Max Mitchell is evangelical about wrestling — his words.
For over a decade, the comedian, financial counsellor, and Renaissance man has been producing live comedy shows and somewhere along the way — don't ask him when or how — he got really into wrestling...like obsessively into it. He would fantasize about putting on a show and what that show would look like.
"I love an underdog and there there's no bigger underdog in the art world than wrestling," he says. According to Mitchell, people are either fanatical about wrestling or they couldn't care less; he thinks the sport has totally lost the middle ground. And unfortunately for him, while he is addicted to it, most people in his life fall into the other camp and won't give it the time of day.
He had all the skills to put a wrestling show together and the milestone of his 40th birthday coupled with the birth of his first child seemed like the perfect time to do something big. "Not to celebrate me or anything like that. But it's just an excuse to get people into a room and have them participate in something unusual," he clarifies, explaining how his plan was slowly starting to take shape.
"The key in my opinion to an entertaining wrestling show is that people care about who wins and who loses," Mitchell explains, "And so we had to come up with a reason for them to care about who won and who lost."
"I literally care about wrestling so much, that I leveraged the birth of my firstborn child in order to get people to care about who won or lost the wrestling match."
The plan was to get everyone riled up about baby Coco's middle name
The plan was to get everyone riled up about baby Coco's middle name and so to set the scene, Mitchell and his wife Stacey McLaughlin (who was immediately on board with this, by the way) announced a bracket of 64 potential middle names of varying degrees of normalcy via an hour and a half live stream on Instagram.
"We're gonna generate all this hype and mystery and emotion around all these different names and prematurely eliminate them down," he says. "With nobody knowing that it was going to end up being a wrestling show."
Every day a name would be eliminated: some of which were really terrible by design, some were meaningfully linked to family members, and some were just nice-sounding names.
"People got really engaged," Mitchell recalls. "They cared, they had opinions on what these names should be. And then when we got to the final eight, that's when we revealed that this whole process, that all these people had been a part of for months at that point, was all just a lead up to this wrestling tournament."
Mitchell wouldn't say he manipulated all his friends and family into attending a wrestling show, "In wrestling parlance, we call it a work," he chuckles.
And Mitchell continued to work the room when everyone took their seats for the main event for the final showdown between the names: Claire, Cabana, Zuzu, Orko, Harriet, Eileen, Bea, and Clementine.
"And now we have this villain!"
The private tournament had around 100 non-wrestling fans in a room and opened with the names Eileen vs Orko. Mitchell kicked off the first match with an impassioned speech about the name Eileen and how it belonged to his 92-year-old Grandmother who is "the sweetest kindest woman you'll ever meet" but couldn't travel to be there so they played a video of her talking about how honoured she would be if the name won.And then the bell goes and the local wrestler Tony Baroni (who already had established himself as an evil character in Vancouver wrestling) playing for the name Orko takes Guerrilla Suge who represents little Grammy Eileen and rolls him up and beats him in less than a minute."And now we have this villain!" says Mitchell. "So the villain named Orko continues his way through the tournament, beating all these fan favourites and then finally in the end it's Orko versus Harriet."Wrestler ravenous Randy Meyers was playing for Harriet and had been "injured" in the previous match, so already at a disadvantage, nobody knew if he is even going to be able to make it to the ring to perform. "Has Orko already won the match before it's begun?" cries Mitchell.
But as he said before, Mitchell loves an underdog and Harriet pulls it off to win the whole thing thus christening the baby Coco Harriet Mitchell.
"It's like my crowning achievement."
Listening to Mitchell talk about wrestling is sort of like a religious experience. He points out that the men and women who participate in wrestling are not just athletes but actors, improvisers, and illusionists all at once. Plus it's a live event so they only get one chance to make their point.
And while wrestling isn't fake, according to Mitchell the outcome is predetermined. So when approaching people to be a part of the project he explained to them that yes, this is a show to determine my daughter's middle name, but really it's a project to get 100 non-wrestling fans into a room and put on the best wrestling show possible. Once the wrestlers understood his goal they were all on board and apparently had an awesome time in the process.
"I'm really, I'm not joking, it's like my crowning achievement in my whole damn life," says Mitchell. "Oh, I mean my daughter, too. She's good," he adds quickly.
This is just the beginning of Mitchell's wrestling production career. Lane Small who acted as AV Wizard for the tournament out of the kindness of his heart and an enthusiasm for the concept has plans to work with Mitchell in the future to put on regular wrestling shows that are narratively driven. Their hope is for nine shows a year starting in September.
"I'm literally buying a wrestling ring probably this afternoon," shares Mitchell as we wrap up our interview. But for now, he is riding high on the fact that he has provided his daughter with the ultimate anecdote, chat fuel for life. Because at a random party one day in her 20s, chances are someone is going to ask Coco, 'What's your middle name?'