I have for as long as I can remember wanted to be a professional wrestler, but that dream was dashed once I realized there really isn’t a place for an overweight, 5’8” wrestler with zero natural athletic ability. That’s why Saturday night was one of best nights I’ve ever spent out with friends. My friend Aaron and I attended an Independent wrestling show put on by Northern Outlaw Wrestling. NOW is the only wrestling organization in North/South Dakota and Montana. They are a throw back to 70’s and 80’s territory wrestling. Which is what the heads of NOW want to be called, they are a territory and not an Indy organization. The show was amazing, every single match felt like a main event, because that’s how every wrestler treated it. It is quite refreshing to see people who actually care about their craft; to actually CARE about wrestling. I’m going to be doing a few interviews with NOW’s top stars and the guys who run the show behind the scenes. This column is all about the wrestlers; a peek behind the curtain of territory wrestling
The in ring product is amazing, crow-pleasing and entertaining. It’s a mixture of young guys like NOW’s top local star Savage, fan favorite Flyin’ Ryan, vets like journeyman Arik Cannon, and “The Bulldog” Sammy Savard. It is a throwback product, with guys who cherish the past of pro wrestling. N.O.W looks on with a slight disgust at the current “major” promotions WWE and TNA. Spend just five minutes with any of these guys and you’ll see right away that they are influenced by Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man more than John Cena or Alberto Del Rio. I spent a good six hours at a bar and after party with the majority of the roster after the show at the Vegas Motel in Minot, ND. Sitting back and listening to war stories, personal and professional gripes about in ring work (let’s just say Sammy Savard doesn’t appreciate The Piranha), and just all around wrestling talk. Sammy Savard is an encyclopedia of wrestling holds, and is as old school as they come. He spent a little time in the WWE and even appeared on television, all be it in a loss to the now gone but not missed Boogey Man. I spent over an hour chatting with Savage, a young budding star in NOW who is the promotion’s top face. Savage wears with pride his love for the Ultimate Warrior and Vader, which even included a face mask in respect to Vader. Savage is an absolute power house in the ring that possesses a devil may care attitude that sets him one rung above most in the organization, or anyone else in the Indy scene in America. He along, with Mr. Inkredible have an instant charisma and aura that grab’s the fan’s attention and has them “bark” along with Savage and get behind their “heroes.”
As the night went on, the party thinned out until about half of the original group was left. That left one of the most interesting tables of the night, the Colorado table that featured Prodigy and Penance. It also included current NOW champion Darin Corbin who hales from Minnesota. Corbin is the top heel in NOW and has had some awesome battles with Savage. Corbin’s all around in ring dorky persona makes you hate him ala early Kurt Angle (insert “you suck” chant). Even though his persona in-ring may be of a dork, his matches are always technically great as well as you can see the true star that Corbin will become. Outside the ring he is clearly a business smart kid who only wants to see more real wrestling on television. By this point I had had enough to drink and was in a comfortable enough place to talk about what I felt was wrong with professional wrestling on a national scale. This concluded the intellectual portion of my evening.
I was ready to do the one thing I had always wanted to do. Take a Flair-esque chop from a real pro wrestler and everyone at the party said only one man could do the job properly. In stepped journeyman wrestler, and all around awesome guy Arik Cannon. Cannon has spent time in CCW, Dragon Gate USA, former Minot, ND promotion Xjam and the short lived Wrestling Society X. Having an Indy star like Cannon in NOW shows the growth the brand has made over the last few years. Cannon was more then willing to lend his chop, but I had to lift my shirt because according to him “no one wrestles with their shirt on”. In my state I had failed to remember that Tommy Dreamer in fact wrestles with his shirt on for the same reason I would; neither of us have a body anyone wants to see naked with the lights on. However to take the chop I did as I was told and Cannon reared back and connected with a chop that I felt before I heard the CRACK. I tried my best though to make it look like it didn’t hurt. I “no sold” it so well that I got called Cena by a few in the party. Cannon wasn’t pleased with my reaction, and so he delivered another, despite my pleas for him not to. This one connected with enough force to cut me and cause an instant bruise. There was no hiding this one as I doubled over and the party erupted with laughter. Savage, still in attendance took it upon himself to join in the fun of beating on the wrestling journalist and he fry panned my chest ala Big Show. Well I guess I got what I asked for (three days later I still have bruises from the event, totally worth it).
There is no fakeness to any of the guys I met that night. They are all in the business because they love it. They aren’t failed body builders who thought “Well I guess I’ll give wrestling a shot”. They aren’t former college football stars who didn’t make the NFL. They are guys and girls who grew up watching and loving professional wrestling. They let me into their world like I was an old friend. Venom, Prodigy, Savage, Arik Cannon, Sammy Savard, Darin Corbin, and everyone else were all great guys who want to talk about the glory days of wrestling and what the business means to them. They are outlaws of wrestling. Guys who have either been to the top of the game or hope to one day make it there. NOW is a territory and organization on the rise, with an ever expanding roster, a DVD on the way and an awesome local band named Ghosts of Fairfax creating their music. (By the way Ghosts of Fairfax is an amazing band that you can check out on Face book, great metal, you won’t be disappointed).
Whether it was trading Macho Man impersonations, bitching about TNA and WWE or talking about different wrestling styles these guys taught me many things but the most endearing was never overlook something just because it is new, “small“, or “Indy“. When I first head about NOW I thought it would be a really bad gimmicky wrestling organization run by people who wouldn’t take it seriously. I’m from North Dakota, so I’m skeptical of anything home grown, because usually it isn’t taken seriously. North Dakota isn’t the ideal place to start anything like this, so I ignored it. That was my mistake and it was one that my friend Aaron kept telling me over and over again that I had to make up for. Now I’m sold, I’m a mark; this is a family friendly wrestling organization that loves its product. It’s run well and by people who aren’t in it for fame or fortune. They are in it for the sport of professional wrestling. They are in it because there was a need for something like this and we just didn’t know it around here. NOW is very real, it is very entertaining and worth the exposure that other East Coast and West Coast organizations get.
You can checkout all NOW news and upcoming events at northernoutlawwrestling.com or join them on twitter @northernoutlaw. You can also check out some of there recent matches on youtube.com, just search Northern Outlaw Wrestling. I’ll be interviewing a few of their top stars in the coming weeks so look for those and let’s get territory wrestling a chance again. Give these guys what they deserve; expanded exposure and some well earned respect. If you don’t, the communists win and we don’t want that now do we?
If you wish to complain, praise, or shoot the breeze you can do so by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow me on twitter @JaredGebhardt.
The Wrestling Genius: Jared Gebhardt