Professional wrestling has been somewhat of a boomerang hobby in my life. While I was a big fan in my early teens, I've just started to get back into it with the help of a couple of message boards online. While I'm far from calling myself a connoisseur, I am finding that there are few things funnier than watching an episode of WWE RAW with an IRC channel full of disgruntled fans. Each episode and pay-per-view becomes an extended episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, with routine calling-outs of bullshit moves and horrible booking decisions. In typical Internet faction, rumours are discussed heavily, wrestlers are insulted and everyone yearns for that magical night when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson might grace us with his magical presense.
However, attending a live show wasn't on my list of things to do. Part of the fun of watching an event on TV was hearing the sometimes-inane chatter of the announcers. Taking a shot every time the much-reviled Michael Cole proclaimed a move as "Vintage (insert wrestler here)" became a hilarious pastime. That changed this past weekend, when I went to see indie promotion Ring of Honor's "Death by Dishonor VIII" pay-per-view here in Toronto.
I was kind of unsure of what to expect going into it. Twenty of my dollars had gone towards the ticket, so the monetary investment was nothing to scoff at. However, I had a blast both with the wrestling and observing this new nerd ecosystem that was on display before me. Independent fans tend to be "smart", or wise to the wrestling charade; this led to some interesting gear shifts when one minute fans would be bashing a performer for his ability to sell attacks, while the next they would be suspending disbelief in order to cheer him on.
It's a polarity issue: imagine if comic books or TV shows were predictable until the last five minutes. You wouldn't know the whole story, but you would have a good idea of what was coming. The good guys would fight the bad guys, a twist would happen, momentum would shift, and then the big finish. However, that predictability almost works to the wrestlers advantage: if they can figure out what the audience might be predicting, they can work in something unexpected.
Again, over-analysis aside, I had a great time (partly due to accompaniment by the amazing Meryle Trouble) and came away with some tips that could help those who aren't sure what to expect from their first indie show.
I will warn you right now: you will not have any fun if you are concerned about your dignity. Regardless of whether you know any of the wrestlers performing, it is encouraged to get into their chants, regardless of your allegiance to the "good" or "bad" guys. When all else fails, cheer for whoever looks cool. A good quote to describe this would be "you bought a ticket, you can cheer for whoever you like."
Seems like a no-brainer, right? I learned this the hard way after we got seats right in front of the only way in and out of the behind-the-boards seating and the rink floor. People were passing by us constantly, and leaving the door open behind them. Annoying, to say the least, but fixable with mountains of patience.
A good seat will both have a nice view of the ring but won't be too low to see fighting if it spills outside. If you're feeling adventurous and want a little more interaction with the show, sit as close as you can: from throwing streamers during wrestler's entrances to passing a hubcap you brought yourself to a wrestler during a hardcore match, a closer seat can be an exhilarating experience.
Props to those guys who brought the hubcap, by the way.
The arena was a sweatbox during the event, and really, I'm not sure if a different venue would change that. On top of the wrestlers doing their thing, you have a couple hundred to over a thousand people cheering, jumping around, reacting and travelling through different lanes of foot traffic. A couple of people had the good idea of bringing hand fans, which stifled the heat a bit. Do the same, or be prepared to pay high prices for cold drinks or beer.
While you might have already spent some cash getting in, it's important to remember that independent companies thrive on DVD and merch sales. Like any good band, these revenue streams are a great way to show support, and frankly, tend to be worth the money they're charging. If companies like ROH put out a crappy product, their fans would call them on it: they have nothing to gain from "gaming" the fans out of their cash, so their DVDs are actually quite good. I dropped $15 on a "Best of" DVD and haven't regretted it yet.
Anyways, that's all I have for you. Hopefully this was helpful; if you decide to go, enjoy yourself, and don't be on the receiving end of a Brainbustaaaaahhhhh!!!!!
Yes, that was spelled correctly.