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The bizarre world of indie wrestling (huckmagazine.com)
50 points by kikitee 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments



I think this is so great! I feel like we’ve lost many “sub-cultures” like the Punks etc. Today, everybody seems to become a hipster with a beard and a lumberjack shirt. So I’m really grateful, that these kind of communities still exist outside of the uniform world we live in.

Also: I don’t think “bizzare” is a good word to describe the community. “Special” would have been much better.


I dont think this is great. The article didn't mention the massive health risks wrestlers face, even risk of death or long term impairment. The WWE has tried a little to reduce those but the smaller or more hardcore promotions probably still are doing chair shots and flying headbutts or other dangerous moves.

I love wrestling as a performance, and it is a art, but the cost of it is in the wrestler's bodies, much closer to boxing than football. I can't really love small promotions where they are probably giving themselves serious conditions that will manifest twenty years down the road for less than minimum wage and the vain hope the WWE will scout them.


The upshot here is that there is ultimately way more control over the issue than both American football and boxing have.

Played right these guys can reduce the risk significantly because the rules of engagement aren’t guaranteed upon entering the ring. With boxing and football, you have a much more stringent set of rules to follow.


Yes, definite risk.

Here's a friend of mine who plays harp and ... -does- did wrestling.

He dislocates his shoulder : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXS-hixeI_4


Agree, just because something is different it's not "bizarre". But "special" doesn't feel better. I've always gone with "odd" for something that is not normal but not out of this world. Feels less negative.


How about "eccentric"?


"Niche" might be better.


Interesting. Wouldn’t you say, that “special” has a (slightly) positive connotation?


In the US "special" is often used as a shortened version of "special needs" and has a slightly negative connotation [1]

I think a more positive term might be "specialized".

1 - https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/35777/can-the-wo...


I think also is a kind of great. They do there own thing. That's cool.

Sub-cultures in the age of like-counters. It looks like some still exist, but you can't see those easy on the web because the have not so many likes and they don't even come up (except you do a special search) on Youtube or Google searches.


> I feel like we’ve lost many “sub-cultures” like the Punks etc

Punks not dead. I'm working the door for a show right now.


> Also: I don’t think “bizzare” is a good word to describe the community. “Special” would have been much better.

Maybe this is regional, but "special" can mean "special like special education", that is, mentally disabled.


Never understood pro wrestling even though I watched it when I was a child (limited stuff on TV in the 70's.) and forgot about it until I watched the GLOW dramedy series and they kind of spoonfed the hows and whys of everything to the viewers and it clicked - it's a live action soap opera or play with very athletic performers. These indie wrestlers and the story told in the fictionalized account of the start of GLOW have a lot in common.


Firstly if you have time, I'd recommend watching Max Landis' Wresting Isn't Wrestling [1]. Warning, its a 30 minutes comedy, but to get his message you really do have to watch it all.

Just as Landis says, most of wrestling sucks. Its poorly choreographed, the storylines can make no sense (why does a communist boar want to fight a football coach?), or straight depressing (people well past their prime, ala Mickey Rourke's character in The Wrestler).

However, there is something magical to having the empathetic bound with an indie wrestler. You know that are doing for the love, because they might be paid $0, even after driving hours to the show. In Mick Foley's books, he talks about how he slept in his car eating a tablespoon of peanut butter to train at a particular school.

In addition, its story driven, much like any soap opera. Characters come and go and some stay and change. These characters arcs are the appeal to audience members, but they take longer levels of commitment to develop. Once they are there, its near impossible to remove the need to keep up with the story, even on a minimal level. I don't watch RAW every Monday, but I still make sure to check /r/SquaredCircle on Reddit for the latest news/videos.

In one podcast, I recall Shawn Michaels (former wrestler, now a born again Christian) talk about how wrestling consumers very, very similar to Christian consumer. In his example, he was promoting a Christian redemption movie (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone) he stared in. It doesn't necessarily have to be the worlds greatest, but they will spend money on it because it explicitly it supporting one of the consumers' major interests.

Plus, who doesn't think some of the moves just LOOK BADASS?!

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYvMOf3hsGA


Why is it bizarre, its passionate, its enthusiastic, its physiscal, its brutal. A violent ballet with operatic storyline. Bizarre? No.


As an on-again off-again pro-wrestling fan, I find indie wrestling very bizzare.

I really dislike when the performers itself treat it like a joke or don't take it seriously. We all know it's a story and not a real athletic competition, but watching all the fourth-wall breaking, winking, nudging and general silliness that goes on with a lot of indie stuff truly leaves me be-wildered. Even if the performers treat it as a joke, it's still incredibly dangerous and taxing on the body. So you have performers making no effort to suspend our disbelief while in reality they're injuring themselves just the same.


I'm not a fan of any kind of wrestling, but I do love fourth-wall breaking stuff in many mediums. Comedians talking about their jokes not landing, author's making up books-within-books, films that play with conventions and cliches.

I'm generally impressed with how, if done correctly, you can maintain the emotional connection that is often referred to as "suspension of disbelief" while making the unreality explicit.


I suppose I can enjoy it in much the same way I can get invested in an episode of say, the original star trek from the 1960s. I mean sure, I could sit there and point out how the computers are silly, the physics are un-realisitic, the special effects suck and the alien planets are clearly earth with props. Or even classical theatre. I mean theatre is objectively far more flake or unrealistic than anything pro-wrestling does (wait a minute, they're not in a castle!) But if a story - in any medium - engages me enough I'm willing to look over a lot.

Wrestling has its own set of "in-universe" realities that we the audience are conditioned too. If they're adhered too, and everything makes sense in the logic of that framework, I find it easy to suspend disbelief... provided of course I care about the conflict.


I dunno, I find some of the less-serious indies to be the most entertaining. Example, in Chikara, Eddie Kingston had a move called Backfist to the Future that he used on Archibald Peck that, in-story, sent him back in time to return later with a new gimmick. That sort of silliness would never fly in the more 'serious' promotions, but it was funny as hell and really differentiates them from the indies like Ring of Honor that focus more on technical wrestling.


Somehow I ran across a wrestling team called "The Osirian Portal" searching for something totally unrelated. I'm not a wrestling fan, but that shit is hilarious. I think wrestling is way funnier when it isn't trying to be serious.


It's bizarre because it's the only form of fiction where some people are convinced the fans don't know it's fiction.

Equivalently, it's the only form of fiction which some people think isn't "real". Try this on for size: "You know movies aren't real, right?" Can you seriously imagine anyone saying that? It would be utterly absurd. Yet in discussions of wrestling, it's par for the course.


> It's bizarre because it's the only form of fiction where some people are convinced the fans don't know it's fiction.

A fun way to make sure you aren't invited back to parties is to convince those people that you genuinely believe the UFC is a work while pro-wrestling is a legitimate competition.


When I was 10, a classmate hit me over the head with a folding chair in defense of the reality of pro wrestling.

The adult fans might know it's fiction; children are still figuring out where that line sits.


Wrestling fans can be broadly defined as "marks" who buy into the illusion, and smart marks who understand the illusion and how it relates to business.

Arguably the largest part of this illusion "kayfabe" has been dead for years and years - everyone knows wins and losses are predetermined. That doesn't stop promotions from using wrestling news and social media to blur the lines of what's real and fake when it comes to contracts, injuries, and alliances.


Vince McMahon was required to kill kayfabe to avoid litigation over steroids in sports. By redefining WWE as entertainment, certain anti-doping requirements were lifted.


Nowadays "Reality TV" is in the same position.


Not anymore, except for small children.


For those that enjoy this sort of thing, you may also like the backyard wrestling documentary "The Backyard" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0309326/?ref_=nv_sr_4). It's violent and disturbing in places, but also often hilarious and silly.


I have a relative who organizes WWE-style wrestling events. He started doing it while working on a Ph.D. in philosophy. Now that he's finished the degree, I'm pretty sure he's doing wrestling promotion full time. I asked him once if wrestling was connected to his dissertation. I didn't really understand his answer, but it has something to do with how we construct our identities. Who decides if you're a face or a heel?


Usually, you try a bunch of gimmicks until one sticks. By that time, it's usually clear by how the crowd reacts to you whether you're a face or a heel. Other considerations are whether one group is over or under represented. Additionally, the most charismatic workers can turn face or heel as necessary to build heat for another or to advance a story line. It is exactly the way it works in comic books and soap operas.


The best heels are often convinced they're faces, and in their own minds their actions are justified.


I fondly remember FUW in Bloomington-Normal, IL. If you go on YouTube and look for Scrub-E the janitor, you might find one of my matches.


This article really reminds me of a podcast called The Dollop. One of their first episodes went into the strange world of Competitive Endurance Tickling, and while that and indie wrestling aren't comparable, some of their stories beyond that one really fit the tone of "this interesting subculture you never knew about".


There are a couple of documentaries on Netflix about "Competitive Endurance Tickling" and how there is something very off going on there...




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