It was one of life’s moments that just kind of catches you by surprise. And there is no way to plan for what comes next.
Six million views later-just ask Anthony Gaines.
Gaines, a Buffalo-based pro wrestler, has become a worldwide sensation when a clip of his recent match against Ace Romero went viral.
The match, which was part of an Empire State Wrestling house show, took place at St. Johnsburg Fire Hall in North Tonawanda on June 30.
Gaines, who weighs in at 207 pounds was defending his Interstate title against the massive Romero who tips the scales at just over 300 pounds.
The two engaged in a brutal match where they both laid their hearts on the line.
Roughly 15 minutes into the match Gaines threw himself into the ropes and came charging at Romero who was also springing off the ropes to Gaines left.
What happened next has had the sports world buzzing ever since.
Gaines and Romero collided near mid-ring with Romero shoving Gaines. The impact of the collision sent Gaines rocketing over the top rope and on a cameraman nearly 14 feet away from the ring. Gaines managed to crawl back into the ring and pin Ace to successfully defending his title.
Last night @TheAceyBaby pounced me into absolute oblivion. 14ft deep up the isle way.
— ✯Anthony Gaines✯ (@Anthony__Gaines) July 2, 2018
Overnight the video sizzled across social media getting picked up by ESPN, ABC News, FOX, TSN and thousands of other outlets as viewers from Buffalo to the United Kingdom were in left speechless by what they saw. Even actor Jamie Foxx shared the video on his Instagram.
The more the views piled up the more Gaines just finds himself chuckling in disbelief.
“I knew it was gonna be big, but I thought was gonna be big amongst my own community. The Buffalo brothers in wrestling. I thought all the Buffalo people would notice it,” Gaines said. “I thought hey, if somebody in the tri-state area notices, that’s super cool. I never expected it to go worldwide. Across the pond into the UK and even over into China. It’s honestly dumbfounding to me. It’s a little overwhelming but I’m obviously enjoying the ride.”
Veteran ref Andrew Mollon, who has spent eight of his 11 years in the business officiating matches in ESW, said it was like nothing he had ever seen before. The bump was so intense that Mollon, who immediately raced out of the ring to check on Gaines, said for several minutes he wasn’t thinking of Anthony “the wrestler.” He was worried about the health and well being of Anthony his friend.
“It was just me being more concerned for my friend than just a wrestler,” Mollon explained. “It was pretty scary. You saw in the video that I jumped out of the ring the minute he landed. I ran over to him and asked ‘are you alright?’ He said ‘yeah, yeah. I’m fine. I’m like you swear to me you’re fine? It was one of those things where I asked him over and over ‘you swear to me you’re fine?’”
Gaines, 24, who has held the Interstate title since November, said he is still in shock at the response. While the attention has certainly been a boost for his career, which began five years ago, Gaines said what he is most proud of is that the video is bringing positive attention to all of ESW. A place that has given he and so many other young wrestlers a place to call home.
“Oh 100 percent,” Gaines said. “I’ve told my trainer Pepper Parks and I told my other trainer Brandon Thurston and the promoter of ESW my hope for this whole thing is for ESW to garner most of the attention. As much as I would love for this to make me go big, ESW really gave me a platform. It gave me the opportunity to take the ball and run with it.”
While his wrestling brothers are encouraging Gaines to use this moment as a launching pad to something bigger, Gaines spoke from the heart when he said for him its about the greater good of the company.
“It’s a bigger spotlight on us and it makes us all want to work harder and make this place better than it already it,” Gaines said. “Because now there is gonna be double, triple, five times the number of viewers and eyes on us than there were before.”
While some critics might dismiss it a typical high spot move by some indy wrestler looking for his moment in the sun, Mollon said nothing could be further from the truth.
Mollon said that Gaines is one of the hardest working, most passionate grapplers he has ever worked with. He’s become a leader in the room among the younger core of talent and Gaines is almost always the first to get to workouts and the last to leave. Whenever ESW hosts a seminar with a big name in the wrestling business Gaines is always in attendance soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
“I’ve seen companies from all over the place. From Ontario to the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania,” Mollon said. “I’ve seen him in there with guys who have been doing it a lot longer, but really aren’t that great. And I’ve seen Anthony take over, put the match together and make it the best it can possibly be. Get the best that he can out of whoever he is in the ring with.”
Mollon added that it doesn’t surprise him one bit that Gaines was talking more about his this can benefit everyone in ESW.
Known in wrestling circles as “Buffalo’s Best Kept Secret”, six million views and counting means Gaines might need a new catchphrase.
“It’s super big and we’re both just extremely humbled about the situation and equally surprised its gone as far as it has,” Gaines said of his and Ace’s reaction to the video’s popularity.
ESW returns to St. Johnsburg on Aug. 25 with their first-ever tailgate party from 3-5 p.m. Ace Romero’s return is among the high profile matches. Tailgate is free to attend. Tickets are $17 and $15 if bought on eswwrestling.com and will be $20 and $18 on the day of the show.