How come nobody likes Rob Fai anymore?
For years the Port Coquitlam resident was the voice of the Vancouver Canadians baseball team. As a broadcaster Fai was respected. As a person he seemed affable. So, how then, do we explain the recent outrage at the Vancouver Commodore?
The crowd had all the warmth of an Uber driver with a two-star rating. Insults were hurled. Empty cans were chucked. Boos rained down on Fai as he stood in a wrestling ring.
Now to be fair, Fai was being obnoxious even by the standards of Toronto Maple Leafs fans but . . . wait a minute. What was Rob Fai doing in a wrestling ring in the first place?
At first, he explains, he was just trying to get a little B-roll.
In his mid-40s, Fai decided that baseball had run its course in his working life.
“I had one last ‘career’ I wanted to pursue,” says the former front office staffer with the Canadians.
Fai and friend Chris Parry (formerly of the Vancouver Sun) wanted to make a documentary about professional wrestling in the Pacific Northwest.
Stretching down to Oregon, the region has produced beloved heroes and detested villains including Roddy Piper, Gene Kiniski, and, more recently, Bryan Danielson.
However, while Parry and Fai could interview old legends and chat with up-and-comers, they realized they wouldn’t have any B-roll footage of pro wrestling in action.
“Why don’t we just put on a show?” Fai suggested. “[We’ll] get the footage that we need and we’ll be done with it.”
Using some of the things he’d learned with the Canadians, Fai went about getting a logo, contacting talent and booking a venue.
NationExtremeWrestling was born.
“What was supposed to just be a one-off to get some B-roll has now turned into sellout shows,” Fai says.
On May 28, NEW is set to put on a show at Terry Fox Theatre capped off by a women’s title match between KC Spinelli and Taryn from Accounting (when Taryn steps into the ring, only two things are certain: death and taxes!)
NEW clashes with New Westminster
The Port Coquitlam show was initially slated for New Westminster, Fai says.
“There was so much red tape . . . I think it was about the 11th hour, I just said: ‘You know what, guys? I don’t think we can do this.’”
That red tape included one request to do the show with liquor or ticket sales, according to Fai.
“It just got to the point where it was a five-figure bill from the City of New West,” he says. “As a small business, we couldn’t do it.”
He eventually reached out to Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West via social media.
“It was night and day with going through the red tape of New Westminster to the open door of Port Coquitlam,” he says.
The show will include a $500 donation to the Terry Fox Secondary School arts program, according to Fai. He also pledged that all the show sponsors will be Tri-Cities businesses.
“It’s Tri-Cities or bust,” he says.
A kid’s first match
As a lifelong wrestling fan (as well as an unrepentant supporter of the Leafs), the promotion is a dream come true for Fai.
He speaks enthusiastically about seeing his first ever wrestling match as a young boy alongside his boy scout troop in Maple Leaf Gardens.
Cowboy Bob Orton – a detestable, disingenuous character – was using his cast to pummel the great Rowdy Roddy Piper. The act was in clear violation of the rules but not, as these things often work out, in clear view of the referee.
“I just remember screaming to the point where my cub leader . . . turned around and said, ‘Rob, take it easy,’” he laughs. “I think everybody’s a wrestling fan – only half of us are willing to admit it publicly.”
In recognition of both his childhood memory as well as the reality of their business model, NEW aspires to be family friendly.
There’s been blood at a few of their shows, he says, but not on purpose.
“Our wrestlers are there as entertainers. They’re not there to beat each other’s brains out. They’re there to have a match that brings the excitement and the energy, the emotion out of fans,” he says.
The fans are invited to scream, to hoot and holler and – occasionally – to boo Fai.
“It’s not very often where you get to walk through the doors and just be a kid,” he says. “I never thought it would turn into this but I’m loving every second of it.”
It’s a nice sentiment. How could anybody not like that guy?