BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — An independent wrestling promotion is making its return after nearly two years off due to COVID-19.
Wrestlers with Iron Spirit Pro, based in Bloomington, are ready to once again entertain the fans with their hard-hitting action. For many, it’s their first in-ring action since 2020.
Iron Spirit Pro was founded in 2018 by longtime wrestling fan Logan Bruce, who wanted to bring wrestling to the Twin Cities.
“I’ve always been a fan, and I’ve been a fan of Indy wrestling for a very long time, and I’d go around to shows around here, and it always surprised me how well they did,” Bruce said. “I was just really surprised that nobody was running events in the Bloomington-Normal area consistently, so I thought, why not me.”
Bruce said after over a year of running no events, the itch to return came as the state opened up. He said he never thought it would get this far.
“The first one was just to check it off the bucket list, if I only did one show and lost a bunch of money, well at least I had that experience, but thankfully it turned into something,” Bruce said.
Like many events, COVID-19 put a pause on small, independent pro wrestling shows across the country.
“We ran 8 or 9 shows that first year, year and a half then obviously had to stop things in early 2020 unfortunately,” Bruce said.
Bruce said it provides a unique, family-friendly experience to Bloomington-Normal.
“You’re feet away from the ring, you can see the guys hitting each other, you can see the sweat flying off their bodies, there’s just no other entertainment experience like it,” Bruce said.
Bruce said the Humane Society of Central Illinois and The Station Saloon are making the event possible this year.
While, wrestling promotions like WWE and AEW were able to adapt, but independent wrestler C.J. Esparza said many independent promotions don’t have the means to do so.
“Independent wrestling probably got hit a little harder, just because it’s hard to do shows when you have so many restrictions. The big leagues; WWE and AEW obviously found ways to work around different COVID restrictions, different state restrictions,” Bruce said. “AEW has an outdoor arena which allowed them to bring back fans quickly and WWE obviously has a lot of money in their machine and can build the Thunderdome.
Bloomington’s own “The Most Dope” C.J. Esparza has been a wrestler for nearly 16 years and said Iron Spirit gives him a spot to shine in front of his home fans.
“I call myself ‘The Most Dope’ for a reason, I do a lot of cool things, a lot of flips, high-flying, and hard-hitting action,” Esparza said.
Esparza said he hopes to see a large crowd in his hometown.
“The fans help get you motivated when you’re out there, they kind of give you that fighting spirit, that may be a cliché wrestling term, but it’s a real thing,” Esparza said.
Esparza said he’s a versatile wrestler and incorporates work from all of his favorite WWE wrestlers growing up.
“Hulk Hogan was my first inspiration, as I got older I really liked wrestlers wrestlers, like Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle. But I also love high-flying wrestlers; Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy RobVanDam, so I try to kind of mix a lot of these characters together,” Esparza said.
Iron Spirit Pro’s show takes place Friday, July 30 at 7:00 p.m. at The Station Saloon’s parking lot.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for kids aged 6-12, and free admission for children 5 and under.
More ticket information can be found on their website.