A Guide To Local Wrestling

When does one become a fan, at least by the technical definition? Where do you cross that invisible line, the one that divides casual from committed? When you watch something more than three times? Being able to carry on an extended conversation on the ins and outs of a particular thing? Having intimate knowledge of the subculture surrounding something? Recruiting others to join you in your involvement? How many of those criteria must I fall under to be considered a fan, you may ask. I honestly think only you can decide when you can drop the facade and come to grips with being a fan, and with that being said, I have a confession to make: I am a fan of local wrestling.

“Wait, that wrestling?”

Yes. I absolutely mean THAT wrestling.

After leaving the latest epic evening of UCPWS (That’s Ultimate Championship Pro Wrestling South to you normies), after all the goodbyes were said, a thought struck me as I looked back over the videos and photos of that night: How did this happen? How did I become one of those people?

It’s a tricky question, and like many people who end up in the depths of an addiction they hardly understand, the answer is always an unsatifying “I just wanted to see what it was like,” that is almost always followed by a shrug of resignation.

What started it for me was the need for a fun night. I had recently come out of a rough season and needed to mix things up. I was pulled in by the promise of a weird evening and the low entrance fee of $5 dollars, and I was rewarded with sights and sounds that made me question my sanity, powers of logic, and my image of myself as a semi-mature adult. The friends who came with me the first time all felt the same way, and we left saying we would have to come back. And come back we did. Over and over again.

I understand this may not be for everyone. Some people just can’t handle too much of a good thing, or pool cleaners from a backwater in Mississippi masquerading as a dastardly villain of the squared circle in spandex tights that allow you to see every second cheeseburger he probably should have turned down. But, if you haven’t turned away yet, I have some helpful tips to ensure the best experience possible, should you decide to dip your toes into these strange waters.

1. Watch some videos of Macho Man Randy Savage. Or more precisely, the legendary “Cream of the Crop” interview leading up to 1987’s Wrestlemania 3 in Pontiac, Michigan. As the story goes, Savage was challenged to turn whatever he could find on the craft services table into the key prop for his next promo, which he often made up on the spot. Savage responded to the challenge by grabbing a handful of coffee creamer packets and delivering one of the most insanely quotable few minutes in history. I tell you to watch this for one reason: if this makes you say, “No, this entire enterprise is far too stupid,” then you stop here and no harm no foul. But if you see this and think, “This is pretty hilarious and weird,” then move on to step 2.

2. Find out where and when the next local wrestling event will be. When I say “local” I don’t mean the next time Monday Night Raw comes through your town, I mean the local circuit that does events at county fairs and high school gyms. More than likely there are some regional outfits operating within your general area, so do some internet digging and see what you can find. If they barely have a website, or their website is nothing but a link to a Facebook fan page, you’re on the right track.

3. Go to the event COLD. Don’t read up on the wrestlers, the storylines, the history, anything (it’s doubtful you’ll find any literature anyway). Go in completely cold. You will thank me. The more confused you feel, the better it is. For example, I thought this was literally a child at one point before his match. (The laughing you hear is me and the words of confusion are the people behind me and my friends)

4. Check your brain at the door. This is not the time to remind yourself that you’re an adult who pays bills and has responsiblities. This the time to watch a large man try to squish a smaller man like a bug.

5. Watch the crowds. The people-watching is often arguably better than the action in the ring, and they will help inform you on who you should be rooting for and against in most cases (unless you like supporting the heels – aka the bad guys). Keep an eye out for eccentric characters and the way they support their favorite wrestler. For all you know it may be their grandson. If you want evidence of why you should watch the crowds, check this guy out.

6. Yell at people. Yelling at random people pretend beating each other engages you in the action far more effectively than trying to mentally process what is happening ever will. This is not the place for thinking. So heckle them, shout at the referee for counting too slow, play along with the show. For example, a tag team had a religious theme (one of them going so far as to name himself Deacon Reno Nevada), and while they were getting utterly destroyed in their match against a bunch of muscled up bros who looked like they followed up their Muscle Milk with more Muscle Milk, I started to shout my biblical knowledge at them in the hopes of reviving their chances. I told Deacon Reno Nevada to “beat the devil out of them” and to “hit them with the Word because it doesn’t come back void”. They ended up winning their match and I was splashed with what appeared to be holy water out of a tin bucket, so it was a winning night all around. Heckling is a key piece to your enjoyment of the evening. If you see someone about to get body slammed, scream for the ref to stop the match, tell a wrestler how big and strong he looks, or that his mother doesn’t love him. Whatever works for you.

7. Bring friends. Having people to do this with is key. If you do this alone it’s just weird. I brought my girlfriend with me and my friends last time and she didn’t break up with me at the end of the night, so I would say it brought us closer together (she also yelled for a zombie themed wrestler to eat his opponent’s face at one point, and that was a real bonding moment).

In closing, if you’re looking for something ridiculous and fun to do on a random weekend, check out local wrestling. I never thought I would consider myself a fan of this nonsense, but sometimes fandom doesn’t make sense. Do I know the storylines? Somewhat. Do I know who the wrestlers are? A few of them. Do I know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s fake and meant to entertain? Absolutely, and I plan on going again whenever some friends can join. So gather some friends, be loud, be silly, and see what happens. For me, it’s the best $5 you could spend on a Friday night.

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Traveling Alone

In the 2009 film Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) makes his living by living nowhere, traveling the country from business to business as a consultant that helps companies fire their employees. He loves motels and the road more than his sparsely decorated apartment, does everything possible to rack up frequent flyer miles, eschews any real connections or relationships, and earns money on the side by giving motivational speeches preaching the virtues of his jet-set philosophy. He is alone and enjoys being alone until he meets a woman who is almost the mirror image of him, and he suddenly starts entertaining the idea of having a connection. It’s a great film, easily a top 5 George Clooney performance, and it raises many fascinating questions, namely, is it possible for a person to truly live a fulfilling life without a connection? I spent some time traveling recently with this concept in the back of my mind, and there were some interesting results.

I was given the opportunity this summer to receive some training for the upcoming school year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and when I discovered that the training organization would cover the travel expenses whether I drove or flew, I jumped at the chance to use this training as a stepping stone on a larger journey – a western road trip to Yosemite in California. Yosemite was one of those places I’d grown up hearing about and seeing pictures of for my whole life, and as I approached my 30th birthday, I knew this was my chance to experience it. So, at 5 AM on the 4th of July, I began my drive out west.

Driving is the best way to see America. It’s impossible to grasp its varied landscapes and cultures from the air. Only when you stare and drive towards a mountain for what feels like two hours before finally reaching it do you see how big this place is. Only when you pass through little two stoplight towns in the California Sierra’s do you see slices of others lives and cultures. On my drive, I saw the empty plains in the Texas panhandle, the high desert of New Mexico, the pine forests around Flagstaff, the engineering marvel of Hoover Dam, the lights and sounds of Las Vegas, and the vast expanse of Nevada desert leading into the Sierras.

But Yosemite eclipsed them all.

Pictures do not do Yosemite justice. Not even close. When I arrived at the legendary Tunnel View vista, I had music playing in my earbuds and it drowned out the noises of the other tourists around me, and I audibly said “Oh my God…” as I looked at the valley. The beauty of it almost made me tear up. I thought back to a quote I’d heard from Theodore Roosevelt about Yosemite: “It was like lying in some great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.” Teddy was right. “Cathedral” is the word that perfectly described how I felt lying in the cold Merced River, surrounded on all sides by sheer granite cliffs thousands of feet high, with nothing but the sound of flowing water in my ears. It felt like a holy place.

But, as beautiful as it all was, as beautiful as any of the sights were on my trip were, the one thought that emerged into my head whenever I experienced a moment like the one I described above, was this – “I wish ______ was here to see this too.” This thought had appeared all throughout my trip, but in Yosemite it was more intense than I had ever felt, and in that moment floating in that cold water, I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life.

I left Yosemite for Vegas that night, at the end of my second day in the park. I do not regret it for a second.

In the film I referenced earlier, Up in the Air, Ryan has to talk a man into going through with a wedding after he’s started getting cold feet. Ryan, the man who has made a living out of living without connections, has to convince someone to go through with the ultimate life-long connection. The conversation goes as follows:

Ryan Bingham:  If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in your life… were you alone?

Jim Miller: No, I guess not.

Ryan Bingham: Hey, come to think of it, last night, the night before your wedding, when all this s*** is swirling around in your head, weren’t you guys sleeping in separate bedrooms?

Jim Miller: Yeah, Julie went back to the apartment, and I was just by myself in the honeymoon suite.

Ryan Bingham: Kind of lonely, huh?

Jim Miller: Yes, it was pretty lonely.

Ryan Bingham: Life’s better with company

In this scene, Ryan wasn’t just talking to this guy, he was talking to himself, and his message rang true in my ears. “Life’s better with company.”

As beautiful and amazing as Yosemite and my trip west was, at the end of the day I was alone on the trip, and I realized I’m not the type of guy who can do trips like that alone. I thrive off sharing experiences with people I care about. God wired me to want to share things with people and to get joy from that. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that I write this blog. Who knows?

My trip taught me to appreciate the things the people in my life bring me, and that for me personally, the best memories are the ones shared with those who are important to me. I can’t ever take them for granted. It’s never a bad thing to tell those people that you care and miss them, that you value them and the company they provide.

I can’t wait to go back to Yosemite, except next time I’m bringing someone I love to share it with. I think it will be even better then.