wrestling / Columns

Enter the Beyond – Wrestling New Year

January 19, 2019 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Beyond Wrestling

Why do you do what you do?

Ask yourself that. I do all the time. Why do I do what I do. Honestly, I don’t know. Every morning when I wake up and hazily scrub my pits with some grimy loofah, choke back another bitter-ass coffee, inch my way forward through highway gridlock, grind it out at some desk like a sucker, stuff my mouth with fast food on the slog home, and then watch myself some wrestling until I pass out.

I love watching wrestling, and writing about it at this great website is a pleasurable bonus. But the rest of my days all play out in that familiar pattern, for weeks, months… years. I work in what one might call the “education” industry, but I’m sure if you work in any kind of corporate structure these days you’ll understand the emptiness of modern business. Why do we put ourselves in these isolating, restrictive and emasculating office environments? Well, I know I’m locked into commitments of the physical and financial until my grandchildren retire, and wrestling is an art that helps me escape the reality of my surroundings.

Art enters our lives to give us a window into the abstract, to trade stimulus for feeling and help us make connections through force of the soul. You can commodify the artistic, but you can’t sell the emotion derived from art. And while I look to wrestling for my artistic pleasures, the business of the “industry” has overwhelmed me. I’m exhausted by the interlocking business conversation that goes into the fandom of mainstream pro-wrestling, and thus in 2019 I will enter the beyond. Won’t you join me?

Beyond Wrestling is a DIY American super-indie that has been evolving since 2009 when it was producing free black & white videos of matches in intentionally empty venues to now being a few months away from unveiling a live streaming 2-hour weekly show. A decade ago, indie promotions mainly focused on their roster and titles, while Beyond was one of the pioneers of breaking down company borders and letting anyone wrestle anyone. This good will neutral zone of wrestling politics crafted a safe place for wrestlers to be themselves in the freedom of an empty gym, going at it for the love of the art.

And a lack of titles has surprisingly fostered the spirit of competition in Beyond. The arbitrary politics of wrestling for titles has made for years of empty narrative and boring sport in mainstream pro-wrestling, but in Beyond the wrestlers are continuing to fight for supremacy from bell-to-bell. When I was growing up, wrestling was like this, there were like three titles in the WWE but that didn’t make non-title matches somehow worthless. I don’t necessarily care about the macro-narrative if the story in the moment of a match is about competition. Beyond Wrestling encapsulates this spirit of athletic competition that most modern pro-wrestling has forgotten.

For example, at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Ever 2017/18, two wrestlers chugged champagne and then charged at each other in a Beyond ring, and they proceeded to tear each other apart for nothing more than the right to be the winner of the first match of the year. You’ll probably never see anything quite like that Fans Bring the Weapons match from the inaugural Heavy Lies the Crown event between David Starr and Joey Janela, and that’s not only because of the innovative weapons involved, like plastic bat covered in tacks, an arts & crafts tower of wine glasses, and a barbed wire wrapped menorah.

Sure, there was a bigger story between the two, a striving to prove who was the “ace” of the promotion, but I believe that anyone could jump in at the figurative “drop of the ball” and understand what’s going on here. This is the beauty of Beyond. Like in comic books before the era of the collected edition “graphic novels” being sold at big box book stores, creators used to make issues that anyone could pick up on the newsstand, turn to page one, know what was happening and enjoy, whether you were a long-time or first-time reader. This was because those writers and artists, like Beyond wrestlers, are concerned with creating abstract, in-the-moment thrills.

In particular, the second half of this match was cliff dive of violence. It kicked off with a chair swinging duel that escalated into a very realistically brutal climax, which saw a tombstone onto a board of cut-up soda cans and a chair-assisted crossface by Janela for the win. And if you didn’t know anything about their rivalry, you’d still feel the emotion in Janela’s post-match blistering verbal takedown of his opponent.

The rumoured one-hour Ironman match between the two that would end at midnight of this year’s second Heavy Lies the Crown event didn’t take place after Janela was forced out of action due to injury, but Beyond put on another distinctly satisfying New Year’s Eve main event between Nick Gage and Josh Briggs in its place.

While this match didn’t have the “workrate” of the previous year’s classic, Beyond gave us a generational battle between the grizzled and beloved “gang-affiliated” badass Gage (who for those that don’t know, missed some prime years of his wrestling career for a legit stint in prison for robbing a bank) versus a new indie phenom in the massive Briggs. These are two of the four archetypes of indie wrestler: the violently un-WWE, and the destined for WWE up-and-comer (with the third being former WWE stars, and the fourth being the weekender, who wouldn’t even usually make it to the Beyond level anyways), and thus easy to understand for a casual viewer (at least one with a strong stomach).

There was something so fist-pumpingly visceral about seeing a toothlessly vulgar and haggard Nick Gage sloppily throw haymakers with such authentic passion, in the tradition of Eddie Gilbert, Sandman, and Necro Butcher, as he battled Briggs, a pro-wrestling blue-chipper just beginning to master his physical gifts with the fluidity of a Bruiser Brody, Taz or Samoa Joe. Oh, and seeing a guy just straight pour a salt into another man’s open wounds was pretty awesome too!

Why does a Nick Gage get in the ring with a wobbly knee, only to let a huge man wrap that knee around his neck and squeeze? He’s risking his livelihood on the chance to win. That’s what all wrestling matches should convince us they’re trying to do; walk a tightrope of glory over a pit of crushing defeat. That signifies everything you need to know about the man who came up short, the determined winner, the blood rivals from last year, and the previous decade of a maverick wrestling company whose existence goes against all logic.

As Beyond embarks on a voyage into regular live streaming wrestling shows, I’m going to take a journey beyond the mainstream borders of pro-wrestling too. I will immerse myself in the abstract pleasures of Beyond Wrestling, and with it leave behind the mortal worries of commerce and assimilation. I vow – this year – to find purpose in what I do, as a wrestling fan. Will that mean raising a toast with the Beyond fans live on New Year’s Eve? Maybe. Because while there is nothing about my life right now that says I can in any way get to the Massachusetts area to attend Heavy Lies the Crown 3, by god I’m going to try. Are you coming along, or what?

article topics :

Beyond Wrestling, Jake Chambers