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Barbed-wire, chairs and crutches: Pro wrestling lives

Flamboyant Kyle Sebastian hoists The Dragon at the Thrash Wrestling event Friday at Penticton's Royal Canadian Legion Hall.
September 16, 2013 - 8:44 AM

PENTICTON - The spirit of Hulkamania was running wild on Friday night at the Thrash Wrestling toss-a-thon.

It was like a scene from a 1984 World Wrestling Federation event: A pony-tailed man in purple shorts was tossed around and out of the ring by a black-masked fighter, the referee was beaten with a barb-wire crutch, a tossed wrestler scattered audience members and chairs, children screamed and old men yelled. The only real difference? Instead of 50,000 screaming fans, this event drew about 50.

The small turnout didn't faze Thrash founder and wrestler Nick Szalanski and partner Top Drawer Michael More. Szalanski started Thrash Wrestling 12 years ago and says getting 100 people at the door is considered a good night. He pays his wrestlers in cash with money earned through ticket sales. 

Szalanski wrestles because he likes it.

"I would be a bloody mess if I was doing anything else," he says.

More being able to legally hit people. And Rockford, 41, a loud-mouth announcer does it for the love of the game and the adrenaline.

"I still get a bit of a woody," he says.

In the ring, wrestlers with names like C-4 and The Dragon were only one mistake away from getting thrown into steel pipes instead of the more forgiving ring ropes. Everything had to look good and the somersaults, flips, arm locks and dives certainly did. Up close the punches and kicks looked kind of hokey as there were no real connections but this didn't stop fans from losing their minds.

Szalanski says wrestling at this scale never went away. The WWE, formerly the WWF, still dominates the scene with big shows, video games and toys but the smaller outfits like Thrash are all over the place.

Szalanski agrees the lifestyle of a small, indie wrestling group is similar to a rock band's. Both groups need to find gigs, drive long hours and set up their own equipment. Promoting Thrash has gotten easier thanks to social media tools like Facebook and Twitter.

And like rockers, Thrash wrestlers have their fans. Youths Greg and Tom from Kelowna were in Penticton to see wrestler Slave who performed at a Kelowna metal concert. Slave jumped from a ladder and cut himself with glass and Tom and Greg were giddy they'd get to see him again. A photographer named Mike is doing a photo-documentary on wrestling and says "there's nothing else like this anywhere."

Rob Gray, 45, of Penticton loves pro wrestling and Friday's show was the first time he's seen it live since he was a kid. Back then he watched the likes of Hulk Hogan and Iron Sheik duke it out but Gray's favourites were always the bad guys such as Canadian wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Gray says professional wrestling went huge after an incident with Piper, Hulk Hogan, Captain Lou Albano and rocker Cyndi Lauper. At a Madison Square Garden event in 1984, Piper broke Lauper's gold record over Albano's head which MTV covered as a news event which also set the stage for the upcoming WrestleMania.

To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065, tweet @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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