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I have mentioned before that DEFY 4 was my first independent wrestling show back in June 2017, but there is more to the story than that.
I had heard about events like Project 42 from my friend Max Wrestling, now founder of Without a Cause based in Everett, who was working as event staff for DEFY at the time. I'm not what you would consider a social person and you'll never see me in party scenes, but I went as a favor to him and only being familiar with Cody Rhodes in the main event. I went early so I wouldn't get lost and ran into a familiar face from my Magic: The Gathering days. The familiarity made the transition easier. When I finally made my way in, everyone was so kind and accommodating—even more than that, one name was going around with more buzz and anticipation than any other, a man called "Swerve."
Without going into too much detail about the show, I'll just say as much as everyone had great performances, I've never felt an atmosphere change quite like when Chaka Khan played and this personification of cool makes his presence felt. He was a walking Jake Roberts, saying very little and allowing his actions to do the talking freely and confidently. He had the energy that was almost Michael Jackson magic that no one could deny. The lights were low, the crowd was loud and he lit it up. I understood why DEFY was the House that Swerve built. Who's house? Swerve's house.
Before the show and during intermissions, I did what I could to muster the courage to even say a few words. Men like Joey Ryan, Steve West, "Devil" Derek Drexyl and Davy Boy Smith Jr., along with the women of the Tacoma Cup like Angelina Love were very patient and accommodating to a newbie like me jumping into this world, answering my very green questions and generally being very nice. Shane goes above and beyond to make DEFY feel like home. I don't know if it was one set thing or a collection of things that gravitated me to this man, but I kept going back, slowly getting better over time talking to him, showing my appreciation, buying his merch—even when he only had a 2X shirt left. (Still my favorite shirt, Bottom Line makes great stuff) I had a great time and was looking forward to night two up in Seattle.
During this show, I was up there significantly early because I didn't want to get lost in Seattle. For the sake of staying on topic, I ended up helping set up the ring with the DEFY crew and it was a great learning experience. (shoutout to Psycho Killer for putting up with this bean pole mark at this and every subsequent show after). The reason I bring this up is I'm already on cloud nine being just a small part of the show at this point and the first face that welcomes me when I'm through the door is Shane Strickland. If you were to ask me, more than the accolades, the accomplishments, the titles and the great matches, Swerve's legacy will forever be defined by his humanity and the kindness he shows others. I go out of my way every single time to make sure that Shane sees me and he always reaches out to shake my hand and make sure that I feel welcome. That is a gift that most athletes in other sports seem to take for granted, but Swerve makes sure his impact is felt and I will always hold on to that.
Every single person in DEFY Wrestling has a role, every single person is important. The bookers, the performers, the fans, the stage hands... and I got to see "The Man" be the embodiment in every sense of the word what DEFY means to so many. Lebron is not the Lakers, King Felix is not the Mariners, but Shane Strickland is DEFY and my wrestling world feels more complete having been blessed to be impacted by him. In the last 18 months I've been a fan of this promotion. I feel I've grown significantly as a human being and the one constant I can always rely on was the man forged in Tacoma whose rise to prominence is, in the words of Bruce Lee, a life story worth remembering.
In Seattle independent wrestling, he is our Kenny Omega. Because of one man, one song and one promotion, every choice I make when facing adversity will be made by asking one question, "What would Swerve do?"