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INDY SPOTLIGHT: THE NEW YORK WRESTLING CONNECTION

By Mike Johnson on 2013-10-24 11:30:58
There is a dark building converted from a warehouse that allows for some of the most fun, intimate pro wrestling out there today, with some great storylines and a lot of talent that are on the cusp of ending up signed for national stardom. It's roster includes a few that went on to become WWE talents. It's one of those cool places that the second you walk in, you know it's going to be a great wrestling venue.

The ECW Arena? No. The old Elks Lodge? No. Manhattan Center? No.

It's the NYWC Sportatorium in Deer Park, Long Island - home of the New York Wrestling Connection.

Founded in 2002 by former ECW Triple-crown winner Mikey Whipwreck, former Team Taz and ECW House of Hardcore school alumni John Cursie and NYC independent wrestler turned NYWC booker Shane Wayne, the NYWC has been slowly churning out some of the best independent talent in the Northeast.

Some of those talents have ended up with WWE deals - Mike Mondo, who worked as Mikey of the Spirit Squad before moving over to Ring of Honor. Trent Baretta, who had his WWE run before lighting up rings all over the independent scene and New Japan Pro Wrestling this year. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins, who, while not currently getting a lot of TV time, have had good matches and in the case of Ryder, was once more over than anyone in Madison Square Garden.

All of those talents are rooted in NYWC, where at the Sportatorium, they train nightly and run regular shows using the promotion's talent as well as a few outside names - ranging from Tom Prichard to Tommy Dreamer to Justin Credible to Matt Striker, who himself found himself on the WWE radar after wrestling Dreamer for NYWC years ago.

The Sportatorium, converted and zoned for wrestling, sits in a strip mall that holds a lot of storage and office space. Every seat in the facility (with walls painted black to add to the aura of being at an event when the lights are dimmed) is intimate. Designed to feel like a smaller version of the original ECW Arena and seating about 300 or so, the building is so good as a venue that DGUSA that booked PPVs there and other independent groups regularly book it for themselves.

The NYWC booking, handled mostly by Wayne, is logical in terms of the angles and the physicality in the ring, with characters turning and building and evolving. There's some comedy, but it's often early on in the show and with characters designed to play to that element of the business - but even so, those performers are put into positions where they have to learn and grow as workers in the ring, not just ending up as one-dimensional talents.

The booking runs in arcs, often building to the promotion's biggest show of the year, the Psycho Circus, featuring barbed wire, weapons, a steel cage and other instruments of destruction. There will be chaos when storylines come to a head, but the majority of the card is filled out with strong, athletic matches that wouldn't have seemed out of place in the WCW Cruiserweight division of Jim Crockett Promotions in previous generations.

NYWC storylines are built around the current crop of NYWC talents, who far and away come out of the promotion's school as some of the most well rounded, spectacular talents. Is everyone going to go and become the next independent darling? Of course not, but for some, they are going to find a home and live out their dreams in NYWC, working for the promotion. Others, however, are going to follow Mondo, Ryder and the like to the next level. Who does and when is just a matter of timing, much like everything else in the entertainment world.

Now, thought, NYWC has a solid roster featuring characters (Francis Kipland Stevens, the hip hop nerd), well versed workers who are starting to break out all over (Papadon and former TNA talent Tony Nese), monsters (Apollyon, King Mega), muscular freaks of nature (Zack Ryder's friend and current NYWC champ The Big O) and great tag team acts that are evolving into modern day equivalents to the Backseat Boys and the Briscoes a decade ago (Beaver Boys, White Chocolate) to the local legend (Mikey Whipwreck, who still occasionally wrestles and is pretty much the patriarch here) and more.

Like a good circus, there are talents of every shape, style and size, all doing something different.

The NYWC atmosphere is a blue-collar, family friendly one for the most part. Attending a NYWC event is partially like going to a local community event, partially like going underground to find the next big thing and partially like attending a school practice - for every guy that is dead on awesome in the ring, there's someone who's finding their way, and the crowd is for the most part understanding of that.

The promotion runs in a punctual, professional manner. If the doors say 6 PM, they are open. If the belltime is 7 PM, they are in the ring with the first match by 7:02. I don't know of any other promotion that has built a signal in place to let talents know that they are going over on time and to go home and finish up.

There are no 6 hour shows burning out the crowd here - booker Wayne makes sure the shows build and don't kill the audience. He and the others in charge are also right there after the matches to break down what worked and didn't and what performers, specifically younger talents, need to work and improve upon. It's about building the locker room up so that they can improve and in a best case scenario, get out and make money.

It's not just younger talents who get that treatment. Often, there are talents who have been around the independent scene for some time, but whether they mean to or not, develop bad habits in the ring or poor attitudes - they end up in NYWC, where management breaks them down (and fixes the bad habits) allowing them to truly improve upon where they were, both in the ring and behind the scenes.

Papadon, who went from being someone who was just a guy that was part of a tag team that had been around the scene but evolved into a Dean Malenko-esque grappler with a great heel personality, is a great example of that sort of NYWC "finishing" that is sometimes needed. He's gone from a talent that just worked the local NYC scene to getting booked all over the country.

The promotion has a lot of different weapons in its arsenal when it comes to helping talents train and improve. They have regular outside trainers coming in and at times, put on live shows as birthday parties for children, forcing the talents to be put into a position where instead of just working out in the ring, they are instead working matches in front of smaller audiences and have to work to really get a reaction out of people by interacting with the kids as much as taking bumps. Each aspect helps make the talents more well rounded.

In many ways, the NYWC is one of the best kept secrets in pro wrestling right now. With the white noise of so many promotions being thrown at you via social media and the alphabet soup of so many different letters, it can all blend together. NYWC doesn't.

That may be perhaps why the promotion has been announced as becoming part of the new Wrestling United Network, which will help them find a local TV outlet in the Long Island/NY/CT area that will help the promotion begin to groom their talents in a new aspect - working to the camera as much as they play to the crowd, expanding upon what the promotion already does on their Youtube channel, which is populated with vignettes, promos, hype videos and match clips.

That new adventure for the promotion will begin in November as they begin to shoot test footage for that planned TV debut - but as always, NYWC is about putting on solid events, building talents to prepare them for the future and for focusing on the basics of what makes wrestling so much fun - good characters, solid booking and hard in-ring work. It's a can't miss combination.

For more on NYWC, visit NYWCWrestling.com.

Mike Johnson can be reached at MikeJohnsonPWInsider@gmail.com and followed @MikePWInsider.