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The adventures of an independent promoter in this strange, strange world

Jon Osterdahl
724   //    08 Nov 2017, 13:57 IST

The independent circuit has its charms
The independent circuit has its charms

In 2017, we live in a world of heightened tension, unpredictability, fear of what we may not understand, and constant revolving doors of technological advancements. And I'm just talking about the world of professional wrestling.

For most out there, professional wrestling is in a proverbial corner all by itself. A loner. A weirdo. It's not real. "I used to watch it when I was 7".

Well, to those who say that — I ask you to join me. Suspend your disbelief and become a kid again. You may find out more about yourself than you ever thought you could. Sit in that front row seat, clap your hands, shout your lungs out, laugh, cry, hold up a sign expressing your feelings. And when you look around, you'll soon find out, you're the farthest thing from a loner.

I've was taken into the crazy world of professional wrestling when I was 6 years old, thanks to my older brother. I was fascinated by the toys being much more realistic than that of a Marvel action figure. I would immediately get obsessed with their television shows, with the rocking beats of theme music and larger than life characters.

I would also make it a habit of reading every magazine I could while my mom shopped at the grocery store. (Sorry to those who always would have to put them back after I carelessly tossed them behind the canned beets.)

It had the perfect amount of colour, characterization, and story arch that would hook any kid, no matter how silly it may have seemed. To the kid I was, I say thanks for sticking with it. It's created some of the most unforgettable memories; and as of today, created a new walk of life for myself.

Fast forward to 2011, I found myself in college, not really enjoying what I was studying. Early Childhood Education, great for some — but for me, someone who doesn't like dealing with other people kids, it didn't fit. I moved on to promotions, business, and marketing. Needless to say, it was the correct choice.

That year, I was dating a girl who was a singer. I came across a picture of her singing inside of a wrestling ring. Coming from a rural, western New York town, I knew that's something that is not seen every day. I inquired and found out that there was a promotion not too far from my hometown, so I spoke with the promoter and started to "pay my dues".

I would help set up the ring, line up chairs, contact sponsors, be an errand boy overall. At the end of each of these days, I would collect nothing more than experience and maybe, if I was lucky, a burger at Denny's.


Though, sooner than most, my dues would start to pay off. I would be offered a "spot" on the show. Now, seeing as I wasn't formally trained by... well anyone, I wasn't about to start throwing dropkicks or jumping off the top rope. I would become a figurehead, a manager, a character. I would be known for more talking than action.

But that was okay because I was still out in front of a crowd. Hearing boos or cheers told me that I was doing exactly what was expected of me. I was delivering a performance, just like the ones that I would watch when I was younger (on a much smaller scale of course). It didn't matter the size of the audience, as many of the guys backstage would tell you.

Even if it was 50 people, they would still perform at their best. I would meet some of the greatest people in this time frame. The types of personalities you don't get to come across every day. They may portray big and bad guys in the ring, but outside of it, they are the nicest, most professional and outstanding humans around (some at least). This chance allowed me to get my feet wet in a business that is, almost, in reality unreachable.

But hey, we're talking small town, independent stuff. For most guys, they were glad to take a twenty dollar bill and be promised a booking for next time. Now, most people would call this stuff crazy. Getting in the ring and beating yourself up for no more than $20 and a handshake.

Crazy? Yes, absolutely! But what the guys in the ring would tell you it's all worth it. When it came down to it, it's not about the money, it's about the love for what you're doing. You're performing.

For many years, wrestlers have compared wrestling to being in a band or being a stock car racer. One may put all of their earnings from the prior week into a hobby, (or travelling to that said hobby) only to come away with experience and far less money than they originally left with. It's not really about the destination at this point, it's more about the journey.

Fast forward to 2016. I had cut ties with the promoter I had met in 2011 and in the spring of '16, partnered up with a fellow fan and promoter and began our very own promotion. Southern Tier Wrestling was born. Setting the scene in Jamestown, NY — which is really a small city when it comes down to it, but a city that is growing by the day. We wanted to be on the grown floor of this growing city, even if we're just a small part.

You see, people in Jamestown love their entertainment. If it's not a movie at the local theatre, it's a live performance down at the Reg Lenna. There's not a night that goes by that there isn't some indy band playing at one of the local bars. This was a perfect time to jump on that entertainment wagon. Jamestown loves their 1980s style of wrestling.

Good guys and bad guys. Characters that kids and parents can both cheer and boo together. In an essence, a family event. And as of this moment, we're trying out hardest to put on more and more events for this community.

Creating character for fellow performers, writing shows, taking others creativity into consideration, watching them put your thoughts into action is the most rewarding feeling. The only thing that tops it is after the show when an audience member tells you what a wonderful time they had; or hearing the guys in the back talk about what a great crowd it was. These are the things that make all the hard work worth it. Again, it's about the journey, not the destination.

Crazy, weird, eccentric, yes. But alone, no. You're never alone in your passions.

Everyone in this world has their passions, some are just a little bit stranger than others.

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