Wednesday, April 7, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Indies an important part of wrestling
The best match I've ever seen didn't take place on live national television in front of millions of viewers. It wasn't a main event of a big pay-per-view that cost 30 dollars. In fact, the best match I have ever seen, you've probably never heard of.
Unless you were one of the 500 or so people who witnessed the now defunct Different Wrestling Federation's Cruel Challenge in February of 1997 on the PSU campus in State College, Pennsylvania, you haven't had a chance to see 2 men who are likely to be future superstars wrestle. I was lucky; I was there live.
You probably haven't heard of The Perfect Creation or "Madman" Jeff Roth. However, those lucky enough to be in attendance witnessed two young men give everything they had in a violent, incredible no holds barred match. These two men wrestled for 25 minutes, combining high-flying, technical wrestling and excellent psychology with weapons and bumps that would make Mick Foley proud. The reason these two 22-year -olds put their bodies at risk was simply because they love the sport. They weren't paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to be there, they did it because they wanted too. That kind of love and respect isn't seen much in the big two, but it exists on Independent shows like this one. The "Indies" are the breeding ground for the future. Although not as high profile as they were two decades ago, Indy feds are everywhere.
Indy feds are usually made up of young people just starting in the sport, and veterans who are no longer in the spotlight of the WWF or WCW, or never quite got that far. These guys are making maybe 50 to one hundred dollars to be in a small bar or gym, wrestling not for money, but because they love the sport. They go out there to put on a show, and have that thrill of having people cheering, or booing for you.
I wish I had gone to the old Canadian Rocky Mountain Wrestling Federation shows that ran regularly in Calgary following Stampede Wrestling closing. In that tiny little community center, two men began their careers. Chris Jericho and Lance Storm. I wish I would have taken advantage of the opportunity to see them before they hit "big time." Calgary alone was the starting ground for so many wrestlers that are now superstars. You know who they are. I'd love to say that I saw Chris Benoit when he was starting, being able to see even back then the potential he had. Unfortunately, I let that opportunity slip through my fingers.
Now Stampede Wrestling is back, with a card that was actually quite enjoyable on April 2nd. The thing that sticks out most in my mind is three of the participants that night. The first, "Hot Shot" Johnny Devine had great charisma and some nice moves, while Greg "Pistol" Pauluk and "Dirty" Dick Raines put on the match of the night. These three guys all are potential superstars and it was great to get to see them in a small, cozy arena like the Stampede Pavilion. The atmosphere that night was electric and seeing a card mostly made up of guys in their twenties, wrestling for the love of doing so, made the card that much more enjoyable.
Recently, I've had the opportunity to see a young Third Generation wrestler work on the Independent Circuit. I've known Teddy Hart for years, and watched him mature from a kid in his grandfather's backyard into a extremely talented wrestler. Recently wrestling for the Can-Am Wrestling Federation, his in ring skills are absolutely incredible to watch. He has the technical skills of his uncles, and the flight ability of Rey Misterio Jr. and Billy Kidman. He signed a contract with the WWF last year, and is training with them to make his debut in the future. Seeing someone when they are small, when they aren't yet larger then life, giving it their all not because they are getting paid to, but because they want to. That is what wrestling really is about.
So when you find out that a fed that you've never heard of is coming to your city or town, go check it out. They are usually relatively inexpensive, and who knows, you might get hooked. You might see the match that sticks in your mind forever as "the best." Sometime in the future, you may be able to say, "I saw him wrestle in a community center in front of three-hundred people. Now look at him, he's a world champion."
Jason Clevett is from Calgary, Alberta, and can be emailed at email@example.com.