Hundreds of people packed the gym at Waterbury’s Crosby High School on a recent Friday night. But they didn’t come to see a basketball game. Some came to see a 13-foot Burmese python, a prop for a guy named Jake “the Snake.”
Others wanted to take pictures and get autographs. Folding chairs were lined up in front of the bleachers. An 18x18 ring sat in the middle.
This is independent wrestling. And local guy Wrecking Ball Legursky was about to get in the ring.
“The Wrecking Ball is unstoppable,” Legursky said, whose real name is Spencer Charette. “The Wrecking Ball is 6-foot-6, 420 pounds of destruction. Can’t be stopped.”
Charette played football at Southington High and then at Southern Connecticut State University. But a career in pro football didn’t work out. So he made a change.
“I didn’t want to live with ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve,’” Charette said. “I knew I had the athletic ability. I knew I had the size and the skill, so I had to pursue it.”
He’s now mastering the overhead press-slam that he calls the “Trainwreck.” He’s an independent contractor, but he wrestles exclusively for Northeast Wrestling during the weekends because he says it’s the biggest non-televised pro wrestling company in America.
“A bunch of WWE legends on the show,” Charette said. “It’s great for networking and it’s great to wrestle in front of the local crowd that’s going to be very energetic and enthusiastic.”
Charette has had a WWE tryout and hopes that he can continue to build his name locally. Sami Callahan has already had a WWE contract. But he left.
“The reason I like being out on my own is because I make my own decisions,” Callahan said. “I’m my own entrepreneur right now. Sami Callahan is its own brand.”
Callahan has wrestled for 12 years. On this night, he was in the main event. But getting there is a grind.
“I pride myself on being one of the most booked wrestlers on the planet,” Callahan said. “And I’m out of home three or four days a week sometimes.”
Dave Dugan of Prospect watched all of the action from the front row with his 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. They got as close to the guard rail as they could to get the attention of the performers.
“They come up to you and talk to you,” Dugan said. “They yell at you -- the villains do. The good guys shake your hand and everything -- they want you to cheer for them.”
The 39-year-old delivery driver said he takes his family to every Northeast Wrestling show at Crosby High because it’s affordable. He paid $20 for each front row seat.
“It’s family friendly,” Dugan said.
Some of the performers that Dugan and his family are cheering for are big-time names: WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler; former World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. But for most of the other guys here -- they’ll never see the WWE, and they’ll still keep working the indies.