I was more anxious for a wrestling show than I thought I had any right to be when I walked into the Basement East in Nashville, Tennessee this summer. My primary concern on that July afternoon was that I may have been underdressed. I was dressed for an indie wrestling show: MDK tee, knee-length shorts, black Vans, and a baseball cap with buttons on it. What I was not wearing was anything protective. The lack of an overshirt to protect from errant sharp objects or a surgical mask that would keep my breath glass-free felt damning as I strode to the bar with my friend. “I should’ve prepared,” I told him. “We’re seeing Nick Gage today.”
Have you heard about the time Nick Gage died? It was ten years ago during the eighth annual CZW Tournament of Death, an ultra-violent spectacle that all ghouls must experience at some point in their wrestling fandom if they can truly be said to appreciate deathmatch wrestling. There he was, in his element: blood splattered across camera lenses, hundreds of shattered fluorescent light tubes, and a victory he claims he would lay down his life for. The story goes that the light tubes really did take his life on June 6th, 2009. He was reborn in a helicopter on the same day. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
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Have you heard that Nick Gage is gang affiliated? “Murder, death, kill” chants regularly herald him into the ring, but he claims to lead a crew by the same name. In 2010, Gage was arrested for robbing a bank and spent five years in prison for the crime plus one more year for parole violation. The story goes that he made some connections in prison, expanding his reach with H8 Club, Eastern Block, and of course that Murder, Death, Kill Gang. They’re closing in on Rickey Shane Page as you’re reading this, dear reader. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
I have no idea how true any of this is. Playing with the truth is something that Nick Gage has done for decades, building his legend with a dash of bullshit and a bucket of blood. Professional wrestling is, at its core, an exercise in bullshitting. Writer Aubrey Sitterson has compared it to a magic show or base sleight-of-hand con. The point is not what the performer is doing, but what they can convince the audience into believing. At first glance, it seems impossible that anyone could take seriously the prospect of a Lego deathmatch or a spot including a flaming decorative skull, much less consider them truly dangerous. Somehow, Nick Gage made carny bullshit such as this not only worth watching but genuinely, deathly serious.
By the time you’re reading this, I will have seen Nick Gage perform live twice. Professional wrestling has always intended to be a live medium, and it’s impossible to truly understand without the taste of cheap beer and the smell of too many fans crammed against a ring to supplement the visual component of the performance. I remember very little about what moves he and Marko Stunt used on one another when I watched them perform at GCW: Lights Out this summer. What I do remember about that match is standing in awe with my friend while double-fisting Pabst Blue Ribbons, basking in the aura of Nick Gage. I remember the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this guy isn’t just performing. I remember feeling like we were all in danger.
All wrestling fans, to some degree or other, are seeking the ego death that comes with collectively witnessing violence. The best wrestlers can sit comfortably in that slight liminal space between real and fake, letting go of control just enough to let the adrenaline take hold before reeling the room back in to the world they inhabited before the lights dimmed and the entrance music played. On that sweltering day in Nashville, Nick Gage convinced me that nobody does this better than him. In his performances since then, he’s pleaded his case in front of diverse audiences including attendees of Chikara, Beyond, St. Louis Anarchy, and Bloodsport. It’s a case that’s hard to argue against.
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Marko’s parents were in the crowd that day in Tennessee, and the story goes that they are still reeling from what they saw their son go through. I’m sure that they, along with everyone else who has seen Gage work, pity Rickey Shane Page, Allie Kat, AJ Gray, and all the other fools who have lined up to take a shot at the GCW title which Gage has held since December 16, 2017. It’s a title they’ll have to kill for, because Nick Gage will die for this shit. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
- GCW World Title: Nick Gage vs Marko Stunt, July 2019 (GCW Lights Out, Smart Mark Video)
- Nerder Death Kill vs Creatures of the Deep, September 2019 (Beyond All Hands On Deck, IWTV)
- Nick Gage vs Warhorse, September 2019 (SLA Battle of Spaulding, IWTV)
- 100,000 Thumbtacks: Nick Gage vs Mance Warner, October 2019 (Beyond Uncharted Territory, IWTV)
- Nick Gage vs Kris Statlander, October 2019 (Beyond Uncharted Territory, IWTV)