The Innards: When 200 people can sound like 20,000

Saturday night in Springfield, Mass

Eastfield Mall – Food Court

Pioneer Valley Pro Wrestling is setting up for its 4th-anniversary show, and a line full of people are waiting in line to sit down. This is professional wrestling every bit as a WWE event in the Staples Center. There are some differences, but there is a level of access and intimacy that is unrivaled. There is no giant LED screen, no pyro, but you can talk to performers, many of them are local products.

Wrestling is seeing an accelerated level of success, and while many just see the top end of that, it does trickle down and feed the appetite for wrestling in various places around the country. In the northeast, we’ve got numerous promotions, some have been around for only a couple years, like PVP, and some for over two decades, like Northeast Wrestling. Beyond Wrestling, founded in 2009, has put on shows in armories, small music venues, and just announced this summer, their biggest show of the year “Americanrana,” will be held at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Across the country, various promotions are growing and making venues work for them. Freelance Wrestling in Chicago uses music venues. NYWC, out of NYC, does a number of shows out of a basement of a church. The National Pro Wrestling League, out of Petaluma, CA worked out of a veterans hall. Wrestling doesn’t need arenas, or even stadiums, it just needs a ring, some wrestlers, and fans that care.

Pioneer Valley Pro Wrestling @ Eastfield Mall in Springfield, MA

Back in Eastfield, about 200 people have arrived for the PVP show, and there are various matches and even a dispute over who the next commissioner of the promotion will be. A wrestler named AJ Cruise, who’s been wrestling in Massachusetts for about 12 years, announces his next match will be his last. The crowd doesn’t like it, but he says he’s done things his way, as a “413 Guy”, and he’s happy with what he’s done and thanks the crowd. There are names here you might know, independent standouts like”The Dirty Daddy” Chris Dickinson, Davienne, who is the current PVP Interim Women’s Champion, or up and comer Nico Silva. The main event of the evening is between “Mr. 52” Dexter Loux and PVP Champion “Big Bacon” Brad Hollister and Bacon is met with a near standing ovation, who also has a number of really creative T-shirts for sale at a nearby table.

There are kids, teenagers, folks of all ages. There is a couple I see at NEW shows who travel around and go to shows because that is their night out, there are people who are friends of the performers in the ring who show up to support their teacher or their trainer at the gym (a good chunk of independent wrestlers have normal day jobs). Wrestlers come out during intermission to sell t-shirts, pictures, and chat with the fans…when was the last time you want to a baseball game, WWE show, or any sort of sporting or entertainment event and met the performers before, during, and after the show?

So get out there, track down your local promotion and from anywhere from $5 to $30, you can get a solid 3-hour show. Get caught up in some really good wrestling and great characters, buy a t-shirt or headshot (this is a great way to support a wrestler you may like as they pay for their own travel and merch), or just get a fist bump and say “thanks” for them putting a show on.