“I’m not even supposed to be here today.”
In the immortal words of Dante, this wasn’t going to be my jam. When Razzlin’ Rick turned over the Minnesota Pro Wrestling mantle, I was excited to see everything that came next and then, as it so often does, life happened. When I started MNDIY Wrestling this May, I didn’t want it to simply be a continuation of the great individual work that had been done with MPW over the years, I needed it to be something that reflected an evolving independent pro wrestling scene in Minnesota and drew on the fans that were putting their butts in seats week in and week out to support new promotions, new faces, and proven favorites. When I thought of some word play to direct something catchy for the site, I went to MNdy first. It sounds like indy, reflects that it’s about our state, so far so good. But I wanted the fact that people and promotions and fans were going out there and supporting this scene in new ways and in numbers that seemed to grow with new faces and old faces filling the American Legions and Clubs and Theaters. You probably wouldn’t know it from looking at me today but I grew up a big punk rock kid and so I went back to the DIY attitude that made the punk scene always feel like family at shows and in between shows: sharing tapes, being inclusive, calling out shitty behavior, and taking care of one another. There is no “I” in team, but there is in MNDIY because every person from the fans, to the refs, to the announcers, promoters, and most importantly the wrestlers all help our scene to be its best self.
When I started MNDIY back in May, I wrote: “This is a movement for fans, by fans to build a better Land of 10,000 Graps. When you’re out at a show, tweeting about your favorite wrestlers to see, instagramming pics with your crew, supporting local promotions, use the #MNDIYwrestling hashtag so we can see it. We will be working with local promotions, wrestlers, supporters, photographers, podcasters, and patrons of independent wrestling to help curate content by taking a DIY, crowdsourcing approach and hope you’ll join in the fun.”
It’s been a pretty astounding year and I think that we’ve tried to do just that and I hope this little experiment is another way we can connect, debate, and most importantly SUPPORT Minnesota Independent Professional Wrestling.
This Fall, I started to think about more ways to get people that I would see at every show I went to involved in what MNDIY is trying to do: be a one stop shop for people to find shows, venues, wrestler’s information, and connect to podcasts, information, and history. I thought, “There have been over 125 wrestlers that have laced up boots in Minnesota this year. That’s a much smaller pool than an entire World, but what if we took what PWI does and scaled it back?” So we did. We sent out lists of those wrestlers and received 20 ballots back along with comments about particular rankings. We asked that people rank the wrestlers that they saw perform that year considering the wrestler’s work based solely with promotions in the state of Minnesota. This precluded some amazing work our MN-based wrestlers did in other venues, but also allowed wrestlers who frequent Minnesota promotions to be considered for the rankings. Obviously this is a Minnesota-centric ranking, but this is MNDIY, not WInDIY or iNDiy (ain’t got time for more than one state). Those that submitted ranks will remain anonymous but there was a lot of due diligence done to make sure that these were people out at shows seeing all different promotions and different aspects of the shows around the state so that we weren’t pigeonholing a certain type of wrestling.
You can see through the results that the wrestlers that are being seen by a lot of different audiences tend to be ranked higher. That’s not a value judgement by MNDIY, but a reflection that our wrestlers are expanding not only who they’re working for locally but seeing many people travel across one border if not many borders, regionally and nationally, sharing their talents with other fans and promotions. In the best cases, that’s meant they are improving by leaps and bounds and also enticing talents from other states to come and wrestle in Minnesota which brings the brand of shows locally to levels of talent that we haven’t enjoyed in maybe a decade.
After the David Noye Benefit I wrote “Sea change is never quick. Trying to turn back the tides or roll with the waves until you can master them may seem insurmountable, but it’s those who roll with what is presented to them, sees the changes coming, and sets out for undiscovered country who will shift a paradigm.” That post had a reach of over 1,700 people on Facebook with 354 clicking through to read and a combination of over 100 people liking or sharing the post. That’s the power of the individual “I” in what is being attempting with MNDIY.
And we have seen and shared so many of those watershed moments together this year. The Academy came on to the scene at the end of 2016, starting its first classes, and officially graduate four amazing talents in Air Wolf, Brandon Gore, Kyle Pro, and James Tapia. We saw Orin Veidt and Clark Feldman travel to the Evolve tryout that featured Stokely Hathaway and William Regal and have had amazing talent brought in for seminars from Colt Cabana, Shelton Benjamin, Mickie James, Nick Dinsmore, X-Pac, Christopher Daniels, Tommy Dreamer, and Bob Evans to our talent travelling to train with the likes of Silas Young and Jimmy Jacobs. With the help of his husky sized following of fans and friends, Kody Rice realized a dream of competing in a CZW ring at Cage of Death 19 and lived to tell about it. We also had Minnesota talent travelling across the Midwest to familiar promotions like Fully Loaded Wrestling and Freelance, but also to AAW, IWA-Mid South, and many others. We’ve seen former promotions start back up, former promoters start promoting again, and existing promotions expanding to new towns and new venues.
So with that, this week, I present to you the very first MNDIY 50 and hope you enjoy it. Each day starting tomorrow we will run down 10 wrestlers counting down to the arguable start of every Minnesota pro wrestling year at WRESTLEPALOOZA on Saturday. There’s a lot of amazing talent not on this list. That said, there were votes for 113 different wrestlers over 20 ballots and the final tabulation? Well, we’ll share that when we get to the top 10, but rest assured this was statistically, about a close a race at the top as you can get! Thanks to all those who participated and help read, edit, and comment, and finally to all of you for an amazing year full of amazing shows, great conversations, and doing your part to make the Minnesota pro wrestling scene the best it can be. This may not have been my jam when 2017 started, but I’m glad it is as 2018 arrives full of powerslams and promise.