Nerd Culture

Inside Arizona's Andrew W.K.-Inspired Indie Wrestling Company

A scene from a Party Hard Wrestling event last year.
Benjamin Leatherman
A scene from a Party Hard Wrestling event last year.
Brandon Reichard has put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into being a professional wrestling promoter. He’s also invested a good chunk of his personal time and money into the pursuit, not to mention plenty of chutzpah.

The result is Party Hard Wrestling, the local indie promotion that Reichard runs on a shoestring budget that operates out of the Nile Theater in Mesa. Employed in the advertising industry by day, the 31-year-old spends his off hours and weekends working on Party Hard.

And all of the work is beginning to pay off.

Over the past year, Party Hard has become one of the most unique and attention-grabbing wrestling companies in the Valley. You may have heard about it from local wrestling geeks or even seen it profiled on Fox 10 back in June.

Hundreds of people crowd into the Nile to attend its events, and its fan base includes local musicians like nerdcore rapper Mega Ran and the members of punk act BroLoaf.

It even has its own video game (albeit a reprogrammed version of the old-school NES classic Pro Wrestling).

Since launching last fall, Party Hard Wrestling has slowly grown in size and popularity. During its inaugural “season,” which consisted of monthly events taking place from September through May (with the exception of February), Party Hard’s crowds went from a couple of dozen fans in attendance to more than 200.

And it’s exceeded Reichard’s expectations.

“It's getting there,” Reichard says. “I don’t think I'm able to quit my day job just yet and focus on Party Hard, but I’m definitely trying to get to the point of saying I'm living my dream.”

Reichard launched PHW last fall after spending 10 years as a wrestling fan and wanting to have a promotion of his own, among other reasons.

“It started because I knew the sort of wrestling show I wanted to see and I didn't know where to see it locally. I knew I wanted the fun gimmicks and crazy storylines and a variety of all these different kinds of wrestling. Like everything from the high-flying stuff to the brawling to everything in between,” he says. “That's the kind of show I wanted to see. And I didn't know where else to see it locally, so I put my money where my mouth was and put it together.”

Pro wrestling is insanely popular in Arizona. Not only does the WWE come to town several times each year, but there are also more than a half-dozen indie promotions throughout the state serving up headlocks and body slams on a regular basis.

And Party Hard Wrestling is a bit different from all of ‘em. It offers action and characters that are more colorful, fun, and eccentric than most other local wrestling leagues, for instance. Also, it’s inspired in part by the music and attitude of rocker Andrew W.K.

Reichard, a longtime fan of the musician, says that while they don’t reference any of his songs or lyrics with Party Hard, they try to embody its spirit.

“When you think of Andrew W.K.'s music, it's not like everybody else in rock 'n' roll. It's not metal, it's not pop, it's not pure rock 'n' roll. But he's okay with that. He's very much having fun with doing what he wants to do. That's what the party is all about. And that's sort of what we are about,” Reichard says. “It's like, 'Okay, not everybody likes intergender wrestling, not everybody likes the high-flying style.' But we're having fun doing things and people are having fun watching what we're doing. So fuck it, we're going to party. It's just a simple mentality and it feels like very much in line with his philosophy.”

click to enlarge Wrestlers getting into a combination drinking and punching contest at  Party Hard's debut show last year. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Wrestlers getting into a combination drinking and punching contest at Party Hard's debut show last year.
Benjamin Leatherman
In other words, it’s the freedom to do whatever they want. The same goes for the fact that PHW’s titleholders are considered to be the “champions of the multiverse,” for instance, humor is emphasized, and its storylines could possibly someday include supernatural or otherworldly elements.

In essence, Reichard says, the fact that Party Hard acknowledges the multiverse allows them to do anything and everything with their storylines and characters.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush," he says. "It is definitely a license to do what we want and to have the opportunity to introduce our title to other companies if we want."

Like Party Hard's tag team champs, The Brothers of Wrestling, who have defended their belts at other indie promotions.

"That's the great thing, the multiverse can involve anything and everything that's possible or impossible. Like anything you can fathom. And even things we can't fathom."

And you might see some of that this weekend when Party Hard Wrestling kicks off its second season on Friday, September 8, during Party Hard Kingdom at the Nile. According to Reichard, that could include everything from interdimensional travel to demonic possession.

“Yeah, that could all possibly happen. I don't want to give away too much, but we're going to go into stuff like that at the beginning of season two,” he says. “This summer has been spent watching a lot of Rick & Morty, Quantum Leap, and RuPaul's Drag Race while listening to a lot of Ghost. So it's been everything from flamboyant drag queens to satanic cults with interdimensional travel in the mix there somewhere. And that’s given me a lot of ideas.”

It wouldn’t be any stranger than some of what happened during Party Hard’s first season, which included wrestlers adopting new identities (the Red Miracle became a super sentai-like character called the Party Hard Ranger) or other strangeness.

And then there was the wild action of December’s show, which featured a street fight match that spilled out into the alley behind the Nile Theater, much to the delight of a throng of emo and hardcore kids taking a break from the concert happening in the venue's basement.

"There was a show going on in the Underground that was in between bands and all these kids were out in the alley," Reichard says. "And they loved it when these wrestlers came out and were fighting in front of 'em, taking things out of the dumpster to bashing each other with,” Reichard says. “There was some kid who gave one of the wrestlers his skateboard to use as a weapon and he straight up broke the board over the other wrestler's head. It was insane."

Not as insane as what Reichard is planning for Party Kingdom this weekend. Seven matches will take place, including The Brothers of Wrestling defending their belts and the current “Champion of the Multiverse” Jack Johnson battling the former titleholder Nicktendo (who, as you might of guessed, is inspired by video games).

Reichard's also introducing a new MacGuffin into the mix.

"We're also going to have our own 'Party Book of the Dead,' which is called the Parsicon Ex-Mortis. It looks like the Necronomicon but goofy. There are two big storylines we're starting out with and the Parsicon plays a part of both of these people's stories. So we'll be introducing the book to the crowd, how it affects these [wrestlers], how it's going to affect other people, and how people will be looking to attain it for good and evil."

You gotta admit, it's definitely different from something you'd see on WWE Raw these days.

Party Hard Wrestling's Party Kingdom takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 8, at Nile Theater in Mesa. Tickets are $13.