Troy R. Bennett, Bangor Daily News Staff • January 21, 2019
WESTBROOK — It’s chaos. A sold-out crowd of over 400 professional wrestling fans cheer, scream and jeer all at once. Massive men in tights wail on each other in the ring. A savage woman belts another with a folding chair in the front row while spectators run for cover. Music blares. The room smells like beer, sweat and excitement.
Amid the mayhem, tucked in a corner, sits a mountain of calm. Dressed in shorts and a hoodie, he’s calling the shots, giving orders to more than 30 wrestlers. They all listen. Randy Carver jr. is just old enough to buy a beer, but he’s already the biggest, most successful pro wrestling promoter in the state.
At the end of the last match, Carver springs up and grabs a wireless microphone. A few seconds later, he’s in the ring, throwing f-bombs at feuding wrestlers. They back off. Carver tells the crowd there’ll be a special match for the title belt at the next event in March. The mob goes wild and starts chanting: “Ran-dy, Ran-dy, Ran-dy.”
They know it’s Carver’s show and they love him.
Success from the start
Carver, 21, started Limitless Wrestling in September 2015 with a savings account and a $700 loan from his mom and dad. He was 18, just out of Penobscot Valley High School and living with his parents in LaGrange. His first wrestling show was at a Brewer banquet center. It was a success and he paid his parents back that night.
“We had seven matches and drew about 150 people,” Carver said.
That was almost twice as many people as another local wrestling outfit had been attracting at the time.
At 18, Carver had already been in the business for three years. He started working as a ring announcer for independent wrestling shows when he was 15. That early experience is what drove him to start his own company. Carver was constantly disappointed by what he saw as low quality shows. He knew he could do better.
At his first event, he took a chance, spending extra money augmenting his Maine talent with a carload of wrestlers from New York. The gambit worked and it’s been his formula ever since. Carver seeks out high-quality talent, regularly rotating in wrestlers from around the country. It keeps the stories and the faces fresh.
“Right now, I only have four wrestlers from Maine,” Carver said.
To improve the local talent pool, Carver recently opened a wrestling school with those four locals last fall in Brewer. Currently, they’re training 11 student wrestlers and referees.
“The level of quality is insane,” said Portland stand-up comedian and avowed wrestling expert Connor McGrath. He’s been to nearly all Limitless Wrestling’s events in southern Maine.
The state has at least two other independent wrestling organizations, but McGrath is confident that Limitless is the best.
“It’s a much higher level of quality than Maine was used to,” he said.
Parents always knew
Marsali Carver isn’t surprised at her son’s success.
“I knew that he would eventually do all this,” she said from behind the T-shirt table at the event earlier this month in Westbrook. Both she and her husband work for their son at his wrestling shows.
Randy Carver Sr. took tickets at the door and stamped hands as the crowd started flooding in. He laughed a little at the reversal of roles.
“I used to be Big Randy. Now, I’m just Old Randy,” he said with a proud grin.
Marsali said it all started when Carver was seven years old. That’s when he saw a local wrestling poster on the wall at the Bangor YMCA.
“It caught his eye and he said he wanted to go to that,” she remembered.
She took him and Carver got hooked. But he never wanted to be a wrestler. He always wanted to run things.
Since 2015, Carver’s produced around 30 Limitless Wrestling events. They average 350-450 paying customers per show.
“On a good night, we draw 500,” he said.
This month’s show in Westbrook saw 412 people plank their cash down on tickets. Prices ranged from $40 VIP seats to $15 for general admission. The budget for the event was over $10,000.
Carver pays for wrestlers, photographers, videographers, ring rentals and other various production workers. He sells DVDs, T-shirts, stickers, mugs, hats and hoodies — pretty much anything that will hold a Limitless Wrestling logo.
In between events, he keeps people engaged with his operation on Facebook (6,400 likes), Twitter (5,000 followers), Instagram (4,000 followers) a podcast and YouTube (over 235,000 subscribers). By videorecording every event, Carver is able to get revenue three times: From the folks who buy tickets to the live show, from DVD sales of the shows and also from Youtube advertisements.
Some Limitless Wrestling videos on YouTube have more than 18 million views. Carver said his company cleared almost $60,000 in 2018.
All about the show
Besides handling the business of his wrestling empire, Carver also thinks up all the storylines. He sets up the heroes, heels, and surprise betrayals that keep fans coming back for more.
Carver’s general philosophy is to keep the talking to a minimum at events. Instead, he uses social media for all the taunting and dramatic build-up. Carver wants his live events to be all about action.
At the events, Carver hardly watches the matches, he said. Instead, he focuses on the crowd, what they’re responding to, what gets a big reaction. Their enjoyment is what it’s all about.
Watching professional wrestling is like going to a magic show. The crowd knows the magician does not possess supernatural abilities. They’re still delighted. They enjoy being tricked. It’s the same with wrestling. No adult in the room believes it’s real. They understand Carver decides the winners, but they enjoy the illusion. The collective suspension of disbelief of 400 people makes it powerful, cathartic.
Colt Busch of Portland likes live Limitless shows better than big time wrestling on TV.
“This is way better,” Busch said at the event in Westbrook. “Randy does awesome surprises.”
Superfan McGrath agrees and thinks the level of fan interaction and proximity to the action makes massive shows put on by World Wrestling Entertainment seem formulaic and sterile.
“Going to see WWE is kind of dull in comparison,” he said.
The road ahead
Carver started his operation with the goal of improving Maine’s independent wrestling scene. With that done, he’d now like to expand.
Late last year he co-produced his first out-of-state show in Connecticut. It sold out. There’s probably more of those shows to come but, for now, Carver is mum on the subject.
His mother has no doubts about where Carver will take his promotion from here.
“He’s going to take it as far as he wants it to go,” she said. “It’s ‘Limitless,’ right?”