On a recent evening at a furniture store in Quebec, a hulking man with jumper cables around his neck tells his associate, a man in a long leather duster, that he can’t shop any more.
“I need power,” the larger man tells his friend.
The man in the leather coat proceeds to unscrew a lightbulb from a display lamp and feed it to the larger man. He chews up the light bulb as the man in the coat maniacally urges him on.
Bizarre scenes like these have become commonplace on Monday Night PCO and Destro, a series of videos featuring feats of strength and odd training rituals in which D. Destro, the man in the coat, instructs PCO, his protégé, posted on PCO’s Twitter account.
PCO is 51-year-old Montreal native Carl Ouellet, a wrestling veteran whose career has experienced a remarkable resurgence in recent years, thanks in large part to the PCO character.
Ouellet says the genesis for the character came during the filming of one of these vignettes with Destro, the man with whom Ouellet frequently does workouts and strength training.
“I was walking away from Destro and he saw me walking and that’s when he had the flash,” Ouellet told TSN.ca. “He said, ‘You’re walking like Frankenstein. You’re moving like Frankenstein. You are Frankenstein.’ I knew the name. People were always making fun of the character, but to me it just meant an ugly guy. To me, [the idea] wasn’t really appealing, but what the heck? I’d been looking for a character that really suits myself and it’s not about my ego right now or to be a good-looking guy. I just want something that’s going to get the job done. So I’ve totally embraced the character and went along with everything. Destro’s a big fan of monster movies and everything.”
Trained under Quebec legend Pat Girard, Ouellet broke into the business in his teens and underwent the far-from-glamourous rigours of cutting your teeth in the undercard.
“I remember my first year and I was only beating the one guy,” Ouellet said. “I never really had wins for my first year or two. Every Sunday, I was getting beat. And it was pretty discouraging, but that’s the way it was back then. I was put against top tag teams most of the time and I was getting squashed. I would try to get some stuff in, but I couldn’t get much because they were older – they were probably in their 30s and I was like 16, so I was getting beaten up all of the time.”
Ouellet reached the World Wrestling Federation in 1993. Given the name Pierre-Carl Ouellet, he was paired with Jacques Rougeau as The Quebecers, a heel team. The pairing achieved success, winning the WWF Tag Team titles on three occasions.
Upon Rougeau’s retirement in 1994, Ouellet was repackaged as Jean-Pierre LaFitte with a pirate gimmick and feuded with Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart. In 1996, Ouellet jumped to World Championship Wrestling where he was reunited with (an unretired) Rougeau as The Amazing French Canadians. Ouellet would go on to work for Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, with brief WWF and WCW returns along the way.
By the late 2000s, Ouellet found himself at a crossroads in his career. Still an active wrestler, but not one working for a company with national exposure, Ouellet had a choice to make.
“At that point, I’d hit a wall,” Ouellet said. “In 2008, 2009, I had quit good jobs. I was doing the commentary for Impact [Wrestling, the former TNA] on a French TV station here in Montreal. I was getting paid good money and I quit that job. I wanted to go and work the indies and work my way up back to WWE. The boss was asking me if I wanted to hang on to the job for three months so I could try and if it wasn’t going to work out, then I could fall back on that job. I said no because if I do that, then I don’t believe in myself. I was 40 or 41 at the time, so I said I’ll quit the job and gamble on myself.”
A return to WWE wasn’t in the cards.
“It didn’t work out and I came back home and it was kind of tough,” Ouellet said.
In an interview with a Montreal radio station in 2011, Ouellet confirmed that he was leaving the business.
“At the time when I did that interview, I couldn’t see at all how to come back after everything I went through and all the efforts I’d put in, all the things I’d sacrificed in order to make it happen,” Ouellet said. “All the doors were closed at the time. The indie scene in the U.S. wasn’t booming at all. There wasn’t really any other promotion that could afford to pay a good salary where you could make a good living. So it was a tough time and I told the host, I said I think I’m pretty much through with my wrestling career. But I had been working on a dream since I was 13 or 14 years old nonstop, day in and day out, and I had worked so hard on it and sacrificed so much.”
Like many before him, Ouellet might have been out of the business, but the business wasn’t out of him. While Ouellet didn’t know it at the time, a phone call in 2016 would be the catalyst for one of the most improbable comebacks in wrestling history.
“The way I got hooked back up wasn’t even intentional – somebody asked me if I wanted to do a report on a [WWE Monday Night] RAW show for a French YouTube channel and make predictions for pay-per-views,” Ouellet recalls. “I did a few of those in French and then from there one day somebody called me up and asked me if I want to do an indie show.”
Ouellet returned to the ring.
“So I did an indie here and an indie there and eventually a bigger promotion called me up and I went there and I was watching some matches and I felt like I could do what those guys are doing,” Ouellet said. “I can pull it off, keeping my ground with these guys. I know I can do it. I decided to approach this hard and train hard and give it the best I can.”
It was a date for Indiana-based Black Label Pro Wrestling in early 2018 that would kickstart the PCO resurgence. Owner Mikey Blanton booked Ouellet for a mid-January date in Crown Point, Ind., in what would be the highest-profile match to date in Ouellet’s return. But Mother Nature almost had other ideas.
“I almost missed the show because there was a snowstorm in Montreal,” Ouellet said. “I got there with 15 minutes to put my boots on and get dressed to wrestle.”
Ouellet took on fellow Canadian, ‘All Ego’ Ethan Page of Stoney Creek, Ont., and had a well-received match in front of a crowd that included Joey Janela, who was also wrestling on the card.
Janela, now signed with All Elite Wrestling, had become famous for putting on unique cards of his own. At his 2017 “Spring Break” event that coincided with WrestleMania weekend in Orlando, Janela wrestled against former WWF star Marty Jannetty and had a match between former Ultimate Fighting Championship competitors, Dan Severn and Matt Riddle.
Janela had an idea for Ouellet.
“When we were going back to the hotel, he asked me if I wanted to be a part of Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2,” Ouellet said. “At the time, I didn’t know what it was and had no idea, but he told me it was part of WrestleMania weekend and I said, sure, I was interested. But the only thing is, he said, we can’t afford to pay airfare, so you’re going to have to find a way to get there. So I drove in my car 40 hours from Montreal to New Orleans. I may have taken the wrong the route a couple of times...I drove straight for 40 hours, got there the night before at about 11 p.m. and went to bed.”
Ouellet’s opponent at Spring Break 2 was Walter Hahn, known simply as WALTER, an imposing worker from Austria with a rising profile who gained fame workingin Europe and North America for a number of promotions, notably Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling and tastemaking Los Angeles-based promotion Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
As it turned out, Hahn was not a stranger to Ouellet.
“When I got there to Louisiana, Walter walked up and said, ‘Hey Carl, how are you? Do you not remember we wrestled against each other in wXw in Germany in the 16-Karat Tournament [in 2008]?’ and I remembered he was just a kid, maybe 16 or 17,” Ouellet said. “That kind of helped the chemistry a little bit, knowing each other. I didn’t know who he had become, but just the fact that we had worked even one match together helped the whole process and makes a connection.”
Heading into the match, Ouellet realized that it would take work to win over a skeptical crowd.
“When I made my way to the ring, it was so cold,” Ouellet said. “It felt like nobody wanted me to be there and there was a lot of adversity [from the crowd] after the introductions. It was really, really tough.”
But Ouellet was able to turn the tide thanks to the in-ring spectacle and Ouellet remembers exactly when the crowd bought in.
“Halfway through the match, we were exchanging crazy chops from corner to corner...back and forth, back and forth and my chest was purple and blue and bleeding – it looked like a steak,” Ouellet said. “Then right after that chop exchange, I started to hit a couple of big moves like a split-legged moonsault and a moonsault from the inside to the outside on the floor. I got powerbombed through a table by Walter. It started building up and building up. From that chop exchange and the couple of big moves that I’d done, the crowd was on their feet from the middle of the match all the way to the end.”
The match – won in the end by PCO with a top-rope senton – was a sensation online and created a massive buzz around Ouellet, leading to an influx of booking offers from around North America. Ouellet began to be booked solidly four nights a week.
“It will be really hard to recreate what happened there,” Ouellet said of the match. “It was literally like Rocky IV where Rocky goes to Russia and nobody likes him, but they like him coming back and fighting hard. That’s how it felt. It felt like when I walked in there, I felt like I was in Russia and by the end, I felt like I had gained the respect of every single person who was there.”
In December of 2018, PCO signed an exclusive deal with Ring of Honor, returning to a major promotion for the first time in over a decade.
“It’s been the best year of my career so far, everything that’s happened,” Ouellet said of his time in ROH. “Becoming the World Six-Man Tag Team Champions with [Villain Enterprises stablemates] Marty Scurll and Brody King, becoming the World Tag Team Champions with Brody King for ROH, as well as the [National Wrestling Alliance] and winning the Crockett Cup, and having a chance at the World Heavyweight Title against Matt Taven in Toronto a few months ago – it’s just been a very successful year, too. The whole organization is great. I’ve been treated really well and it’s just been a good, fun run so far.”
Ouellet returns to Toronto on Friday night as part of ROH’s Summer Supercard at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Ouellet and King are scheduled for a tag-team match against The Kingdom’s Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan.
For ROH, the choice to bring in PCO was an easy one.
“He’s an absolute joy to work with and he’s an amazing personality to have working for us,” ROH chief operating officer Joe Koff said. “Why did we want him? Who wouldn’t want him? He is so unique. He is so professional. He is so smart that I think he epitomizes what professional wrestling is. For us not to have him, I think, would have been a bigger shame...he’s the consummate professional and respects the profession and respects everything about it, so he’s just a good man.”
Despite his success with this run and character, Ouellet says he and Destro are constantly trying to hone it and add to the act.
“We’re so passionate about the wrestling business and what we’re doing together with him as a manager-creator and me as a performer-creation,” Ouellet said. “We really want to create something so different that’s never been in the wrestling world, something totally outside of the box. We’re so passionate about it, we’re 24/7. When I’m not on the road, I see him all the time. I train with him everyday. We train together; we brainstorm for a couple of hours at least. We’re sitting down with a pad and a pen, we’re writing stuff down, we’re taking notes.”
It’s thinking back to the days when he didn’t have opportunities like he has now in ROH that has helped fuel Ouellet’s creativity.
“I’m a little bit older, but I remember sometimes back when my career was stalling and I was like, ‘They don’t have anything for me. They don’t have any plans for me,’” Ouellet said. “I was waiting for the company to get something for me and I was proposing things here and there, but now I’m always doing something. I’m always creative. I’m always coming up with a new video or something new, maybe changing something on my costume. It’s just a different approach.”
While Ouellet’s return and rise has been spectacular, he’s not yet satisfied.
“I couldn’t have told you [my career would go like this] when I was 14 because I didn’t know how things were going to play out,” Ouellet said. “You’ve seen guys like Jaromir Jagr or Gordie Howe doing something at 45 – a Chris Chelios or Nolan Ryan. You’ve seen great stories in their 40s, but in the 50s, I don’t think you’ve seen such a big comeback.”
Ouellet says there’s still one thing missing from his return.
“Just to top it all off, I need to win a world championship title with a major company,” Ouellet said. “I think that can lead to a great movie. It can lead to a great book. I think the character can lead to even a new kind of Marvel superhero. I’ve always had a very large vision and that’s what’s always kept me really motivated and my creativity. It’s because I have huge goals and that helps me create. When you have that big a goal to achieve, it really fuels you. If I had a tiny goal to achieve, I wouldn’t be so creative.”
The next step in achieving that goal for Ouellet comes this weekend at the site that once was Maple Leaf Gardens.