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Session mots and atomic drops: How an underground wrestling night became a huge hit in Dublin

Tapping into Irish culture to develop its characters, Over the Top Wrestling has grown hugely since it began in 2014.

Session Mot throws a punch at a recent event (Used with permission from OTT)
Session Mot throws a punch at a recent event (Used with permission from OTT)
Image: John Morrissey Photography

THE LIGHTS IN Dublin’s Tivoli Theatre go dark and Maniac 2000 starts blaring on the speakers.

The crowd starts cheering as strobe lights illuminate the hall, with all eyes on the stage.

A blonde woman walks out wearing pyjamas to rapturous applause.

Over the next 20 minutes, she throws punches, kicks, and jumps off the top rope onto her helpless opponent. The crowd oohs at every punch and gasps at every near miss as the woman slugs it out with her opponent

“Session mot! Session mot! Session mot!” the crowd shout as she holds her hands aloft as the victor. That chant is followed by “OTT! OTT! OTT!”.

And that’s only the first match in this three-hour wrestling night that draws hundreds to its shows every month across the capital.

OTT

Over the Top Wrestling was started in 2014 by Joe Carberry, an Irishman and former WWE wrestler.

He told TheJournal.ie that it basically started because there was a load of very good Irish wrestlers around, and this would give them a good platform to showcase it. Indeed, Irish wrestlers have gone to have great success stateside with recent examples including Sheamus and Finn Balor.

“We came in with the aim of putting on shows of a high standard,” he said. “And it was the case that there was a lot of wrestling fans looking for a product that wasn’t WWE.”

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), previously the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), grew hugely in popularity in Ireland in the mid-1990s with that generation coming to love characters such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock and Vince McMahon.

Over the past decade or so, however, the WWE has made efforts to become a more family-friendly form of entertainment with the kind of violent, foul-mouthed and adult-themed shows now largely phased out.

ott Used with permission from OTT Source: John Morrissey Photography

Carberry said: “It’s become more focused on a younger fanbase, and we wanted to create something for that older fanbase to enjoy.”

Performing live shows to an adult audience, which can also be streamed on demand on its website, means that OTT doesn’t have to confine itself to any broadcast conventions and can explore any themes it wants.

“I understand why WWE has to be PG now, they have a lot of heavy-rolling advertisers,” Carberry said. “We’re not confined by that and can make a product the fans really enjoy.”

Attendances have risen hugely in recent years, with social media and word-of-mouth allowing the event to catch on, as OTT taps into nostalgia for the old-style wrestling shows and puts an Irish spin on them.

Irish influence

Part of that appeal for fans is the very obvious Irish influence to the theme of many of their characters.

A common trope of wrestling characters is to create these very defined characters that people find easy to recognise and identify with.

The aforementioned Session Mot, whose character’s name is Martina, is the underdog fan-favourite.

She comes to the ring in her pyjamas to rave music, pretends to smoke during matches, takes risks and has a never-say-die attitude.

Earlier characters in the promotion were “The lads from the flats”. They dress in tracksuits and will pull all manner of tricks to win their matches.

There’s the Lord of the Manor Paul Tracey, who looks down on other competitors through a sense of superiority.

All stereotypes to be sure, but everyone in attendance is in on the joke.

“A big part of it was making Irish characters people can relate to,” he said. “Like these were genuinely two lads who grew up in the flats, were into wrestling and became very good wrestlers.

I don’t think it would translate well in different countries but, here, we had characters people instantly know.

Strength to strength

To supplement the Irish talent on show, OTT always aims to recruit well-known wrestlers from abroad to feature in its shows, even attracting Mick Foley (aka Mankind, aka Cactus Jack, aka Dude Love) to one of its events last year.

“We have a good relation with the top performers around the world,” Carberry said. “We’re now able to get guys a little easier now. People know it’s a good place to wrestle.”

The results may be scripted, but that doesn’t mean that these performers aren’t putting their bodies on the line.

“I was a wrestler myself and I know that the difference it makes to have a decent hotel bed to sleep on that night for example,” he said. “We’ve always done that here.”

There’s roughly one show a month but the depth of production and storytelling that goes into the shows means Carberry is constantly kept busy.

One aspect that’s presenting a problem is the closure of the Tivoli, which was its long-time home in Dublin.

Its bigger events draw thousands to the National Stadium, but finding a regular venue for its other nights has proven tricky.

“We have a major lack of venues in this country,” Carberry said. “The way the country keeps knocking down venues for entertainment isn’t good. And it gets even harder outside Dublin.”

A sold-out venue on Suir Road hosted Over the Top wrestling for the first time last night, with its biggest event of the year, Scrappermania, set to take place this May.

Read: ‘Heel’ or ‘face’? What does the pro-wrestling world make of Trump’s insult act?

Read: ‘We’re like soap opera stars in a way’ – Inside an Irish wrestling school

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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