In June 2017, posters began to appear around Brighton and the surrounding area for a new wrestling organisation, and their first show which promised “Beers, Bands and Wrestling” at the Brighthelm Centre. Having lived around Brighton and the surrounding area for big chunks of my adult life, I had immediate reservations having never heard of the company, and worried that Brighton might be a city not best suited to wrestling. How wrong I was.
Despite any misgivings about Riptide and the mysterious venue I had never stepped inside, I hoped they would have a successful first show, especially as I was unable to attend. Thankfully they got off and running and as a company, they have gone from strength to strength. I don’t make it to every show, life tends to get in the way but I go as often as I can, and I have rarely seen a company put on shows on such a regular basis that have a plethora of brilliant competitors in such an accessible venue that produce consistently top-drawer matches. More so, these shows feel like they are run by and for a community of people who really love the product. So, with that in mind let’s dive into why you should be watching Riptide.
Let’s face it, the number one thing the vast majority of wrestling fans want from an independent show is top quality in-ring action, and Riptide delivers that in spades. One of the most physical matches I’ve ever seen took place with “The Product” David Starr taking on Chris Ridgeway at the Brighton Championship Tournament weekender last summer. It was violent, relentless and utterly gripping as you watched these two tear lumps out of each other. That doesn’t mean the match wasn’t technically excellent, just that the physicality is what sticks out in my mind.
Another fantastic example of what Riptide is all about came in the form of Travis Banks vs “Speedball” Mike Bailey at Deep Six. This match was wild, and both men put absolutely everything they had into it. Bailey might not be a household name, but he probably should be, while Banks is always good value for a strong-style, fast-paced contest.
Whether it’s Chuck Mambo, David Starr, Spike Trivet, The OJMO, Chris Brookes, Millie McKenzie, Aussie Open, TK Cooper, Jordan Breaks, Kurtis Chapman or any other member of the revolving roster of superb talent, the in-ring action is always strong.
While the in-ring action of any match should tell a story, traditionally you can enhance that with character work outside of those matches. Really good promotions go a step further and tell stories that span multiple matches and events. From the very first Riptide event, Spike Trivet was established as public enemy number one, with Jack Sexsmith the crowd favourite. As Trivet gathered more troops for his Money vs Everybody it told not only his story, but it helped Sexsmith develop more of an edge, constantly worried about who might turn on him next. Unfortunately, Sexsmith suffered a career-ending injury so we never quite got the payoff to that story, but Riptide has done well to port the sympathies of the Riptide faithful over to champion Chuck Mambo as he feuds with Trivet. It’s simple storytelling, but it’s presented in a way that captivates those who are watching.
Fan service and interaction
In the modern era, it is more important than ever to be in touch with what your customer wants, especially within the professional wrestling realm. Certain UK-based companies have been accused in the past of treating their loyal fan base with contempt once they have their money, but Riptide has done no such thing. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference. Whether it’s putting up signs to explain what wrestling is and how it works for attendees who may not be familiar, or creating an open an honest dialogue with their fan base on social media, this company seems to think outside the box and avoid taking their paying customers for granted. When the fans speak, Riptide listens and tries to accommodate them where possible, which is just fantastic to see.
Everyone loves a surprise, but in wrestling far too often surprises tend to disappoint. However, Riptide seems to have struck a very careful balance of making sure that when they promise a surprise, they deliver something worthwhile. There are two major examples that spring immediately to mind. First, as part of the Brighton Tournament Weekend last year, Aussie Open offered out an open challenge to any team that wanted to face them. As he was on the shows all weekend, WALTER took up the challenge, but to the astonishment of the whole Brighthelm Centre, he brought his RingKampf cohort Timothy Thatcher with him, leading to an enormous pop and a fantastic main event.
The second, and probably more widely seen surprise featured Cara Noir (and if you don’t know about Noir, you should go out of your way to get to know, immediately) facing a mystery opponent who turned out to be PAC. The match between these two was white-hot, in front of a crowd who were delighted to see that particular combination. That is how you deliver on a surprise. Not a giant egg or a turkey costume in sight.
The Brighthelm Centre is not a venue where I would have expected to see wrestling. It feels like a local worship/community centre but it truth it’s perfect for Riptide. High ceilings, plenty of space, accessible facilities, room for the local vegan hotdog vendor and merch village. It’s fantastic. However, in recent months Riptide has expanded to other venues, including Brighton Youth Centre which has an incredible aesthetic to it with graffiti on the walls and a more intimate setting. More recently, two shows took place at Brighton Open Air Theatre which looks incredible and made for a great day out for the whole family. I was even able to bring my wife and one-year-old daughter to the show (her first wrestling show, as you would imagine) and they had seemingly catered for every need of the assembled masses. Having an eye for a unique and unusual location, and then being able to make the most of that venue is something far too few promoters are willing to task a risk on.
Much of what I’ve mentioned so far is focused on the live experience, but even if you can’t get down to the shows in Brighton that isn’t necessarily a barrier to immersing yourself in Riptide. All of Riptide’s events are offered on-demand at WatchRIPTIDE.com, dating right back to their original show. It’s a real treasure trove of fantastic matches with big standouts from the UK and US indie scenes over the last few years making appearances, and even the likes of NXT and AEW stars like WALTER, Pete Dunne, Matt Riddle, Jimmy Havoc, Candace LeRae, and Keith Lee popping up on various shows. What marks Riptide out as a different proposition is the effort and attention to detail they put in for their VOD service.
The angles and lighting used make the product look uniquely cinematic, and something completely at odds with the traditional way wrestling is shot. There’s less of an overreliance on the hard camera, and more use of unorthodox filming methods as well as a clear eye for the direction of the shows. If anything the cinematic style elevates the art form, presenting wrestling as something wholly more intricate and culturally significant than the way it is unfortunately portrayed. Only the likes of AEW and WWE can boast better production values and that’s with the backing of hugely rich owners, where Riptide is a company that makes the very best of what it has, taking a back-to-basics approach but presented in a thoroughly 21st-century fashion.
Finally, the most important thing, wrestling should be fun. Whether it is the trademark beach balls for Chuck Mambo (or the fans accidentally breaking the ring after Mambo won the Riptide championship), or bringing in cult 90s children’s television presenter (and local celebrity) Dave Benson-Phillips to tag with Session Moth Martina against the Anti-Fun Police in a match where there were pools of gunge at ringside. Riptide is built on fun, something that very much leaps out through the screen at you as much as it does when you’re there in person. I have brought diehard wrestling fans, and non-fans alike with me to see Riptide and the reaction has always been the same. They are left wanting more.
Images and video courtesy of Riptide Wrestling. You can watch all the events from Riptide’s history plus much more at WatchRiptide.com