The wrestling fans are chanting.
When things are good, they break out into, “That was awesome!” When things aren’t so good, like when the dastardly tag team Crusade For Change steals the mic, they chant, “Shut the fuck up,” punctuating each repetition by beating their hands on the side of the ring. Thump-thump, thump-thump-thump. They’ll seemingly chant anything that’s four syllables (“Dirty Daddy!” segues into “Sloppy Seconds!”) only once breaking form. “No more kids!” they shout in unison after wrestler Chris Dickinson takes an especially nasty hit to the crotch.
It’s Sunday night in Providence and the Beyond Wrestling ring is situated on the floor of Fête, the Olneyville concert venue which, just hours previously, was hosting a high-ticket sneaker exchange. The best views are from the balcony, where a cartoonish rendering of President Obama in a stars-and-stripes lucha libre mask stares upward from the mat. The VIP area — the only place with seats — is on the main stage. Most of the serious fans are ringside, though, as close as they can be to all the action.
Beyond Wrestling has staged five events at Fête so far, and they’re hoping to start producing shows monthly. Drew Cordeiro, a 28-year-old East Providence native, runs Beyond Wrestling on nights and weekends while working nine to five as an AAA dispatcher during the week. Beyond Wrestling started in 2009 as a YouTube-based promotion when Cordeiro lived in Ohio. Events were closed to the public and funded by Google ads. Their website is still LookMaNoFans.com.
But Beyond Wrestling has a lot of fans. Their YouTube channel will pass ten thousand subscribers any day now. The filmed public Fete events — with professional lighting and sound quality far surpassing a gym or Knights of Columbus hall — make the spectacle more impressive. At the same time, the events have a homespun feel. Inside Fête, Cordeiro’s parents sell paper bag lunches with sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies, and there’s a 50/50 cash raffle, won tonight by a woman whose T-shirt depicts the head of a unicorn on the body of a championship wrestler.
Most of the spectators are in their twenties or thirties. (The crowd gets visibly excited when the Offspring’s 1997 hit “Pretty Fly For a White Guy” plays to introduce the duo the M1nutemen.) The crowd is also overwhelmingly male. “You see girls every now and again,” says Kyra Lopes, one of the few female faces in the crowd. “But a lot of the women here seem older, like they might be moms here with their sons.” Lopes, 21, drove from Fall River with the guy she’s seeing, whom she describes as a big wrestling fan. “I’m still learning the wrestlers’ names,” she admits. “They’re really good at hyping everybody up, though. The crowd’s really serious about this. They really care.” She raves about a tag-team event from the first half of the show which included a broken door, tacks scattered around the ring, and blood. Lots of blood.