Through The Ropes
By Josh Stewart
GASTONIA, N.C. – Just spent a weekend living for danger. On one side, "The Ultimate Weapon" Chris Williams looked like he wanted to hang my liver over his mantel as a memento of the evening.
On the other, "Outlaw" Keith Matthews seemed upset enough with my effort to settle the issue with 30 feet of rope and an oak tree.
Yes, I was back in the striped shirt, reffing the main event of the Millennium Wrestling Federation’s 11/22 show here at Gastonia’s National Guard Armory. The evil "Styles Stable," consisting of manager J.D. Styles, world champion "The Adonis" Mike Angel, and tag-team champs Williams and "The Enforcer" Justin Sayne, had their hands full with Matthews, "The Loose Cannon" Hojo Devlin, "Bounty Hunter" David Hayes and Commis-sioner Cassandra. Styles and his goons attacked Cassandra earlier in the evening, making it all the sweeter when she ended the eight-person tag by making Styles tap out to the feared "Wedgie from Hell."
The MWF won’t be running shows in Canarsie, Howard Beach or Staten Island anytime soon, so you might wonder what any of this has to do with you. It should be noted, though, that for an independent promotion in the Carolinas to have any sustained success for three years has a great deal of historical significance to it.
At the turn of the ’90s, when promoter Jim Crockett for all intents and purposes handed the National Wrestling Alliance to Ted Turner, the name changed to World Champion-ship Wrestling and the brain trust left Charlotte for Atlanta. Charlotte was a mecca for pro wrestling at the time, so imagine the Yankees bolting the South Bronx for Hartford, Conn., and you can imagine the kind of void that left.
The old NWA business setup was very much like mixing the Chicago Bulls with the Durham Bulls. The boys would wrestle before 16,000 people in Greensboro, N.C., on a Saturday night, then might work in a 600-capacity, high-school gym on a Tuesday. It felt major-league and minor-league at the same time, with the best qualities of the two combined.
The rise of the Turner regime put an end to the smaller shows, and the vacuum was filled largely by – well – pathetic, white trash. Independent wrestling in the Carolinas was loaded with guys wrestling drunk and wannabe trainers charging kids thousands of bucks, then leaving them broken down and broke. The reputation of indies in the area became so bad that getting 20 people to buy a ticket was considered a minor success.
So, I’m taking a moment to tip my cap to the MWF for doing it the right way. And, more importantly to the audience I write for, I want to remind you how lucky you are that a rockin’ independent scene continues to exist in the Northeast, especially in the Philadelphia area, with promotions like 3PW and Ring of Honor making good things happen.
I indict myself for not frequenting and paying more attention to these guys. But fortunately, a trip South reminded me that taking good indie wrestling for granted is much like volunteering to keep eight crazed lunatics from killing each other — not the best of ideas.
You can contact Josh Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.