It had been a while since I attended a WWE show. At least a year. In that time I’ve attended a number of independent shows around town, extolling their virtues and hailing them as a better alternative to the corporate machine that is World Wrestling Entertainment. After attending Friday night’s Pro Wrestling Freedom show at the Jeffersonville Arena just a few weeks after seeing Smackdown Live, I can’t believe how blind I was. The WWE offers so much that independent wrestling shows just can’t deliver, there’s simply no comparison.
First of all most independents don’t offer you the chance to pay for admission by credit card. Pro Wrestling Freedom is one of many cash only promotions in town. If you want to get in, you have to go to the bank and get $15 cash from the machine for a general admission seat. It was so much easier and more convenient to go online and use my credit card to pay the $35 (plus $30 Ticketmaster fees) to get my upper arena seat for WWE.
Second, the independent show does not have a large staff of arena workers to sell $35 T-shirts and posters pre-signed by a select WWE Superstar. Do you know what they have instead? Actual wrestlers working the tables, selling their own woefully underpriced $20 T-shirts, along with wristbands, mugs, posters, photos, and even (in the case of The Bomb Shelter) energy drinks. Wrestlers like Tyler Matrix and Brutal Bob Evans were also signing autographs in person and even taking photos with their fans, all because the Arena and/or the promoter was too cheap to hire event staff.
That’s another thing you won’t find at an independent show. There’s no separation between “us” and “them.” At WWE Smackdown, the wrestlers (other than The Miz) hardly acknowledged anyone in the audience, and those who did only made eye contact with the front row. They did their business for the cameras and went back up the ramp, not to be seen again.
At Pro Wrestling Freedom it was pure pandemonium at times. Not only were wrestlers yelling at fans and fans at wrestlers, the action spilled out into the fans on several occasions. A stern announcer would occasionally get on the microphone and warn fans, “If the action is coming your way, grab your stuff and move!” sending fans scrambling around the Arena in search of safety.
This brings me to another thing missing from Pro Wrestling Freedom. There were no fans on their phones. There was no online chatter about the matches. More telling, there was no second guessing of promoter Jimmy Feltcher’s booking choices, wondering why this guy gets pushed over that guy and lamenting how much better things used to be. Instead of being good smart marks, who viewed everything they saw with a eye of a theater critic, they actually engaged with the wrestlers and the show as if it were a legitimate sporting competition.
Honestly, didn’t anyone in attendance Friday night know that everything that happened was pre-planned in the back? Did any of them realize that this was not real? It was just… entertainment?
All kidding aside, Pro Wrestling Freedom was entertainment. I can say the same for IWA Mid-South, for OVW, for Grindhouse, for Paradigm Pro Wrestling, and all the independent promotions in the Louisville area and beyond. Yes, these shows are “lacking” in the ways mentioned above, and to be honest, they are better for it.
Wrestling is alive and well. The more indy shows I attend, the more I appreciate the hard work of the men and women keeping it alive. It’s much more fun to go to a show where you’ll never hear a “Roman sucks” chant and where the wrestlers play to the crowd and not the viewers at home. And oh yes, it is a LOT cheaper to buy a ticket and support a wrestler directly by buying a shirt, a wristband, or even in my case, a mug. (Thank you for the stickers too, Nick Iggy!)
Pro Wrestling Freedom lacked nothing that the fans at the Arena were missing save one thing. Air conditioning. Let’s hope 2 Tuff Tony wasn’t working the crowd when he promised the “guy” is coming Monday.