In early 2018, I went to my first local independent show. The small intimate feeling, the crowd's enthusiasm, it all hooked me right away. The show was in a rundown arena where the overhead lights were so bright, any attempt at some kind of lighting display probably would've been fruitless. Everything was pretty bare bones, but it added to the authenticity of it all. Seeing the wrestlers right along the audience, yelling back at them, getting them involved in matches, it elevated all of it to even more of a piece of performance art. Though I have to admit, some of the best lines of the night weren't from any of the wrestlers, but came from the kids in the audience, "Go back to kindergarten and learn some manners!" "That's what you get for not eating all your broccoli!" Genius.
My favourite part of the night, though, was probably when the 50/50 winner was about to be announced. The old lady who was selling the tickets was the one calling out the winning number. After a second and then third time saying the number and having no winners, wouldn't you know it, she pulls out a few tickets from her pocket, and she's the one with the winning ticket!
I've never heard louder boos in my life.
I was having an absolute blast.
From that point on, I started becoming a regular at the local promotions. I brought friends along who had never even watched wrestling on TV. Besides, it's one thing to watch wrestling through a screen, but it's a whole other thing to get to experience it all live with the real-time energy of a crowd. Eventually, a few of my friends became regulars themselves, bringing more and more new fans to the scene. Every single time, I'd hear the same thing: "How did I not know this was happening!?" I'm surprised, too. I've been a fan of wrestling most of my life, in some capacity or another, but I didn't go to any live shows until well into my 20s when a close friend of mine was talking up the experience and how much she loved going. I'll be honest, the marketing for the shows never did much to make me think it'd be worth going, expecting some kind of low key DIY production where I'd spend half the time terrified about seeing someone getting legitimately hurt. I had no idea that we were getting people like Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, and AJ Styles to wrestle some legitimately talented local wrestlers. (Sidebar: I worked in marketing for a long time, so I have -a lot- of opinions about marketing materials, merchandise, social media promo, etc. but I cannot overemphasize how important your show posters and overall branding of your promotion can be).
I've met some amazing people through the local independent scene, some of which are some of my closest friends today. Though I sometimes still wish I knew a bit less about the insider details of it all, so I could enjoy just as a fan without knowing any of the politics behind the curtain, but that's maybe a story for another day.
Eventually, I started traveling for indie shows, especially GCW shows (that'll be a whole post of its own, I'm sure). Having worked in the music industry for years, I inevitably compare most things to music in some capacity, and wrestling is no exception. It's one thing to get to see Taylor Swift in front of 20,000 other people, but how incredibly special is it to get to say you saw her perform in front of hundreds of people? To get to see an artist grow and continue to reach their goals, while being there at the start cheering them on. How cool is that? To be able to say you saw them when.
If anything, I hope if you've never been to an indie show, this post has made you consider attending your first. I promise you, you won't regret it.