As of late the "new school" and "old school" of wrestling have had a few disagreements on some issues. The younger audience, and by younger I not only refer to age but also those who have not enjoyed pro wrestling for long, sees the WWF and WCW the way it is now and assumes that is what its all about. Contrary to that belief there was once a totally different wrestling world. Unfortunately, those days of wrestling are almost completely gone and all we have are the memories. However, I recently discovered a small wrestling organization that puts on shows with great respect and reverence to the traditional wrestling.
For once, I'm not going to point out the problems with the major organizations of today but instead try to enlighten those who may not understand why the "old school" of wrestling is so special to us. So join me if you will at the Friday night matches of the local edition of the famous NWA.
As we pull into the parking lot you wonder where the matches will be held. There is no large auditorium capable of seating multiple thousands of fans. There are no limos transporting the combatants to the exhibition. Instead we see a small banner hanging over a steel door that reads "Pro Wrestling Every Friday." We walk to the door and you notice the high tech virtual reality "video game" and indoor go-cart track that operates next door. You silently wonder if perhaps that might be the better choice for tonight's entertainment. We reach the huge steel door that has a flyer duct taped to the outside, it reads: "adult admission $10, children $5 Matches start at eight and door opens at 7:00."
With a deep breath you reach for the handle and pull on the door but it doesn't open. It seems as though we have about ten minutes before seven. Suddenly, the door bursts open and a small man on the other side apologetically explains the door just sticks sometimes. We return a polite smile as he gestures for us to enter. A small cash register is set on a folding table to the left as we enter. An older woman, possibly the doorman's wife, welcomes us and states that it will be ten dollars for each of us..that is unless we have a coupon. Sorry guys, I used my last coupon last week so we're paying full price tonight. Just remind me later not to throw my drink cup away. See the coupon is printed on the cup. We can use it next time.
Since this was my idea, its my treat. I open my wallet and and give the lady a fifty. She frowns slightly and asks if I have anything smaller. She doesnt have much change. Sadly, that is the smallest bill I have but to help her out I offer to buy two programs for tonights matches. She thanks me and announces my new grand total, twenty five dollars. I hand you your ticket and program as begin towards the security guard who doubles as the ticket taker. I hand him my ticket and as he tears it he reminds he to keep my stub because they have a drawing later. You repeat the process and shove your ticket stub into your front pocket.
The ring is lit brightly in the small building. Folding chairs surround the squared circle which is lacking the security railing that is forever present at the other wrestling shows. We are the first to arrive with the exception of an older couple sitting ringside. He is attempting to drink his beer without spilling it and she mulls over her program from her wheelchair as she turns up her oxygen bottle. I guide you to the opposite side of the room where we get two ringside seats on the aisle the wrestlers enter from. We have some time before the games begin so we both thumb through our programs. Its a four page novel. It highlights the wrestlers that appear regularly and the titles they hold. It seems as though the Texas Heavyweight Champion, Brian Adidas will be defending his belt tonight. Within five minutes or so the program has lost its reading enjoyment instead being much more useful as a makeshift fan. The air conditioning in this old building is definitely not state of the art. The heat soon becomes a major irritation and the lights to the snack bar beacon. I ask you to stay there and save our seats so I can go get us something to drink. I soon return proudly announcing that I purchased us both super large jumbo drinks that not only have the aforementioned coupon printed on them but an added bonus of a raffle number that gives us a chance to win season passes to the matches. We sip our drinks and ponder what exactly classifies seasons in wrestling to no intelligent conclusion. The place soon starts to fill up with people from all walks of life. Every age, man, woman and child. Business suits to T-shirts. Each taking their rightful place in the folding chairs. One guy offers to buy us a beer if we let him have our seats. That proposal quickly negated we settle back into the comfort of steel against our backsides and prepare for the first match.
The older woman that sold us our tickets places a rather large portable stereo system beside her cash register. She pushes the play button and music fills the room. Fans rush to the ring. You then give me a questioning look. I explain they just want autographs as the wrestler makes his entrance. Cheers fill the room. Fans crowd around their hero as he makes his way to the ring all the while doing his best to sign as many programs as he can. He finally makes it into the safety of the ring and the fans take their seats. The ticket lady stops that song and starts another. The bad guy appears. A chorus of boos and hisses now over shadow the entrance theme of the other contestant. There is one youngster attempting to get at autograph but only gets his program ripped up and thrown into his tearing face. The crowd is livid. Cups now fly in his direction splattering him with the soft drink or beer of choice. (hey...what about the coupons?) He leers back at the crowd. Instead of entering the ring he walks around the outside heckling the front row fans. He doesn't quite make it to us before he slides onto the canvas to do battle.
There is no announcements but from a distance a bell rings and the two wrestlers charge each other. The fighting is furious. Body slams, head butts, drop kicks, etc. until finally the bad guy gets tired and throws our hero to the ground. The referee begins his count. 1-2-3-4. Our hero shakes off the pain and stands to re-enter the ring. The bad guy has other plans though and dives through the ropes knocking him into the fans. A few fans scream into the face of the bad guy as he grabs the hair of his victim. He then sets him up for a pile driver on the concrete floor. Surely our hero will counter this move, right? OUCH! Guess not. The evil one celebrates and just missing the twenty count gets back into the ring. The seemingly slain hero lays bloody on the floor. BUT WAIT! The old lady in the wheel chair with the oxygen decides he needs the extra air more than she does and places her oxygen mask on her favorite. He springs to life and jumps back into the ring subsequently defeating his opponent with a small package rollup pin.
The bad guy leaves the ring quietly as the cheers for the victor reign out. A special hug for the oxygen lady and he disappears as well. The next match is soon to begin.
The rest of the night goes as the first match. Some blood, alot of butt kicking and some serious fan participation. Everyone got their autographs and Brian retained his Texas title. The matches have ended and the house lights come on. The doorman then stands on the table announcing he is ready for the drawing. Tonight's prize is you get to pick any match you want to see and it will be held within two weeks. A guy in a business suit wins it and goes to claim his prize. When asked what kind of match he wants, without much thought, he proclaims he would like to see a Battle Royal Texas Death Match in a steel cage. The crowd goes wild as the main event for two weeks from tonight will be that match with all the wrestlers participating. As we exit the building and walk to our car we notice the wrestlers getting in their vehicles as well.
From the broken down old pick up truck to the Hippie style VW van they all wave to the fans as they drive off. We get to the car but suddenly you stop. "Wait, I have forgot something..." you turn and run back into the building. A few minutes later you return with a handful of discarded drinking cups. " We almost forgot the coupons" you exclaim as the ring lights fade on what will be the first of many Friday Night Matches.
Joseph Holt is a freelance writer in the Ft. Worth Texas area and a regular contributor to Solie's. His own web site, called Double Xposure, is located at: http://members.aol.com/Holt70/page/index.htm and features his articles on subjects besides pro-wrestling.