A Behind-the-Scenes Video Look into a WWE-Affiliated Indy Promotion
Passion. We as fans have true passion for the business. We watch it every time it's on TV. We drive hours on end to go see the events live. We buy the pay per views, the DVD's, the merchandise.
We follow it every day, keeping up with the latest news and rumors. We read the columns, the analysis, we absorb every word written, all because we have passion for the sport we love.
It's the same passion that brings so many workers to the ring. WWE, TNA, ROH, Dragon Gate USA, a great number of the men and women employed by these companies began merely as fans. Fans, who loved pro wrestling, and shared a great passion for it.
Then there is the independent circuit, the place where passion for the business was born. Standing in the ruins of the once-great territories, the indy scene is filled with diehard fans and promoters who are creating variety and options, where none have existed since WWE dismantled the regional promotions so many years ago.
It's here that you will find HVW, High Velocity Wrestling.
Based out of Hendersonville, N.C., HVW, like a thousand other companies out there, are giving everything they have in order to make their fans happy each and every week. They don't have a mountain of money. They don't have network TV deals, or shelves of action figures in Wal-Mart.
But, what they do have, they have in abundance. They have what others in the "big two" at times have lost. They have that certain intangible that brings fans to their building, that brings them to their feet, cheering matches that are more entertaining than any they will see on the next big worldwide pay per view.
They have passion. And, in the following pages, you will get just a small glimpse of it.
This is High Velocity Wrestling.
Matt Hardy Getting Back to His Roots in HVW
After Matt Hardy's time in TNA was over, many fans thought that would be the end for the Cameron, N.C., native.
They thought wrong.
Matt has immersed himself into the indy scene, taking dates all over the country, and giving back to the fans who helped make him a star in the first place.
It's his humbled approach that has reminded fans why they loved him, and has also reacquainted him with the business that he loved as a young man. Matt's attitude is well suited for this level of the business, and is perfect for HVW.
When Matt worked the main event of HVW Extravaganza back in May, he did more than just show up and collect an envelope.
He showed up. Period.
Working HVW star Kirby Mack, a young man he and brother Jeff had trained, Matt did not take the whole match, calling spots to make himself look good, or get himself over.
Instead, he gave Kirby a lot of spotlight, treating the match as if it were a bout on SmackDown. For the fans in attendance, Kirby's star shone a little bit brighter, and Matt's respect level grew a little bit more.
And, after the show was over, instead of hurrying out the back door, Matt stayed, signed more autographs and took pictures with fans in the ring. Then, though operating off only three hours sleep, Matt stayed and gave yours truly a 14-minute interview.
He was the right star, in the right environment, in HVW. Everything went perfectly that night, as the fans, once again, got their money's worth.
Oh, and, if you're thinking that Kirby Mack looks familiar, he probably does. More on that to come.
The Promoter Is Still a Worker
Fritz Von Erich, Verne Gagne, Dusty Rhodes. All three men were responsible for calling the shots in three different companies.
And, each one booked himself in the company.
When you're the owner, or in Dusty's case, the head booker, it's your job to provide the best card possible. And, if it doesn't go well, it's your name, your livelihood, that's on the line.
So, the only way to be sure it gets done, is to get it done yourself. Simple math.
It's no different in HVW, as Gary Benfield, aka Viper, is often in the lineup on Saturday nights at the HVW Arena. But, the biggest difference between Gary and those who came before him?
He's working for the love of the business, not because he doesn't trust his guys to make it happen.
The first time I met him was 12 years ago, and he looked like a roadie for Motorhead. Long black hair, dark glasses, wearing a sleeveless T-Shirt, and a wicked smile that always left you wondering just exactly what he was really up to.
Renamed Bishop, I became his manager, in a heel group that we called the Elements of Darkness, or EOD for short. We had some great times in those days, and of all the members we had, including Steele, Soultaker, Reaper, Dark Lord and Jesse Black, Viper was the one true wild card.
Simply put, it was never a dull moment when Viper was in the mix.
In those days, Viper was all about himself, with just the right amount of necessary ego it takes to be a star in the business. He wanted to have the best match on the card, every time he stepped into the ring. And, he did all the time.
Now, as owner of the top indy wrestling promotion in North Carolina, Viper still gets in the ring with the intention of knocking them dead. But, not at the expense of his younger talent, who he trusts with his main events, and his high-profile matches.
Viper has come full circle in his career, and now his top priority is no longer himself, but his company.
Just the way it should be.
HVW's Connection to WWE Begins to Reap Benefits
Two years ago, Edge was wreaking havoc on the already twisted psyche of Kane.
Not an easy task, to be sure.
But, the Rated R Superstar had found a major weakness within the Big Red Monster, and exploited it. That weakness was Kane's "father" and former manager, Paul Bearer.
Edge had taken the ghost-faced man in black, kidnapping him, and holding him supposedly against his will, mentally torturing Kane week in and week out.
On this particular night, Edge had apparently decided that enough was enough, and he was calling it a day on this angle. Wheeling Paul out onto the ramp, it appeared as though Edge had a change of heart and Kane would be allowed to see his father again.
But, the man in the wheelchair was not Paul, it was an impostor. An impostor, by the name of Gary Benfield.
Waiting for Kane's boot, Gary decided to push down with his feet, causing the chair to fall backwards. It was not something that had been planned, but he knew that it would only add to the impact of the spot.
Backstage, he got props from several of the WWE boys for the spot. He did his part, made it look good, and provided a moment that many fans have not forgotten.
How did this come about, you ask? How did a NC promoter wind up on the SmackDown stage with the whole world watching?
Stay tuned, the last slide will tell the whole story.
John Laurinaitis Gives a Pep Talk
As part of an agreement between HVW and WWE, John Laurinaitis came to Hendersonville last year to take a look at Gary's talent.
He was impressed with what he saw. So was HVW.
On that night, John was not the hard-nosed, corporate suck-up that he had often been portrayed as. In fact, he was nowhere close to that.
Instead, he was as down to Earth, as obliging, as anyone I have ever met on the indy circuit. He smiled, he shook hands, and he was extremely courteous to the fans in attendance. He even bypassed the big, padded "throne" that had been roped off at ringside, in favor of a metal folding chair.
He sat down among the rest of the crowd, and watched the whole show, from start to finish.
After the event, he came backstage, spoke to all of the guys, and even gave some pointers one on one. It truly was a night to remember.
One of the top corporate guys in WWE, rubbing elbows with the stars of HVW, This was a huge moment for the company, and went a long way to bolstering the confidence of not only Gary, but his talent as well.
HVW Invades WWE
Remember Kirby Mack now? Perhaps you know him better by the name he used on the night that HVW invaded WWE.
Okay, maybe invade is a strong word. But, Arthur Rosenberg, aka Kirby Mack, and Stan Stansky, aka Stoney Hooker, are two HVW talents who got the call when WWE came to Charlotte back in June.
Their task that night? Make WWE's human bulldozer Ryback, look good. And, they did just that.
I was in attendance that night, and as the two men came down the ramp, I could not help but feel some pride. After all, they were North Carolina boys, representing the historic southern tradition of pro wrestling, for the whole world to see.
This is Crockett country, and down here, we know what wrestling is, and how it's supposed to look.
But, of course, Mack and Hooker were mauled and left for dead. Ryback took them out, and WWE moved on to the next town.
However, we all know the deal when it comes to squash matches. If the men doing the job can't do their part, then the man going over will look foolish, and the entire match is dead in the water. On this night, Ryback looked as good as ever, if not better.
But, for Kirby Mack and Stoney Hooker, this was hopefully just the beginning.
In-Depth Interview with HVW Promoter Gary Benfield
So, here we are. This is 24-plus minutes of Gary Benfield, talking about HVW, his association with WWE, and the business in general.
For all you fans out there, hopefully you will enjoy the interview, as you will get a real behind-the-scenes look into the operation of an independent promotion. Gary is a straight shooter, and this night was no different.
For anyone who has ever thought about perhaps becoming a promoter themselves, this video should serve as a warning, and reason to think twice. It's not for the weak willed, or the faint of heart.
I have known Gary for a long time, and though this interview occurred just after the end of HVW's Aug. 18 event, when everyone's tired and ready to go home, I was a little concerned, as I saw real exhaustion on my friend's face.
As successful as he has been with HVW, it's still not an easy business to operate in. With every week comes another show, and a new set of challenges. He never rests on his accomplishments, but instead is constantly pushing to move forward, to be better than last time.
No, it's not easy. But, in our neck of the woods, no promoter does it better.
It's what HVW is all about, and they consistently take care of business every time the doors open.
Time to plug! Check out these links for even more HVW:
on Twitter @HVWVIPER