Robert Newsome knows wrestling is fake. But like most wrestling fans, the host of Athens’ monthly Championship Wrestling from Flicker night (and the publisher of the wrestling fanzine The Atomic Elbow) prefers the term “scripted.” If you ignore the WWE’s cartoonish personalities and formulaic promos, he says, just focus on the in-ring action and give yourself over to its absurd logic, it feels like a real sport. And although the goal is to not harm each other, there’s a degree of pain and danger in every bump a wrestler takes. As announcer Jim Ross famously asked, “How do you learn to fall off a 20-foot ladder?”
The finishes might be fixed, and the moves performed as safely as possible, but that doesn’t invalidate professional wrestling as a form of entertainment, or even, some argue, an art form. As Newsome says, “When it’s done well, wrestling can be the best thing in the world, in terms of how a story is told and the athleticism. It’s sports for people who hate sports. I never had an interest in sports, but I love wrestling.”
Newsome started programming a monthly night of wrestling content at Flicker Theatre & Bar in 2011. He doesn’t consider himself a wrestling evangelist, he says; he was just looking for a way to indulge his lifelong obsession with wrestling while also getting out of the house.
“When I started, I just had a bunch of tapes that I had accumulated or traded for over the years,” he explains, before disclaiming that his tape trading habit and Flicker night are both meant “for educational and research purposes only.” He continues, “I had these tapes and started to put them on DVDs, and I thought I’d watch them at home by myself. A guy named Adam Jackson did a night where he showed some old Mid-Atlantic stuff. That was a lot of fun, and I wondered why people didn’t do it more often. So I did.”
Occasionally, Newsome will pick a theme for his nights—he shows matches from WCW’s old Halloween Havoc pay-per-views every October—but generally, the programming comes down to whatever he feels like watching that night.
“I try to do stuff that’s seasonally appropriate, but that usually just goes out the window,” he admits. “I’ll show up and feel like watching Japanese wrestling from last year instead of Florida NWA stuff from 1982. It’s just whatever tapes or DVDs I bring. I do welcome requests, but I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
Indeed, Newsome’s passion for wrestling isn’t bound to one specific territory or time period. At Flicker, you might see an old NWA or WCW episode that aired on TBS before a Braves game in 1987, or the latest big show from the meme-generating (and now sadly defunct) goofball indie group Chikara. You might find state-of-the-art technicians and high-flyers from Japan and Mexico, or WWF big men from the 1980s stumbling around the ring. The only guarantee is you’ll see some of the best (or most hilarious) action that the sport has to offer, as curated by an expert and fan of over 30 years.
In a more subtle way, Newsome is performing valuable work for wrestling fans in Athens and abroad. Vince McMahon’s WWE (formerly WWF) is the only major wrestling organization left. McMahon has bought the tape libraries of almost every other important group and territory and over a series of DVDs has rewritten wrestling history to exalt his own legacy. Between his zine and Championship Wrestling from Flicker, Newsome aims to preserve the true history of wrestling.
“I’ve always been a WCW/NWA loyalist,” Newsome says. “When I was a kid, my dad would disparage the WWF. I never got into it. I watched the WWF because it was wrestling, but it was always substandard wrestling. It was always the wrestling you watched because the other wrestling wasn’t on. It wasn’t real wrestling.”
Real wrestling, to Newsome, was the Southern stuff he’d see on TBS and local UHF stations in the 1980s.
“Like, everybody thinks the music that was out when they started buying records was the best music ever made, I’m gonna think that the wrestling that was out when I first became a wrestling fan was the best wrestling ever made,” he says. “So, mid- to late-’80s NWA Georgia and Florida stuff. That’s what formed my picture of what wrestling is, so I’m always going to think that’s the best.”
So, what can fans expect from this month’s wrestling night?
“I just got a set of ‘Championship Wrestling from Georgia’ from 1985,” Newsome reveals. “It’s not ‘Georgia Championship Wrestling,’—on Black Saturday, when Vince McMahon Jr. appeared on WTBS; that was ‘Georgia Championship Wrestling’ that he bought. So [wrestler and promoter] Ole Anderson started ‘Championship Wrestling from Georgia’ with [announcer] Gordon Solie, and that was what became of the NWA at the time. This stuff is brilliant.”
WHAT: Championship Wrestling from Flicker
WHERE: Flicker Theatre & Bar
WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 5 p.m.
HOW MUCH: FREE!
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