The Gold Standard, a bronzed man in a black and gold mask whose mouth spreads into a pompous smirk, squares off against El Super Hombre, the down-home powerhouse in the luchadore mask. The Gold Standard takes Hombre to suplex city several times over; the crowd grows wild. Then the pins last longer and longer before finally Standard pulls Hombre down to the mat and taps him out with his patented 49er Arm Bar. In the next round, El Super Hombre comes back with a huge vengeance, hitting Standard with a flurry of strikes and pulls out a win by painfully pulling Standard’s arm across his back in his famous El Superhold finishing move.
It sounds a little ridiculous, but anyway, that’s wrestling, and it’s only a game. The cards are moved back into the decks, then both are reshuffled. An even two matches took a total of 30 minutes. Steve Resk, the owner of game company SRG Universe and producer of Super Show, an independently made and produced wrestling card game, calmly riffles his deck and bridges it with obvious practice. He gives a modest smile.
“You wanna do one more?”
The Super Show and SRG exists today mostly through the efforts of Resk, his team and a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which succeeded Nov. 2, 2014 with 131 backers pledging $9,451 to create the first set of beginners starters sets and initial run of cards. A little under two years later, SRG completed another Kickstarter campaign for a second set called “The Backlash” that completed with 138 backers, raising $11,500 for the project.
“We’ve had three years of exponential growth,” Resk said. “Success is enjoying what I do, even if I break even it’s still a success. It’s when I meet people I would have never met if I didn’t do this.”
At a small table in Legendary Realms, a small hobby store in Plainview, Resk is surrounded by a store full of young men settling down for a Game of Thrones Card Game tournament. He is not a hulking, bare chested, muscle bound wrestler, but the owner of a small game company and he looks more like he belongs among the young men sitting shoulder to shoulder at the few tables in the store, in his short beard, hoodie and hat.
Resk grew up playing card games and hanging out in another shop called Videogame Central in Queens, where he would mostly play a wrestling card game called WWE Raw Deal. He was good enough that he travelled to national tournaments to compete. “After that I fell in love with the gaming community, I made friends from all over the world, from all over the nation.”
Four years ago, Resk had badgered his way into talks with card game company Topps, first criticizing then reforming their Topps Attax card game. “As a gamer, I was annoyed that you spend money on a product that was aimed at baseball, football wrestling, you name it, but the game had nothing to do with [those sports].” He then tried to make a deal with them for a card game he was working on based on UFC, Topps thought that communities for UFC and card games were too distinct to create a fanbase, and in the end, Resk agreed.
So he went back to wrestling and along with a new partner John Calace and a new art team, hunkered down to create what would become The Super Show.
While there is structure to SRG, Resk’s co-workers and compatriots don’t have definitive positions in the company. When asked about his position, Pat Mulligan, a large man with a Chicago accent shrugs and laughs, but he eventually settles on Head of Creative. Samantha Jo Cretella runs off a list: Running shows, head of merchandising, “Steve’s brains.” Resk defines her role as “making sure I don’t burn everything down.”
Vincent Liquori defines his role most definitively at SRG as social media manager. “My superpower is being late,” he laughed. “I started coming here a year and a half ago. I came over and he asked, ‘hey you want to play this game.’ We just kept seeing each other every week. I wound up getting into the game, he’s such a genuine guy, he gave me a box set for free.” Liquori kept coming down, eventually asking Resk if anybody was running his social media. He then asked if Liquori wanted to do it.
While UFC might not mix with card games, wrestling has always been more spectacle than sport, and in that way, it lends itself to the quick pace and sudden upsets and turnarounds the game represents through its mechanics. “I was growing up watching wrestling, one of the first things I said when I first played the game was I feel like I’m playing wrestling,” Cretella said.
When Cretella and Resk started dating, she found herself getting more involved.
Before the Kickstarter, Resk and his team had very little in terms of recourses, but Gencon, an Indianapolis based yearly convention that is considered by many in the tabletop games industry to be the biggest event of the year, was coming up soon. They pooled their money together to print out cards, then spent weeks putting stickers on cardboard dice necessary to play the game.
“We had the cards that were professionally done, we had the homemade dice and no way to package them,” said Resk. “So we started thinking of our storyline, and one of our characters his name was The Rising Sun, a Japanese fighter, we came up with the idea that he was a Japanese, Chinese food delivery guy, and that’s how he recruited people into this wrestling federation.”
They bought over 200 Chinese food boxes, stuck their logo onto the side, and piled it all into a car with Resk, Calace, and another friend, and drove 15 hours to Indiana. “We sold all our copies.”
Rejuvenated, Resk and Calace took to Kickstarter. “I took time off from my job. We were literally promoting five, six days a week. I tried to get to every store. I promoted in colleges during game days. Every Wednesday I was in Pennsylvania sending out samples to everyone I could get. It doesn’t matter how good your product is if you can’t get it in people’s hands.”
After a 30 day period, it came close to the wire, but they reached their $8,000 goal three days before the end. “I put in so much time and effort, that this was the first time that I could show people that we actually succeeded… to say that ‘our job has value.’
“Kickstarter is just there so you can create your idea at the bare minimum,” he said. “That this game will be a reality if we reach this goal.”
SRG was built from the ground up by people who know the struggles of trying to become known. Pat Mulligan is a writer who has self-published his own books. Ever since he first met Resk, he has give much of his time and effort to SRG for little to nothing.
“It was Gencon, and I walked over said, ‘ah this is pretty cool.’ Well he started talking about how he needed backstory for these wrestlers. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘give me a wrestler’s name and I’ll write a backstory for him.’ I wrote it and said, ‘Take a look at this and tell me what you think.’ He looked at it and said, ‘Get out of my mind.’”
Mulligan has written much of the backstories for the game’s other characters. “For me that showed the type of person he is. We didn’t offer him anything, but he still showed up,” Resk said.
Resk and Cretella now both participate in after-school programs at the PS 207 in Queens where they help kids play Super Show, and also help create a new game with the kids called Why is there a Turkey on the Roof? It’s a game where players have a ridiculous scenario and then use cards to come up with the best reason why that scenario might have occurred. The better and more complex words they use, the more points they get.
“It helps instill public speaking, grammar, just creativity. What I see is when I go to schools is kids don’t talk to each other, they don’t socialize, we use Super Show as an outlet,” Resk said.
It’s the last round. It has been a long match, and the crowd is going manic. The Gold Standard finally goes from the top ropes, a hammer fist called The Price Point. The dice roll on the mat. Resk has to beat a 12. He gets three chances. Mulligan counts down. First roll, a fail. “One,” Mulligan’s hand slams on the table. Second roll, another fail. “Two.” El Super Hombre gets a +2 on his third roll. “Three.” Hombre stays down on the mat. Resk looks up, smiling. “Good game,” he said and goes to shake hands.