By Thomas Gerbasi for F4WOnline.com | Image: Sulaiman Larokko, ReviewFix
Columbus Day was a holiday for some. Not for Joe Bellini. The owner of the east coast’s Warriors of Wrestling was preparing for a hectic week that will see him put on shows this Friday and Saturday in Brooklyn and Staten Island, respectively, while also fitting in a trip to the Legends of the Ring fan fest in Monroe, New Jersey on Saturday morning.
Guess he couldn’t fit in something else for Sunday?
“Football’s on Sunday,” he laughs.
So what does the week hold for Bellini, who’s also been known to take part in the ring action himself as Joey B?
“This one’s gonna be a little different because it’s a Friday,” he said. “Normally on Friday I get everything prepped. I get my cameras ready, make sure my batteries are charged, I go to the bank and get everybody’s pay and all that stuff. Then I go to Costco and get the concessions. But this week is a little different. We’ve got the school that’s open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so today I’m kind of relaxing. I’m doing some minor stuff, getting everything ready for me to do during the week. Thursday we’re going to load up the truck because the Fun Station where we do our shows is a haunted house right now.”
Fun Station USA in Staten Island is the unofficial home base for Bellini’s promotion, which will celebrate its ninth year in operation this December. An arcade with rides for kids and a batting cage, it also houses the Warriors of Wrestling training facility, and several months a year, Bellini and company pushes the ring onto the basketball court and puts on action-packed shows that attract fans from around the New York City area.
Featuring talent home grown from their training program, as well as local indie wrestlers and a revolving array of “name” wrestlers that used to compete in WWE, TNA and other well-known promotions, WOW has carved out a niche by being consistent in its operation and by giving fans their money’s worth every time out.
“We care about the fans,” Bellini said. “We don’t like to insult them. First of all, I try to keep what I advertise, as far as matches or names, and I try to always make sure they show up. They don’t always do that, and we go out and apologize for it and we feel bad. We also try to keep storylines, so if a fan’s coming back to see what happens next, we want to make sure that we give them that.”
It’s not easy to keep it all running as smoothly as it appears to be running, and at this level there are usually more headaches than days of peace. Bellini says with pride that he’s only had to cancel one show over the last nine years, and that was due to Hurricane Sandy. But ask him why he still does it, and he laughs.
“I don’t even know anymore. I really don’t. I have a normal job, I work overnight in the city, and that’s what pays my bills.”
He pauses to ponder the question again, and he then finds his answer.
“This is fun for me.”
And it’s fun for the fans that come out to cheer on their local heroes and boo the villains. A night at the WOW events will see the wrestlers come out to meet and greet fans, the celebrity guests doing the same, and for those who want a deeper experience, videos on the promotion’s YouTube channel can follow along with the storyline’s centering on the show’s in house talent.
“We have a good following on there, and if you watch Raw that’s what it is [storyline driven],” he said. “WWE is the number one company and we kind of want to emulate what they’re doing.”
That can be difficult to do without a television presence every week, but Bellini and company do their best to make it work.
“You always need to have the guys be reliable to be there,” he said. “And especially if we’re going to put a belt on somebody, we want to make sure they’re going to make our shows. So we have that conversation with them, and I would like to think that at this stage of the game, everybody is smart enough to know that. I have a pretty good contingency with guys showing up regularly. And if they always choose somebody else over me, I don’t use them.”
Yet perhaps the biggest takeaway from seeing a WOW show is the looks on the faces of the kids in attendance. This is where they get hooked. Sure, it’s nice to see WWE or TNA on television, but to see wrestling in person, that’s a whole different animal. And maybe that’s the real reason Bellini does this. To see those looks.
“I do see it the night of, even though I’m running around,” he said. “But I also edit all the shows and I always watch the fans’ reaction. Jake [Gomez, aka Logan Black] is more in tune to what’s going on bell to bell, but the five to seven-year-old doesn’t care about that. I don’t want bad wrestling in my ring, but I want entertainment. And the five-year-old doesn’t care about a five star match. He cares about being entertained and I’ll always rewind over and over to see the faces of the kids, and the adults too.”
He tells the story of one loyal WOW fan.
“There’s one kid who’s been coming for years,” he said. “He used to come with his mom at first and he wouldn’t come in. He would hold his head because either the music or the banging of the mat was too loud, and he would stay out near the bathroom area and just look in. But as the months went on, he would slowly come in. Now he’s front row, he’s hugging everybody and slapping hands. So I’d like to think we contributed to maybe helping this kid out a little bit by helping him come out of his shell.”
Joe Bellini is as old school and no nonsense as they come. But he’s also got a heart, and it’s still a hundred percent in wrestling.