Outside the squared circle, they’re working to bring family-friendly wrestling to venues in Surrey and other cities, now that they’ve bought the All Star brand from local wrestling legends Mark Vellios (aka Gorgeous Michelle Starr) and Nathan Burke (Disco Fury), both of whom have retired from the biz.
All Star, or ASW, has been a B.C. wrestling fixture dating back to the 1970s, when matches were televised locally. The promo evolved over the years to deliver only in-person displays of bear hugs and sleeper holds, including some events at Cloverdale Fairgrounds in years prior to the pandemic.
This fall, the rebirth of ASW gets real with “War at the Waterfront,” as hyped on vtixonline.com, on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Vancouver’s Maritime Labour Centre, followed by a return to Surrey’s Sullivan Hall on Nov. 19 for a “Once Upon a Time in Bollywood” match.
Athwal and Britton have known each other for six years, as long as they’ve pro-wrestled, and their deal to buy ASW was made official in August.
“We are going to be running our regular shows, basically picking up where Starr and Disco left off, with family-friendly shows full of characters, storylines and feuds,” Athwal explained. “We’ll be running in the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver area, and we’ll be bringing in talent from other places, too — some former WWE guys and former All Star wrestling legends.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO FROM 2017
As “The Thunder from Jalandhar,” Athwal wears a turban and traditional Indian garb while making his entrance, lights flashing and crowds reacting. He made his ASW debut in September 2016, out in Abbotsford, and once vowed to donate all of his earnings to the homeless.
“I was kind of bored in my life,” Athwal said of his start in pro wrestling. “All of my friends were getting married and I wanted to find a sport, something to do. Somebody told me about pro wrestling and when I Googled it, ‘A’ for All Star showed up and I called them. I didn’t know anybody in wrestling, and I talked to Starr and he told me to check it out, and I did.
“It was a two-hour training session (at a Surrey gym),” he added. “I just went to watch but within an hour I got in there and thought, ‘Yeah, this is it.’”
• READ MORE, from 2018: Surrey wrestler feeds homeless with money earned in ring.
With ASW shut down during the darkest days of the pandemic, Athwal and Britton eventually saw the light of taking over the wrestling promo.
“Starr and Disco, they wanted to retire from it, and they trusted us because we have the same vision as them,” elaborated the Edmonton-born Athwal, who runs Athwal Bros. Electric.
While other wrestling organizations, including NEW (Nation Extreme Wrestling), cater to bar-going adults, Athwal and Britton aim to appeal to younger spectators.
“Basically we want to keep things the same as the All Star tradition, cater to families and kids, keep it old-school and simple and entertain people,” Athwal said. “We just want to keep professional wrestling alive, that’s our goal too. Starr and Disco, they’re there to mentor us, and we can call them for advice anytime.”
Britton, now in his 40s, began wrestling six years ago — late in the game, for sure.
“But my passion has been there since I was a kid watching with my great-grandpa,” said Britton, who grew up in Victoria and works with a mortage company. “He loved it, a prairie farmer who spent winters with my grandparents. He’d flip on wrestling and was enthralled by it. It was the coolest thing to sit beside him watching people do inhumane things to each other.”
With All Star, Britton got his start at a wrestling school in Surrey.
“Probably 98 per cent of us got our training deep in the heart of Whalley, where we learned the craft, took our lumps, bled the blood, by King George Skytrain,” he recalled. “ASW gave me my first start and gave me opportunities,” Britton added. “My style matched what they wanted to present — more old-school, good versus evil, bad guys and good guys. That’s the wrestling I like, so it’s been a good fit. We want kids there because if not, what’s the purpose when you can’t inspire the next generation?”
At Sullivan Hall on Nov. 19, Burnaby-raised WWE vets The Bollywood Boyz will wrestle in a ring set up to entertain up to 300 fans. Tickets start at $15 for kids 12 and under and rise to $30 for front-row seats. There’s also a $20 general-admission ticket.
“We have Bollywood Boyz for the next three shows, first on Oct. 15, then at Sullivan and then back at the Maritime Centre on Dec. 3,” Athwal noted. “We’re trying to get something else in Surrey, and we’ll be the first wrestling show there in four years, I think, so we’ll get it going again at Sullivan. We’re still looking for something else right now.”