The mood is tense on Toronto’s Centre Island Ferry as it churns across the surface of Lake Ontario. The CN tower shrinks to a tenth of its size in the distance. Commuter tail lights cut westward along the Gardiner Expressway, turn North up the Don Valley Parkway, and form a pensive red smirk across downtown Toronto. The anticipation of blood, sweat, and violence rests like a hanging fog as the crowd makes its way toward utter isolation on Centre Island. The sun introduces the dusken sky by sinking into the lake, taking with it the humanity, sympathy, love that these people may have once been capable of. They’re looking for blood.
Tonight, Gibraltar Point hosts the third and final installation of the League of Lady Wrestlers’ “Island Rumble.” The grand climax of an epic trilogy of warfare, gross-out matches, high-flying stunts, and good old-fashioned ass-kickings. Will the LOLW walk off into the sunset, or crash and burn on the horizon? Not every professional wrestler knows when to walk away.
Kitty Stardust rocking out | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Cascades of bejorted and mustachioed twenty-somethings pedal along Centre Island’s paved walkways, absent-mindedly confirming that, yes indeed, it is this way to Gibraltar Point. The ferry’s late departure has already delayed the show, incubating a fervour of anticipation.
Arriving at the outdoor venue, one is greeted with a 16x16 wrestling ring, beer tent, hot dog stand, and a crowd eager in the same way as a 10-year-old waiting for fireworks to begin.
Shock and Awe | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
The lights dim, and Big Business Mufferaw, GM of the league, sweeps into the ring like a hurricane to kick off the proceedings. Seeming at first a black-eyed Annie Oakley, the former Big Jody Mufferaw (a poorly lumberjack) runs a tight ship. Having seen the monetary potential of the LOLW with consecutively sold out shows, Mufferaw abandoned her logging pursuits for the cold hard cash of performative spectacle. Big Business is drawn to the mic like a moth to the flame, and money talks if it wants to.
Mufferaw sets the stakes early. Tonight there will be a world title on the line. And whoever can prove themselves to be good for business will be chosen to get a crack at the Grand Hoo-Ha belt. Make LOLW history. Become legend.
Big Business Mufferaw getting the crowd riled up | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Though people continue to trickle in, the audience is mostly here. Five-hundred blood-thirsty souls squeeze around the 16x16 ring. Carrying the weight of the crowd, the island feels like it might tip over at any moment. Having traversed a half-hour sea voyage, those in attendance are all fully committed, they have already bought in. There is no checking of phones, no foot out the door, they are all present. We are all here. Now. Waiting for a show.
Five-hundred strong | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
The undercard begins, and we are off to the races. We are introduced to fantastical characters from beyond the pale. There’s Kitty Stardust, the glam rock god; Glass Shard and her disembodied floating eyeball; the vampyric Black Widow with her spiderbaby; Sqrue Younicorn donning her rainbow-coloured horn, to name a few. Renegades, stoners, cutesy alt-type maniacs wreaking havoc. Lower class brats, magical devils, even a centaurcorn (that’s a half-person-half-unicorn, for the laymen) out for revenge. These warriors all have their own reasons for fighting. Some want to occupy what’s typically an exclusive space, others to express some usually suppressed facet of their personality, and the rest to, well… kick some ass and have some fun. It’s that simple.
Black Widow and her spider baby | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
A well-executed headlock | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Gluten Frieda trying to end the wheatspiracy | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Centaurcorn in action | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
A match ends, and the defeated must make the walk to the backstage when suddenly the music fades out. All is quiet. Then, without warning, Eastbound and Down blares over the sound system, which can only mean one thing: Big Rig has arrived. Hailing from the Cape Breton highlands, this 18 wheeler-weighing, salty-souled maniac means serious business.
After Big Rig preemptively KOs her opponent, DK3000, before the match has even begun, the referee starts the match and counts One! Two!! Three!!! Big Rig is the victor, but Mufferaw is none too happy. The crowd hates a cheat, and an unhappy crowd is bad for business. As such, Big Business relieves the ref of his duties and announces that Big Rig’s workday is not over, she’ll immediately fight for the Grand Hoo-Ha belt. But against who?
Big Rig grabs the mic to cut a quick promo. She eviscerates the Upper-Canadian scum in attendance, the Torontonians who she views as the only people capable of rendering doughnuts, the people's pastry, pretentious. The crowd drowns Big Rig’s promo in boo’s. This scene would be vastly different had it taken place in Halifax, Sydney, or Great Village, but here in Toronto Big Rig is full heel.
Big Rig revving her engine | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
That’s when Mmmmmm Donuts by Luna Chicks crashes over the loudspeakers, which can only mean one thing: Doughnut Messaround is rolling on down to the ring, ready to poke a hole in Big Rig’s plans. The crowd erupts in cheers, their baby-faced, dough-eyed hero has come to vanquish the no-good cheatin’ Nova Scotian occupying the ring.
Doughnut Messaround soaking in the cheers like coffee | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Doughnut Messaround wastes no time, and goes after Big Rig with the ferocity of the grease fryer she was born in. After a quick back and forth trading of headlocks, Doughnut Messaround locks in the Pretzel Logic, a classic Indian death lock. Big Rig howls in pain, but manages to grab the ropes, compelling Mufferaw, now the referee, to break the hold.
Just as quickly, Big Rig turns things around by slapping on the Fender Bender, and Doughnut Messaround is in all kinds of sugar-dusted trouble. Eventually escaping, Doughnut enjoys a mid-match snack of doughnuts, sharing them with the crowd, before laying three DDT’s on Big Rig. The crowd counts with Big Business Mufferaw: “One! Two!! Three!!!”
Doughnut Messaround is your Grand Hoo-Ha champion. The crowd goes wild, feeling as if they’ve just won, and sent Big Rig back to the Atlantic with a crushed exhaust pipe.
The announcers inform the crowd of a brief intermission, and just in time. These people have just arrived at the bottom of a roller coaster, and need some refreshments to recover their strength.
A short respite for the crowd | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
The mood is light, jovial. There is nothing but smiles at the beer table, fully dressed hot dogs are washed down with local, classic Steam Whistle. Some of the wrestlers are amongst the crowd, also needing to refuel. Out of the ring their daytime identities shine through. They are artists, craftspeople, servers, they are everyone, but as the intermission comes to a close their eyes glaze over with the glaring intensity of forthcoming combat.
The announcers welcome the audience back.
It’s election season in Toronto, and Citizen A, the LOLW’s unnaturally keen and idealistic politician is announcing her new initiative: The Three C’s. Citizen A rushes out to a wave of applause, shaking hands and kissing babies. She is all positivity and can-do attitude. She grabs the mic.
Citizen A addressing the electorate | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
“My fellow citizens, Are you ready for this? My name is Citizen A. I want to thank you so much for joining me here on the campaign trail today - for the announcement of my new initiative - the LOLW Wide World of Sportsing - encouraging citizenship through sports!!” 
Citizen A brings her poster child, Midfielder (a sportsing soccer prodigy), to the ring. She is fresh-faced and intimidatingly keen, obviously being groomed for a political future in Citizen A’s cabinet. Citizen A hands Midfielder the mic, when she adds, “Thank you…. Sports! …. Sports …. Sports? …. Sports…. Spooooooooorts… Thank you.”
Midfielder sportsing it up | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
The crowd eats it up as the duo playfully kick a soccer ball back and forth in a promptu photo-op. The message stayed on point, the spectacle was delivered, and nothing of substance was said.
Our photographer couldn't pass on such a perfect photo op | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Citizen A then unveils the campaign’s slogan, the “Three C’s: Community, Citizenship, and Cports!”  but is rudely interrupted by notorious Dawson City LOLW wrestlers Garbage Face and Shreeeka who, having fought at Island Rumble II one year prior, seem to have formed some kind of street-bog-type alliance. Garbage Face, the dumpster-diving skid punk, and Shreeeka the pond-dwelling switch (that’s half-siren-half-witch, for the laymen) make their way to the ring in a blind fury, the dregs of society untouched by the empty political promises from the likes of Citizen A and Midfielder wanting to make their voices heard and their fists felt.
Garbage Face and Shreeeka interfacing | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
You just can’t fake this kind of heat, and Big Business Mufferaw is savvy enough to know it. She announces that it will be a tag team match. Citizen A is taken aback, it’s clear that she didn’t expect to have to fight today, but the crowd has spoken, democracy has forced the issue. Citizen A employs her tearaway shirt and pants and is in full costume, declaring “if the people want me to wrestle, I’ll wrestle!” 
The announcers fill us in before the action starts, informing the crowd that last year’s match between Garbage Face and Shreeeka ended with the former claiming the latter’s magical murkin as her own, brandishing it as a mind-controlling talisman that has robbed Shreeeka of her agency.
The starting bell rings.
Midfielder looks to Citizen A for direction, but before any can be delivered Shreeeka is in the ring, appearing to be in some kind of fugue state. Citizen A and Midfielder assume a defensive posture, but it proves useless as Shreeeka, with a top-of-the-lungs shriek fit to shatter a champagne glass, takes them both down with brute force, all the while Garbage Face assumes her throne on the top rope and shouts directives at her would-be serf.
The Horror | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Shreeeka picks up Citizen A in a fireman’s carry, but, ever the politician, she manages a live tweet: “note to self: push for infrastructure improvements to city’s sewer system #powertothepeople”. 
Before Shreeeka can finish her move Citizen A slides down and applies her finishing hold - the Golden Handshake, then uses the ropes to apply The Spin, leaving Shreeeka dangling in a cobweb of cables. With that, Midfielder is tagged and moves in for the kill with her powerful kick. This is all while Garbage Face watches idly, spitting beer, perversely shaming Shreeeka from her ivory tower (which, metaphorically speaking, would probably be comprised of old Ivory Soap wrappers).
In the heat of the moment Shreeeka ducks under a soccer ball that flies off the foot of Midfielder, resulting in clean contact between the ball and Garbage Face’s face. Stunned, her garbage face betrays a blind rage, not at Midfielder, but at Shreeeka for allowing it to happen. Using the power of the merkin, Garbage Face pins Shreeeka in the corner and takes out a razor. She wouldn’t… would she? No one could be this cruel. But yes, it’s true, Garbage face actually begins shaving Shreeeka’s armpits and head, robbing her of her Samsonite power!
Garbage Face's low point | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
It is a grim, yet enthralling, scene. Shreeeka is being humiliated by her own tag team partner, with Citizen A and Midfielder standing not ten feet away, mouths agape, looks of guilted confusion on their faces. They realize that Shreeeka is merely a poor switch at the mercy of a malevolent garbage-faced shrew. Shreeeka is not herself, she is vulnerable, in need of help, one of the very people Citizen A has sworn to represent and act on behalf of, and yet when faced with her ferocity, she had also extended her hand in malevolence - Citizen A is the embodiment of state betrayal.
Midfielder and Citizen A share a Eureka! moment. They match gazes, nod to each other, then look to Garbage Face. Garbage Face, taking a break from her disgracing of Shreeeka to assess the scene, gulps (though it’s not clear whether it was a gulp from fear or a gulp of beer). The political duo lift Shreeeka from the ground and there is a three-way acknowledgment of what must be done. It’s time to clean up the streets, take out the trash, time for Garbage Face to face her crimes as the oppressor she has revealed herself to be.
Feeding the crowd | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
The crowd cheers, knowing that their blood lust, which has been building and frothing all evening, is about to be satisfied.
Revenge is swift and ghastly. What happens is almost too blood-curdling to be described. There is mild cannibalism, unrestrained brutality, and a forced Toxic Shocking. Garbage Face is utterly annihilated: mind, body, and spirit. Shreeeka retrieves her merkin and is freed from the clutches of Garbage Face. But the moment is not without victims. Midfielder looks on, her hands still wrapped around Garbage Face’s ankle from holding her down. She has been robbed of her innocence. Now she truly understands what it means to invoke political action, to defend the meek. Her eyes betray a question: Is retribution justice?
The Horror: Part II | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
There’s no time for an answer, however, because Big Business Mufferaw, having seen the enthusiasm of the crowd begin to wane while bathing in the afterglow of Garbage Face’s demise, saves the show by calling for a Royal Rumble.
Every wrestler from the night comes out to the ring, but they are no match for the recently emancipated Shreeeka. She slams, busts, and throws her foes through all four corners of the ring and beyond. Her power has reached it’s peak, and adrenaline carries her through the entire LOLW roster, which now rests bloody, bruised, and beaten at her feet.
The ring becomes a grave | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
Shreeeka is awarded the League’s highest honour: the Ultimate Supreme Dominance Trophy. Shreeeka, once a simple bog-dwelling switch, is now crowned the hero of the night, to the raucous applause of all 500 in attendance.
Shreeeka redeemed | Photo Credit: Ivana Dizdar (c) 2016
The music fades to oblivion and the lights bow their heads. The announcers say, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Five-hundred strong trace their steps back to the Centre Island Ferry, adrenaline surging, good vibes reverberating. The night is over. The Island Rumble is over. The trilogy has concluded. And with that they return to the mainland: jobs, family, honking car horns.
The fantasy has been broken, but the shared experience leaves a collective impression: “Damn, that was a kick-ass show.”
 Island Rumble III working script, Alison Snowball, 2016.
 Island Rumble III working script, Alex Martino, 2016.
Major salute to all of the LOLW performers, organizers, and crew who put on Island Rumble III for such an amazing show. A big thanks to Erin Fleck for speaking to me about the League and providing the kind of insight that helped this piece come alive. Finally, a huge thank-you to Ivana Dizdar for capturing in photos what couldn't be said with words, in the way that only she could.