Back in January, a snarky Instagram account by the name of WrestlefestNYC reached out and asked if I’d post a PSA here on the blog to spread the word about Wrestlefest NYC. You know me. I’m a giver, and when I learned that Wrestlefest was a mass coordinated meet-up of MeetFighters wrestlers from all over the world, descending on NYC over Presidents Day weekend to socialize, trash talk, compare gear, and most of all, to get in lots and lots of wrestling, my curiosity was piqued. I posted the PSA (scroll down the blog for receipts), and I expressed my disappointment that I wasn’t able to make it myself. Since then, however, I’ve enjoyed seeing pics and hearing stories about the good time that a whole lot of hot wrestlers had at WrestleFestNYC, including some long-time friends who I didn’t even know were going to be there. My prurient curiosity still piqued, I scored a quick interview with the snarky hottie behind the WrestlefestNYC Instagram account, Scooter, who then put me on to a couple more wrestlers who were willing to share some insights into just how hot and fun things got for them at WrestleFestNYC.
First all, let me introduce you to Scooter. He and I have exchanged a lot of messages over the past couple of months and discovered an astonishing number of small world coincidences where our lives have, unknowingly until now, overlapped. Scooter is the enthusiastic and creative booster responsible for some seriously funny and curiously sexy social media memes on Instagram…
Bard: Can you tell me what you know about the history of WrestleFest?
Scooter: If you want a source of fest institutional knowledge, that would be some of the fest veterans who have been coming for years. Some of the guys know everyone, and even play informal hosts in their suites some nights. Some of those vets who started WrestleFest are still active and participating, so I asked them to find out as much as I could about the history since this is the first year I have been involved. The first year, I was told, was 2004, and it was a total of 4 guys who got rooms at the Hotel Pennsylvania, and just beat up on each other all weekend. Since then, it has been talked about in the chat rooms, etc., and it happens every year on President’s Day weekend in NYC. The only formal thing about it was a roster of who all was participating, those from out of town, and locals. NYC has a lot of guys active in the wrestling scene, but hardly anyone who lives here can host. So the idea is that out-of-towners, who would be getting a hotel anyway, get rooms with big beds or bring mats and everybody wrestles whoever they want.
Bard: What an elegant solution to make space for hot wrestling meet-ups in the cramped big city! And it sounds like it was more just a roster on a bulletin board on MeetFighters, and folks found each other and enjoyed?
Scooter: Yeah, a bulletin board of sorts is a good way to describe it. It was maintained by hashbock for many years and recently by brawl_mart.
Bard: Just catching the buzz on social media as it was happening, it sounds like it was definitely a lot more than just 4 guys beating up on each other this year. Like, a lot of guys beating up on each other [laughing]!
Scooter: I think a lot of people have heard of WrestleFest, but don’t know what to make of it. The posts on social media were a way of letting people know it’s as serious or not serious as you want it to be. Everybody makes their own kind of WrestleFest by the kinds of matches they set up. This year, there were over 125 registered participants. They were in two primary hotels and then everywhere else around the city. Guys came from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, UK, and of course, every part of the US. Guys who are registered see who else is coming and set up as many or as few matches as they like. And this was also the first year that there was any sort of public event; we joined the men at the Eagle NYC for their infamous Sunday Beer Blast.
Bard: I was delighted to see some of the photos from the Beer Blast on social media, and even happened to hear from a friend who was there at Beer Blast, and was among the 125+ WrestleFest participants. You mention that it seems like some guys who might have heard of WrestleFest may not know what to expect from it. I know you said everybody builds their experience to suit, based on the matches they line up. Any other suggestions you have to orient guys who might be interested about why they might want to check it out?
Scooter: Well, for me the most interesting part of the fest, has been the camaraderie that has come about among the guys who participated. Often, pics would show up of some of the guys out at a museum, on the subway, at a show, etc. If you wanted to find a crew of guys to do things with, you could. After the matches are done for the day, some of the guys would open up their suites or rooms to folks to hang out, watch vids, have drinks, etc. I met guys there who are into totally different styles of wrestling than me, and it was awesome just to chat. The same thing happened at the Eagle NYC event.
Bard: Sounds like some amazing opportunities to build community!
Scooter: Another first this year, was that the fest had a dedicated chat server just for people who had registered for the fest. It was where guys could find a roommate, see who had mats available, set up group matches of different types, etc. It really changed the nature of the experience for most guys who used it.
Bard: Technology used for good!? That sounds surprisingly positive [laughing]! You’ve convinced me that this is something I need to get my ass to. For guys wanting to be a part of it in the future, how can they jump on board and participate?
Scooter: The feedback from guys who were at the fest and those who heard about it has been incredible. Now, plans are coming together around the world for WrestleFests in different places. Toronto already has over 75 registered participants, and some of the guys in London are coming up with something too. Anybody that wants to host a fest in their locale should get in touch. We have templates and graphics to share. For everybody else, to keep up with updates, subscribe at www.wrestlefestnyc.com and follow @wrestlefestNYC on Instagram.
Scooter offered to get me connected to a couple of WrestleFestNYC participants to get a couple more perspectives on what it was like to be in the mix of those 125+ wrestlers filling their dance cards with fellow wrestling enthusiasts from across the globe. I almost immediately heard from a charming stud who goes by IllWill II at MeetFighters.
Bard: First of all, what can I call you? Your MeetFighter’s handle is making my vision blurry [laughing]?
Will: [laughing] Sorry. My name on MeetFighters is “Ill Will,” but you can just call me Will.
Bard: It’s very nice to meet you Will! No need to apologize [laughing]. I see it now. Maybe to start, just in broad strokes, what did I miss by not being able to get to WrestleFest NYC this year?
Will: This was my first WrestleFest, but from what I saw and heard, it was just all sorts of action around the city. There was a welcome dinner, a beer blast at a bar, guys doing hotel parties, meals and sight-seeing together, and then lots and lots of wrestling in between.
Bard: It was your first? How exciting! I hear that some guys travel from quite a ways away to join in the fun. Did you get the opportunity to wrestle guys who might not have normally been in the city?
Will: Oh yeah, it was like a world’s market of fighters. I personally wrestled guys from Texas, Canada, and France as well as some from the tri-state area.
Bard: That sounds amazing! For a newbie like me, can you talk about how wrestlers at WrestleFest find each other and coordinate their schedules? And what do you look for when you’re figuring out which hot prospect to line up a match with?
Will: It started for me with guys reaching out months ahead of time to see if I’d be around during the fest window. Chatting about what kind of match they’re looking for, how it aligns with my interests, etc. I always look for compatibility before promising or scheduling anything. If I think the person is actually what they’re advertising and I’m interested, I reach out to schedule based on my availability.
Bard: That makes great sense. It’s cool that you can vet opponents ahead of time, and have a sense of how to check things out. Any highlights of your action on the mats that discretion and good taste would allow you to share? How was the quality of your wrestling experience at WrestleFest?
Will: The wrestling I got in on was fantastic! All of my opponents were skilled and respectful. I had one stellar submission match on a hotel bed where we went at it for like an hour without a resolution. But we kept chatting and hanging out and eventually brought the rematch to a mat room. Was the perfect closer to the fest for me.
Bard: Woah, that sounds incredibly intense and hot! Did you get to enjoy any of the social events, as well?
Will: Yeah, I went to the beer blast that Scooter helped coordinate. It was also a gear night at the place, so it was awesome to see all the guys cutting loose in singlets, trunks, and all after a day of action.
Bard: I saw some photos of the Beer Blast and it looked like, well, a blast! And a ton of sexy gear [laughing]. It sounds like you’d be back for another WrestleFest in the future?
Will: Oh yeah. I didn’t expect myself to get so invested in it at first, just thought I’d have a match or two. But then I caught the spirit and didn’t want to stop! And yes, I’m already thinking about how to participate as much or more next time.
Bard: Any tips for guys who’ve never been before, but considering it when it rolls around again?
Will: I would say approach the fest with an open mind but clear communication. I heard some horror stories of guys getting stood up, matches turning out not-as planned, etc. Stay organized in your planning if you’re trying to get lots of matches, and keep in mind this fest is about/for a community of people who should generally want to uplift and have a good time together.
Bard: That sounds like solid advice! Probably for life, really [laughing]. That WrestleFest spirit sounds highly contagious, and awesome. You’ve been very generous letting me pepper you with questions. Before I let you go, can I ask, when you had the rematch with the marathon opponent on the mats at WrestleFest, how was it resolved?
Will: As for that last match, it was pretty even again and eventually turned into each of us just showing one another some different tricks from our respective grappling styles. With an open invitation to rematch any time we’re in the same city.
Bard: Fuck, that sounds like everyone wins! Thanks so much for sharing with me, Will.
Just a bit later, I heard from another WrestleFestNYC alum who has also become a big booster for the fun and community that the WrestleFest format has been able to foster. Aust10wrstlr at MeetFighters is another hot stud, with a super sexy beard that I’m completely obsessed with, who couldn’t say enough about how much he enjoyed WrestleFestNYC.
Bard: Aust10, thanks for being willing to take some questions and give me another perspective on WrestleFestNYC this year. What made it such an exceedingly positive experience for you?
Aust10: It’s difficult to encapsulate exactly why Wrestlefest 2023 was so amazing for me, because there were so many great aspects this year. Joining the dedicated chat server for Wrestlefest NY 2023 was huge! The server is a great medium for finding opponents with similar interests based on match style and other variables. Being on the server was also fantastic just connecting with other fighters attending the event whether that was for getting each other hyped up, making recommendations on outings around the city, finding group wrestling matches, or just shooting the shit with a group of great guys. During my time in New York I connected and wrestled with so many great guys, some of whom I had connected with and arranged ahead of time, and others that were more spur of the moment while I was in New York. I even got the opportunity to lock up with the amazing guys from Metro Wrestling as a newbie to freestyle wrestling, and it was a fun and awesome learning experience. Aside from all the great wrestling action I got to experience while in New York, I had plenty of time to both explore the city in the great company of some of the other guys attending Wrestlefest as well as socialize and relax as some of the guys hosted hangout sessions. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience, so much so that I am already excited and geared up for Wrestlefest Canada happening in July of 2023!
Bard: That sounds like such an all around fantastic time! What were your expectations heading into the event? How did they stack up with what you experienced?
Aust10: While I knew I was going to have a great time at Wrestlefest based on the conversations I had with other attendees prior to the event as well as having attended Wrestlefest NY in 2020, this year’s event by far exceeded my expectations. I think a large part of that was how much more communal this year felt, again thanks to the chat server where people openly invited wrestlers to events as well as the get-together that was organized at the Eagle, which was an amazing experience for myself and many in attendance.
Bard: Even having attended once in the past, it sounds like this year’s Fest was special for you. Very cool! How much wrestling did you get in?
Aust10: I think in total I wrestled 19 different fighters, some of whom I crossed paths with multiple times, because we happened to participate in some group wrestling or because one time just wasn’t enough for both of us. Luckily for me, I have interests in a varied number of styles, and I got to have different matches with fantastic guys across the fighting spectrum.
Bard: Nineteen matches!? Holy shit, that’s a ton of hot wrestling! Any highlights that discretion and good taste would permit you to share about any of your matches?
Aust10: I have two particular experiences that jump out at me when I think of Wrestlefest NY. The first one started when I met a fighter at the Eagle social event. We had not connected prior to the event and happened to hit it off that night, first locking eyes, and then finding ourselves on the dancefloor. We traded MeetFighter profiles knowing we both definitely wanted to wrestle each other. We met the following evening, and although our planned time we allotted to wrestle was relatively short due to our schedules, by luck, events worked out where we ended up wrestling one-on-one for almost two hours non-stop. When his next opponents arrived they turned out to be two fellows I’d also connected with prior to WrestleFest, but couldn’t work out our schedules. The guys graciously invited me to join in the action, which gave me a second wind, and what ensued was three hours of sweaty rough wrestling action. It was an amazing experience to say the very least. So much so that I jumped on the opportunity to meet him again the following day before his flight. We enjoyed a walk around the city and before we knew it we were back at the hotel rolling around, building up a healthy sweat and trying to break our tie to determine a victor. Just to give you a hint, we did not manage to do so, and will be attempting to settle our score again soon.
Bard: Damn, like, round 3 and the two of you are still working on settling the score? That sounds intense!
Aust10: The second experience was with a brawler gifted in submission wrestling with whom I connected with in the MeetFighters chatroom before Wrestlefest. We hit it off online and without question I knew we were going to have an amazing time on the mats. Beforehand we met in person for the first time at the Eagle as well and had plenty of fun on the dancefloor. When it came to wrestling, I was indeed not disappointed! Not only did we have a grueling long match that lasted an hour without either of us giving in but we managed to connect again at the amazing mat room in Brooklyn where we spent an hour covering the mats in sweat. Aside from the amazing wrestling action, we had a few opportunities to grab meals, walk around the city and engage in fantastic conversation.
Bard: Wait, wait. That sounds so fucking familiar [laughing]! I love that image of chemistry on the dance floor morphing into super hot, intense wrestling. I wonder what you see as the value of an event like this for the wrestle/fight community? How does the fest contribute to building the community after the fest is over?
Aust10: It’s amazing to have an event that brings together so many different fighters from across the country and abroad all to a single location. In my opinion, when you compare the wrestling/fighting community versus other gay leaning kink/fetish/sport communities, it is still quite fledgling. While there are pockets of local groups around the world that congregate for events, I don’t know of any that attract as many wrestlers as Wrestlefest NY. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to not only unite so many brawlers from across the fighting spectrum and celebrate by doing what we do on the mats, but also the feeling of belonging to a community promotes fraternity and brotherhood. There were plenty of times I saw on the chat server fighters giving each other advice on a myriad of topics ranging from planning group outings to helping guys with lodging.
Bard: Honestly, I had no idea that level of community and camaraderie existed for guys into wrestling. That’s so awesome to hear. I know you mentioned the Eagle and outings you went on. Could you talk more about WrestleFest social opportunities apart from wrestling meetups?
Aust10: The social events were a welcome addition to Wrestlefest and are a great means for making the event feel much more communal. Wrestlefest combined with New York can be a bit overwhelming, especially to newcomers or first-time travelers to New York. The event at the Eagle for example was an unforgettable event. I have always wanted to check it out and going as a group made it feel accessible. Also, it was honestly a freeing experience for myself and many others when it came to celebrating ourselves as wrestlers donning our singlets and wrestling gear in an open environment. It was also awesome to see how welcoming everyone was even though most of us started the night as strangers. The group was inviting and including all the attendees to feel part of the gang as well as watching out for each other. More social events would absolutely be a positive addition to Wrestlefest to continue bolstering the community and give guys more opportunities to connect with other brawlers beyond the mats.
Bard: I love hearing how positive and mutually supportive WrestleFest was, and the momentum it sounds like that gives to continuing to build community. And just out of personal curiosity, how many compliments did you receive about your rocking beard?
Aust10: [Laughing] The beard does tend to get a good amount of attention from the guys. I welcome all those who want to give it a rub, tug or nuzzle.
Bard: Well, I’m seriously considering if I can get myself to Toronto for WrestleFest Canada this summer. If I do, I definitely want my turn to give it a tug! Thanks so much, again, for your time and for sharing your insights into what sounds like an amazing experience!
My thanks to Scooter, Will, and Aust10 for taking the time to share with me, and for being willing to let me broadcast some of their experiences here. I hope to see these guys, and you, at an upcoming WrestleFest!
7 thoughts on “WrestleFest”
If they ever arrange a cruise, that would be awesome. Just think of all the possibilities, especially if you bring in the wrestler from UCW. Nhb, wrestler4hire, and all the other independent companies.
I’m going to Wrestfest in PA in July and would be happy to have an interview with Wrestlebard about my matches there. I’ve been wrestling 27 years and had amazing matches.
I’ve wrestled in the underground circuit for 27 years. I’d love to share some stories about my bouts if you are interested.
Hey, Tom, absolutely I’m interested in hearing about your wrestling history and your experiences at WFPA!
OK. I will be attending WrestleFest PA the same weekend as WrestleFest Toronto. When I get back I will let you know and we can talk about my years as an underground wrestler.
Perhaps, when you’ve got some extra time, you can chat with Brawl_Mart who actually started the Wrestlefest brand over 20 years ago. He can give you many more details about his events.
I’d love to! I’ll look him up.