Back in May of this year, there was a brief panic when all of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla‘s Social Media changed over to Bar Wrestling. Many feared the worst, that PWG had folded or been re-branded. But as it turned out, it was because PWG co-founder and former owner Joey Ryan was starting his own promotion, called Bar Wrestling, and still had control of the old accounts. PWG resumed life as normal, and on June 8, Bar Wrestling launched it’s first event in Baldwin Park, California.
Since then, Bar Wrestling has produced monthly live events, at the same location of the American Legion Post #241, with all-star cards of some of the North American indie circuits top performers, male and female, with their fifth event, This Is Halloween, running tonight. After a couple weeks, you can watch their events on several platforms, including the Highspots Network or their own Pivotshare. It’s a small promotion with big matches, and it’s greatest strength is the simplicity of it’s product. Sometimes in life, less is more. And in Bar Wrestling, they do more with less.
For starters, there’s no fancy pyro, no backstage vignettes, no shots of the commentators. You just get the matches, live as they were, from the intimate setting of the American Legion hall. The fans are more lively and compact than that of PWG, like a hybrid of the rabid UK fans with the smarter US indie enthusiast. The production is remarkably lo-fi, so as not to overwhelm – they let the matches themselves do that. And boy do they deliver.
The very first Bar Wrestling event kicked off with Lucha Underground stars Brian Cage against Penta El 0M (formerly Pentagon Jr./Dark), setting the stage that this company doesn’t mess around with kickoff matches – more like kick the door down matches. With a complete lack of storyline – at least storylines that evolve past the the confines of the matches length – makes Bar Wrestling feel like your small local indie. It also makes it wonderfully accessible for the casual fan to join in. You don’t have to see them all or know the backstory of what’s happening. What you see is what’s happening. And what’s happening is sheer wrestling entertainment.
The roster so far has had a core of some huge noticeable names, lead by The King of Dong Style himself, Joey Ryan. Regular performers include Brian Cage, Jeff Cobb, Ethan Carter III, Peter Avalon, Taya Valkyrie, Willie Mack, Luchasaurus, Shotzi Blackheart, Eli Drake, and Dolph Ziggler‘s younger brother, Hot Young Briley (former NXT Superstar Briley Pierce). Two of Ryan’s special ladies, his wife Laura James and his tag team partner Candice LeRae in The World’s Cutest Tag Team, are also regulars. Special guests have included the likes of Cody Rhodes, Kikutaru, Tommy Dreamer, Matt Cross, Amazing Kong, X-Pac and Tessa Blanchard. And with regular complaints of PPVs or television shows running too long, Bar Wrestling events are short and sweet – they’re usually over in under two hours, thank to the lack of special effects and advertising.
Bar Wrestling has a freshness in it’s product that is actually a throwback to the innocent joy one got at their local indie shows. You were just in sheer excitement watching every move and nuance, every match feeling like it’s own independent story in an anthology, rather than a chapter of the same book. It’s the best of everything one could love about professional wrestling – it has high flyers and technical prowess, strength and grace, and a little bit of comedy. Okay, who are we kidding, this is Joey Ryan’s promotion. There’s a lot of comedy. But it’s the kind of comedy that is natural and inspired, by the audience and the wrestler’s responses, rather than the kind pre-scripted by a room not in touch with the audience before them.
Bar Wrestling couldn’t be a better name for the company. It’s literally wrestling. In a bar. But it’s more than that. It feels like a bunch of friends who have all worked together, getting together and having fun again, like they did when they first started. No pressure of angles or impending storyline implications. No pressure of big money advertisers or investors or Creative Control or censor board. No pressure of anything but winning over the hearts of the couple hundred people in attendance.
And that’s what makes Bar Wrestling fun. Because they keep it simple. And it’s beautiful.