SPOTLIGHTS: The Indy Wrestling FAN Road Diaries

539wVacation planning for Hurancanrana and I contains four distinct elements:

  1. Locate a weekend, higher tier (eg PPV) pro wrestling event to attend, in
  2. A fun…ideally new to us…but not-so-distant city. Also,
  3. ID a terrific fight gym to get some work in (check out Jesse James Leija’s place in San Antonio!),
  4. Find a hotel sporting nearby access to food I can actually eat (Crohn’s Disease, no dairy).

The good news is, these four steps aren’t that difficult to execute. Sometimes, however, things do run awry. Based on our jobs, time off is rare…and planning can be treacherous if weather doesn’t cooperate. Thus went an ROH Vegas PPV, a would-be birthday gift that fell prey to the Dallas weather gods. Thankfully the always-classy Larry Mercer graciously provided access to the event online and via DVD. He also ensured our tickets went to good use.

Another trip – one we actually executed – ‘stage’ seats alluded to chairs at the furthest rear point of the venue…sigh…and blocked by a pole, no less. A third sported a giant camera truck steadfastly blocking floor seat views for the entire event.

We’ve had hotels with stuff coming off the walls. Rental car return centers with no signage. (Travel tip: put the rental car return spot as ‘HOME’ on your GPS upon car PICKUP.) Literally nowhere to eat within 10-15 miles…and nothing open when you actually find it. Yes, my pro wrestling athlete friends: we share your travel miseries.

The good, however, definitely outweighs the bad in all of the instances. It’s always such a wonderful experience traveling to see pro wrestling, especially of the independent variety. Most of all, seeing the smiles on both fan and athlete/talent faces when they discover we flew in from Tampa to share this experience. (Pat on back.)

As an example, we had the fortune of meeting The Briscoes at the Airport during our last trip. They couldn’t have been any friendlier, professional, and gracious. So much so, a little girl – not knowing who they were – made a beeline to sit between them. All the while seemingly scaring her pursuing mother at the sight of her kid happily grinning between these two giant men. Jay Briscoe, of course, couldn’t help but wryly smile back. Kid’s got good taste, what can we say?

Indy wrestling fans follow the Briscoe lead. They are perhaps the nicest community on the planet. At house shows – FIP, Evolve, Shine – we near universally encounter polite, passionate, and generous men and women who genuinely care about the talent they’re seeing. The love for Cherry Bomb during recovery serves as a testament to this. (Buy her shirt, mind you.)

This is likewise echoed on the road, as near-everyone reminisces over Huracanrana’s trademark Colt Cabana shirts, also how excited they are about that night’s match lineup.

I also never take it for granted that no one bats an eyelash out of my endless bathroom/water trips (see Step 4 above), also kindness of venue/promotional staff ensuring we have seats…even when over/double sold. The latter seems a universal malady for indy wrestling promotions, and not surprisingly. It’s hard to manage ticket sales for always changing venues not accustomed to being jam packed with wrestling fans/equipment. With this being said – and in nearly every occurrence (it’s happened 4 times at last count) – dual ticketed fans work together to solve the problem. One even offered to share a folding share versus make a fuss. That’s definitely different, in the best of ways.

Athlete signings are never dull; I simply love shaking hands and supporting talent who bring us so much joy. The aforementioned Briscoes personalized our picture to indicate our ‘airport buddies’ status. Shine’s Andréa singlehandedly empowered us to no longer fear the merch table…also introduced us to Twitter. Still, I can’t help but feel terrible that I can’t afford autographs/merchandise from everyone. ACH: I love you, buddy. Ditto, Maxwell Chicago and Caleb Konley. Sorry x1000, gents. I mean that.

Speaking of merch tables, it’s always fun to see fan interactions with each other, also promotion staff. Josh Gavin literally recommended us the best darn Evolve DVD I’ve ever seen. ROH fans educated on the benefits of one Roddy Strong offering versus another, down to single matches. That community feel when literally investing in pro wrestling is terrific.

Most importantly – and I can’t emphasize this enough: see indy shows live, if you logistically and financially can. There is so much being left behind on TV…even with the best production. To begin, managers and valets are brilliant. Truth Martini is a show onto himself, as is SoCalVal at 100% heel the entire show. Don’t underestimate the interactivity of the refs, in tandem. Frank Gastineau adds so much to his matches, and has a great time with the camera crew. Ditto ring announcers like Dasha Fuentes, who definitely keep NXT house show fans engaged behind the scenes.

If you can nab front row tix, you’ll truly appreciate the size and athleticism of giants like Donovan Dijak. Even more so when he sends the barricade you’re up against 1-2 feet back (ouch!) via a giant leg kick. As the shirt says, “everyone runs from Donovan,” indeed!

Perhaps my favorite part of the live experience is off-camera interactions with fans. Mike Bennett is a gem in this regard, clearly someone who loves what he does…and those who support him in doing so. Look even closer, and you’ll spot the next big signing to be announced. S/he is setting up/cleaning the ring. 😉

Chants are overrated…if erroneously about the fan. Chants, however, can serve as wonderful thank-you’s to talent, immediate recognition of something truly special. With a logical wall between any entertainer and supporters, live chants offer a nice avenue to transgress this divide in a safe, and event appropriate fashion. Experiencing chants live also educates on how important they are to match flow. Momentum is built and sustained in matches through/with crowd interaction/support. Silent crowds are poison to match cohesiveness, referee interaction, also announcer fodder. I also now realize how the work ‘suck’ fits in every anti-heel retort.

After events – especially at smaller shows – it’s always fun to grab a quick convo with non-performing superstars there to support their smaller promotion peers. Ditto for dark match/opening promotion participators. To this day, these latter individuals all look shocked when we congratulate them on great matches. The humility of pro wrestlers remains so wonderfully appreciated.

When the event concludes – and one escapes the parking lot! – the fun begins anew. The buzz pro wrestlers/talent feel after an event is shared with their supporters. Want proof? Read the tweets from refs/announcers!

Confession: Even at midnight, it takes almost two hours for Huracanrana and I to lose the big grins, dissipate energy following a 3+ hour event. We compare notes on favorite matches, best moves, biggest surprises, the strange individual seated 3 rows to our left. (That is not a hat, brother. Eek!) Most of all, we both realize just how spectacular the athletic sacrifice and display by pro wrestlers to generate this post-event buzz. Akin to opening a new round of birthday gifts every 15 minutes. It’s no wonder we easily Twitter handshake/hi-five with said athletes during this post-event, two-hour cool down. We’re all part of a shared love greater than us. And can’t sleep from it!

First steps upon return home is to purchase the event we attended. It truly is a gift to have multiple hours of moving picture, emotional triggers to relive a great experience…and to do so endlessly. Also begin to question where the next great adventure is. Steps 1-4 begin anew.

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