Subway Mania is hosting WWE Tribute Matches on NYC trains

A few months ago, as the R train bound for Manhattan passed Forest Hills-67th Avenue at the end of the evening rush, wrestling greats Sting and Mankind entered the ring — do that, second car of the last — and both were confused looks and rousing cheers. The WWE Stars, or rather the performers pretending to be them, fought for supremacy as extras and cameramen jockeyed for position in the increasingly full house and rode the train all the way to Manhattan.

As the train screeched into the 59th St./Lexington station, the crowd erupted in approval like fans at a real WWE event.

Few straphangers want to make their journeys more colorful than they already are, but East Harlem native wrestling fanatic Tim “Hann” Rivera, 26, has spent the last six years nurturing his passion for wrestling’s over-the-top accomplishments in bringing to the world people creating some of the most unique rush hour theater you will ever see.

“I had the idea with a friend to get on the train and play as The Rock with an official wrestling belt. It went viral [on YouTube], and people started asking, “Where’s the match?” It was supposed to be a one-time thing,” Rivera told the Post.

Rivera prepares before the match.
Rivera prepares before the match.
George Grullon /@gnp_photos

A few times a year, Rivera and the small supporting cast of three or four characters that make up Subway Mania, as he calls it, will impound a single car being pursued by three videographers for an episode of the underground professional wrestling tribute film. The shows are well coordinated and very nostalgic for even the most laid-back fan of late 1990s-early 2000s professional wrestling. It’s a lot for one hit with your soon-to-be-obsolete MetroCard.

Subway Mania had its roots in a mix of Rivera’s school film projects at Borough of Manhattan Community College and Brooklyn College and his passion for wrestling. Early performances in 2016 were met with confused looks from subway drivers and a mixture of support and confusion from Rivera’s professors.

A few times a year, Rivera and the small supporting cast of three or four characters that make up Subway Mania, as he calls it, will impound a single car being pursued by three videographers for an episode of the underground professional wrestling tribute film.
A few times a year, Rivera and the small supporting cast of three or four characters that make up Subway Mania, as he calls it, will impound a single car being pursued by three videographers for an episode of the underground professional wrestling tribute film.
George Grullon /@gnp_photos

Rivera persevered, and the hard work of planning, performing and filming paid off. A match starring Rivera as Triple H and fellow cast members as Kane and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin went viral, racking up 2 million views on YouTube and catching the attention of professional wrestlers including Bret Hart.

This match, which took place on an N train bound for Manhattan in 2018 and culminated in a mock brawl in Union Square won by a cast member playing Steve Austin, became the template for future Subway Mania recordings. They are heavily scripted and captured on Black Magic cameras with DSLR lenses during a single drive over a few stations. New admissions are rare.

While Rivera’s viral moment led to some notoriety — A$AP Rocky and Westside Gunn even invited the cast to perform at concerts in 2019 — the avid writer chose to stay with the school, which he promised his mom.

Edwin Perez-Nazario as Humanity.
Edwin Perez-Nazario as Humanity.
Timhannrivera/YouTube
Rivera as a spike.
Rivera as a spike.
Timhannrivera/YouTube

In 2020, he completed a bachelor’s degree in film production from Brooklyn College, the first in his family to earn a college degree. Over time, Subway Mania has become a must-see fight club of sorts for Rivera and his crew. That is, if you can get an invite.

“I’m sure people have been wondering why I’m paying for it or putting in so much effort. But it makes me happy and makes millions of people happy,” Rivera said.

At the Sting and Mankind match earlier this year, all those in attendance of 50 or so knew only the meeting place and that Rivera would lead them to where they needed to be with a float of makeup and costumes in tow.

Starring Rivera as Sting and Edwin Perez-Nazario as Mankind, the show opened with a rousing cheer, or pop usually reserved for wrestling’s biggest stars. At each station stop, the show went on, ignoring stunned drivers, some of whom cautiously got into the car, only to change their minds as the match heated up. (Over the years, one performance has been stopped by police officers.)

Straphangers were in the match.
Straphangers were in the match.
George Grullon /@gnp_photos

Four videographers battled the audience for position as Perez-Nazarios Mankind dumped uncooked rice on the floor – mimicking the real character’s reputation for doing nails in the ring. The move backfired as Rivera’s Sting avoided being slammed, slamming Perez-Nazario onto the bed of rice. The crowd overwhelmingly agreed.

Thirty minutes of escapades later, the fun was over. The crowd dispersed as Rivera thanked them and carted his supplies home — on the subway. (He funds the events himself by buying or renting costumes, wigs, and makeup.) It might seem like a lot of work for a nostalgia trip to some, but Rivera thinks it’s worth it.

“It takes people back to a time when they were teenagers and it was a good moment in their life,” he said. “They had wrestling. If I could take you back to a specific moment for eight to ten minutes, it would be worth it.”

https://nypost.com/2022/12/16/subway-mania-stages-wwe-tribute-matches-on-the-trains-in-nyc/ Subway Mania is hosting WWE Tribute Matches on NYC trains

Emma Bowman

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