Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are solely those of the credited independent contributor, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com or any of its entities.
From Stephen Platinum:
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night.”
Saturday Night Live (SNL) is in its thirty-ninth season. Wildside formed in 1999 from a merger of National Championship Wrestling (NCW) which started in 1997 and was owned by Steve Martin and Rick Michaels, and NWA Georgia run by Bill Behrens. Wildside produced over 300 television shows before Bill Behrens left to work with then developmental territory Deep South Wrestling. Anarchy Wrestling started on May 21st, 2005. Wildside’s television syndication (which became Anarchy’s) was available to about 40% of the television viewing audience, and came to include other countries.
I recently read “Live From New York,” an uncensored history of Saturday Night Live as told by its writers, cast members and guest hosts. It was a fascinating look at an absolute iconic show (ranked #10 on TV Guide’s Top 50 shows of all time) that launched numerous careers and changed the face of television itself. I thought about all of this as Anarchy presented “Fright Night” on October 26th of this year, the 14th one (editor's note: I believe it was number 15).
SNL didn’t get its start because the network wanted to break with tradition or set new aesthetic standards (though it did those things). The network wanted to make money, and was willing to give SNL a shot. NCW was started for the same reason most wrestling groups start (and all should) and that was to make money. To be fair, NBC, the station that hosted SNL, had a history of taking chances, of stretching the standards of what could and should be a television show. And pro wrestling in general has always had shows start. It’s safe to say that every week a show is making its debut, somewhere. Every town is seen as “the perfect place” to start a wrestling show. Every venue is a potential gold mine, every surrounding populace a pro wrestling audience in potential.
SNL started as a very different kind of show than what it would become. It was more a variety show, with various acts coming together. Sketch comedy was always a part of it, but wasn’t the entire focus. The notion of every show having a different host wasn’t set in stone, yet. With the early days of NCW, they too were figuring out what they wanted the show to become. Personality clashes between Rick Michaels, Steve Martin and soon Bill Behrens would become the stuff of legend, and to this day if you asked each of them who came up with what, exactly, you may well get three different answers. With SNL, a similar thing exists – who really came up with this idea, this format, knew so-and-so was going to be a star, etc. Even a book as thorough as “Live From New York” allows that they can’t ultimately give a definitive answer about everything.
What they can both say is that they are the standard. The absolute standard. SNL of comedy shows, and NCW/Wildside/Anarchy of wrestling in the state of Georgia since each began. Full Disclosure: I have deliberated, rewritten, thrown away versions of this article trying to get it just right. I’m not 100% sure it is there even now. But I think this format I’m going to use is the easiest to understand, and illustrates the points best.
SNL and Anarchy Have Been Led Well SNL is synonymous with Lorne Michaels, a genius that anyone who has come in contact with feel compelled to discuss. The time when he wasn’t in charge of SNL is regarded as the first worst period of the show. SNL was his brainchild, followed his sensibilities, and he fought the fights and made the tough calls that mattered. There have been many men in charge (either as promoter, head booker, or both) over the various years and incarnations of what I am simply going to call Anarchy for ease of discussion. Steve in particular probably is not given enough credit for what he accomplished in the early years of the promotion. Rick Michaels, good and bad, carved out his own reputation for the promotion and oversaw many pivotal booking moments and was responsible for great shows that laid the foundation of the fan base that has unwaveringly remained. Bookers have come and gone with Anarchy over the years, but undoubtedly the person most identified with running Anarchy is Bill Behrens. The period where Bill was not in charge at the beginning of Anarchy is often seen as the not-as-good moment in the timeline of the promotion. When Wildside ended because of Bill moving on to Deep South, it felt very much like something was ending – he was that vital to everything. Wildside/Anarchy being part of the National Wrestling Alliance was through Bill, and when Jeff G. Bailey used to declare “The Elite are the crown jewel of the National Wrestling Alliance” it wasn’t hyperbole. Lorne Michaels and Bill Behrens have sacrificed, put their reputations on the line, and ultimately become synonymous with their work with SNL and Anarchy, respectively.
SNL and Anarchy Have Created Stars This is the point that is simply beyond reproach. SNL created a new model…no longer did you become a comedy star that aspired to show up on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, you wanted to be part of the SNL cast. In the state of Georgia (and usually neighboring states as well) if you didn’t wrestle for Wildside/Anarchy, you weren’t shit. Period. And it is still the case for both. The lists are undisputable: for SNL, every major name in American comedy with few exceptions were part of the cast or hosted or performed on SNL. Looking at the early years of SNL casts is literally a who’s who in the comedy business. And the writers went on to major careers as well. And here’s an incomplete list of who have gone through the Church of Southern Wrestling through the years, most of whom learned their trade there:
• Altar Boy Luke (Luke Hawx)
• C.W. Anderson (Chrisopher W. Anderson)
• Brian Black (Palmer Cannon)
• Bull Buchanan
• Brian Christopher (Grandmasta Sexay)
• Jason Cross
• Terry Ray Gordy, Jr. (Jesse)
• James Guffey (Jimmy Rave)
• Chris Hamrick
• "Wildcat" Chris Harris
• Hotstuff Hernandez (Hernandez)
• Ron Killings (R-Truth)
• New Jack
• Prince Justice (Abyss)
• Alexis Laree (Mickie James)
• Murder one
• Tony Mamaluke
• Joey Matthews (Joey Mercury)
• Rick Michaels
• Shannon Moore
• Sean O'Haire
• Frank "Air" Paris
• Bob Sapp
• Ric Savage
• Sinister Minister (James Mitchell)
• Tony Stradlin
• A.J. Styles
• Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne)
• David Young
• Dameon Steel/ (Dameon Daniels)
• Scotty Wrenn (BLC)
• JC Dazz (BLC)
This is an incomplete list, of course. Who runs other promotions? Who are the movers and shakers on the local scene? Chances are they worked shows for Anarchy/Wildside. Who are the current best? They work at Anarchy. Where did Xavier Woods really cut his teeth and learn? Where does Brody Chase share his wisdom? Where does Mikal Judas work after his TNA stint? Where do guys learn how to make money and draw? It’s Anarchy.
There are often those who criticize people who write or discuss wrestling in the state of Georgia who say that Anarchy is favored. It is. Because wrestling there matters. Main eventing there matters. And getting over there matters in a way that IT SIMPLY DOESN’T MATTER in most other places. That’s hard for people to grasp, but it’s true. Subsequently, if you have never hosted, been asked to host, or been in the cast of SNL, then you aren’t a megastar in American culture. You just aren’t. That’s hard for people to grasp. It’s harder still for people to accept. But it’s the truth. It’s been the truth for over a decade.
Saturday Night Dead SNL has been criticized and pronounced “dead” or “not as good as it used to be” countless times. Anarchy, also, inspires though with any real or perceived stumble that it is dead, or not as good as it used to be. It’s the price of being the standard for so long. It’s also one of the indications that, in fact, SNL and Anarchy are so woven in their respective scenes that they inspire debates, and ultimately their main competition are earlier incarnations of THEMSELVES. Think about that – they are each so significant and so clearly superior that the main criticism that gets leveled at them is that may or may not be losing a competition – not to others, but THEMSELVES. Talk about being the measuring stick. There have been other comedy shows that have put out stars. There have been comedy shows that for shorter runs have gotten better ratings than SNL. There are darlings of comedy that are the current it thing that have nothing to do with SNL. But those things come and go – SNL remains. And every time SNL “dies” it finds its stride , reinvents itself, and continues to the point where a Saturday night without SNL is unthinkable and unimaginable. It’s been said that “there will also be wrestling in Cornelia” and they weren’t talking about some group – they were talking about a group birthed of NCW/Wildside/Anarchy being in that building, the Church of Southern Wrestling. It reinvents itself. It has gone through countless cycles. They’ve had long runs of packed crowds, and weathered times where the crowds were thinner. They’ve been declared “dead” or “dying” and made it through. The NWA letters came and went, and nobody blinked. Imagine that – The National Wrestling Alliance designation didn’t matter, at all. And there were groups that drew bigger crowds, and still do. But they feel (and are) tenuous. There were groups that took the unofficial title as #1 promotion in the state (most notably Rampage). And they are gone. But Anarchy remains.