MeekinOnMovies jobs to WCW, a tripod, an audio recorder, and a laptop.
One of the better ways to look like a bumbling fool is to trip over a replica of the WCW Hardcore Championship in front of Spike Dudley and The Full Blooded Italians. While the Fall River PAL is an awesome venue, The gorilla position area backstage is crowded with audio equipment, lighting rigs, TRP personnel, cables, and to the determent of my balance, the aforementioned replica of the WCW Hardcore Championship belt on the floor.
Not that the floor is a bad place for such a...bizarre item. Despite it’s treasured lineage - it’s the only championship in pro wrestling history to be held by Terry Funk, Lance Storm, and Eric Bischoff - I somehow doubt there’s a high demand for the illustrious title amongst fans.
So down I went, instinctively grabbing hold of the red velvet curtain that was there to separate the Dorothys and Totos of the audience from machinations of the great and powerful Wizards of Oz backstage. I saw the curtain collapsing from the unexpected ballast in slow-mo. Falling forward, it wafted over the audience like a blanket, confusing the elderly, delighting the kids, stopping the competitors in the ring in their tracks - in an instant I’d become most infamous figure in the history of TRP, including zonked-out Scott Hall. Man, WCW really ruins everything.
Thankfully the catastrophe was my overactive imagination acting up again, and while the curtain wavered under my weight, it stayed up-right. I turned back to see if anyone had noticed the narrowly avoided calamity I caused. Only one person made eye contact. Guest commissioner Spike Dudley - who shot me a glare the likes of which he probably hadn’t used since he taught 3rd grade. I half expected to be kept in from recess.
Heck, I only came down from my happy little perch in the Balcony to grab a tape. Naturally the first tape started running low right in the middle of Sarge’s big match, which is a problem - Cause the guys seemed afraid to hit him. Which is fine in theory. Sarge is 64 years old after all. But I needed the wide angle to make the match work (weak offense + wide angle = okay match) - as it stood I would be losing that angle for at least 45 seconds as I switched out tapes.
The match itself is a tag bout between Sarge, indie wrestler Jeff Star (who looks to be the real deal, btw), and TRP’s World Champion Biff Busick and his manager / partner “The Ladies Man” Gregory Edwards.
Biff and Edwards are my personal favorites (though I like pretty much everyone). Biff because he looks like the unholy love child of what would happen if Kane and Daniel Bryan ever had a baby - and he does a nasty top rope neck breaker I’ve taken to calling the Biff Blockbuster. Edwards is great because he’s a dick who loves to piss off the crowd - and you can tell he loves every second of it, too. He’ll call out folks in the audience, rile them up, and generally be a grade-A tool bag in the way the best heels in the biz typically are. They occasionally do the whole Mr. Fuji powder thing, and it’s nice to see someone is keeping the classics alive. Plus they don’t really seem to like hitting Sargent Slaughter, so you know they’re probably nice guys, to boot.
It’s kind of a testament to the talent of Sarge, Jeff, Biff, and Edwards that they can all have a match that really excites the crowd despite Sarge’s supposed limitations. The crowd was hot, the action was exciting, and once you add the commentary in, it’d make for some really exciting television.
Oh yeah.... The commentary. There won’t be much of that. The way TRP records commentary is into a Tascam / Zoom that’s typically used for dual system audio on movie sets. You plug a Mic into it, and then the commentators share the mic. I’ve used one....twice in my life. Once during an interview with Vidal Sassoon and once during this video of me complaining about the CGI-ization of the beloved Thomas The Tank Engine. The audio was met with mixed results. So when the commentator for TRP found me during the first match of the night - which was a strong style bout between the members of The Whaling City Wrecking Crew - I was a little bummed.
I shimmied past the people in the balcony, down the narrow steps, across the Gorilla position curtain, and was greeted with the Tascam Zoom. This was my Slumdog Millionaire moment. I could prove myself a capable production person to this commentator, save the show, and be welcome with open arms into the world of independent pro-wrestling after literally hours of trying.
And I sorta fucked it up. A note to aspiring filmmakers. Always. Check. Levels. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. It was dark and I missed the mic input button, so the first...half of the show is likely without commentary - a fact I didn’t figure out until the intermission *after* Sarge’s big match.
Now would probably be a good time to pause and explain that I actually enjoy doing this sort of thing very much, and am not an incompetent buffoon despite what my writing may suggest. Unfortunately, with wrestling shows being as chaotic as they are - especially indie pro-wrestling shows, the production people are largely an afterthought and have to fly by the seat of their pants. There are simply more important things to do.
It’s also worth noting I am doing this for free. While I was told I would see some of the proceeds from the DVD sales, any money coming my way would rightfully be split three ways. So if you sell 20 DVDs at 10 dollars a piece, split that 50/50 with TRP, the remaining 100 dollars then needs to be split 3 ways, giving everyone a cool 33 dollars for their time and effort. Safe to say, I’m not in it for the money.
Anyway, the commentary...hiccup meant for the second show in a row I’d be turning in a less-than-optimal product. It eventually was rectified in time for the second half the show - including a super hot 6-man tag team bout between the FBI and some guy under a hood, and the tag champs; the Alden Brothers and their partner “The Devil’s Reject” who wears a gas-mask out to the ring and sort of looks like what would happen if Bane got heavy into ICP as a teen. The kids love him.
At the first show I was at, there was a 12 year old kid sitting next to me who was hamming it up the entire show. He’d call out “woos!” during chops, kept (repeatedly) shouting that if “The Ladies Man” likes Biff Busick so much they should kiss, and so on. He really brought an energy to the show and it was cool to see someone mark out in such an innocent(?) way. After every match though, he kept asking me if “The Devil’s Reject” would be coming back out to sign autographs and sell more merch. I told the kid I didn’t know. For some reason I felt compelled to help the kid out, and went looking for the guy backstage, but since he wore face paint it was kind of futile quest.
Wrestling actually needs more of that little kid then you would think. In a figurative sense. While most fans are cynical and largely sick of the kind of muddled and inconsequential bullshit we’re feed weekly by the WWE and the like, there was a time in practically all our lives when we’d mark out for anything. And a boisterous wide-eyed kid yelling at wrestlers he hates has the kind of kinetic energy you can’t buy, or edit, or post-produce into existence.
Which brings me to the sweet spot. The sweet spot can occur in a variety of media. For example during “The Avengers” when Captain America points to The Incredible Hulk, says “Hulk...” then pauses, the audience my theater collectively uttered “Smash” in unison, so caught up in the awesome action we were of a sharing a single brain. These things happen during concerts, sporting events, and of course in professional wrestling.
In a pro-wrestling context, the sweet spot will pop the crowd and keep them engaged throughout a sequence. My personal favorite example of this is the last...10 minutes of the Wrestlemania 15 main event. With the Stunner kick out, Vince hammering Austin, Foley running out, and Austin winning the title back from Rock. The crowd was at a fever pitch for the entirety of that sequence of events, caught between the knowledge the match would soon be ending - and not wanting it too. Kind of like quality love-making.
While I don’t know if Vinny Marseglia (Vinny from now on) is a quality love-maker, I do know he’s excellent at finding the pro-wrestling sweet spot. I don’t know if this is because he’s the most over, or because he brings the most friends to shows, but It seems everyone knows the guy, and when he comes out to the ring he gets the kind of pop that is typically reserved for Jeff Hardy is taking his shirt off. He’s also kind of a lunatic; doing an insane springboard somersault plancha to the outside during the previous show, as well as taking a pretty innovative backdrop onto the ring apron too - both sending the crowd into a fancy.
After getting the tape situation...situated and fixing the commentary during intermission, I actually got a chance to be a fan for a good majority of the second half the show, and got a chance to chat with the wrestler who trained Vinny (who also happened to be the guy who picked up the first DVD), Ryan. He was shooting with a little flip cam from roughly the same angle I was.
Then it happened. Something I’d never seen before in a match. Vinny, on the top rope, was pulled off by his leg, and his opponent turned it into a back breaker. While the crowd’s pop on tape isn’t nearly as loud as it sounded in the arena (though my high-pithced “OHHHH” made it through loud and clear), it was one of the most innovative things I’d ever seen in a match, and the look on Ryan’s face was a combination of proud mentor and marking out fanboy geek. Vinny, was for real.
This moment of exuberance was tempered a tad once I realized I should probably be keeping tabs on my camera men, and didn’t see George - the long haired, Metallica loving, wrestling fan who’d never operated a camera before. Eddie was...directly opposite my camera angle, so I hoped he nailed the shot, I wouldn’t know until days later.
Eventually the show ended after another stellar contest involving Vinny and a member of the Whaling City Wrecking Crew in the finals of the tournament, where a suicide dive by the 350 pound strong-style grappler popped the crowd into a “Holy Shit” chant that I intend to use in the promo video for the DVD that I intend to set to “I Can Tell We’re Gonna Be Friends” by the White Stripes. Vinny gave an emotional promo, thanking Ryan, the fans, his family TRP in general...and then the announcer came on and said Vinny would be doing photos in the ring for 10 dollars to commemorate this historic occasion.
Gotta love indie wrestling.
We broke down the cameras, collected the footage, and prepared ourselves for the two hours it would take to transfer Eddie’s awesome footage to Top Rope’s hard drive. It was an awesome show, and one I looked forward to watching again (and again, and again, and again thanks to the wonders of non-linear editing).
“Did you bring a laptop?” Eddie asked me. It was my turn to answer in the negatory.
“No....” I responded.
“Well, you can always come to set tomorrow and get the footage there” Eddie said, referring to a commitment to a small independent film I committed to helping out on earlier in the day.
“Where’s the set?” I asked.
“Oh, just Pawtucket Rhode Island”
Welp, they never said the business would be easy.
In Part III: post-mortem cigars, slatuting Sarge, a rainy day in a winnebago, absent minded promoters,