I had no idea what to expect when I made the decision to attend Control Your Narrative’s show in Orlando.
I was already in town for AEW Revolution so why not check out this controversial show that may or may not be a disaster? As a long-time fan of the “How Did This Get Made?” podcast I’m familiar with the entertainment value in things going poorly or simply being outlandish. I’d enjoyed the work of EC3, the former Braun Stroman Adam Scherr, and Austin Aries to varying degrees in the past.
Maybe I’d be pleasantly surprised.
While there was controversy around Control Your Narrative’s perceived political leanings I wasn’t aware of anything outright political in their marketing. Maybe that was ignorance on my part, but I tried to go in with an open mind and was curious if their content would have a political message or if they simply leaned into that perception as a way to create publicity for the event. I really didn’t know what I was walking into, but quickly realized that the tone of Control Your Narrative was going to be a bit different than anticipated.
The show took place at an open-air bar/dance venue within Icon Park.
What is Icon Park? Its official website describes it as “an entertainment complex featuring fun and games for the whole family. You can spend your day exploring over 40 amazing restaurants, funky bars, boutique shops, and amusement park rides.” Yes, this controversial show was taking place next to a giant Ferris wheel, Madame Tussauds’ wax museum, an aquarium, and Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips.
Shortly after entering the park, I was almost run over by a choo choo train giving rides to small children. No this is not a reference to Braun Stroman. There was an honest-to-goodness train on wheels driving toddler passengers around as they waved to their parents. Needless to say, this was not the place for any sort of pro wrestling activism. One of the first announcements made informed the audience that “Control Your Narrative is all about the freedom of expression…but there are kids everywhere so please don’t swear.”
Danhausen would have been proud.
The show began with what turned out to be the only outright political statement of the evening: the playing of the national anthem. Amusingly there was no flag to be seen, so the fans in attendance (already standing as no chairs were provided) just kept staring at the ring. EC3 and others then took the stage. A wrestler with a bag over his head was seated in the ring. EC3 claimed that the individual originally scheduled for this match was “pulled” so Eli Perez was being given the opportunity. Perez then won a quick match against an opponent that was not introduced. After the match had ended, an announcement was made that Eli had “Controlled His Narrative”.
The phrase “Controlled His Narrative” was how every winner was announced. Over the course of the show, a pattern emerged. Every match was introduced with either a video package or an in-ring promo that made it clear who should be cheered and who should be booed. The audience had an obvious rooting interest for each and every match. Many of the gimmicks were over the top. Ryzin is a cult leader. The Righteous (Bateman and William) also have some kind of devil-worshipping gimmick. Kaydin Pierre appeared to be a stripper that gradually disrobed during the match. Jamie Stanley is a frat-boy douchebag. Johnny Radke uses the nickname “Manbun Jesus” and was accompanied to the ring by “The Groovy Grizzly”, a manager in a tie-dyed Panda costume. The sit-down interview with self-serious Austin Aries was conducted by a comedic character with the moniker “The Space Cowboy.” Yes of course he wore a cowboy hat.
It wasn’t until the Groovy Grizzley was announced as having died (complete with 10 bell salute) due to the injuries sustained during an earlier assault by MMA fighter Blake Troop that I finally realized what Control Your Narrative really was: Fight Club-inspired CHIKARA
For those unfamiliar, CHIKARA was referred to by its creator as “the Marvel Cinematic Universe realized as a pro wrestling company.” CHIKARA had characters like Los Ice Creams (luchadores in Ice Cream masks), The Colony (luchadores in ant masks), a time-traveling marching band leader, a snake capable of hypnotizing his opponents, and Chuck Taylor throwing invisible hand grenades. Chikara even did storylines that involved characters “dying” (RIP Estonian Thunder Frog). It was pro wrestling set within a comic universe, so comic rules applied.
However, that universe also included serious wrestlers like Eddie Kingston, Claudio Castagnoli, Sara Del Rey, Ruby Soho, and Brodie Lee.
Control Your Narrative appears to be doing something similar, only instead of a comic-based universe it exists within a Fight Club reality where outcasts and rejected members of society search for purpose through combat.
Elements of reality blend into kayfabe, such as Austin Aries telling the audience his scheduled opponent was “paid to stay home” by corporate wrestling overlords and challenging a young wrestler named Abraham Khan solely because of his last name in a symbolic attempt at revenge. Fight Club was a satire that criticized capitalism and commercialism for overtaking society and leaving even accomplished individuals feeling their lives were empty and meaningless. Control Your Narrative is a criticism of “corporate wrestling” that prevents talent from expressing themselves only to later abandon them.
The wrestlers in Control Your Narrative are the ones with nowhere else to go, so they’re building themselves a new home. EC3 and Adam Scherr’s show-closing promos both reinforced a message around taking control of your life and making the most of it. The irony of Braun Stroman advocating that independent wrestling is more fulfilling because of creative freedom may or may not have been intentional, but I enjoyed it just the same. Overall CYN is a creative and unique presentation for pro wrestling and I had a good time at the show.
With that said, there are some inherent issues that limit CYN’s prospects for success. The in-ring action bell to bell wasn’t bad in the BotchaMania sense but was pretty basic. The storylines helped the audience invest in the winners and losers, but there weren’t any matches themselves that were must-see. That may have partially been caused by the venue’s low ceiling, a hanging disco ball over a turnbuckle, and the ring’s positioning near multiple walls that made dives almost impossible.
Even if the in-ring action improves though, there are already over a dozen hours of pro wrestling airing on national television every week from more established promotions. That’s not even including various streaming options from high workrate independents and Japan. It’s never been easier for fans to access wrestling content, but it’s also never been more difficult to grab their attention.
Additionally, while CYN itself doesn’t broadcast any specific political message, the personal views expressed by some CYN roster members will turn off a percentage of their potential audience. There are reasons some of the talent involved became available in the first place. There’s also a question of how well CYN will appeal to AEW and WWE fans while denouncing “corporate wrestling” yet running shows that piggyback on their PPV weekends.
I’d recommend attending a Control Your Narrative show if you’re a fan of the wrestlers on the card, or if you’re just into checking out something different and a bit wacky. If neither of those things appeal to you then stick with what you already like. With so many great options available there’s no need to watch anything you’ll hate.
Control your content.