“Don’t think.  Feel.  It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.” – Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon

DCW, or Dragon Con Wrestling, celebrated running its 20th annual show on September 1 at the eponymously named Dragon Con. For a wrestling fan, one might wonder if Dragon Con is in any way similar to say a WrestleCon, or maybe a Gathering of the Juggalos (Convention-esque events that are known for their associations with the Pro-Wrestling Fandom); or even ask “What the fuck is a Dragon Con?”  It’s impossible to discuss DCW without first briefly discussing Dragon Con itself – simply put, a 4 Day celebration of all things nerd and geek culture. In contrast to events like Comic Con, however, Dragon Con focuses far more on celebration and cultivating a party atmosphere than breaking industry news. It is a gathering for people to fly their freak flags and engage like-minded folk amid the hotels of Downtown Atlanta.

As Dragon Con welcomes any and all geek culture fandoms, professional wrestling also has its place. And for 20 years, DCW has provided grappling entertainment to the attendees. Unlike many independent wrestling shows of similar scale, the filled ballroom of the Hyatt Regency has many more asses in seats than one could expect.

However, all of these people aren’t what you or I might consider “wrestling fans.”  For context, Dragon Con Wrestling holds their event Thursday Evening of the convention – the first ‘actual’ day of panels and events. But for many attendees, this is still a day of settling in before fun and debauchery begin in earnest on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So DCW holds an enviable slot of being one of the first significant entertainment events of the con for people to come out, sit down, and see a show. In a way though, this is reminiscent of the roots of pro-wrestling in its essential: the people coming out to the local carnival or fair at the turn of the 20th century likely weren’t going to see wrestling either. But once they arrived, the spectacle of the side-show attraction drew in the unsuspecting audience. 

The counterpart to the swell of casual fans that fill the seats of Dragon Con Wrestling, are the DCW Hooligans, local Atlanta independent wrestling fans that come out every year to DCW event. In many ways, the Hooligans are central to the show’s success on a year-in, year-out basis, as they’re the sort of core fans you need to get the rest of the crowd invested into the show. There’s a philosophy when going to smaller-scale independent shows, that it’s only going to be as fun as the audience makes it, and in this case, the participation of the Hooligans give the cues to the rest of the audience of not only who the babyfaces and heels are – but also their rowdy, rambunctious attitude serves as an example, a de-facto permission, for the rest of the audience to start cutting loose as well. The Hooligans come equipped with their personalized t-shirts to signify their crew, cases of beers, signs, and energy to let everyone else know this is about having a good time.

If reviewing a wrestling show, it does beg the question, “what about the wrestling?” I fear though, that question may be missing the point. In this context the show, is very much more about the ‘Dragon Con’ than the ‘Wrestling’ – in that these cards are not composed and not performed in a manner which one might expect for Pro Wrestling Guerilla or Major League Wrestling. Instead, this is a spectacle that is meant to show where wrestling and geek culture intersect. And although what has been termed as ‘merch-table culture’, and for it’s possible negative drawbacks to wrestling as a whole, this event is a showcase of wrestling talent sharing their love for geek fandoms along with their fans – a small demonstration of something shared by audience and talent alike.

In that vein, DCW shows don’t start the way many indie shows kick-off. Every year, The promoter known as AJ or “Big Daddy” conducts a DCW Hall-of-Fame ceremony, recognizing stalwarts of the Dragon Con Wrestling roster, as well as big-name celebrity guests that might be in attendance. This year was purely focussed on DCW talent, as Crystal Rose a mainstay of their women’s division was provided the DCW Lady’s Cup, Jon and Trey Williams of the Washington Bullets were given the honor of Best Tag Team on DCW History, and the Tag Team Cup was awarded to Murder One, not present at the event. Who was present, however, was Slim J who was presented with the final DCW Championship Cup, to be retired this year for the newly minted DCW Championship Belt – which would be contested later in the evening.

This was a taste of things to come, however, as this year’s Dragon Con Wrestling, would feature something somewhat unexpected:  ANGLES!  A balding man with a sucker and a blue suit entered into the ring, one Scott Cramton with an announcement. With contract in hand, Cramton revealed that AJ had sold DCW, and would now become Cramton’s property. A similar presentation to Stokely Hathaway, but with far fewer of Hathaway’s charming qualities, makes Scott Cramton an easy-to-hate heel. And in traditional heel fashion, Cramton plans to divorce DCW from Dragon Con itself and move the show away from the event. With the crowd, led by the DCW Hooligans, solidly and vocally against Cramton’s revealed shenanigans, ‘Big Daddy’ AJ tore up the contract, reneging on the deal. Not to be outdone, Cramton made it clear that the issue wasn’t over, and that AJ would pay by the night’s end.

Well, I was in this for the long hall and had my thermos of smuggled cocktail at the ready.

It was time to review the show.

SCRAMBLE Sean Legacy def. CT Keys w/ Scott Cramton, Chip Day, Ethan Case, and Wade Adams

The tom-foolery that is Dragon Con Wrestling was instantly in view as we got our first match, and honestly, is it a small indie show without a scramble? The story of the match was essentially between Sean Legacy and Wade Adams, with a running gag from previous years: the two are road-travel partners, and always come up with a plan for an awesome costume at Dragon Con.

Unfortunately, Legacy is the one that always winds up with the awesome costume and Adams winds up looking like a joke, because Legacy put the wrong costume in Adams’ bag. This year, the same would hold true as Adams was dressed as some sort of bug, and Legacy would enter the match as a rather accurate-looking Peacemaker-as-played-by-John-Cena. Much to Adams’ chagrin, he would also take the pinfall from his driving buddy after Legacy hit an OzCutter for the three.

Crystal Rose def. Tracy Taylor and Trixie for the DCW Lady’s Cup

This match was something of a head-scratcher, but I reminded myself that not only is this an indie, but it’s Dragon Con, so I tried not to think too much about the particulars. All three talents were announced for the contest, with entrance music as one might expect – yet Trixie stayed on the outside, leaving Crystal Rose and Tracy Taylor to engage one another seemingly one-on-one. The match started with both women taking a babyface approach, but Crystal Rose is a DCW diehard, so the crowd became solidly behind her. At some point mid-way through the match, Trixie began to engage Crystal and Tracy verbally, and was officially added to the match (I suppose?), but Crystal Rose emerged victorious in her defense of the Lady’s Cup, but that wouldn’t be everything.

Turning heel, Tracy Taylor and Trixie teamed up to put the boots to Crystal Rose, laying down a tag match challenge for next year.

“Sting” (aka CB Suave) def “Undertaker” (aka Stryknyn)

DCW has done what even WWE failed to do!  Sting vs. The Undertaker is in front of a live audience for the first time ever!  Nothing like this has happened before, nor will it since!  YOU HAD TO BE THERE!

Oh wait.

This was CB Suave in the role of Sting, and Stryknyn in the role of ‘Taker. But in truth, this was huge fun, with each competitor simply performing the signature moves of their likeness, one after the other, after the other. We had run-ins from nWo pretenders, a visual pinfall scored by ‘Undertaker’ and a scorpion deathlock by “Sting.” I don’t care, I was feeling my buzz from my thermos and I had fun.

“Blue World Order” (Adrian Hawkins, Bobby Moore, and Nick Halen) w/ Kae & Billy Buck def. Simon Sermon w/ Big Money Maverick, Mike Mosley, Amazing Darkstone, and John Skyler

This was an 8-Man tag match, but the emphasis was purely on entertainment value as opposed to in-ring work. Mosley is something of an institution at DCW, as he fully embraces the cosplay geekery of Dragon Con, taking up a persona that’s always resonant with the crowd. This year he Kel Mitchell’s character Ed from Good Burger, complete with an orange soda spot – which earned a pop from the crowd. Simon Sermon would take the loss after a comedy spot that involved not liking a kiss from a girl, which perhaps an old trope for ‘Gorgeous George’ type heels, is a classic. And since the match didn’t overstay its welcome, I had a good time. It’s amazing how much fun you can have when you’re sucking down a thermos of cocktails.

Washington Bullets (Jon & Trey Williams) def. Hunter James and Rob Killjoy w/ Coach Mikey for the DCW Tag Team Cup

Ok, this was the match of the night.

It might have been the match of any DCW show I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, the Washington Bullets are the highlight of every DCW show I’ve been to, but tonight, they had dance partners that made the action intense, fast-paced, and exciting in a way for even a wrestling fan who was definitely rosy-cheeked by this point in the evening. With several false-finishes, the Bullets would hit their finisher – the Marion Barry, with Hunter James taking the fall.

But perhaps even better than the in-ring action, was the angle to follow. Scott Campton had returned to the ring, attempting to use his wealth to bring the Washington Bullets under his fold. It would seem that the Bullets would stand alongside Killjoy and James in solidarity with DCW at large, only for the Bullets to take advantage of their bested opponents when their backs were turned. It was clear that Jon and Trey Williams would be joining CT Keys under the direction of Scott Campton. The Hooligans were in an uproar, though Compton was eager to talk trash right back to DCW’s direhard fanbase, oddly coming into his own as the night progressed. I was buzzed by now and like heels, so the Hooligans and I started opposing each other in crowd reaction, which I love.

Slim J def. David Young for the DCW Championship Title

This was something of a surprise to me, booking-wise. Last year, David Young was very much a babyface in the main event against Billy Buck – somewhat notable because it was the first year Dragon Con was back from Covid, with a capped attendance. So last year’s show had a slightly somber mood, and Young was the flag-bearer for DCW’s resilience. To see him this year as a heel to Slim J’s returning local hero, fresh from AEW television, caught me by surprise. 

That tidbit would be swept away though, by the energy of the crowd. I’d mentioned I was inebriated by this point in the show, but now, so too were the rest of the audience as well. As Slim J and David Young milked the crowd before their initial lock-up, the Hooligans managed a successful ‘Twist His Dick’ chant, which caught on with the rest of the audience-at-large. So this was gonna be the kind of main event we were going to have, which was fine by me. Slim J was a crowd-pleaser of a babyface, playing into the crowd and their chants. After plenty of playing around, we actually got the dick twist, which is really where the match begins. It was a greatest-hits review of Slim J and all of his signature maneuvers, with a veteran David Young who kept up with all of Alim J’s acrobatics. In the end though, Slim J hit an STF for a submission win.

As AJ came out to recognize his first-ever DCW Championship title-belt winner, Scott Cramton returned to ring-side with CT Keys and the Washington Bullets at his side. Turning on AJ, the fans, and on DCW, Slim J hit the promoter with a low-blow, joining forces with Cramton and his newly developing stable. I for one, was loving this, and by this point had become fully bought-in with Scott Cramton and his takeover of DCW. The Hooligans weren’t as pleased that I was siding with the heels, and their mood reflected the rest of the house. As the crowd became incensed – not typical for Dragon Con Wrestling, which typically has a much more comedic tone and feel-good finishes, AJ picked himself up off the mat, licked his wounds, and took the mic to make it clear that Dragon Con Wrestling wasn’t going anywhere.

And to determine who it would be that would stand to defend DCW’s honor next year to face Slim J would be our Main Event…

Azrael becomes #1 Contender

The match started with 10 competitors in the ring, with others coming in at irregular intervals. By this point, it was nearly impossible for me to keep track of the competitors, but as reported by Georgia Wrestling History, confirmed participants to start the match were Curtis Hughes, Rob Killjoy, Takuri, as well as Hoax and Deon Summerz. We would also see entrants come in at random: Skrilla the Great, Supernatural, Mr. Delicious, Rob Adonis, Azrael, Scotty Beach, Christian Pierce, Lamar Diggs, and Gladiator Jeremiah.

Mr. Delicious, Azrael, Gladiator Jeremiah, and Scotty Beach were the final four participants, and by this point, it became apparent to me who would win. Like Crystal Rose, Azrael is a DCW mainstay, and he would go on to win the Battle Royal, to earn the right to face Slim J at next year’s DCW for the DCW Championship.

By the end of the show, my thermos was empty, and I was trying to make sense of my notes in order to figure out what it was I’d just watched and was trying to report on.

One of the show’s announcers, ‘King’ Michael Gentry was good enough to send me a copy of the card, so honestly, without him, this review would be an even more incoherent rambling than it already is, and in all honesty, might not have even been possible. As I watched attendees filing out of the venue, they seemed to have a similar energy that I had: while this show might not have forged any new wrestling fans that night, it probably created new DCW fans. Fans that will look forward to seeing next year’s show, even if they hadn’t seen any other wrestling for the rest of the calendar year. The sort of fans that may have looked forward to the carnival coming back to town, so they could see another side-show attraction: the fortune-teller, the strong-man, or pro-wrestling. And in a way, isn’t that the root of wrestling fandom?