Experience the Cartoonish World of Pro Wrestling Through ‘Subway Mania’
• Tim Rivera’s unique homage to the golden age of professional wrestling, “Subway Mania,” brings an unforgettable show to unsuspecting commuters.
• Costumed wrestlers transform into fan favorites like Kane, Stone Cold, Steve Austin, and the Undertaker in a single subway car.
• Shyama Venkateswar was intrigued by the scene and abandoned her trip home to witness the show.
• The performance begins with two customers dressed as former wrestling stars entering through side doors accompanied by blasting music.
• Subway Mania is Mr. Rivera’s brainchild inspired by his love for WWE television programming and the New York City subway experience.
• Performers don’t do it for money but for the sheer joy of entertaining others.
• The act has become so popular that it’s been imitated in Japan and covered in German publications; they’ve also performed alongside famous rappers.
• Picture this: Mr. Rivera enters the train dressed as Bret Hart and commands attention from everyone before locking a submission hold on his opponent as spectators cheer them on from standing benches.
• As Mr. Rivera quickly adapts to situations when four cops enter their performance, he swiftly changes into Hulk Hogan’s outfit in an adjacent car and receives
Step into the subway and immerse yourself in the thrilling world of professional wrestling. A group of performers cosplay as their childhood heroes, led by superfan Tim Rivera, putting on an unforgettable show for unsuspecting commuters.
Every day, New Yorkers encounter a unique array of performers in the subways, turning the mass transit into a captivating stage. Amongst this moving festival is “Subway Mania,” an homage to the golden age of professional wrestling from the late 90s to the early 2000s. Several times a year, costumed wrestlers transform into fan favorites like Kane, Stone Cold, Steve Austin, and the Undertaker, bringing the thrilling storylines and acrobatic spectacle of wrestling to a single subway car.
Imagine entering the Lexington Avenue/59th Street station in Manhattan and being surrounded by shiny costumes, elaborate robes, and homemade championship belts. This scene caught the attention of Shyama Venkateswar, a 57-year-old subway rider on her way home. Intrigued by the wrestlers cosplaying their favorite stars, she abandoned her trip home to witness the show. “Always interested in street art of any kind,” she said. “I think they should thrive and prosper and flourish.”
The performance begins with two cosplayers dressed as former wrestling stars, Rob Van Dam and the Undertaker. They enter the subway car through the connecting side door, accompanied by blasting music. Spectators stand on the benches, creating more space and letting out a roar of excitement.
Subway Mania is the brainchild of Tim Rivera, a 27-year-old video editor from East Harlem. He filmed the first matches in 2016, featuring himself and a friend wrestling on a Manhattan-bound M train in broad daylight while bewildered passengers watched. The video went viral, earning praise from wrestling fans and subway enthusiasts alike. “My two favorite things: WWE and the N.Y.C. subway,” read one comment.
As a child, Rivera’s family always had WWE programming playing on their televisions. Those moments ultimately shaped his love for wrestling and inspired him to create Subway Mania. Riding the subway from a young age exposed him to unique experiences, from singers and rappers to mariachi bands and “showtime” performers. “The subway plays a huge part in my life – my whole life, my childhood,” Rivera shared. “Without the subway, I wouldn’t have had 90 percent of my experiences.”
Like professional wrestling on TV, Subway Mania is a choreographed spectacle that will leave you in awe. Led by Mr. Rivera and his troupe of talented friends, this group of performers puts on a labor of love that takes them back to their childhoods. They don’t do it for money but for the sheer joy of entertaining others.
During a recent performance that took place on a Sunday evening, something unexpected happened. Mr. Rivera and his crew found themselves followed onto the train by four cops. Fearing their performance would be disrupted, Mr. Rivera quickly made a plan. Instructing everyone to split into three groups, they managed to lose the officers and regroup at a different station. Talk about quick thinking!
But Subway Mania isn’t just a small, underground show. It’s gaining a following of its own. Mr. Rivera and his friends have even had the opportunity to perform alongside famous rappers like A$AP Rocky and Westside Gunn. The act has become so popular that it’s been imitated in Japan and covered in a German publication. Mr. Rivera has even started a YouTube interview series with former wrestlers, including the legendary Bret Hart.
Now, let’s talk about the action on stage. Picture this: Mr. Rivera, dressed as Bret Hart, enters the train with swagger and charisma, eliciting cheers from the crowd of spectators he invited through Instagram. Within minutes, he’s locked in a gripping submission hold on his opponent as the train rumbles through the tunnel. The atmosphere is electric, with the crowd hanging onto every move. Competitors are thrown off the train when the doors open, adding another layer of excitement. And when you think the show is over, Mr. Rivera re-enters the match dressed as the iconic Hulk Hogan.
Subway Mania is not your average subway ride. It’s an adrenaline-pumping, one-of-a-kind experience that will have you on the edge of your seat. So grab your ticket and prepare for an underground wrestling extravaganza you won’t forget.
Amid the fight, Mr. Rivera made a dramatic entrance onto the train, disguised as Mr. Hart and commanding attention from everyone. With a swift move, he took down his opponent and locked him into a submission hold known as the “sharpshooter.”
Balancing himself with a yellow pole as the train rattled through the tunnel, Mr. Rivera maintained his grip while his opponent pretended to suffer in pain. The intense battle continued as competitors were eliminated and thrown off the train when the doors opened.
Quickly adapting to the situation, Mr. Rivera swiftly changed into a different outfit in the adjacent car, this time dressed as Hulk Hogan. Passengers on the train had a choice – endure the packed car or find another one. Those who chose to stay witnessed the spectacle unfold and captured it on their phones.
As the performance reached its climax and the train arrived at Times Square-42nd Street station, the atmosphere in the car exploded with chants of “Sub-way Mania! Sub-way Mania!” After bidding farewell to his team, Mr. Rivera, still in character, quietly returned home to Harlem on the train. Surprisingly, there were no street performers in his car.
Passionate about filmmaking, Rivera studied film production at Brooklyn College, using Subway Mania to gain exposure online and further his career. His videos, which are around 10 minutes long and feature cartoonish skirmishes, have garnered almost 10 million views on YouTube. This success led Rivera to his current video editing job at an ad agency.
Subway performers, known as buskers, are permitted if they follow the Rules of Conduct set out by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Musicians and other performers can also showcase their talent through the Music Under New York program. However, the M.T.A. did not comment on Subway Mania.
For Rivera, Subway Mania is like guerrilla filmmaking. He aims to capture the essence of wrestling in one take and make the best out of each performance. Join him on this exhilarating journey where the subway becomes the stage and wrestling legends come to life.