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Mario vs. Pac-Man: video game characters to rumble in squared circle

January 7th, 2012 · No Comments

By Nathaniel G Moore

The Combat Opera event is a vibrant tribute to video games, with familiar characters wrestling at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Courtesy Midnight Matinee.

I didn’t exactly know what WrestleCrisis was until someone tweeted to me about it because it had to do with wrestling. You see, people think I want to read about all things related to the squared circle. Perhaps it doesn’t help that I curate art shows and write about wrestling from time to time for national newspapers.

Regardless, I felt a kinship with local Ross Aitken, indie wrestler and local promoter who has been developing his unique brand of mayhem over the last two years. His most recent event, scheduled for this coming Sunday at 4 p.m., is his latest installment of WrestleCrisis at the Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Ave.).

At first, I thought the concept of the event was a tribute to wrestling video games—a festival of game playing throughout the ages, the evolution of wrestling video games, tournaments, that sort of thing.

Oh how I was wrong. This is real wrestling and real video game characters battling out in a real wrestling ring. It’s like a lazy Saturday morning cartoon and video game session on an acid trip.

Imagine your favourite video game characters entering the squared circle and wrestling each other in front of a live audience? The themed Combat Opera event is a vibrant tribute to video games, specifically of the 8-bit but not exclusively) generation.

Simply put, the event boasts pro wrestlers wrestling in character as classic game characters live. “For many it might be a shock to see the full sized wrestling ring in the theatre,” Aitkens explains. “We rented the from the wrestling school Squared Circle Training.” A facility in North York where Aitkens has been training for the last six years.

“I wrestle as Buck Gunderson,” Aitken says, “I’ve been doing that for two-and-a-half years, most weekends.” The indie wrestling circuit takes him all over Ontario, and he has even captured some regional championships.

Luigi is set to wrestle this Sunday. Courtesy Midnight Matinee.

The concept for WrestleCrisis grew from Anime North, a festival of Anime curiosity in which Aitkens first booked video game characters in a live wrestling match as a side show.

Last April in Toronto, fans were privy to a much anticipated showdown with Pac-Man and Mario. However, things didn’t turn out quite as one might think.

“The biggest surprises on the first show was when pac man turned on super Mario and revealed himself to be Luigi, which lead up to main event later that night,” Aitken explains.  The brother versus brother match (Mario vs. Luigi) ended in a disqualification when Wario ran in and interfered. Next Sunday’s show hopes to settle the score when Mario teams with a mystery opponent and faces Luigi and Wario.

The doors are at 4 p.m. and the action gets underway at 4:30 p.m. with music video game remixes—or “chip tunes”—will be presented. As for what patrons can expect for this, the first WrestleCrisis of 2012, Aitkens is cagey at first, but then reveals some old issues may get resolved.

I, for one, will be holding on the edge of my seat and cheering the baddies on all the way. Screw Mario and his mystery partner!

Tickets to WrestleCrisis are on sale for $10 in advance at Silver Snail (367 Queen St. W.) or $15 at the door. For more information, visit

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