Why you should care
Because you’re way past “ready to rumble.”
A pair of alpha male bodybuilder types who fly around the ring like a pair of pint-sized Lucha Libre wrestlers. A menacing figure threatening to hug his opponents, as the crowd gleefully breaks into a “Ciampa’s Gonna Hug You!” chant. The tag team of Johnny Gargano and Chuck Taylor opting for the Backstreet Boys rather than some adrenaline-pumping entrance music. A woman wrestler, Candice LeRae, competing with men easily twice her size and absorbing just as much punishment as her counterparts. A fan who deposits a half-eaten Blow Pop from World’s Cutest Tag Team’s Joey Ryan into his mouth as the crowd chants “He’s Got Herpes.” This isn’t Vince McMahon’s version of sports entertainment; this is Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
“… like a speak-easy for pro wrestling, letting you into its little club for a few hours to watch people jump on each other.”
Founded by six wrestlers 11 years ago, the indie wrestling promotion housed in a small building in Reseda, California, has distinguished itself with a product that combines humor, talent and a focus on wrestling rather than the soap opera story lines made famous by McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. Eschewing the family-friendly focus of WWE, PWG is built for the adult wrestling fan. The crowds usually consist of several hundred bloodthirsty 18- to 40-year-olds jam-packed into the confines of the American Legion Post, which resembles a rundown Boys & Girls club more than an arena. And the atmosphere the fans create is just as important to PWG as the athletes in the ring.
“In a lot of ways, PWG is like a speak-easy for pro wrestling, letting you into its little club for a few hours to watch people jump on each other,” says Bill Hanstock, an editor for SB Nation who has been attending PWG shows for the past eight years. “If you’re an adult, you get a lot more bang for your buck than you do with a live WWE event. PWG makes pro wrestling fun, which is what it should be.”
Attending a PWG show is an immersive experience — fans are, quite literally, a part of the show. There is no guardrail separating the audience from the ring; which often results in the action spilling into the crowd. Commentator Excalibur wisely suggests to those in attendance before the show gets started, “If you see the action coming your way, move.” No matter your celebrity stature (Shaquille O’Neal and the cast of HBO’s True Blood have attended a PWG show or two) or gender, nobody is safe.
… a mere nibble of the delicious entrée of violence.
On this night, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is seated in the first row with her female collective known as the Four Horsewomen (modeled after Ric Flair’s infamous wrestling stable). The action literally spilled into Rousey’s lap during the first bout between Biff Busick and the madman known as Tommaso Ciampa. But rather than shy away from the carnage, Rousey not only embraced it, she got involved by delivering a chop to Busick’s chest. The news made headlines on TMZ and has only added to PWG’s budding stature.
Despite its growing notoriety, PWG still subscribes to a relatively archaic business model. It’s never traveled outside of the American Legion, and the only way to watch an event if you can’t be there live is to order a DVD released almost two months later. But the dated marketing scheme only adds to PWG’s allure.
What you see in the following video is a mere nibble of the delicious entrée of violence served at Untitled. Do yourself a favor: Buy the DVD, be amazed, and then find your way down to Reseda on Dec. 12 for their next show. You won’t regret it.