The FEST punk festival in Gainesville, Fla., has been around for 16 years. For the last four years, founder Tony Weinbender has incorporated wrestling into the event, starting with Kaiju Big Battel and Lucha Forever. He had been working with the World Wrestling Network (WWN) to coordinate these shows, but in 2016, WWN’s wrestlers were booked that weekend. So Weinbender made the leap and started his own wrestling promotion.
FEST Wrestling is a combination of local wrestling talent and traveling independent performers. There’s no barricade, so the crowd is often a part of the match and face-to-face with the action. The masses are noisy, passionate and all about having fun.
You can confirm it for yourself for free; all of FEST Wrestling’s matches are uploaded to YouTube. And when you listen to the match, you’ll hear two commentators: Rich Bocchini and Max Greg. Greg, the color commentator, is from right here in Pittsburgh. He’s a member of World’s Scariest Police Chases and works for Commonwealth Press.
Greg and Weinbender knew each other from World’s Scariest playing FEST for years, but it was at Wrestlemania two years ago that the two spent time together for the first time.
Not long after, Greg got a call from Tony while at work. “He calls me and says, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to start a wrestling promotion, and I want you to do commentary at FEST.’ And I was like … ‘I need to call you back,’” laughed Greg. “I had never thought about doing commentary. I always wanted to be involved in wrestling, and I’ve thought about going to wrestling school, but I knew I was realistically not going to do that.
“I called him back and was like, ‘I’ll be there anyway, let’s do it.’ I was really bad at it the first two or three shows, I think, [laughs], but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.”
As the color commentator, it’s Greg’s job to set the scene and provide background and context to the stories unfolding in the ring. His commentary partner, Bocchini, is known as Rich Brennan on NXT and Smackdown Live.
“I’ve got this professional person sitting next to me, giving me advice that he’s gotten from Dusty Rhodes and stuff, so it’s been a big help,” said Greg during FEST weekend. “I’ll get the show notes — where the person is from, their move-set, interesting things about them — and then print it up for us. But Rich is a super pro and great on the fly — he doesn’t need notes.”
Greg is humble about being a part of a company with a great deal of hype. What started as a FEST event has become a wrestling promotion that puts on shows year round in Gainesville and soon in St. Augustine. Greg flies down for each show.
Of all the matches he’s called, Greg points to a match during a feud between wrestlers Effy and Leon Scott as his favorite.
“We do a show every two months, but they’ve had an eight-month feud, [FEST’s] first feud of any length. It ended in a dog-collar match, but the match before that was a ‘Fans Bring the Party: Weapons’ match, and it was insane. They used every inch of the venue and all these weird weapons,” explained Greg. “I was calling it as a professional, but I was a fan the whole time. What I said into the microphone is what I would have said if I were standing in the crowd. It was great!”
The company itself has been growing pretty quickly. FEST Champion Su Yung has defended the belt in the U.K., so the FEST Wrestling Championship is an official world title, not even two years after its creation. With expansion to St. Augustine and plenty of hype, CP asked if Greg would want to make this a full-time job.
“As long as I can do it, I will do it,” Greg said. “Anything I can do to make FEST Wrestling grow, even if it’s sitting at home in Pittsburgh doing the business end of things, I’d do it. There aren’t many wrestling companies that truly feel like a family. We have a pre-meeting show with everyone, and you can always see the excitement. I’m so excited to be a part of it.
“If it grows and becomes my full-time job, that would be awesome.”