Any way you cut it, Brian Johnson has had a hell of a 15-year career inside professional wrestling. Though he’s best known for his time with Ring of Honor, Johnson has won championships and impressed across a number of different promotions through his decade-and-a-half stint inside the business.
One such promotion – and one of the final that Johnson worked for prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – was Canadian Wrestling’s Elite based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Currently, the CWE is Canada’s only full-time touring promotion, and I was lucky enough to see Johnson on a number of stops during his tour with the organization in 2019. I asked Johnson about the experience as part of our recent chat on Love Wrestling.
“Up to this point, the only time I’ve gotten to see your wrestle live was when you were up here for the CWE!” I exclaimed late in our conversation. “Maybe before we get into your memories with Ring of Honor and stuff like that, let’s maybe talk about memories of Canada or maybe if you’ve got any from your in the Great White North!”
Johnson took on a serious tone, even more so than he had through our previous 15 minutes of conversation.
“I wouldn’t be the wrestler I am today if I didn’t have that Canada tour. Period, bar none,” he stated emphatically. “Shit, I might not have even been part of Ring of Honor to point when they had to release us. I might not have made it.”
“It was coming off the biggest loss of my career at the top prospect tournament in August of 2019,” Johnson reminisced. “I lost to Austin Gunn. Hall of Famer’s son, great talent out on AEW. Jackass, but talented. I lost it, then it sucked, man. It really freakin’ sucked. I still kind of get hot thinking about it. I didn’t know where I was gonna be [and] I didn’t know what to do. Wrestlers, I think we all kind of get this panic feeling pretty quick. [That] set in, and then I had to interrupt some commentary, and still wasn’t getting the common decency of being booked, and then I had to interrupt a match where I wrestled freakin’ Ian Riccaboni in Hudson.”
“It was hell on earth, man. It was hell on frickin Earth. I was like, ‘well, where could be worse?’ So I picked up and went to Canada.”
“Seriously, I mean, there’s nothing like having to wrestle in front of an entire country of people who just barely, barely understand the invention of the wheel and fire kind of amazes them. It’s a simplistic view of just assholes and idiots for miles and miles.”
The Mecca laughed before continuing his story.
“I hopped in a car with a group of guys from CWE who, try as they must, they work their asses off, those guys. We had 25 matches in 25 nights. God damn! That’s unheard of nowadays. From town to town in Canada…they were entertained by the Mecca. I was finding my groove. If you look, I came back, and coincidence or not, PJ Black immediately wanted to team with me. Then we went on a little bit of a winning streak, and then that god damn thing called COVID showed up and kind of put a stamp on everything.”
“But, it was the run of 25 nights in a car with you know, I don’t know what you consider Juventud Guerrera, one of the greatest cruiserweights of all time, me and him rode up and down Canada together. The Mecca and a cruiserweight driving through Canada. It should have been a sitcom! But we built a good relationship and we kicked ass man. It was awesome. It was an awesome time, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”