Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wrestling Returns to Richmond


A few months back, Timmy Danger approached me to come on my podcast to discuss a show “The Progressive Liberal” Daniel Richards and himself were setting up in Richmond. It would be in a brewery/bar setting and would mark the return of wrestling in Richmond. I’m no promoter or wrestler but talking to plenty of them over the last two years or so gave me an idea of just how difficult it is to put on your own show and get people to make it a part of their Friday night plans- especially with no track record to go off of. 

But the two worked hard on all the logistics: getting a venue, sponsors, wrestlers, vendors, a ring announcer and most importantly- a crowd. The two and referee Chris Sharpe (another Richmond local) appeared on various media outlets to hype it up and spread the word through social media. By Friday morning, tickets for the show were officially sold out and people were turned away at the door of The Hofheimer Building.

Heading into this I knew I would be making it down to Richmond (at rush hour on a Friday on Memorial Day weekend no less) and back in the same night which would equal four total hours of driving. After I talked in detail with the two on The Squared Circle Soundoff, I was more than hyped to do it, and after last night I would do it again in a heartbeat. Joining me would be Lupus Dei and Edward Dao of The Gated Community, in support of “The Champion of the 1 Percent” Logan Easton Laroux and Bobby Shields.

We got there fifteen minutes prior to belltime and the show was on the second floor of The Hof. The lovely Emma Lou would be handing out the wristbands, and I told her I look forward to seeing her make her Nova Pro debut opposite Jordan Blade in a few weeks. The two would have a memorable interaction later in the night.

Once we got settled with our ice-cold beverages (Allagash White for the win) you could sense the show would have an intimate feel and a unique look. The ceiling was very low, and the ring was a tad smaller and lower than your typical one. There was an opening in the middle of the room that had a window right above the ring. Pipes hanging from the ceiling would certainly play a part later in the night and affect how guys either avoided them or used them to their advantage. Let’s just say no one was hitting a shooting star press tonight.

Daniel and Chris appeared on the SCSO Episodes 82 and 82.5 to discuss the show at The Hof.

People were buzzing, and ring announcer/local personality Wonderland Chad would get on the mic to get the crowd even more amped. Eddie Diamond (another local guy and former OVW Heavyweight Champion) would kick things off with Bobby Shields. I talked with Shields on what it meant to open up a show that had such high hopes.

“It was amazing to not only set the tone for the event last night but to set the tone for the beginning of something amazingly special in Richmond.  The crowd, the atmosphere- it was a perfect storm of everything that’s great about pro wrestling.  Last night is the type of night why I do this, why I do the drives, and why I love independent professional wrestling.”

The two locked up and would go back and forth in a stellar matchup. Each time they took a bump, the ring seemed to have an added pop to it being in a small setting, and the crowd ate it up immediately. Diamond would score the win and set the tone for the Richmond fans. A six-man tag team match that included Noise Pollution and Jimmy Love versus Beau James, Mega Destroyer and Shawn Cruz would follow. James is Daniel Richards’ mentor.

I had the pleasure of meeting Maxx Morrison and congratulating him on his recent engagement to his fiancé. I’d ask him about his thoughts on their match and the night as a whole.

What we did last night was special. We packed a room in the heart of Richmond and gave them a show they’ll never forget. Pure awesome from top to bottom. For the crowd to be as hot as they were and every match felt big. Everything about that atmosphere felt right.”

Up next was Dejaun O’Neal vs Jason Kincaid in a bout Morrison considered to be contending for match of the night opposite Timmy Danger/Chris Silvio- and I’d definitely agree. O’Neal and Kincaid would go back and forth for a quite a while (apologies as I did not time matches) and capitalized on a crowd that appreciated everyone’s efforts. While each would have their impressive moments, Kincaid took advantage of the environment around him and leaped up to hang off a ceiling pipe and deliver a leg drop across the neck/back of O’Neal for the win.

Despite being on the losing end of his match versus Kincaid, O’Neal had plenty of positives to take away.

“That night was magic. Richmond set an atmosphere in which the energy was tangible. It’s rare to experience environments such as that one. As for my match, Jason Kincaid and I did battle, I learned a lot but I also proved that I can hold my own in the ring with one of the best in the world.”

A brief intermission would follow where the guys would sell merchandise, greet fans and give the high-energy crowd a chance to regroup, refuel and get ready for the latter part of the show. The crew kept the projected pace of two/two and-a-half hours on course.

I left to use the bathroom, and the hallway had to be a legitimate ten degrees cooler than the wrestling area. But sweating out this show was part of the charm in my opinion. At one point I was waiting to use one of the SIX unisex bathrooms that kept lines almost nonexistent (a gamechanger if there ever was one) and conversed with a well-dressed female who was coming down from the rooftop bar and looked like she'd never seen wrestling in her life.

"Enjoying the show?" I asked.

"I'm at the bar upstairs but this looks like way more fun. Are they doing this again?" she inquired.

I neither confirmed nor denied but she was one of  more than a few rooftop patrons who snuck glances from time to time at the show.

They never let matches drag on and filled time accordingly. Up next was Timmy Danger and Chris Silvio in a street fight, and as Maxx and I agreed earlier- it was definitely a show stealer.

These guys poured their heart and soul into this match and it all began with a hell of an entrance for Silvio. 

Danger and Silvio went to war, using a variety of ways to inflict punishment on each other. Danger had two henchmen and Neil Sharkey to give him an upper hand at times, and the two would use trays and ladders, the outside of the ring and everything in between on this night. Silvio wrestled like a madman, diving through the ropes and out of the ring and having no regard for his safety.

@TheChrisSilvio received a hell of an ovation from Richmond last night:

Danger would not go quiet in the night, as he would make Silvio pay with this nasty powerbomb onto the ladder:

Sharkey wouldn’t just get involved from the apron but he’d even find himself on the damn ladder itself, and he received a lesson in gravity from Silvio, who would finish off the match flying through the air with a pretty sweet elbow:

The two would eventually get to their feet and share a mutual respect until Danger booted Silvio in the gut- because, c’mon…it’s Timmy Danger. But the impression they left on the crowd was indelible. Chants of “THIS IS AWESOME!” and “FIGHT FOREVER!” permeated the Richmond night, and they delivered without letting it drag at any period. Silvio expressed his gratitude afterwards.

“It was an emotional evening last night. We definitely left our hearts in the ring. Danger was a warrior. I can’t wait for the next one,” he told me.

“I wanted to give the fans a night to remember and I felt we accomplished that,” said Danger.

Before we got to our Laroux/Richards main event, Emma Lou came out to present one lucky winner with a full-size poster of the show. It was a cool moment but interrupted by Jordan Blade. The two talented Richmond products had a little scuffle and Emma came out on top. Ref Chris Sharpe went to help up Blade, and she was having none of it, pushing him away and then slapping him hard across the face. Sharpe went into hell-raising badass mode and STUNNED her. The crowd went off for it, and it was a nice primer before we got to the battle right and left. Sharpe had a full night, refereeing every match in a room that was quite hot by being filled at capacity. I asked if the heat was an obstacle throughout the night for him.

“No, I loved it. It helps you work up a good sweat and I always put in work anyways.”
It was a big deal for the local native, and the night as a whole was not lost on him.

“After years of perfecting their craft in other states and all over the world, the Richmond boys wanted to come together for one night to give the friends and family of our hometown something to talk about-a night to remember. We sold out of tickets hours before the event began and what looks like it may have just been a one-off thing is now becoming Richmond's hottest thing. We've started something here now and we will be back.”

The main event kicked off when Logan Easton Laroux came out to face the ire of the capital of a blue state. He spoke the gospel of the Gated Community, the word of the wealthy, the preaching of the privileged…. but the crowd was NOT having it. Myself and Ed Dao raised our One Percent foam fingers proudly and the room turned on us, but we managed to elicit pretty impressive chants for being only two guys. I don’t ever look to make myself part of the show but I was just enjoying the moment.  

Now I will admit I don’t have as many videos or this match because I was doing a rare Facebook Live for most of it. If we’re friends on Facebook, you know where to find it. But Logan soaked in the boos and jeers, and Daniel used the adulation of the crowd to help propel him to victory. Logan’s aerial offense was nonexistent with the low-ceiling, so he used a resourceful moveset to give Richards’ agenda a run for its money. He was on the offensive for most of the match and even hit his trademark cutter at one point. He would test Chris Sharpe when he laid his hands on him, so Sharpe took Logan to the woodshop with a number of chops and a Ric Flair strut. Shortly after, Richards hit a chokeslam on Logan. Logan would try and fight back until this happened:

Needless to say, Laroux was none to pleased after the match and didn't mince words:

With the victory in hand, The Progressive Liberal grabbed the mic to thank the fans for a hell of a night:

 I’d follow up with Richards, and he was still basking in the feeling twelve hours later.

“Last night was a tribute. It was a tribute to our city and its culture. It was a tribute to the independent scene that existed here before and a toast to the future of pro wrestling here.”

Once the show ended, it was good to catch up with friends and let the room empty so we could actually breathe. Everyone was in good spirits. Some- like us- would begin the trek home, while others would go up to the rooftop and celebrate the night with drinks and merriment. I did not speak to a single person or see anything later on social media that reflected anything but positive thoughts/feelings about the show.

On this night, while the competitors would look to finish with the victory- wins wouldn’t matter as much as the effect it had on the fans and keeping them intrigued for their next return. The theatrics and athleticism of professional wrestling were the true victor, and the city would once again roar in appreciation following Richards’ post-match speech. After witnessing it firsthand, there’s no reason to believe they can’t do it again.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

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