A skinny boy posing as John Cena enters a makeshift arena and, in a ‘signature move’, hurls his T-shirt at a group of cheering spectators. Another, pretending to be The Rock, swaggers into the ring and challenges Cena to a duel. But the show-stealer is a third boy dressed as ‘just another local aunty’, who enters the ring and ends the comical fight with a deadly ‘finishing move’.
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If you thought WWE WrestleMania existed only in the US, you’re wrong.
There’s a whole new kind of ‘wrestle mania’ in the suburbs. A group of 11 fans aged 18 to 22 are recreating WWE sets in the backyard of their Golden Nest housing society in Bhayander, uploading videos of dramatised bouts like the one described above. And they’ve already had over 1 million views on their YouTube channel, ANGAARTv.
“We grew up watching wrestling shows,” says Suraj Jha, 22, a waiter at a city hotel and co-founder of ANGAARTv. “All our conversations revolved around WWE and we had even mastered some of the ‘finishers’ or difficult finishing moves of top wrestlers — like the Stone Cold Stunner by Steve Austen, the Tombstone by Undertaker or The Rock’s People’s Elbow.”
In 2015, they decided to expand their audience beyond the neighbourhood kids who would gather to watch them fight it out, and launched ANGAARTv.
Putting a fake wrestling ring together was easy. They built a ‘stage’ using wooden tables covered in mattresses, pillows and bedsheets, and put a rope ring around it. “Our only props are a few tubelights, skateboards, some plywood, pipes, tables and chairs,” says Rohit Vishwakarma, 22, the co-founder of ANGAARTv, who edits videos for a living and for the channel.
The desi version of WrestleMania even apes the over-the-top commentary, with creative storylines and fictional feuds thrown in. The passion is real, though.
“Our stunts look convincing because we put in several hours of practice,” says Jha. “Safety is a priority, though. We want to be dramatic but careful.”
To keep their audiences entertained, they add funny storylines and throw in a few ‘diva matches’ featuring boys in drag.
“Our latest was the TLC (Tables, Chairs and Ladders) match, which is considered very hardcore since the risk level is much higher. We received a great response, with over 70,000 views in just a week,” says Jha. “Our videos are also popular with international wrestling websites and we have received congratulatory messages from fans in Philippines, Mexico and even Pakistan!”