Star-studded lineups featuring nationally renowned talent amassed the Empire State Wrestling events throughout 2019 and this upcoming show unquestionably continues this trend with Temperature Rising. However, the most anticipated match of this event may be between two locally-based wrestlers.
On Saturday, June 29, Empire State Wrestling (ESW) will present “Temperature Rising” from the St. Johnsburg Fire Hall in North Tonawanda, N.Y. The event includes the return of Impact Wrestling star Josh Alexander and the debuts of All-Elite Wrestling signee Brian Pillman Jr. and global independent star Zachary Wentz.
But the most anticipated fight on the card will not include any of these notable wrestlers. This distinction belongs to the scheduled bout for ESW’s Heavyweight Championship between the titleholder Brandon Thurston and the challenger “Red Death” Daniel Garcia.
The match between Thurston and Garcia was originally scheduled to occur in January. The pair squared off in the finals of the Ilio DiPaolo Cup match at ESW’s Brawlfest in November 2018 and exhibited what many people felt was the best in-ring sequence of action in the promotion’s history.
Unfortunately, Garcia suffered serious injuries from a car accident along with several of his fellow Buffalo Brothers in January and put the much-hyped singles match on hold.
Despite being unable to compete in the ring, Garcia continued to let his presence be felt at ESW events. He repeatedly stared down Thurston from the front row during his previous title matches.
Garcia utilized these up close viewings as opportunities to scout his mentor. Now that Garcia is healthy enough to fight again, he thinks he can use what he learned to his advantage in their bout.
“It’s gonna feel good to finally face Thurston,” Garcia said. “I’ve seen him wrestle a lot since the injury. He keeps a heavy pace on guys and they eventually break. The only problem for him is, I keep a higher pace than him and I am going to break him mentally and physically. For him, it’s going to be like trying to run a marathon while getting punched in the face. I’m going to grab him, take him down to the canvas, hold him there and hit him until either he gives up or the ref stops the match. Brandon Thurston can’t out-politic his way out of the beating that I am going to give to him June 29th.”
In April, Garcia took things a step further by confronting Thurston inside the ring. He went as far to slap Thurston across the face before being pulled out of the ring by security.
Thurston is keen to Garcia’s audacious actions and to the cheers from the fans in attendance that came with them.
“If you know the story, you know (Garcia) gets cheered, I get booed,” Thurston said. “That’s what I expect Saturday. He’s been angry and confrontational. I’ve been moderate, even passive. Literally, he slapped me. I didn’t slap him back. He makes physical threats. I don’t. Some people criticized me for that like hatred can be stopped by some superior form of hatred.”
A recent poll on ESW’s Facebook page backs up the theory that Garcia’s popularity did not wane during his in-ring absence. About 66 percent of the voters picked Garcia over Thurston in regards to whom they are rooting for in this match.
Thurston recognizes the audience’s bias and questions its values based on Garcia’s actions.
“The audience feels he’s the one more worthy of support here,” Thurston said. “There was a poll. He got about two-thirds of the votes. What does that tell you? For one, that morality isn’t the main concern for this audience.”
Thurston also pondered on the change in fan opinion on himself will affect him.
“What’s the right way to deal with that? To blame the audience? No. To say, ‘These people are bad,’ or ‘Wrestling has changed and we need to go back to the old way’? No,” he said. : The real winners in wrestling are always the ones who understand the changes and learn to adapt. The losers deny the changes and get left in the dust; they never even realize they lost. I don’t deny the audience, but I also don’t need to agree with them or compromise myself morally. We can’t force the current to go in a different direction. But we can figure out how to use the direction of the current to our advantage. If there’s any lesson I can impress on future generations, maybe it’s that.”
Alexander’s match will be against another wrestler who is also making a long-awaited return to ESW: “Blue Thunder” Jay Freddie. Over the last few months, Freddie made big waves across the Northeast United State independent wrestling scene, including wrestling for Beyond Wrestling.
“Well for years many people have said Jay Freddie versus Josh Alexander is a match-up that must happen,” Freddie said. “We’ve both had our highs and lows but now both of us are competing on a high level right now and I couldn’t think of a better time to finally a square off. I have respect for Josh Alexander and what he’s been through but Saturday, when the bell rings, I don’t respect him and I’m coming to win and win big. He’s going to know as soon as we tie up and when I land that first chop that Jay Freddie is real and has been real for a long time. I look forward to the match.”
Pillman will face “The Remix” Kevin Bennett in his debut bout. Bennett is on a hot streak as of late, with victories over Anthony Greene and Gavin Glass in recent action.
Wentz will lock horns with viral internet star “None of a Kind” Anthony Gaines. Wentz was originally supposed to debut at ESW in January but was prevent so by flight issues. After being out for a few months due to a knee injury, Gaines surprisingly took Wentz spot that night in his place in a match against Tariq. Thus, their upcoming match-up is fitting considering their indirect history, as well as similar uniquely eccentric styles of in-ring action and appearance.
James Sayga and Vince Valor will defend the ESW Tag Team titles versus Will Calrissian and Chris Cooper. This match comes after Sayga, Valor and Gaines were left in a heap of hurt by Calrissian, Cooper, ESW Commissioner The Caesar and the returning Kevin Grace and Jonny Puma in May.
“Tag team wrestling was an afterthought in ESW until Will and I turned our attention to those titles almost a decade ago,” Cooper said. “Then every pair of ‘young guns’ have made them a priority, hoping to bring as much relevance to them as we did. Sayga and Valor are just another example of that. Saturday, they finally get to live up to something, and that’s their name; at Temperature Rising, it’s ‘game over’ because this is our empire.”
“Big Time” Bill Collier will take on Atticus Cogar. Both wrestlers are coming off impressive wins in May, with Collier beating Josh Briggs and Cogar defeating Puf.
Cogar’s manager Brother Christianson was startled by the suddenness of the match announcement.
“Are you kidding me? The ESW matchmaker drags their feet and puts Atticus in a match with Bill Collier with one week’s notice and you think I have time to give you a quote? After Atticus, Bill is the most dangerous man on the roster, so I need to spend every second I have this week watching tapes and hoping to find a weakness we can exploit,” Christianson said. “So no. I don’t have time to be interviewed about Temperature Rising.”
Puf will be in action against “The Big Bang” Jerk Cockins. Cockins looks to continue his winning ways after beating Vinnie Moon two weeks ago at ESW’s Cuba, N.Y. event.
“Puf, Jerk didn’t come out to fight you,” Cockins said. “Jerk came out to make s’mores over a nice bonfire, full of delicious chocolate, crunchy graham crackers, and some puffed marshmallows. Jerk gonna burn you son! It’s about to get hot!”
After losing against The Universal Era in May, Handcrafted announced that they will begin feuding with each other immediately afterward. Thus, R.J. City and Gregory Iron will face each other in a 2-out-of-3 falls match.
“I don’t want to feud with Greg, but I have to,” City said. “It’s just the rules of wrestling. So if everyone could act like what we’re doing is very important and devastating, that would be greatly appreciated.”
“The Blade” Pepper Parks will also be wrestling at Temperature Rising. Parks issued an open challenge to anyone inside or outside of ESW.
Pre-sale general admission tickets are $15. Tickets increase $5 day of the event. Front and second-row tickets are sold out. Doors open at 5 p.m. with bell-time at 6 p.m. Temperature Rising will be recorded for ESW’s streaming service partners including Powerslam.TV.