(Note: Before the final 2CW cards this past December, I had the chance to create and put together a magazine. I am slowly putting the stories here on the blog. Enjoy!)
Though fans know who Josh Jeanneret is, he often blends in like those who shell out their hard-earned money to see his product.
He doesn’t worry about being the “corporate guy.” He doesn’t want to play the part and doesn’t look it.
Heck, he’s often seen just “plugging in the vacuum” in the ring before one of his events.
Jeanneret, though, is the man behind Squared Circle Wrestling – affectionately known more as 2CW, one of the top independent wrestling companies in the country.
For 10 years, 2CW has been home to some of the best professional wrestling around. In the Northeast, it’s highly known as the place to go if you want to see the best.
The names that have been through 2CW is a who’s who of wrestling. Some of the best young talents in wrestling have gotten their feet wet in 2CW, or made stops because they knew the level the federation brings to an event.
The action is the entertainment, after all.
But on December 20, 2015, 2CW will be no more.
This past fall, in a shocking post to fans on Facebook, which followed a week or so of cryptic messages, the company announced it would be closing its doors. First, however, it would march through three of its top spots – Watertown, Binghamton, and Syracuse – for some final shows designed to deliver a lasting impression to fans of the group.
A fourth show, in Elmira, was later added, giving the company a “Final Four” to say goodbye to its fans.
The final show, which will be broken up into two sets at 2CW’s original home at the Pastime Athletic Club in Syracuse, is a secret. Though some names have been announced, no matches have. And none will be announced before that night. It’s fitting, though, as it is one card that there likely won’t be any real changes on. Changing cards on the fly is something Jeanneret has had to do often over the 10-year run with 2CW.
Still, he never disappoints.
And that’s part of what he’s tried to do with 2CW. With his small “front office,” the group has put out incredible card after incredible card and they’ve done it without trying to milk everything they can out of the fans, outside of the occasional long intermission to allow the wrestlers to sell their shirts and DVDs.
“Unlike everything else in wrestling that’s usually lies and smoke and mirrors and stealing money, you’ll find no wrestlers or any fans or any people who will ever say that they felt like 2CW hosed them,” Jeanneret said. “That they didn’t get paid or were overwhelmed. You’ll never find that because at the end of the day, there is nothing more important than your word. Actions speak louder than words.”
The birth of 2CW
A little more than 10 years ago, in November 2005, Jeanneret and some friends were watching the WWE Survivor Series.
Impressions in the room for the show were lackluster at best. And, being he’d already been involved in the independent wrestling scene, he thought he could do better.
“I remember after, me and some other people were kind of like ‘this sucks,'” Jeanneret said. “It was as simple as this sucks, our (stuff) could be so much better.”
The idea to hatch an independent company based in upstate New York took life soon after, and Jeanneret set out to make sure everything lined up. The first card took place at the Pastime Athletic Club in Syracuse on April 8, 2006.
“We were just like we’ll be better and way more awesome,” Jeanneret said. “There was no grand plan of we’re going to be the next this or that or anything. It was only ever about having the best possible show. I wanted to melt people’s faces off so when people leave, they think it’s amazing and have to go next time. It’s about nothing more than the magic.”
The idea for the name came partially as a spoof. Two ideas were tossed aside – JPW (Just Pro Wrestling), and Ring of Glory, an all-too-obvious play off Ring of Honor.
“I was like ‘we might as well call it Squared Circle Wrestling because that would be just as horrible as Ring of Glory,'” Jeanneret said. “We were like ‘yeah, that’s a good idea. We could put a 2 in front so they could chant 2CW.'”
Jeanneret even argued the validity of using it … as mathematically, it would be impossible.
“Weird stuff will happen like that. When it happens, it seems lame,” Jeanneret said. “Looking back, it’s kind of cool. There was no marketing meeting or big items. It was just there.”
Eight matches were on that first card, which was the initial Living on the Edge. Some of the names on that card are still with the company, such as Isys Ephex, Loca Vida, Jason Axe and Steve McKenzie. JD Love was also on the card — Jeanneret’s wrestling identity.
It also included Spike Dudley, who was still active in the mainstream world of pro wrestling at the time. Dudley proved to be a massive supporter of 2CW and became a close friend of Jeanneret as he looked to build 2CW.
Ten years and nearly 125 cards later, 2CW is one of the finest organizations in professional wrestling.
What makes 2CW great? One thing is the moments. It’s rare for somebody to walk away from a 2CW event and not have experienced a “wow” moment.
Jeanneret speaks about 2CW creating memories, magic, and moments. Though fans won’t see him, he occasionally walks out from the back to watch the action in the ring.
“He wants to experience those moments. He knows,” current 2CW champion Sean Carr said.
The top moment in 2015, Jeanneret said, was Carr finally ascending to the top of 2CW and winning the heavyweight championship in front of his hometown at the Binghamton Legion. The emotions were real. His family came into the ring and celebrated. The crowd went crazy.
Carr’s chase of the 2CW championship went for about a year. He had a series of incredible matches with then-champion Nick Ando. One of the matches left them both as bloody messes.
Then came the night in Binghamton when Carr finally won the championship he had chased for so long. When he went for the final pin on Jason Axe in the quadruple conflict match, the crowd’s chant of “1…2…3” was deafening.
After the match, Carr sat in one corner of the ring staring at the belt. You could see his eyes welling up with tears of joy. No matter what professional wrestling is, you can’t fake emotion when somebody reaches the top of a place he holds so near and dear in this profession.
“That was a moment that could have kept 2CW open,” Jeanneret said. “WWE doesn’t create moments like that. In 2CW, people know wrestling is (scripted). Guys are athletes. Fans are in on that.
“But everyone there believed,” he continued. “They want to believe. Seeing his parents and his daughter in the ring – I was watching it happen. That was awesome. Those are the moments you want to create. As you move along, moments like that become further and further apart.”
Carr said the moment was real.
“Moments in 2CW can be super emotional, or super comical, or something else. We did something great – we told a story,” Carr said. “To be the guy of this company, it means a lot to me. The emotion was real. The work I put in to get here is real.”
Ask other wrestlers who have worked for 2CW and they’ll talk about moments.
Ask fans who consistently go to shows, and they’ll talk about moments.
And pretty much anybody who has been to a 2CW show can identify a moment that stands out.
Jeanneret looks back, though, and second-guesses himself, whether is something with the wrestlers or the fans. As he noted, all he wanted to do was to create moments.
“It was super important to me,” he said. “I felt like I was letting people down. I felt like I could have done more.
“All I ever wanted to do was to have people say ‘What just happened? I have to go again.’”
The big picture
2CW is more than just the moments, though.
Take a peek at the mind-blowing fantasy matches there have been inside a 2CW ring. Then there are the fans, who have their own gimmicks and chants. Look at the roster of wrestlers who come back time and time again to be part of it. The personalities beyond the ring are countless as well.
Add it all together and it’s an experience and it’s a rare mix of everything all in one show.
Amazing matches are one thing, but if there are only 25 people watching, it’s not the same. You can have some loud fans, but if the action is better off being in a backyard, then what’s the atmosphere really like?
“Everything about it is an experience,” longtime 2CW wrestler Colin Delaney said. “They put on such amazing shows and mind-blowing wrestling cards. We’re talking about a promotion that puts on crazy dream matches and creates fan moments.”
When it comes to independent wrestling, especially in the Northeast, there isn’t much that compares to the experience 2CW puts forth time and time again.
Look at the current roster – Jay Freddie started as a cameraman. Brute Van Slyke and Kevin Graham still are known to help with putting the ring together or tearing it apart at the end of a show. One of 2CW ring crew members – Jeremy Kallunki – had a broken down car one time and didn’t want to miss a show in Syracuse.
So, he rode his bike from Watertown to Syracuse. That’s about a 70-mile jaunt. He earned his nickname Jerry Bykes for that day.
All to be part of the ring crew – for no pay.
“I was impressed from the start,” said Slyck Wagner Brown, a two-time 2CW champion. “It was family. Watching others, I could feel the vibe. … It’s a company I’ve seen grow from regional into something special. Guys want to work there.”
(The remainder of this story will be posted Tuesday, August 2… please check back!)
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