When WWE’s annual SummerSlam event came to Toronto in August 2019, it was a big deal for wrestling fans.
WWE called Scotiabank Arena home for four consecutive nights, with the home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors hosting SummerSlam, NXT: Takeover, Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown. It was heaven for wrestling followers in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.
One of those people excited for the multitude of wrestling events over that SummerSlam weekend was Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who is a lifelong pro wrestling fan and made sure to catch the action when it came to town.
With WrestleMania 37 coming up this weekend, Sportsnet caught up with Dubas to chat everything surrounding ‘Mania, including favourite memories, predictions for this year and how he’s going to handle a weekend that includes WrestleMania, a Leaf game, and the upcoming trade deadline at the same time.
Sportsnet: What is your earliest WrestleMania memory?
Kyle Dubas: It would definitely be WrestleMania 6, which was at SkyDome, and Hogan versus the Ultimate Warrior. The memory that stands out most in my mind from my earlier years would be WrestleMania 9. It was at Caesars Palace. It was Yokozuna against Bret Hart for the championship in the main event, and Yokozuna defeated Bret Hart, and a very young me bawled his eyes out. (But) then Hulk Hogan came out and saved the day, so you got to experience the full range of emotions. That’s probably the biggest memory that stands out in my mind in terms of my reactions to WrestleMania growing up.
SN: What is your favourite WrestleMania match or memory of all-time?
KD: My favourite match at WrestleMania would either be the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin-Bret Hart “I Quit” match, or the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin-Rock WrestleMania 19 (match) at Safeco Field in Seattle. Those two stand out to me as the best matches. You (also) have WrestleMania 10 – Razor Roman and Shawn Michaels ladder match – was great. There’s been a lot of awesome, awesome matches, but those three, off the top of my head, really jump out.
SN: Do you have a favourite all-time WrestleMania performer?
KD: Well obviously “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has had a number of – if you ranked the best matches in WrestleMania history, he would be littered in there. I think it was the era of when it was (Austin), The Rock, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels. You could tell at that time that those guys really looked forward to WrestleMania as the night where they were going to be at their absolute best individually, and then in tandem. Those guys, to me, was the pinnacle of it.
And (then) when Edge and others started coming at the end of that, when you combined what had been done in that era, late 90s, early 2000s, and then the new group of people coming in led by Edge, those are the performers that stand out to me over the years, for sure. The Hardy Boyz, they always seem to raise their game at WrestleMania. When it was the Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian all together, they would always put on an elite show at WrestleMania.
SN: What makes WrestleMania so special?
KD: I think it’s the one event every year that, if you’re a casual wrestling fan, you generally watch. People tend to watch the lead-up to it. It’s your one time a year that you know everybody is watching. It’s been built into such a great event as it’s gone along, with the Hall of Fame weekend leading into it, and doing it almost exclusively now in stadiums, it’s just been built up into such a great event, and it showcases professional wrestling at its best once a year.
Wrestling fans (and) non-wrestling fans know when WrestleMania is coming up. You can say whatever you want about wrestling, but it’s the weekend when the most eyes are on it, and it’s a celebration of the past with the Hall of Fame, and what’s happening in present day with the way that the entire year builds up towards WrestleMania.
SN: You’ve mentioned last year before WrestleMania that Edge was, “the greatest wrestling talent of his era.” Who would you say is the best Canadian wrestler of all-time?
KD: It’s tough to deny that Bret Hart would be the greatest Canadian wrestler of all-time, but whether it be he or Edge, they don’t have a huge amount of crossover just in the way that it worked out, I mean, a little bit (in the) late 90s. To me it was great that there was a Canadian at the top of the sport all the time from when I was kid through to when Edge had to retire in 2011, and it’s great to see him back and rolling now, and in the main event (at WrestleMania this year).
SN: Do you have a favourite match or memory from Edge?
KD: The three-way TLC tag-team match (at WrestleMania 17) where he spears Jeff Hardy off the ladder when he’s hanging from the belts. I mean, those were guys that absolutely put everything on the line in one match. (Edge has) had some great moments, capturing the title, defending titles at WrestleMania, but I think that was the defining stretch that put him into the upper-echelon in terms of performers in WWE, so I’d have to go back to that.
SN: At last year’s WrestleMania, then-retired Rob Gronkowski won the 24/7 Championship. If you had to pick one NHLer, past or present, to win the 24/7 Championship this year, who would it be?
KD: Joe Thornton, no doubt. He would be unbelievable. He would be the best, for sure. He’s got the personality, can play in front of the camera, he’d be great.
SN: He’s got a great beard, too.
KD: The beard is imperative, absolutely.
SN: One match we missed out on last year was the “Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.” If you had to pick one current superstar to win the Battle Royal this year, and give a major push to, who would it be?
KD: I would have said, a number of months ago, Riddle but he’s sort of gotten (a push) already. I would go with Otis, but he won the “Money in the Bank” last year and has kind of dipped a little bit. But I would go back to him. He’s a great character and he would be a deserving winner of the “Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.”
SN: Kyle Dubas is at WrestleMania, challenging for the WWE Tag Team Championships. Which current WWE Superstar do you want in your corner with you?
KD: I would have to go with Edge, in the fact that we have a natural bond with the Maple Leafs. So that would lead me to believe our chemistry would be excellent. And I would be extraordinarily inexperienced, and he would have the greatest amount of experience. Those two things combined would make it a no-brainer.
SN: Who would pin the opponent to secure the victory?
KD: Well he’s had thousands in his career, so I would like to take it for myself if I could.
SN: Back to Edge. He’s taking on Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan for the WWE Universal Championship in what will be the main event of WrestleMania. Give us your prediction, and why.
KD: My feeling is that it will be Roman Reigns winning, but that the whole entire thing is far from over. Bryan has been interjected in, (and now) he can continue to roll on with Edge afterwards and that rivalry can continue through the summer, would be my guess. But it just feels to me, when it goes to a triangle match in the main event, that it’s probably leaning towards Reigns retaining, and that’s just the way that it feels to me now, unfortunately.
SN: We have a feeling that Edge would be disappointed to hear that from you.
KD: I’m sure, but I can only tell you how I feel. I couldn’t come on and lie to you.
SN: Where will you be watching WrestleMania this year?
KD: Well, it leads into the trade deadline. We play on Saturday night against Ottawa, so I’ll be watching our game and then I’ll watch when I get home on Saturday night. And then Sunday night I’ll be at home watching like everyone else. But, it’s also our trade deadline on Monday, so it’ll be trying to balance three very important pillars of my calendar all in quick succession.