LEWISTON — Say wrestling is fake if you want to, but the sounds of bones meeting canvas sounded pretty real Wednesday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Not to mention the sounds of fist meeting chin, knee meeting gut and skull meeting turnbuckle.
“Whoa,” gasped a boy of about 10, toting a foam finger as he was led to his seat at the start of the show. “That looks pretty painful.”
Indeed. But of course, pain was the name of the game as Ring of Honor Wrestling brought its Global Wars show to Lewiston.
“This is a hard-core, backyard wrestling-type deal,” said Joe Richards, of South Paris. “It’s old-school storytelling within the ring.”
Who likes professional wrestling? Better to ask who doesn’t like it. Hundreds packed the Colisee on Wednesday night and it was hard to pin down a specific demographic. Couples came on dates. Parents came toting children of various ages.
Men came in groups, mothers came with sons and a few old-timers came just to see if wrestling today was as good as it once was.
The wrestlers got into it right away: punching, pile-driving and occasionally throwing their opponents into the stands. The crowd cheered or booed, depending on whether the good guy was winning or getting whooped.
“It’s an old-school, roughhouse type of performance,” said Rick Cavallero, who came from South Paris with a pair of friends. “It really goes back to telling a story back and forth in the ring. It’s not going to end with someone running into the ring and interfering. When they agree to a ring of honor rule match, you know it’s going to end in a pinfall or submission.”
“Ring of Honor” is a television series embraced by wrestling fans in large part because of the characters and story lines.
Some wrestling fans say they’ve come to prefer Ring of Honor performances over those of bigger, glossier productions, such as World Wrestling Entertainment.
The ROH wrestlers, fans say, are more humble and harder working.
“These are guys who are putting on a show because they love doing it,” said John Hussey of Norway. “They don’t have to get paid millions like all the other ones. It’s a smaller market. It’s got a smaller fan base, but it’s got really good production. With a lot of these other companies, it’s more of a soap opera now.”
Not that it’s story alone that draws them.
“There’s a lot of high-flying, too, man,” Cavallero said.
“Oh, yeah,” agreed Hussey. “There’s a lot of that.”
Kadrian Rugullies, 16, of Lisbon, said he came with a group of friends who had been following the various “Ring of Honor” dramas.
“We’ve been watching it on TV for maybe two years,” Rugullies said.
The Global Wars event has been around for four years. For this year’s tour, which kicked off in Lewiston, the Ring of Honor performers combined forces with wrestling stars from New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
High on the list of anticipated showdowns Wednesday night was a bout between Flip Gordon — whose various flips and contortions seem to defy the laws of physics — and rising star Eli Isom.
When the two wrestlers commenced hurling each other around the ring, it was hard to know which was favored by the crowd. Each body slam, throat punch and knee to the ribs was loudly cheered no matter who had delivered it.
The kid with the foam finger was right.
It sure sounded painful.