On Friday evening in Amsterdam, the home of the Rams had a visit from TNA wrestling, as the high school gymnasium housed a screaming throng of fans and their costumed champions.
Even before the event could start, 12-year-old fan Shali Zuckerwar of Gloversville was so caught up in the hype that she was threatening to faint if she got to glimpse a wrestler up close. “If I see one of the wrestlers, I might,” she warned.
This enthusiasm was also exhibited by two of her siblings and her father, Teddy, who was wearing a special shirt for the event that he had made from a white tank top.
While not officially linked, the wrestling matches on Friday unofficially kicked off two days of excitement that culminates today with inductions into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam.
The halls of the high school were bustling with people before the matches started at 7:30 p.m. There was food and merchandise to buy, including mock championship belts and clothes, and a long line formed for a chance to meet wrestlers Matt Morgan and Mickie James. People would pose for pictures with Morgan and James or have them sign paraphernalia.
The duo were a big hit for Ginger Wagner, who came from Syracuse for the action and said this was her fourth time at a TNA wrestling event. “Anytime they go anywhere near New York, we try to go,” she said.
This is a longtime love affair for Wagner, as she said her interest dates back to the 1980s. She added that the women’s belt, which is currently held by James, “is pretty sweet.”
Shortly before the wrestling was scheduled to start, a seemingly spontaneous chant started near one corner of the ring and spread to the highest parts of the bleachers. “Randy Savage” echoed throughout the temporary home for wrestling, as the crowd paid homage to the “Macho Man,” who died on Friday morning in a car accident.
One of the emcees for the event then held a more formal tribute to Savage, as the crowd stood and removed their hats while a 10-bell salute rang out in his memory. The emcee described this ceremony as the greatest honor that could be bestowed on a fallen wrestler.
Mourner Michael Connelly, of Amsterdam, displayed a sign he had made for the occasion. He said he was shocked and heartbroken when he learned the news of Savage’s passing.
But Connelly remained committed to having a good time on Friday, as he pronounced, “You got to move on.”
And the event did move on, as the crowd responded when another emcee encouraged them to make some noise. The crowd roared when he promised that some of the loudest fans would be allowed backstage.
Then, as the first wrestlers of the night made their way to the ring, which was surrounded by metal railings and lighted by elevated stage lighting, the audience roared again. There were jeers and hisses for wrestler Robbie E, a look-alike to Pauly D on “Jersey Shore,” and vocal admiration for Kazarian, a large specimen who displayed a hand gesture that was mimicked by the crowd.
Their bout shook the entire stage and made it rain sweat. The two competitors moved like physically imposing ballerinas completing a choreographed and practiced dance routine.
During their match, the crowd’s energy remained high, until a crescendo of screams erupted with Kazarian’s final moves before he pinned Robbie E.
It was more of the same for the rest of the night, which included appearances by women’s champion James and Morgan, who was listed at 7 feet tall.