In June 2018, “None of a Kind” Anthony Gaines defended the Empire State Wrestling Interstate Championship against Ace Romero at the promotion’s “Summer of Sleaze” event in North Tonawanda, N.Y. The match was highly anticipated among those in attendance. However, no one predicted that the fight would generate one of those most viral moments of the year. We discuss with Anthony Gaines A Year After “The Pounce”.
During the match-up, Gaines bounced off the ropes and was hit with a pounce from Romero. The collision sent Gaines flying into the air, clearing the top rope and landing all the way into the entranceway. The moment shocked everyone at the St. Johnsburg Fire Hall that night.
Empire State Wrestling (ESW) promoter Brett Mednik remembers experiencing the St. Johnsburg Fire Hall fans’ initial reaction to “The Pounce”.
“It was one of, if not the loudest reaction, as well as weirdest, I ever heard from a crowd at Johnsburg,” he said. “After the crowd realized (Gaines) wasn’t seriously hurt, they went nuts.”
A few days later, the same surprised feeling felt by the audience that night bled over to social media. In July 2018, social media users were buzzing about “The Pounce” and it became one of the biggest viral sensations of the summer.
“The GIF was made as an inside joke for us to laugh about and then it got shared around which lead it to take off like a wildfire,” Mednik said.
Anthony Gaines A year after “The Pounce”
On top of the multitude of retweets, shares, and likes “The Pounce” received across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it was also picked up by numerous news outlets from around the world. Major U.S. media companies including Washington Post, Fox News, and ABC News, as well as internationally-based Metro and Milenio all covered the video. Even actor Jamie Foxx shared the clip on his Instagram account.
Considering all the coverage “The Pounce” received, the clip amassed over 5 million views in just a few days. It can still be viewed, along with the rest of the match, on ESW’s YouTube page below.
The buzz did not end there. Several months later, “The Pounce” continued to garner attention when the video was featured on MTV’s “Ridiculousness” and shown on the YouTube series “Being the Elite.”
Fast-forward a year later. What became of the focal point of this viral video? How was the Gaines’s life affected because of the essentially overnight fame and where did it go from there?
According to Anthony Gaines, the best word to describe the experience as a whole is “surreal” a year after the pounce.
“It wasn’t something that I expected to happen and to live on in infamy to some degree,” Gaines said.
Among the initial mainstream reaction to the “The Pounce,” Gaines was interviewed by several media outlets. He was interviewed on Fox News, ESPN and TSN. He also talked on Buffalo, N.Y. morning radio shows: “The Shredd & Ragan Show” on 103.3 The Edge (WEDG-FM) and “Morning Bull” on 97 Rock (WGRF-FM).
Gaines also considers “The Pounce” viral reaction and media exposure as a learning experience for himself.
“It taught me a bit on how to handle myself with more professionalism,” he said. “It changed my outlook on indie wrestling and it was a much bigger deal than I expected.”
Gaines spent the summer continuing to work for ESW as well as Southern Tier Wrestling in Jamestown, N.Y. and Pro Wrestling Rampage in Erie, Penn. But surprisingly, he did not see an immediate uptick in bookings due to his newfound fame.
“I didn’t get a real whole out of bookings from (the clip),” Gaines said. “Joey Janela told me that promoters love Ace because of the spot but the boys love me because of how ballsy it was to take it.”
In September 2018, Gaines looked like he was catching his first major break. He appeared at Smash Wrestling in Toronto, Ont., a promotion featured nationally on Canada’s Fight Network.
However, Gaines’s fortunes took an unfortunate turn. Gaines suffered a knee injury during his match with John Greed, forcing the bout to end early. He was diagnosed with a partially sprained PCL and minor tearing in his MCL.
“I received a Saito Suplex from John Greed and was coming down high and tight on my neck unnaturally so protecting my neck was more important,” Gaines said. “My one leg came down stiff and my right knee landed before my left. My knee popped out of place…my knee was out of my socket for 20 to 30 minutes. I remember sitting there crying with Andy Williams and Kevin Blackwood and I thought this was it. I needed surgery on my other knee before and I thought ‘no one wants to booking damaged goods.'”
The injury also led Gaines to consider how it would affect his second passion of cooking. It made him think about the long-term ramifications about how it may hamper his ability to perform culinary duties for 40 to 60 hours per week.
The injury required Gaines to take a leave from in-ring action, including forfeiting the ESW Interstate Championship. He also missed out on competing in a match at Blackcraft Wrestling’s second event.
Despite the injury, Gaines remained connected with the product. Mednik and ESW executive producer Jonathan Ashe were searching for a color commentator for ESW’s live streams and Gaines offered to fill the role.
“They were both open to it and struggling to find someone for the second commentary spot at the time,” Gaines said. “I’m pretty witty and was able to help out someone new like Cody Jenne was at the time.”
Gaines was also able to build off this commentator role into new opportunities.
“I got the opportunity to call Wild Zero and Beyond Wrestling’s joint show with Beyond Wrestling promoter Drew Cordeiro and that opened some more doors for me,” Gaines said.
In December 2018, Gaines made a surprise appearance at Revenge Pro Wrestling (RPW) in Erie, Penn. In his first in-ring action in several months, Gaines teamed as the mystery partner for The Mane Event (Duke Davis and Ganon Jones Jr.) to beat Team Storm (Jack Pollock, Jaxon Argos, and R.C. Dupree).
“It was a banger match with two kick-ass dudes,” Gaines said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to come back.”
He made his shocking return to ESW next month picking up the win against Tarik. His comeback match for his hometown promotion was originally supposed to be versus Impact Wrestling’s Zachary Wentz. However, the match did not occur because of travel issues Wentz experienced.
After that, Gaines looked to rebuild the momentum from the previous year. He continued to wrestle for RPW, regained a prominent role in Smash as part of the “Kill Screen” faction with Mark Wheeler, Chris Mitchell, Shane Sabre, and Scotty O’Shea and returned to Upstate Pro Wrestling in Rochester, N.Y.
But the biggest push Gaines received came from the place that hosted his biggest moment: ESW. His second match back in ESW was teaming with “Big Time” Bill Collier versus “The Butcher & The Blade” (Pepper Parks and Williams). In the spring, he began a feud with ESW’s “old guard” which includes Will Calrissian, Chris Cooper, Jonny Puma, Kevin Grace and ESW Commissioner The Caesar.
He also wrestled a few notable wrestlers in June such as ex-Impact Wrestling star Stone Rockwell and World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Bushwacker Luke at ESW’s debut event in Cuba, N.Y. He finally faced off against Wentz, too, a few weeks later.
“ESW’s been the place to give me the most marquee matches,” Anthony Gaines said. “You get out what you put in. On a surgically repaired knee and an injured knee, I never missed a show or ring crew. Even when I was a student after I had knee surgery I didn’t miss a seminar either. I would sit and watch and take notes.”
Gaines is very grateful for the many chances he received over the years in ESW.
“I thank Brett a lot for the opportunities he’s given me and the creative freedom he’s allowed me,” he said. “Faith is a thing that doesn’t go away unless there’s a reason to take it away and Brett hasn’t seen a reason to.”
Moving forward, Anthony Gaines maintains high hopes for his future but also knows after his experience from “The Pounce” viral phenomenon to expect the unexpected.
“I’m making my way to a Ring of Honor tryout camp,” Anthony Gaines said. “I have a couple of buddies there and that’s always been a goal for the long haul. Everything that comes my way seems like a surprise. One year into wrestling and I worked Ricky Morton. Then I worked Ace and ‘The Pounce’ occurred. I don’t honestly know what’s next but I’m just having fun. I’m the same old Anthony Gaines. Live fast and die young.” This was Anthony Gaines A year after “The Pounce”.
You can like Gaines’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AnthonyGainesPro/
And you can follow Gaines on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Anthony__Gaines
You can purchase Gaines’s merchandise on Pro Wrestling Tees here: https://www.prowrestlingtees.com/wrestler-t-shirts/gaines.html