Sports column: Appreciating the art form of pro wrestling

Published 4:00 am Sunday, July 9, 2023

Longtime readers of this column (all 11 of you) will know that I am an unabashed, unapologetic fan of professional wrestling.

It’s a truly unique art form that incorporates a wide variety of elements — choreography, improv, stagecraft and more — to tell a largely non-verbal story in 10 or 15 minutes. When it’s done well, it’s great theater. Even when it’s done poorly it can be an entertaining train wreck.

I’ve watched the WWE for most of my life, followed the newer All Elite Wrestling since it started a few years ago, and am a bit familiar with some other promotions in the U.S. and abroad. Until last weekend, however, I had never experienced the lower end of the scale in person.

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Bayou Independent Wrestling, a promotion based in West Monroe, La., came to Vicksburg last Saturday night for the second of three shows scheduled for this year at the Ardis T. Williams Auditorium. I’ve been to a few WWE shows over the years, but this was my first time at a smaller independent show.

The independent, or “indy,” scene is a path almost every wrestler walks at one time or another, either on the way up toward stardom or on the way down after their glory days have passed. They work not in front of sold-out arenas for millions of dollars a year, but for a couple hundred bucks in high school gyms and civic centers.

It’s a level where you have to truly love the work to do it, and the guys BIW brought to Vicksburg last weekend clearly do.

Wrestlers mingled with fans before the event — merchandise tables are how they both build their brand and supplement the night’s income, so it literally pays to be nice — and rubbed elbows with them during the main event in a different way. Rey Fury and Matt Taven started their match with a brawl through the elevated seats on both sides of the Auditorium.

Wrestlers playfully jawed with fans, who jawed right back. Some were family and friends who know the game, while others were regulars who follow the circuit every month and clearly had built a rapport with the men in the ring.

While bouncing around the outside of the ring shooting photos, I took a minute to appreciate the way the wrestlers played their roles and worked the crowd. They had about 15 minutes to tell a one-act story. They had to quickly establish who the heroes and villains were and win either applause or boos accordingly, almost entirely through a physical, non-speaking performance.

If you’ve ever had to do any kind of public speaking, think about how nervous you probably were while trying to engage the audience. Now imagine having to flawlessly execute a wrestling move every 20 seconds during the entire 15-minute speech. That’s the kind of skill it takes to be even a passable professional wrestler, and why I enjoy it so much.

About 30 years ago, the industry dropped any pretense of the fights being real. Nowadays it’s pure entertainment. The execution of storylines and in-ring performances makes it good or bad. It’s like following any other TV show or movie, except there’s only one take.

I know pro wrestling is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you get a chance to witness it up close and personal, it’s worth the time to experience.

Bayou Independent Wrestling will return to Vicksburg and the Ardis T. Williams Auditorium on Nov. 11, and will have other shows in nearby towns between now and then. Check it out. You just might like it. It’s a little bit different form of entertainment, but it’s an art form in its own right.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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