If you’re watching the Olympics, you’ve probably realized that mat wrestling isn’t all that exciting. Sure, it involves a certain kind of physique and expertise that requires years of practice, hard work, and determination. At the same time, there’s no flair or showmanship, and the only steel chairs involved are the ones athletes sit on between matches. Where’s the excitement? Where’s the danger?
Why, in pro wrestling, of course! In bingo halls, basements and arenas across the country, competitors of various genders, builds and backgrounds gather to “fight” one another in 20′ x 20′ rings and tell enthralling (and oft-bizarre) stories in the process. Unlike Olympic-style wrestling, these surly men and women often eschew trivial things like rules and form, opting for more spectacle-based moves, gravity-defying stunts, and the occasional “foreign object.”
Best of all, you don’t have to travel all the way to Rio just to see the top pro wrestlers compete. This coming weekend, WWE brings SummerSlam — its second-biggest wrestling event of the year — back to the Barclays Center for the second year in a row, and they’re bringing wrestling stars like John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Sasha Banks along with them. At the same time, some of the most popular independent wrestling organizations are taking advantage on the ‘E’s presence with their own area shows this month for less than the cost of a Pay-Per-View, and with more of an emphasis on authentic, South Brooklyn-style underground wrestling events.
If you can’t afford a ticket to SummerSlam (spoiler: you probably can’t), these five action-packed events are well worth your time thanks to impressive match cards, equally impressive guest appearances, and more insanity than you’ll ever get out of a Mets game, no matter how well they’re doing this year.
When: Aug. 20
Where: Saint Finbar Catholic Church Gymnasium, 138 Bay 20th St, Bath Beach
Evolve’s wrestlers will grace billboards and TV screens in the next five or so years. Until then, its roster is composed of a hodgepodge of international stars, indie wrestling heroes, and a few newcomers from all over the country. On Aug. 20, they’ll all be on hand to compete for titles, glory, or just the sheer love of the fight.
Evolve 67 takes place the same day as WWE’s NXT event (more on that below), but much earlier in the afternoon. If you miss Evolve this time around, you can still catch them in September in Long Island and Queens, and they’re bound to come back a few more times before the year’s end. You can buy general admission tickets for $25, or $30 on the day of the show.
Ring of Honor: Field of Honor
When: Aug. 27
Where: MCU Park, Coney Island
Ring of Honor is a small but popular wrestling organization with deep ties to New Japan Pro Wrestling, the largest wrestling company in Japan. For the last few years, they’ve held impressive cards at MCU Park, with nearly every ROH title on the line and appearances from huge international stars. This year is no different, as longtime ROH champion Jay Lethal is set defend his title in the main event against three other wrestlers, preceded by several matches featuring NJPW main eventers.
ROH and NJPW are where AJ Styles spent some time building his reputation, which is why he came into the WWE already on a level to go up against John Cena. The great thing about these non-WWE events is that you have a chance to get in on the ground floor and see the future stars of WWE, kinda like discovering the next LCD Soundsystem when they were still playing DIY shows in Bushwick.
Also of note is the appearance from the ever-popular Young Bucks, a tag team whose gimmick is a throwback to the “attitude era” of wrestling in the ’90s, complete with crotch chops and superkicks. If you want to catch this outdoor event a week after NXT and Evolve, you can get tickets for as low as $28. If you can’t make it, fear not. Ring of Honor is bound to bring their tour back around to the city at least one more time this year.
NXT Takeover: Back II Brooklyn
When: Aug. 20
Where: Barclays Center
NXT is like the Sub Pop to WWE’s Warner Brothers Records. It’s where most of their wrestlers report to learn the WWE way of things before making their way to the big leagues of Raw and Smackdown. They have a weekly, hour-long Wednesday program on the WWE Network, tour semi-regularly around the country and put on several big, PPV-style “NXT Takeover” events throughout the year. Last year’s NXT event, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, was off the chain and produced arguably the best women’s match in the company’s history. NXT is responsible for some of the biggest names in wrestling right now.
This year, with newcomers from Japan like Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura, as well as NXT favorites like Bayley and The Revival, the show is guaranteed to be a can’t-miss display of the best pro wrestling has to offer. While only pricey ringside tickets are still available, you can get tickets on secondary markets like Stubhub for as low as $17. If you can’t go, you’ll have to wait until NXT comes around next August.
When: Aug. 21
Where: Barclays Center
SummerSlam is only second to WrestleMania in terms of “importance” in the WWE wrestling cannon, but it’s just as exciting. Nearly every title will be on the line, big names like John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins will be in action, and the running time of the event had to be extended yet again just to fit in all the different matches. Simply put, SummerSlam is basically if WrestleMania came to Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, tickets have not only sold out, but are selling for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. If you feel like coughing up some dough for a ticket, be prepared to spend at least $124 on the “cheap” seats. If you don’t, then you’ll have your chance to see your favorite WWE superstars when they inevitably return in the next six months.
WWE Network/WWN Live
Where: Your home.
When: Whenever you’d like!
Look, it’s hot as hell outside. Why would you want to walk to the Barclays Center in 90-degree heat, surrounded by screaming people who are way more enthusiastic than you about a so-called “sport?” If you can’t take the heat, crowds, or noise, just watch it at home. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can watch all the aforementioned events for a price.
NXT Takeover and WWE SummerSlam will stream on the WWE Network, which is free for the first month and $9.99 each month after. Evolve 67 will air on WWN Live, which you can watch through Roku or your web browser. Field of Honor can be ordered through traditional Pay-Per-View channels or via ROHwrestling.com. So if you’re a huge wrestling fan but H-A-T-E leaving your home, now you never have to!
Me and my younger brother use to watch WWF faithfully as a kids but never got a chance to go to a real life match. Now as men the thrill is a little gone for us but for my son and his best buddy from school, they are having a blast! Their 1st match as well. #creatingMemories #summerslam2015 #barclaycenter
TIPS FOR ATTENDING A WRESTLING EVENT
No matter where you end up, be at the Barclays Center or a church, there are a few thing that are uniform across all wrestling events:
-It’s okay to chant and boo the person you don’t want to win.
-Signs are perfectly okay to bring, even if they might just block the view of the guy behind you a bit.
-If you’re sensitive to strobes or loud noises, consider bringing sunglasses or earplugs, as these events get plenty loud.
-Merch can get pretty pricey and autographs usually cost money, but a large percentage of your purchase actually goes to the wrestler you’re supporting (unless, of course, you’re going to a WWE event).
-Wrestling fans are pretty friendly and outgoing, and enjoy talking about wrestling with strangers.
-Know this: though the matches may be pre-planned, they aren’t entirely scripted, and they’re very dangerous to perform. So don’t be a dick and try to interfere, unless you want an entire locker room of wrestlers and wrestling fans beating you to a pulp. That said, have fun suspending your disbelief for an evening and chanting with the crowd, because no other sport can match the excitement, passion, and several hours of strange left-turns that professional wrestling has to offer.
Get in the ring and follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottfromNY.