Monday, September 27, 2010

Independent's Day

Over the next few days, I'm going to write about some of my experiences with independent wrestling.  I think the WWE's new "breakout" stars Kaval and Daniel Bryan have created some buzz over this often overlooked and misunderstood form of wrestling.

My first time ever seeing an independent show came when I was living in Alabama.  The event was being held at a local high school in early 1998.  This show actually had quite a few recognizable names on it, including The Bullet Bob Armstrong, Bunkhouse Buck, and Ricky Morton.  Morton was there teaming with his "son" in the new Rock N Roll Express.  The "son" would actually go on to become Kid Kash in ECW, WWE, and TNA.

I enjoyed the show, and was actually there as more than just a fan.  I had talked my boss into letting me cover it for a news story too.  So that allowed me access to some of the wrestlers to do interviews with them.  Ricky Morton was one of them.  If I could figure out how to get my VHS tapes dubbed over, I'd post the story.  Be patient, I'll figure it out soon.

On that same card, I got to climb into the ring during intermission and shoot a standup.  That was a lot of fun too.  Until that point I had never been in the squared circle before.  And it wouldn't be my last time.  (More on that to come later.)

This was one of several independent shows I got to attend while working in Alabama.  While the crowds are small, they are loyal.  They cheer for the good guys and heckle the bad guys.  And because the venues are typically small (high school gyms in these cases), you're up close to the action.  I think that let's the fan be more in touch with the action.  It's also a heck of a lot more affordable than attending a TNA or WWE or back then WCW house show.

As I said, one group in Alabama who promoted shows always brought in some of the bigger name guys.  I also had a chance to interview Sid Vicious on two different occasions.  One time, he even came into our studio and did a live interview on the 6 p.m. news.  Probably not something you'd see everyday.

Of course the big names help draw fans to the show, which sells tickets, and gets the local guys some much needed exposure.  Sure, none of those guys on those Alabama cards made it to "big leagues", but that never stopped them from getting out there and putting on a good show.

While I was in Alabama, I learned of another independent group, one that ran a WEEKLY show.  I wanted to know more about them and see if I could help them in anyway.  Back then, I had aspirations of my own to be an announcer for the WWE.  So I contacted their management and offered to do whatever they needed.  I ended up running the video camera for their shows.  They recorded it each week and sold copies to die hard fans.

Each Tuesday night, I would finish the 6 o'clock news, hit the drive thru, and cross over the O'Neal bridge high above the Tennessee River.  I'd make my way to Muscle Shoals and to the Millenium Wrestling Alliance arena.  It looked to me like an old bar, that got converted into a wrestling arena.  Every week the place was packed.  Fans crowded into their seats to see the likes of "Cold Hard Cash" Tommy Green, Brain Damage, and "Frat Guy" Jeremy Westmoreland do their thing.

This was truly a great experience.  I was getting to see some great action each week, and there was a continuing storyline.  Fans that came each week knew what was going on and like I said so many of them were regulars.  Plus, they had the opportunity to check out my fancy video work and catch up on shows they'd missed.

During this time, the WWE (F) had an opening for a ring announcer position.  So I put together a tape and did a story with the men and women of MWA.  They told me why they do it (for the love of the business) and shared their hopes and dreams.  I put it together and sent it off, hopeful to catch my break, just as many of them had hoped for too.  But it never happened.  Instead, a woman you might remember well got the gig: Lillian Garcia.

So when I attend independent shows even today, I know what these guys and gals are reaching for.  I've kinda been there myself.

More tomorrow, thanks for reading.

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