Billy Corgan is into wrestling. This seems to be a joke to most people with a music blog/tumblr/snapchat of cassette tapes they listen to. He has written multiple hit rock records at the almost last possible moment in time that someone could do that. He was a suburban Chicago kid who willed himself into a rock star/music press combatant as the face of The Smashing Pumpkins. After years of playing the heel in popular culture is Billy making a face turn?
Corgan currently is the creative director for the Chicago-based independent wrestling federation Resistance Pro Wrestling (ResPro forthwith) along with Jacques and Gabriel Baron, who are brothers. What separates the almost three-year-old group from most local indy feds is an impending unscripted reality show on AMC. On Friday July 25th, I attended “The Mob Rules” at The Barn at Arabian Knights Farm. Three hours of independent wrestling in a barn about an hour outside of Chicago and Billy Corgan? Tough to pass this up. I should note I received a complimentary ticket from ResPro ring announcer Zach Thompson.
A quick confession, initial versions of this article suffered from major drift. I wanted to talk about the actual wrestling show and less about Corgan. I took photos, notes, and tried to interview people like an honest to god journalist. No matter what I did the article was not coming together.
I needed a concept for this sprawling double album. Enter Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies”. Eno devised a series of cards (or a website in this instance) meant to inspire musical creativity with vague (or oblique if you went to a better college than I) statements written on each card like “consider different fading systems” and “abandon normal instruments.” I find them incredibly useful in writing. If Eno can draw almost listenable music out of Chris Martin and Bono, certainly he can help me write about wrestling. Each of the following headings is an Eno strategy.
Do not be frightened to display your talents
The draw for wrestling shows historically is attraction based. Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Mil Mascaras, and Antonio Inoki drew because they were tall tales that walked and talked and screamed and spit and bled. Currently ResPro has one draw–Billy Corgan. His official title is Creative Director. He does not wrestle, nor should he. Spectacle gets people to the building. Once there, you need the actual show to keep people coming back. Independent wrestling, like minor league baseball needs a hook beyond just the matches themselves.
At ResPro we get Billy Corgan live and in person, but not fighting anyone (which is opposite of my experience at most Smashing Pumpkins shows). I look forward to the upcoming AMC reality show to help flesh out the reasons that everyone is punching each other.
Use an old idea
Billy is a presence there, just like he was in your discman on long car trips as a sullen teen. You walk in, there is Billy on a couch. You run to the bathroom and pass Billy on the way out. There was a small ceremony after intermission where Billy came out to the ring and I assumed was going to cut a promo. Instead a he invited a young Special Olympian to climb into the ring and receive an award from ResPro and a local wrestling club. I was moved and it was sweet. But if you are going to ResPro with hopes of finishing moves named after cuts from “The Aeroplane Flies High” you may be out of luck. Billy is there, but it’s a whole new Billy.
Use “unqualified” people
I wrote down the names of all the people wrestling as they were announced. Next to each name I wrote “LLAW” if they did in fact “Look Like a Wrestler.”[ref]like Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it.[/ref] Jocephus the robed bearded savior-looking type is the Heavyweight Champ. He is a big fella that reminded me of Bray Wyatt of the WWE. But D’arcy (look for her to be replaced by a member of Hole soon) Dixon the former Women’s Champ was the real star of the evening. She can wrestle. She put on the best match of the night with Angel Dust. Jake O’Neill and Marshe Rockett put on an incredible match right before intermission and both LLAW in the process.
Jacques Baron, one of the brothers that co-own the promotion took to the ring to open the show. He addressed the crowd and let them know that one the evening’s headliners was away on his honeymoon. “The Ego” Robert Anthony would not be defending his tag team title and Jocephus (Heavyweight Champ and Tag Team Champion) was forced to abdicate his and The Ego’s titles before we even started. Mrs. Jocephus (his wife) would be wrestling in The Ego’s place tonight. For richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in title defense.
Twist the spine
This just seems like sound logic in a wrestling match.
The event was a fifty-minute drive outside of Chicago on a Friday after work. After taking the train to a Zipcar I spent an hour (traffic) driving to The Barn At Arabian Knights Farm. It was a large barn on a horse farm in Hinsdale, IL southwest of Chicago. The barn had two video screens, a DJ booth, and dance cages were hung in the rafters. The multiple neon signs above the fish tank made the whole place feel like a Chili’s. Their terrible 1990’s website mentions you can book the space for your next wedding or quinceanera.
Corgan is a huge wrestling fan and as all adult wrestling fans know, when you admit to adult wrestling fandom you open yourself up to ridicule. Billy Corgan is most likely aware that you think his wrestling promotion is weird. He also most likely does not care.
Destroy – nothing / the most important thing
Did I have an incredible time seeing my first ResPro show? It was a good independent wrestling show. There were two really great matches and several matches that were not as great. This describes almost any wrestling show you will attend. If you get the chance I would say that you should go. However, it is an independent wrestling show and everything that that implies.
Discard an axiom
Chicago music writers have an axiom: “Billy Corgan is crazy.” Somewhere after “Adore,” this became a societal axiom. Is he? I don’t think so. He is a guy who made some records some people like and now he is able to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. I dream of being this crazy. He loves Chicago and does interesting things in and around the city. I believe we can let this axiom go.
Go outside. Shut the door.
We were in a barn and the barn doors were in fact open. With the amount of neon signs and hanging lights the place felt like a Texas Roadhouse crossed with a roller rink. So many of the great old territories in wrestling history are rife with idiosyncratic buildings. Is a barn/dance club/banquet hall really that much different from the VFW Halls/Armories/Sportatoriums of yore? As home bases go, you could do worse than The Barn. It certainly had character. I can only speculate that the ceiling beams being just a few feet above the ring limited the high flyers but D’arcy Dixon showed that was not an issue.
This isn’t the WWE. But that can be cause for celebration. The sold out crowd of a few hundred was clearly having fun. Beer was being served. Large people in outlandish costumes kept punching each other. It was a Friday night out of the house for a whole lot of families. Minor league in this instance is not a pejorative. The real joy of minor league anything is in the proximity to the athletes and a certain adjustment of capitalistic expectation.
It is quite possible (after all)
It is quite possible (after all) that in a few months when ResPro’s reality show begins airing on AMC that this independent group could gain a lot of notoriety. I have to imagine that a former rock star, brother promoters, a ring full of workers, and one hell of a ring announcer is infinitely more interesting than homophobic beard models who live in a swamp, or which aspiring actor is betrothed to which aspiring E! host.
Would anybody want it?
Will the action in the ring be as compelling as the behind the scenes footage? I hope there is still some room for actual wrestling on AMC. With Spike TV’s Total Nonstop Action not long for your cable lineup and Sinclair Broadcasting’s Ring of Honor only available on channels in places no one owns a TV, ResPro pretty quickly can become the number two promotion in America. Ratings show that only a few million people watch weekly wrestling but even your mom watches reality shows. WWE Divas is a hit for the E! Network and your cable lineup is pretty thin on actual wrestling content. The demand for a straight up wrestling show may not be there according to declining WWE numbers. But the demand for a reality show to watch while you fold laundry stays constant.
Simply a matter of work
Ah. The most oblique of cards. Hard work? No thanks. But that may be the thing ResPro needs to focus on. Create compelling characters, both real and fictional, though the dual arms of AMC and live events. Make sure the talent looks like they should be there. Make sure the fans are having fun. Maybe book a show a little closer to Chicago. The opportunity is there. If it is simply a matter of work, then I would bet on Billy Corgan. Double albums and song cycles are what the man lives for. I think he can handle some light grappling.