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Pro Wrestling

LaBar: Pro wrestling legends are a reminder that less is more

| Sunday, April 12, 2015, 10:30 p.m.

This past weekend was a reminder of how little things go a long way in professional wrestling.

Saturday was the annual “Night of the Superstars,” presented by the Pittsburgh-based International Wrestling Cartel. Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, Gangrel, Tommy Dreamer, Rhino and former WWE star Evan Bourne were headliners.

I worked on the show as a performer and producer, which allows me to obtain an interesting mix of information, observations and stories.

The little things that keep a wrestling career going were displayed.

I'll start with Gangrel. The vampire character made famous by WWE in the late 1990s still resonates with a crowd.

I snuck into the production area to watch Gangrel in the main event. I couldn't stay backstage for this one. I wanted to see it and feel it from the audience's perspective. There are some things you can't watch on a television or computer screen — you need to experience them live.

The moment the music hit, an odd energy was in the air. Gangrel has the same power walk to the ring with sunglasses on and a cup of “blood” in his hand. He got in the ring, stepped on the ropes, took his signature sip from the cup and spit the red mist into the air. A roar from the crowd equaled the volume level of goth music pumping out of the speakers.

Gangrel, 46 and 15 years past the height of his career, still has presentation of his character that made him famous.

Actually, he only has half of the presentation from his WWE days and is still a success. Saturday's venue, Meadville High School, didn't like my suggestion of building a fire pit near the entrance way for him to mirror the unique entrance he had in WWE.

Gangrel moved well in the match, which featured five other people — including Kevin Nash. He did what he had to do to fit into the match, but it didn't matter what he did after that entrance. Every person who paid a ticket got what they paid for: seeing him enter just a few feet from their reach.

In a behind-the-scenes note, Gangrel was a nice guy to be around. I probably talked to him least because I had no history with him. I wasn't involved in his match as a performer. Most of that main event wrote itself and was handled by the major players.

However, I observed Gangrel for a considerable period. He was easy to talk to. Not everybody who has a run with major companies is approachable.

Nash was fresh off his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. The New World Order music played, and the rest was simple.

When Nash does the Kliq hand gesture forever, the fans will do it in return. He's in phenomenal shape, which makes you think he can wear ring attire forever. The music will never lose its iconic sound and what it stood for. Add a big boot, a few elbows in the corner and a powerbomb, and the fans go home happy.

I often stress in my weekly column, as well as radio and television conversations, about my dislike for fans who judge everything based on the number of moves in a match and how cool they look. Those fans are the same ones who think performers such as Roman Reigns can't wrestle or who never think a match is good unless it has a certain “indy” feel to it.

I enjoy these matches and performers, too, but I also appreciate other types of successful professional wrestlers and styles.

This show this past weekend was an indy show, and fans waited for the final match to see some of the most basic but entertaining things possible.

There was some athletic showings by guys such as former WWE star Bourne, who faced TNA's Zema Ion. But to be fair, years doing wild moves in the ring is taxing.

I wish them continued success while they are capable of doing these amazing things. I also hope they continue to find elements in their character that are just as entertaining as anything they do with their bodies. The little things professional wrestlers can do to be memorable will always be a positive.

I am a big Daniel Bryan fan. He's one of the best bell-to-bell performers ever. But the real key is that in 20 years if he's out doing big indy shows such as IWC's on Saturday, he'll be able to raise both hands in the air and get the people to chant “Yes!” He won't have to rely on a running knee or dive to the outside every night.

Less is more. Good health leads to longevity, and that provides the potential to make more money.

Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or jlabar@tribweb.com.

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