If you are a fan of independent professional wrestling — no matter the skill level — this area of Central New York is pretty spoiled.
There’s the best — 2CW (Squared Circle Wrestling, based in Syracuse), a group voted by readers of PWInsider.com as the top independent wrestling federation in the country. Several of us watch this as often as we can because it’s always an incredible form of entertainment. And never seems to disappoint.
Then you have some promotions that are not quite to that level — 3DW (which, apparently, has undergone some restructuring and is coming back in March with a card that looks quite solid). There’s also ECPW, a New Jersey-based federation that holds cards in New York and appears to use more localish workers for the bulk of the card.
When you deal with lower federations — such as the ECPW — you really get an interesting look at the world of professional wrestling.
I’m a fan of pro wrestling, overall. I like really good shows and I like the bad ones. It’s two different worlds, but inside the zany world of the wrestling ring, there are so many story lines, either between wrestlers or federations or promoters or whatever else.
I’ve had the chance recently to watch ECPW twice. The cards were very different from one another, but enough the make you realize that this level of pro wrestling is quite different.
Being out of full “reporter” mode at this point, I forgot a pen both times and a forgot a notebook a second time. Thankfully, I had the phone and took notes that way — so I could accurately describe some of the things I witnessed.
Again — the two shows were night and day — so keep that in mind.
The first show was at a Legion hall in Binghamton. It’s a place where all these federations seem to use. But this was different. The back door was left open so people could go in and out to smoke. That got annoying after a while because nobody seemed to care. People came in later in the night who hadn’t been in there all night.
The ring is old school. It’s definitely a wood-based ring and really has a great sound. The turnbuckles that looked like they were towels (with electric tape) gave the feel of some old-school wrestling. The sag in the middle also gives that low-level independent feel. The odd part was the four gallon-sized water jugs hanging in each corner. But that was probably for the advertised flaming tables (which, apparently, is a bit illegal in New York. More on that later).
I love this stuff. I really do. It’s old school. It’s entertainment. But, there’s something I need when I pay to watch professional wrestling. I need a level of belief. Not that it’s not “scripted” or however you want to refer to it, but I need to be able to believe the stories being told. I need to believe in the performers.
This wasn’t the most successful card at doing that.
Referees were out of place, had no idea what was going on and were all dressed different (outside of the striped shirts). One had wind pants on. Another had black jeans. They had regular sneakers, and not even black. The one ref, 10 minutes into the first match, was sweating more than the wrestlers and was having problems getting to the mat to count a pin. By the time he got to the mat to make the count, it had already been a five count. Even the crowd was making their distaste known.
And it seemed like they didn’t know what they were supposed to do.
That makes the pace of the match work slower. Close kickouts don’t have the same “feel” as they should.
Take this video I shot for an example — does this ref seem to know what’s going on? (Let me set this up, the heel [bad guy — smaller guy] set up the chair in the opposite corner and then walks into the picture.) This is what unfolds.
See what I am saying?
And the part that tweaked me was in the middle of matches, referees (and some wrestlers) were out talking to their friends and such. It’s hard to believe in the product when they aren’t “selling” it to the fans.
I realize wrestling, too, isn’t necessarily cheap to do. The reality is some of these guys might not even get paid to perform (though I don’t know with this fed… it happens that way in some places). Talking to people who have promoted, some of these smaller federations actually have a certain thing where performers have to sell a certain amount of tickets or “pay to wrestle” sort of thing. I don’t know if that’s true here, but I imagine it’s possible.
Some of these guys just used normal sneakers to wrestle in. Ripped sweats. Maybe that’s the “persona” they play, but it doesn’t always show.
Then it’s just silly things.
A no disqualification match that ends in a countout. The video guy standing in front of the crowd and acting as clueless as can be (and he was using one of those plug and play recorders) when he never moves and people in the front rows try to ask him to move around and not always block the same people. The ring announcer never stood still and announced someone from somewhere in New Jersey (I can’t remember if it was Charlotte or something like that, where it was evident it was supposed to be North Carolina) and mis-pronounced things. The best of that, though? At the end of intermission when he announced for all wrestlers to report to the locker room.
It felt more like a high school wrestling tournament.
Then you had a lumberjack match with six lumberjacks and only two of them were wrestlers.
The thing that easily irked me more than anything? The swearing. Kids were there. There’s no need for an in-ring promo to have F-bombs flying all over. One wrestler was spitting beer in the crowd — again filled with kids. And in the end, all of this helped create a couple skirmishes with the crowd, which is never a good thing.
Seriously, if you can’t get over in a promo without swearing, you’re not going to get over anyway. Now, if it’s an adult-only crowd and there’s swearing, so be it. But this ECPW, on its website, note it’s a family friendly form of entertainment. A low-level bit of swearing (ass, damn etc.) I can deal. But if it’s F-bomb after F-bomb, it’s a total turnoff.
And one thing I got a kick of is when a wrestler called out the state athletic commission guy who stopped them from setting a table — in the ring — on fire. Now, that could have made for cool photos. Especially because I was near a fire exit. But I can’t see calling out the state commission when the guy was doing his job and you were preparing to do something you weren’t supposed to do. Especially IN THE RING. (I would have seen the issue if it was in a safe spot with some fire extinguishers and people nearby — then hey, it’s part of the show. But in the ring with only the wrestlers and some gallon bottles of water? No way!)
Now, it wasn’t all bad.
It’s just that the bad things are easier to point out and stand out in my mind more.
Some of the matches were pretty solid. There were some good workers. I wasn’t upset that I paid the money — remember, I am a fan of any level of this because it is always entertaining — but I would have liked to have seen a little more work on making the product crisp and not look like a backyard wrestling federation. Make me believe, even if just for a few hours (or charge me less money). Tell a story without profanity-laced promos and things like that. The best about the top independent promotions is they can tell a story in the ring by doing their thing, not acting as if people understand everything going on. Remember that this isn’t on TV every week and people “outside” the circle have no clue what has been going on elsewhere.
The same group was then coming to Sidney. A short drive for me. And at a roller rink. So a small place, dark — 50s style wrestling. My kind of show.
To quote Harry from Dumb and Dumber…
“Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!”
Not that this show was perfect. It wasn’t close to 2CW quality. But oh what an improvement. (It probably helped that the big cheese of the federation was here and on the card).
The matches were stronger.
The swearing was much less. In fact the one person I expected to have many, only had a few F-bombs (which I still think weren’t needed) and the whole card was pretty solid.
Don’t get me wrong, there were still some things that made us laugh. Such as…
- The announcer proclaiming a fatal four-way match… and then only giving three people.
- An advertised 20-man battle royal becomes a nine-man battle royal.
- Silent chest chops.
- A little over-selling on some missed moves.
- Someone who participated in the battle royal who then reffed a match.
- A punch to the shoulder was the finisher in a match between two big guys.
Overall, however, it was a better show. And an unannounced appearance by a “bigger name” in the world of pro wrestling (Justin Credible) was nice, too. He was booked late for the show, hence no advertising. But still cool to see him.
And, as I said, overall the show was much better.
So yes, I’d go see this crew again. I’m not sure how far I’d travel to do so, but I would see them again for sure. It’s a throwback to the old dusty halls and such from an era no longer seen in professional wrestling.
In the end, I can’t complain.
The prices were decent. The crowds were fun to watch (this really is the best with independent pro wrestling… fans can get wicked crazy), and, despite some of the things I pointed out earlier, it was some good entertainment. What I liked the most about it was that when you go to a pro wrestling show, you never know what you’ll get. You have an idea, but you never know.
Hit up something like 2CW and know you’ll see amazing action, a crisp show, a few “big names” and some stars who could easily be on your television with the big guns in a few years.
See something lower than that — such as an ECPW — and never know what you’ll see. Some good, some bad, some wacky and some crazy. All mixed into one show.
In the end, it all depends on what you are seeking.
For me? I like zany. And I like good. I’ll choose 2CW over anything for the most part.
But if nothing else is going on and I’m looking for some entertainment? I’d gladly return to watch federations such as this. As I said, we’re a bit spoiled around here when it comes to wrestling. That’s not a bad thing, though. And it makes for some excellent photos!
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