Beers and takedowns abound as craft brewers and wrestlers step into the ring

Special for Infobae of The New York Times.

NEW YORK—In Brooklyn on a hot Friday night, a group of beer lovers gathered to de-stress by shouting and trying some cold beers of the type India pale ale, or IPA as they are also known, which were created by dozens of of breweries. In most situations, shrill screams are not well received. But at Other Half Brewing’s Green City Championship beer festival, held this month at ZeroSpace, a sprawling event venue in Gowanus, chugging down beer and blowing off steam was precisely the point of the event’s entertainment: professional wrestling.

Every 30 minutes during the four-hour festival, which also had a Saturday edition, crowds with foggy beers in hand gathered around a wrestling ring to cheer and boo. Wrestlers in tights with names like Manbun Jesus, Rex Lawless and Casanova Valentine knocked down, punched and jumped off the ropes at their opponents, egging on spectators and sometimes inflicting staged injuries with arm twists and traffic barrels.

The percussion of bodies bouncing off the tarp constantly echoed through the crowd, leading to hop-fueled roars that grew louder as the night wore on.

“Being a little more lubricated and uninhibited makes the experience a lot better,” said Mike Bruckenthal, 30, who lives in Brooklyn and works in sales.

Increasingly, craft beer and wrestling are sharing efforts. The energetic Brooklyn event is just one of many taking place across the country, and just one way that brewers and professional wrestlers are joining forces to harness and amplify each other’s popularity.

“Wrestling has become part of the beer culture,” said Shane O’Neill, owner of the New York Wrestling Connection, who helped organize the evening’s entertainment.

Historically, the two worlds lacked such a close connection. “I grew up watching wrestling, and I didn’t see much intoxication at the shows,” said veteran wrestling journalist Keith Elliot Greenberg, who since 1985 and for 22 years wrote for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) magazines. English). “Wrestling was intoxicating by itself. If you went to a wrestling event and didn’t get a beer, you still walked out in high spirits.”

Professional wrestling leagues were also reluctant to link up with beer “because they were marketed to a child audience,” added Greenberg, author of the forthcoming book “Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the Age of COVID-19.” That’s why commercials featured wrestling stars like “Macho Man” Randy Savage taking a bite out of a Slim Jim, a snack made from smoked meat, or André the Giant raving about Honeycomb cereal.

However, some modern wrestlers cultivated their fan base in the late 1990s and early 2000s by treating beer consumption as spectacle and subversion that was part of the character they played. James Fullington, aka The Sandman, smashed beer cans over his head, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin drank domestic beer cans, sometimes with both hands, spraying foam everywhere.

Fans cheered when Austin drank and spilled beer, but brewing companies weren’t too enthralled by “Stone Cold’s” rebellious character. “On one occasion we proposed an idea to a brand,” Austin said, but “they didn’t even want to see us in painting.”

However, cultural attitudes have evolved. Many craft brewery bars welcome patrons of all ages, and wrestlers have transcended the ring to become entertainment superstars. Now they are part of the group of celebrities who create their own brands of alcoholic beverages, such as Dwayne Johnson’s Teremana tequila and WWE star Leah Van Dale’s Capa Cagna wine, better known as Carmella.

Similar to following certain gangs or rooting for certain sports teams, adopting a specific beer “can help a fighter complete their character,” said Nick Reely, vice president of marketing for Pabst Brewing Co., makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon lager ( PBR).

Pabst partners on events with Game Changer Wrestling, a popular promoter that puts on wrestling matches, and sponsors wrestler Matt Cardona’s podcast, “The Major Wrestling Figure.” Cardona drinks PBR during his ring entrances, hits opponents with 12-packs of PBR, and recorded a PBR commercial with fellow wrestlers. “He is part of our community and our brand,” he stated.

Wrestling promotion companies are finding success hosting events in breweries, which often offer ample space — the ring and surrounding railings alone can require 400 square feet — and enthusiastic fans. “We have an audience that just wants to de-stress,” said Nelio Cuomo Costa, CEO of Coastal Championship Wrestling, which produces the monthly Bash at the Brew matches at Unbranded Brewing in Hialeah, Florida.

The fights can draw around 700 fans, many of whom will be drinking Triple Chokeslam IPA, a beer supplied by Unbranded, as the action unfolds amid tanks and beer kegs that double as props for the show. “We take advantage of being inside a brewery,” said Costa, who has since added Saturday Night Slam events at Miami Brewing in Homestead, Fla., and is looking for a third brewery to serve as a location.

“Breweries love it because people are going to drink a lot,” Costa said.

At first, Casanova Valentine, the wrestler from Brooklyn, found it difficult to get his friends to come to his events on Long Island, so he began wrestling ring-free “death matches” in bars and clubs. New York. “I brought wrestling to them,” said Valentine, who prefers to use his character name rather than his birth name, Christian Salvatore Taranto.

Other Half hired Valentine in 2017 (“I’m a big guy, and sometimes they just need a big guy who can lift things,” he said), and before long he saw an opportunity to mix his passion with his workplace. Wouldn’t a beer festival with some wrestling be more exciting?

“Beer festivals can be boring if all you do is line up for a beer, then line up for the next line,” said Andrew Burman, director of operations at Other Half.

Since the first edition of the Green City festival in 2018, Valentine has worked with the New York Wrestling Connection to host wrestling matches at the Other Half festivals, including Pastrytown, its celebration of rich culinary-inspired beers like stouts and sours.

“People are ready to party,” Burman said. “You leave your problems at home.”

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