Fighting Spirit Wrestling

Fighting Spirit Wrestling is an independent organization run by the Ludus school in in the five boroughs of New York City. In stark contrast to WWE shows I’ve attended, this FSW show epitomized the indy experience and was rife with action that even the most nascent of wrestling fans could enjoy.

Even walking in was a brand new experience. Tickets were very affordable, in the $20 dollar range, but front row tickets were only $10 dollars more. One of the things I have never been able to experience was sitting front and center at a pro wrestling show. Ring of Honor: Field of Honor brought me the closest I had ever come to realizing my dream, but the second row was the closest I could get. After purchasing tickets through the FSW website, I was surprised to discover that I would pick up my tickets at the door.

The event was held in a small school gymnasium, and upon walking in, my friend and I received wristbands and were told that we were good to go. We stood in double confusion and waited to be told where to sit, only to discover that we had free reign of the front row, as long as seats were open. The venue was intimate, but not full to capacity by any means. As I plopped down in the front row opposite the backstage entrance, I was star-struck by walking past the superstar formerly known as Brodus Clay and the hardocre legend Sabu. Playing it cool, we walked to a choice spot and geared up for the action that was to come.

Starting with what is termed a 5-star match, the champion Mike Verna, the Man of Steel defended his title against Suntan, Magma, Supastar Whiplash and Greg Jones. The match was an enjoyable affair, with a great deal of action spilling to the floor. Verna showed his charisma as he interacted with fans, commenting that he was glad to not be on the receiving end of some brutal body blows that were being doled on the inside as he recuperated outside the ring. The end saw Verna keep his title, but not before being on the receiving end of  moonsault by a man who is well over 400 pounds.  One of the bright spots of the show was the development of angles that were easy to follow. Verna cut a promo on Joel Maximus, the Lucha Legend and owner of the company who trained him, challenging him to a match to see if the student can surpass the master.

 Instead of having the two face off right then and there, PJ Stackpole, a swarmy heel manager, derided Verna’s current personality and challenged him to take on Tyrus AKA Brodus Clay at Gladiator Championship Wrestling event this coming Friday in Queens, NY at another independent promotion’s show. A stare down between the champ and Brodus electrified the crowd, or maybe just me, but having Verna approach the brobdingnagian behemoth right then and there added a level of gravitas to the proceedings and certainly sold more tickets for the next show.

The show continued to surprise throughout the night. A.J. Spectre nauseated the crowd with his public displays of affections with his girlfriend and this is an example of a non-televised independent show being able to entertain in a way that WWE simply cannot do. In the heyday of the WWF, if a heel female valet was getting involved too often, she would often receive her comeuppance at the hands of the face. Crowds would go wild in support of a man hitting a woman, as long as she “deserved” it. In the PG era, this never happens, but as part of the storytelling in the ring, it certainly is an effective way to get both the heel over and have the face gain support of the audience.

The two main draws on the card were Colt Cabana and Sabu. Cabana tussled with Big Daddy Dre and Talon, taking the loss in a short, but entertaining match that saw him hit much of his comedic offense while taking time to play to the crowd. The only disappointing part of the match was the lack of time dedicated to it. The show ended with Sabu taking on Joe Ettel, in an affair littered with chairs and tables. A far cry from his ECW prime, Sabu still attempted to hit some of his vaunted moves, using chairs as springboards for his offence, but the moves seemed less impactful, as he’s lost some of his speed in the ring. After two truly disconcerting table spots, Sabu went over and posed in the ring to end the show, as I had watched him do on ECW programming so many times before. Watching the legend celebrate his “31st birthday” was still undoubtedly a treat.

I learned one thing at the end of the night: although these independent shows may lack the polish and grandeur of WWE live events there is a palpable sense of wonder and excitement about being so close to the action. Seeing the wrestlers sit in the crowd and become spectators after beinging participants forges a bond with the crowd because it proves that ultimately, wrestlers are fans first. As Sabu began his match, the entire locker room came out from the back to watch the legend in action. We may have been there for different reasons, me a spectator and the wrestlers earning a paycheck, but at our core we are all still marks. Support your own local wrestling scene and you may just discover something you never knew you were missing all along; I know I did.