For 23 years, the Green Phantom and PCP Crazy Manny have risked life and limb for their art, beating each other senseless across the city. On Saturday, they'll share the ring one last time.
As he prepared to be thrown off a 25-foot balcony, Crazy Manny was having second thoughts.
Up until that moment, everything in the match had gone according to plan. Manny and the Green Phantom beat each other bloody all over the amphitheatre. They traded suplexes and cut their bodies open with glass tubes. They went flying out of the ring and fought through the crowd, building a crescendo of violence that peaked on the venue’s balcony.
It all led to one last stunt and an uncharacteristically sane thought from Crazy Manny.
“I was about to go off the balcony and I told Phantom, ‘I dunno if this is safe,’” said Manny, whose real name is Manny Eleftheriou. “He just kind of shrugged and was like ‘Too late now.’”
The only thing breaking their fall was a pyramid of tables they’d crash through on the way down. But Phantom slipped and Manny missed his mark.
“It’s the weirdest thing, everything kind of slowed down, I could see myself missing the tables and then suddenly I’m barreling towards the ground head first,” said Eleftheriou, recounting the 2012 match. “The way I landed, it looked like I was dead. After a few seconds I opened my eyes, looked up and saw the shock on everyone’s face. So I just wiggled my hands and wiggled my feet and thought, ‘I’m okay.’”
His opponent was less enthusiastic.
“I saw my life flash before my eyes,” said Phantom, who goes by Joseph Fitzmorris outside the ring. “But when you do something that crazy, it helps to work with someone you trust. I trust Manny more than just about anyone else in this business.”
For the past 23 years, Eleftheriou and Fitzmorris have been close allies and bitter enemies, players in a vaudeville production that combines drama, choreography, acrobatics and blood. Their act dazzled crowds in flea market parking lots and packed nightclubs, inspiring a generation of homegrown grapplers willing to break their bodies for a shot at the travelling circus.
This culture of excess is what led Eleftheriou to rechristen himself PCP Crazy Fucking Manny all those years ago. He was soon joined by Fitzmorris, who became the Green Phantom after donning a luchador mask and adopting the persona of a demented superhero.
Together, they built the International Wrestling Syndicate — a promotion whose success is unparalleled in Canada. But their journey comes to an end on Saturday night, when Eleftheriou fights his final match at the Olympia nightclub on Ste-Catherine Street.
Billed as the biggest show in IWS history, “Scarred 4 Life” is a sendoff to Crazy Manny and a celebration of the best pro wrestling that Canada has to offer.
A warehouse manager by day, Eleftheriou has spent his life — and a small fortune — bringing the sport back to prominence in Montreal. Though you may have never heard of the IWS, its biggest stars have gone on to win championships in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Japan’s cult-like wrestling scene, and regional promotions across North America.
“What IWS has done better than any other promotion in Quebec is produce homegrown talent,” said Dave Simon, host of the Ringside Report podcast. “You go to a show and you’re gonna see violence, you’ll see that deathmatch style of wrestling but you’ll also see comedy, drama and some of the best, most exciting technical wrestling in North America.
“Every time one of their stars gets plucked by the big leagues — and you think ‘Oh no, what are they gonna do now?’ — they have new stars ready to take their place. There’s no big money at this level in the game. The promoters and the wrestlers, they’re all weekend warriors. They all have jobs to go back to when the show’s over. But for a few hours on a Saturday night, they get to be superstars.”
For their final match together, Crazy Manny and the Green Phantom are taking on local folk heroes Le Tabarnak de Team in a “fans bring the weapons” match. Though the rest of the event will feature the same fast-paced brand of wrestling you might see in the WWE, theirs will be a bloody affair.
“We’re going to get hit with barbed wire chairs, broken glass and whatever else the fans chose to bring,” said Fitzmorris. “If I’m being honest, I think we’re too old for this shit but at the same time, it’s what put us on the map. So it’s fitting.”
Eleftheriou is just as nervous but he’s happy he’ll be sharing his last match with an old friend.
“When we planned my last match as a tag team match, I said ‘There’s only one guy I wanna partner with,’” Eleftheriou said. “I was supposed to retire two years ago in a singles match against someone I wasn’t thrilled about working with. But then fate intervened, the pandemic happened and now I get to close out my career with my old partner.
“It’s the perfect goodbye.”
The age-old debate over whether wrestling is real misses the point.
No one thinks of the circus or a theatrical production in these terms. It’s just entertainment.
Pro wrestling traces its origins to the vaudeville shows that toured podunk towns across North America at the turn of the century. In the late 1800s, vaudeville shows featured stand up comedy, singing, circus performers, exotic animals and maybe even a boxing match. Former Olympic wrestlers would tour with the troupes, competing in legitimate bouts to earn a few bucks and bragging rights.
But there was just one problem.
To the average spectator, amateur wrestling is insufferably dull. If the grapplers have a similar size and skillset, they almost always get bogged down in plodding matches that don’t produce a decisive outcome. So promoters began working with athletes to stage a more exciting product — simple hip tosses evolved into body slams and performers started creating larger than life personas for themselves to gin up ticket sales.
Of course, the fans had no idea that the outcome of these matches were predetermined. The business relied on a level of secrecy so intense that even some wrestlers didn’t know the game was rigged until minutes before their bout.
Soon, the “sport” grew to be so popular, it broke off from the vaudeville circus to become its own touring show. By the 1940s, about two dozen North American promoters banded together to form the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), a sort of hillbilly cartel that divided the continent into territories. The deal was simple: NWA promoters wouldn’t encroach on each other’s turf, they would meet in back rooms to determine whose wrestler got to be the world champion and they’d protect the business at all costs.
That meant driving out upstart promotions and working tirelessly to maintain the illusion that wrestling was a legitimate sport. Over time, the alliance grew to include territories in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and, in our case, Montreal.
Ask any old-timer in Verdun or Hochelaga about pro wrestling and they’ll list the names of legends that passed through this city — Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, Killer Kowalski, Édouard Carpentier and Jean “Johnny” Rougeau. In its heyday, 60 years ago, local wrestling regularly drew crowds of over 20,000 to events in Jarry Park and Delorimier Stadium.
That all came to an end in the 1980s, when a New York-based promoter called Vince McMahon launched a campaign of expansion that would destroy the old order. His World Wrestling Federation either bought out territories or simply drove competitors out of business. In the end, he poached the best wrestlers from each territory, put them on cable television and created something so ubiquitous that it seemed futile to even try competing with the WWF.
Montreal was no exception. Though there have been small, relatively successful shows put on by the Rougeau brothers, they were few and far between.
Aside from the occasional WWF show touring through town, wrestling was relegated to church basements and smoke-filled Legion halls.
Long before Phantom and Crazy Manny stood across from each other in the ring, Eleftheriou and Fitzmorris met as teenagers at a house party on Montreal’s north shore.
“Joe’s big brother would throw these legendary parties at their parents house,” Eleftheriou said.
“Manny was this crazy metal head,” Fitzmorris said. “There’s a reason ‘PCP’ became his moniker. He was sort of famous to have imbibed a bit of everything. There was a big heavy metal scene (in Deux Montagnes) back then and there’d be these huge parties. You’d have so many kids that the crowd would spill out onto the street.”
They lost touch during high school, but a few years later, when Fitzmorris was a student at Dawson College, fate intervened.
During his time at Dawson, Eleftheriou started to dabble in the wrestling world. He and a friend invited a small time promoter to the downtown college, paying them to put on a show but demanding one concession in return — that Eleftheriou and his friend Eddy Dorozowsky be allowed to fight on the main card.
“They basically threw us into a battle royale, told us we could play around in the ring for three minutes and then fuck off,” Eleftheriou said. “We had other ideas.”
Living up to his stage name, Eleftheriou sprinted into the ring with an assortment of weapons, which he proceeded to use on his unsuspecting opponents. It was a fiasco.
“That was the end of wrestling at Dawson,” Eleftheriou said.
Crazy Manny was not long for college life, and got hooked on pro wrestling instead. Shortly after the Dawson affair, Eleftheriou started putting together shows in the city. Around that time, Fitzmorris was listening to the radio and heard standup comedian Mike Patterson say something that made him snap to attention.
“He was screaming, ‘You can’t miss this show featuring PCP Crazy F-ing Manny!’” Fitzmorris said. “I thought, ‘There’s no way Manny is a wrestler. But that can only be one person. There’s only one Crazy Fucking Manny.”
Fitzmorris attended the show on Halloween night and dressed up for the occasion — sporting the luchador mask that would become his trademark and a mechanic’s jumpsuit.
“To call it a pro wrestling show would be a stretch,” said Eleftheriou. “It was basically a few gym mats and some ropes tied around four beams at Wally’s Pub. But it drew a crowd and there (Fitzmorris) was — the tallest guy in the building — standing in the front row with a wrestling mask. People kept looking at him like he was going to jump in and wreak havoc.”
The next night, Fitzmorris tuned into a talk show on AM radio and heard someone going on about the fight at Wally’s Pub. The host seemed particularly interested with the tall, masked goon standing ringside.
“So I called in and I said, ‘Oh he’s crazy, he’s a maniac, he’s coming for you!’” Fitzmorris said. “They asked me what his name was and the universe just sort of spewed out of my mouth. I said, ‘Green Phantom.’ It was destiny.”
Not one to turn his back on the universe, Fitzmorris began training with Eleftheriou in the basement of a community centre in Chomedey. When they weren’t learning how to fall and throw each other around the ring, the two would meet up at a high school where Fitzmorris was a substitute teacher and train in the gymnasium.
Just a few months into Fitzmorris’ tutelage, an injury to one of the IWS wrestlers left a spot open on the promotion’s upcoming show. And that’s how Fitzmorris made his in-ring debut.
By the early 1990s, the WWF was running out of steam.
McMahon’s obsession with marketing enormous, muscle bound wrestlers made for a culture of steroid use and boring matches. Purists also balked at his cartoon character approach to telling stories in the ring. Hulk Hogan’s “say your prayers and eat your vitamins” act may have been a perfect fit for the Reagan ‘80s but it felt out of place in an era of antiheroes and grunge music.
When one of the WWF’s ringside doctors was convicted of distributing steroids in 1992, the promotion’s image tanked and it gave way to the rise of competitors eager to revive the old order.
But since the WWF still had most of the industry’s biggest stars under contract, rival promoters needed a way to get fans' attention. In Japan — an ultra competitive market and one of the few territories unaffected by the WWF’s hegemony — promotions started staging “deathmatches” to outdo each other in ticket sales.
Perhaps the most famous deathmatch wrestlers were a pair of Americans who, despite considerable talent and charisma, lacked the physique to be stars in the WWF. The duo of “Cactus” Jack Foley and Terry Funk burst onto the Japanese scene with a series of bloodsoaked bouts.
In the most gruesome matches, the ring’s ropes were replaced with barbed wire and sections of the mat were rigged with plastic explosives in case anyone doubted their commitment to the art.
Foley and Funk returned to the United States, bringing the deathmatch to Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) in Philadelphia. Soon, the ECW provided a blueprint for success outside the mainstream circuit — violent matches, dark humour and athletic, undersized wrestlers who didn’t fit into the WWF’s mold.
“You could say that IWS is Montreal’s version of ECW,” said Simon, who’s been covering pro wrestling for 20 years. “IWS has always had the same mix of good technical wrestlers like Kevin Owens — who went on to win a WWE championship — and guys willing to be thrown off a balcony through a burning table. They don’t know how to put on a boring show.”
By the time IWS took off in 1999, there were small “hardcore” promotions popping up across the Eastern Seaboard. The promoters shared talent and scouted each other’s wrestlers through an underground mailing network they used to trade VHS tapes of their shows.
“Looking back, the technology feels primitive now but it was pretty revolutionary,” Fitzmorris said. “That’s how Manny started building bridges with promoters down south.”
The tape-trading network helped Eleftheriou recruit former WWF superstars to appear at IWS shows billed as “Tournament of the Icons.” Banking on nostalgia for the glory years of 80s wrestling, IWS enlisted performers like Jake “the Snake” Roberts, Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and Brutus Barber Beefcake to draw crowds at the Olympia Arena in Deux Montagnes.
I was a 16-year-old kid with a mouthful of braces and a greasy face, when I brought a date to a match featuring exploding turnbuckles and some maniac called PCP Crazy Manny. She was not impressed but promoters across the United States were.
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By the early 2000s, Fitzmorris and Eleftheriou were driving up their beat-to-shit cars up and down Interstate-95, wrestling in carnivals and Legion Halls, on shows that drew thousands and in backyards where the wrestlers almost outnumbered fans.
Fitzmorris earned an audition for the WWE — which, by then, had changed its name from WWF because of a legal dispute with the World Wildlife Foundation — but he shattered his elbow wrestling on the eve of his shot at the big leagues. The promotion never called again.
Just as quickly as hardcore had taken over independent wrestling, the market soon became saturated with copycats whose idea of a deathmatch was less about technique than it was about gore.
“At some point, it was just out of shape guys stabbing each other with neon light tubes and thumbtacks,” Eleftheriou said. “It became a joke and an embarrassment. We continued to do deathmatches at IWS but our core business was producing high-energy shows with good production value. Even the deathmatches, we knew how to wrestle, we knew how to tell a story with the match, how to build tension and how to make the crowd pop.
“It’s much harder than it looks.”
Unlike his imposing partner the Green Phantom, Crazy Manny doesn’t have the look of a pro wrestler. He’s a gym rat and seems a bit obsessive about his diet but Manny has an average build. But the veteran has presence: his eyes peer at you from a weathered face and he doesn't walk so much as prowl like an alley cat whose been in one too many scraps.
But his biggest attribute, throughout the years was a dedication to death matches that bordered on martyrdom.
“The fans have to look at you and think, ‘I could never be that guy.’ That’s what they’re paying for, to see something they could never dream of doing,” he said. “For some wrestlers, it’s their physique but for me, I like to think it’s my technical abilities and the sheer amount of punishment I can take.”
Eleftheriou had no way of knowing it back then but those VHS tapes and trips south of the border laid the foundation for IWS as a player in the North American indie scene. One of the promotion’s first big breaks came when IWS wrestler Eddy Dorozowsky — who wrestled under the name SexXxy Eddy — severed an artery in a deathmatch in the Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) promotion on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
During a performance that showcased Dorozowsky’s acrobatics and hard nosed grappling, he went crashing through a pile of glass tubes and re-emerged gushing blood from his left bicep. A normal person would have rushed to the emergency room, but Dorozowsky kept fighting, occasionally mugging for the camera as blood came gushing from his wound.
“He decides to start flexing his arm, to make the blood really shoot out and the crowd is eating it up,” said Simon. “That moment became a highlight for the underground scene and because Eddy was so crazy, they assumed — correctly — that everyone else in the IWS must be a little nuts as well. So they started getting calls for more IWS wrestlers to go down to the states.”
Simon says the artery incident led to two relatively unknown IWS wrestlers — El Generico and Kevin Steen — to get their shot in the U.S.
El Generico, whose real name is Rami Sebei, was a big, bruising kid from Laval who paid his dues in the IWS, wrestling with the promotion from 2002 to 2009. He became the WWE Intercontinental Championship in 2020.
Steen leveraged a stint with CZW and a few larger indie promotions before joining the WWE as Kevin Owens in 2014. Steen has held a series of titles with the wrestling giant and remains one of its biggest stars.
“Kevin Steen credits SexXxy Eddy and that bloody match in CZW for his break in the United States,” Simon said. “So, it was those deathmatches that led to a multi million dollar career for Steen.”
A lot of promotions whose best performers get scooped by competitors become victims of their own success. But the IWS has shown foresight, opening a wrestling school run by veteran grappler Shayne Hawk. If you attend an IWS show, you’ll see good technical wrestling from top to bottom and that’s thanks, in no small part, to the promotion’s commitment to putting talent development over profit.
“It’s the true mark of their success,” Simon said. “I can’t tell you how many promotions have come and gone since the IWS has been around. It’s hard to put on a good show but it’s infinitely harder to put on a good show every month for decades.
“You could make the case that Manny and his partners have done more for wrestling in Quebec than anyone since the territories.”
This is where things get messy.
I’m not sure I believe in destiny but I don’t know what else to call my 20-year relationship with Fitzmorris. Long before we knew each other, his father Ronnie taught my dad French at Lake of Two Mountains High School.
When I got to university and moved to Montreal, I would come home every Saturday in the fall to play touch football with my father, Ronnie and Fitzmorris. The league — which was more of an excuse to roll around in the mud and drink beer on Saturdays — made us all one big family.
After every game, without fail, Ronnie would make us form a circle and sing songs:
“The more we get together, together, together, the more we get together the happier we’ll be. ‘Cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends, the more we get together the happier we’ll be.”
It’s hard to share that with someone and then watch them put their life on the line for the sake of entertainment.
“When you see them as pro wrestlers and you only know them as pro wrestlers, it’s easy to forget they’re people,” Simon said. “Most of the time, it’s fine. The wrestler goes out, does a few crazy things and walks backstage. No one gets hurt. But the reality sets in when you know the person behind the wrestler and that’s who you’re watching. You worry, you say, ‘Oh that’s my friend, I hope he’s okay.’
“It’s a big risk and it’s scary and as a guy who’s not a pro wrestler, I worry about these guys. I wonder, why? Why do this? I get that you want to create a memorable match, I get that you want to thrill the crowd but are you really making enough money to justify this? No. But that’s why you have to respect it. They’re doing everything they can, they’re leaving everything in the ring for the fans, for their art.
“When done correctly, wrestling is art. Truly. But you can never completely mitigate the risk. I’ve known guys who’ve had accidents in the ring and died and I’ve known guys who’ve been seriously injured.”
I’ve also come to know Eleftheriou not as a PCP smoking cartoon character but as a sweet guy — albeit a super intense sweet guy — who recently lost his father. Now that his mom is struggling with Parkinson's disease, Eleftheriou says he doesn’t have it in him to keep waging war in the ring.
“My dad was like the strongest guy in the world,” he said. “One day he fell down, we brought him into the hospital and they told us ‘It’s over, he’s terminally ill, nothing we can do.’ So I brought him home and took care of him for the last three weeks of his life. It meant a lot for me to spend that time with him.
“Now, I don’t want to be Crazy Manny anymore. I sort of just want to spend more time with my mom and take care of the business and our wrestling school.
“Just being Manny is good enough for me.”