CHICAGO - The long-standing relationship between rock music and professional wrestling has a new partner: Billy Corgan.
The Smashing Pumpkins frontman has joined with two wrestling promoter brothers to debut the first show of Resistance Pro, an indie wrestling company, on Friday at a downtown Chicago dance club.
Corgan describes himself as a childhood wrestling fan who fell away from it, only to rediscover it as an adult hobby before learning about the business.
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“Our vision is to try to grow talent,” Corgan said in an interview from Europe, where the Smashing Pumpkins are on tour. The Chicago-area native will miss Resistance Pro's opening night, but co-owner and promoter Gabe Baron says a second show will be announced at the Friday event.
“We have people who are going to work for us who are pretty well known on the indie circuit,” Corgan said. “You have to start somewhere, and part of that is creating a curiosity in the audience.”
Resistance Pro's website boasts pictures of more than two dozen costumed wrestling personalities with names like “The Sheik,” ”Danny Dominion“ and ”Sassy Stephie."
Eventually Resistance Pro's goal is to expand nationally, but not using Corgan's celebrity alone. Still, the rocker's picture is the largest, placed among five wrestlers on an advertisement for Friday's show.
“We have to start in Chicago and build a name for ourselves and build enough of a reputation to take it other places,” Corgan said. “It's a serious endeavour. I want this to succeed strictly on its ideas. If I had to artificially prime the audience because of my musical life that's sad. This is going to succeed on its own ideas, not because I jumped the shark.”
Corgan's partners, brothers Gabe and Jacques Baron, saw inspiration and passion in the rock star.
“This is a guy who is on the same page as we are as far as how wrestling should be,” Gabe Baron said, describing a show for fans that's similar to a rock concert. “They're going to feel the excitement of a rock concert but with the thrill and spectacle of wrestling.”
Historically, rock music and wrestling have never been far apart, said Scott Beekman, author of “Ringside: A History of Professional Wrestling in America.”
“At a certain level I think they appeal to similar audiences,” Beekman said. “There is this notion that you're gearing toward adolescent males. There's also this flash of wrestling and rock that's related, the pyrotechnics, the announcements.”
The roster of wrestlers Corgan and his partners have amassed makes for an impressive, high-end indie wrestling card, Beekman said.
“Billy Corgan is a more legitimate rock figure than most of the guys who get involved in this stuff,” Beekman said. “I don't know though if just having Billy Corgan involved is going to be enough.”
Corgan's involvement will mean concussion prevention efforts. He said he won't allow Resistance Pro wrestlers to perform risky moves, like chair shots to the head.
“As a fan, I don't like to see my heroes worn down and broken,” Corgan said. “We have to work harder as a wrestling industry to think of the long-term health effects on the performers.”
That will be one part of an equation Corgan hopes equals success.
“I believe we can take it into a more casual mainstream,” he said. “It doesn't have to be anything more than entertaining.”