“I was blown away.”
This was the answer that Colin Bright, owner and general manager of Pro Wrestling Empire, gave when I asked about his first impression of the central PA professional wrestling scene. That impression was formed at a show held in New Cumberland.
“I was expecting to see, you know, guys in cutoff jeans and tank tops bouncing around in front of 40 or 50 people,” Bright said. “But it was a legitimate show.”
Bright, so impressed with what he saw, jumped feet first into the ring and gave the semi-professional world a spin.
“I wouldn’t have gotten involved if I didn’t see something real, and I’m really proud of what we have done,” he said.
By “we,” he means the five main team members that make up Pro Wrestling Empire. What they’ve “done” is build off of that initial show to organize wrestling events from the ground up: a ring manufactured by the same company that works with the WWE, big personalities, big drama and all.
Case in point: in October, the team will welcome one of wrestling’s true legends—Ric Flair (aka “The Nature Boy”)—to their next show, “Clash of the Titans.” It will be held at the historic Zembo Shrine, which has a history of hosting some of the biggest names in wrestling, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.
“There’s a long list of very well-known Hall of Fame-caliber wrestlers that have been in that building and wrestled under the same lights that we get to perform under,” Bright said, citing as examples Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
Spectators and fans attending the show can expect an entire wrestling experience, complete with vendors selling goods such as protein shakes, comics and more. It’s being organized as a true fan experience. The creative juices and passion behind the project are enhanced because the Pro Wrestling Empire team is not only fans, but some are also performers.
A few of the team members even appeared in the last show, threw some punches, and, in the case of Bright, took a very hard hit.
“I got double-crossed at our last show, and a guy almost took my head off with a cheap shot—and the crowd just went nuts,” Bright recalled, showing me a video on his phone. “That’s what’s really rewarding, too. We’re putting on shows that, if I was watching them on TV, I would be pumped!”
Bright considers Pro Wrestling Empire a second chance at a dream. After college, he strongly considered attending a professional wrestling school.
“There’s a well-respected school out in Allentown that’s run by the Wild Samoans that are from the family of the Samoan dynasty,” he said.
For those not in the know, the Wild Samoans are a famous tag-team wrestling pair and members of the WWE Hall of Fame. Since the 1970s, their camp has trained some of the sport’s best-known wrestlers.
“It’s a pretty distinct lineage in professional wrestling, and I was about set to go,” Bright said. “It just didn’t work out. My career got in the way. You know, being an adult.”
“I’ve played it safe if that’s what you want to call it,” he added referring to his regular-guy career in financial planning. “I wanted to take an opportunity before it passed me by again.”
That opportunity isn’t just bringing professional wrestling to more people in central PA. It’s also the opportunity to create and tell a story to the audience.
“That’s another thing that distinguishes us from other companies,” he said. “We do it like they did it in the ‘90s. We run soap opera-style storylines that have multiple pieces to them.”
“Clash of the Titans” will be a continuation of the last story shared at a Pro Wrestling Empire show—a story that 800 people came to see.
Besides Ric Flair, there will be thrills like a “Six Pack Challenge” (six wrestlers at once) and a “Hell in a Cell”-style match they’ve dubbed “Chamber of Hell” (a giant cage placed over the entirety of the ring).
With a goal of ensuring the entertainment was not financially out of reach, the team priced tickets at a level more affordable than some movie tickets. Pro Wrestling Empire also provides the Salvation Army in Harrisburg with complimentary tickets and donates a portion of their proceeds to the organization.
“You think professional wrestling, and some people have their opinions about it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it still has to be treated like a real business and run,” Bright said.
I may have had my own pre-conceived notions about professional wrestling, but I’m now a convert. After hearing what this team has in store, even I’ll be making an appearance at “Clash of the Titans.”
“Clash of the Titans” takes place Oct. 22 at the Zembo Shrine, 2801 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.prowrestlingempire.com or follow “Pro Wrestling Empire” on Facebook.
Author: Ashleigh Pollart