matiowski, had used WHITE-OUT
to alter the legal requirements. That wasn't all. The original Act also
specified that the 3% fee had been decreased to 1% in 1979 and although
proposed to be raised in 1982, was not upped to 3% until Oct. 4, 1988, under
the signature of, you guessed it, Buck Matiowski.
So the Commission had knowingly ripped off the AWA, or more specifically
a promotion front headed by Global TV executive Don Brinton for $70,000.
As well as Walter, Tony Condello, and anyone else who ran wrestling. Those
dollars were used to subsidize Boxing regulation, which could never hope
to pay it's own way. They acted like feudal lords, flying to conferences
to hobnob with the likes of Don King and other commissions. In 1989 they
had a surplus of $100,000. Off our sweat. Our blood. Our work. Illegally
collected. And risking the boxers lives as well.
Walter submitted a cheque for $500 but on December 7/90 it was returned
and in a letter signed by the unfortunately named Commissioner Bill Crook,
he said "we regret to inform you that we intend to lay charges" based on
the show that Swan was at. Hypothetically everyone there, including bystanders
like Swan and even reporters, could be charged with participating in an
That is how Commissions control the business, with the power of life and
death, distorting the Criminal Code (and I will divulge the legal opinion
that supports this statement later), eager to take the word of the established
interests who gave up the required front row seats to mark commissioners
with glee, as that gives them access to the ears of these idiots. Stories
would get told that so-and-so was an upstart who would "kill the business"
(synonymous with "my business"), so rather than encourage competition that
would provide enjoyment for the fans and work for the boys- my experiment
running a Can-Am '89 tour in March of 89 resulted in an immediate hike in
payoffs to some of the locals working WFWA shows- new promotions were shut
down, by any means necessary.
Now they were threatening Shefchyk and to make things worse, Bill Crook
had spoken to the Winnipeg Sun on Dec. 11 after Condello had raised a stink
about him paying fees but Walter not. He said that the Commission was going
to get a legal opinion. Yet the letter 4 days earlier said they were going
to prosecute. This was a serious problem, not for us, but for Premier Gary
Walter rang me up first thing that morning. I had known him since 1980 and
never had he been so angered. He picked me up and we were in the office
of the Deputy Attorney-General at 8.30 AM. Walter demanded we be arrested
on the spot. Seriously, we stuck our wrists out and insisted on being arrested.
The official stopped laughing when we produced the letter to go with that
mornings article. "Kremlin" and "Communist Russia" was bellowed numerous
times. Not only was the Commission discussing Walter's business with the
press, but it appeared that they had made a decision and the legal opinion
was a formality.
Glen Dawkins of the Winnipeg Sun called on me to get the other side. I produced
letters sent to Sports Minister Jim Ernst in February 90, asking the hard
questions. Ernst had ignored me. I had then sent a letter to Filmon. He
ignored me too. But the evidence of altered regulations, violation of due
process and of the Filmon government's commitment to developing Manitoba
business being undermined, all detailed in the Sun was too much. The harassment
of Walter and myself had backfired right onto the government.
The Sun had a blazing banner on the front page Dec 21 90. "Ernst calls in
auditor in boxing, wrestling flap." The story,"MBWC Mismanagement?" quoted
Ernst as saying "I gave the Provincial Auditor the letter ( to Premier Filmon)
and said investigate".
On December 24th, I got out of the taxi at 6 AM to get a paper. The Sun's
Dawkins reported on MY side of the story, after a year of being mocked,
disrespected, railroaded, rooked and goofed on. I called out Ernst for the
8 month delay, and called for the Justice Minister to investigate the whole
deal, including the boxer safety issues.
"They pile lie on top of lie to cover things up... if Buck Matiowski and
Charles Phelan are the ones who will be drafting this new Act, it's a waste
of tiume to publish it".
It was Chrismas Eve, and I got the gift of credibility.
Merry Christmas, Buck.
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from the boys:
Ed Moretti says "Grab a hold, kid...they'll get with it in a minute".