Over the last year or so, I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into the independent wrestling scene, both in New York City and elsewhere. Over those many months, I’ve learned a few things that I wish I’d known before getting into this. Things that I’m going to compile here in brief, digestible portions.
And if you find yourself looking to attend a show with me, I’m going to have a running list of the shows I plan to attend here. Right now, it’s a little … sparse. More on that in a moment.
Get Familiar With The Product Beforehand (If You Can)
Twitter and YouTube are the two strongest tools you can have in getting a preview of what you’re going to see. Not only will it help with understanding the vibe you’re about to engage with as a fan, but it helps to know what you’ve missed.
Is the promotion family-friendly or is it ultra-violent? Are the wrestlers working a polished style, or is it more of a training school? While the first can be easier to distinguish, the latter can be made confusing.
Take House of Glory for example. While the promotion looks to garner attention with videos promoting matches feating industry veteran and co-owner Amazing Red taking on the likes of Ricochet and Michael Elgin, that’s the stuff at the main event. Down on the other side of the card, you will find people who are training with the promotion, who have earned a spot on this live show, but still have things to learn.
Learning in advance is also valid for promotions such as Beyond in the North-East US and WXW in Germany, where fans are encouraged to stand against the ring. Yes, you read that right, fans stand up close at some shows.
You don’t need to stand there when you see a show, but for Beyond, knowing how its seating typically looks (and there has been little in the way of actual seats from what I’ve seen), you’ll know more about if a promotion offers an experience you want or not.
This is particularly helpful to you, the fan, because some promotions (HOG in New York, among others) do a particularly poor job of explaining things. Sure, audiences who pay attention will know who to boo and who to cheer, but you’ll have more fun with more knowledge in your pocket.
Specifically, learn the names and gimmicks of the wrestlers performing. The thing about the indie promotions is that their investment priorities are (in descending order) booking some well known performers, reserving a venue and paying talent. That means that you often see corners cut on investing in a working mic, a functional PA system and anything else where they can scrimp.
So, do yourself a favor and make it so you don’t need the people running the show to help you, just that the performers need to put on an entertaining show.
Don’t sit on your hands
While not every match is going to earn a “This is awesome!” chant (it will water down the meaning if they all do), you gotta encourage the talent. You might ask, but shouldn’t paying my hard earned money be enough? To which, I say: “not really.”
Anyone performing for an audience, be it online or in a brick and mortar venue, can do their work at any number of levels. While the best always give it their all, people will work harder with more positive reinforcement. Just think about how you work at your day job, and your relationship with everyone you interact with. It’s not quite different.
So, cheer the good guys, boo the baddies, and for fuck’s sake:
Be nice to those around you
Don’t be a dick and make the environment hard for anyone, especially those who aren’t a part of the majority (which I’d bet is straight white males).
To go back to my first point, learning about the promotion beforehand will help you know how to best act as a member of the audience.
This should be obvious, but it unfortunately requires being said: If you’re a dude, don’t vocally objectify women in any way. Don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable about being around you. Let people enjoy the damn show.
Seating: Front Row vs Other Seats vs Standing
Oh, and about seating. If you’ve paid money for a front row seat, you should know that you’re also paying for the possibility of a wrestler falling into your lap. It’s happened multiple times to myself, and it’s become a reason why I’m more than happy to get GA seating, where you’re free to roam around the area.
Want an up-close view with less risk? Reserved seating in the second and third rows might be best for you.
Merchandise: Buy Some, OK
Maybe your budget doesn’t have an extra $20 or so in there, but if you do, I cannot more highly recommend you buy a damn shirt. First of all, it’s a nice souvenir of your experience, to take home an item representing your favorite wrestler of the day. Secondly, most of the time you get to buy the shirt from that wrestler, so you can meet them. After you’ve bought that shirt, you can even ask that wrestler for a selfie with them.
The other major reason of why this is so important, is that shirt and merch sales at shows are financially important to the talent. The best metaphor for how this works is how tips work for workers in the service industry. Sure, the $20 shirt is more expensive than a $5 tip, but that’s due to the costs of producing the shirt, including paying the designer who drafted the logo on the shirt.
Risky Business: Expect It
Once you step outside of the comfy, PG confines of the WWE, you might notice that wrestlers are doing insane things out there. Sure, the more dangerous style of wrestling has seeped into WWE — look at the War Games match and the New Day vs Usos Hell In A Cell — but the indies are the wild west.
First of all, ring quality is often not what it should be. I saw a show in deep Brooklyn in November 2017 where the ring was so shit, it moves a little every time someone did a move into the corner. As I documented in my BOLA video these things can break, and that’s mostly because of promoters being cheap and trying to save money so they can pay the wrestlers more than the pittance they sometimes do.
And speaking of promoters cheaping out on safety, remember when I brought up rings breaking? And wrestlers falling into your lap? My biggest personal grievance with indie wrestling derives from both, as the metal railings that seperate the front row from the wrestlers can break apart, and then fall in your lap, or against your legs. WHICH CAN REALLY HURT. And cause stupid careless promoters to run out and ask if everyone is OK and run away when nobody is screaming for a lawyer.
My advice? If you’re sitting front row, and think a wrestler is coming your way, brace the railing with your own strength so things don’t fall on you. And if that sounds like a nightmare? Don’t sit front row.
Video Recording: Don’t Tag In
And a weird new thing in indie wrestling. If you want to post a video clip to social media, don’t tag the promotion with their account or hashtag. You will possibly get a DMCA takedown sent to you from that promotion, which takes down your post.
Lastly, a little thing I plan to keep updated:
My schedule for upcoming live wrestling shows:
Evolve 96 on December 9, 2017 in Corona (Queens), NY
The next local show I attend is Evolve 96 at the Elmcor. Yes, the Elmcor, the death venue of NYC which got people sick at Progress NYC.
Sadly, I’ll be riding solo for that since everybody I know is going to a holiday party (if I hadn’t purchased this ticket before those parties were announced, I may not have bought it).
All of the graps in New Orleans from in April 2018, from the 5th through the 8th
Wrestlemania weekend isn’t about Wrestlemania: it’s about all of the indie shows that will follow the WWE to New Orleans. These shows include Progress, RevPro, Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2, Evovle, and others.
Progress: Hello, Wembley in September 2018 in the UK