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June 18, 2013 9:07 am

Column Like I See ‘Em: Fake sport, genuine emotion

Written by Dante Geoffrey

When I was in elementary school, pro wrestling was a pretty big deal.

Well, not to me — I chose to invest an unhealthy amount of my time on real sports that give athletes concussions and turn them into suicidal depressants — but to most of the male population of Gehringer Elementary, the ring was king.

Wrestling’s popularity made it one of the most influential pop culture phenomenen of the mid-to-late ’90s. Wrestling caused boys ages 6-14 to change their lexicon, attire and reasons to ask for backyard trampolines.

Guys that would grow up to overuse the word “bro” (which is to say, use it all) would call each other “jabronis,” a word made famous by The Rock. I think it was a pejorative but to be honest the meaning of “jabroni” is still lost on me.

Even the guy that ended up being my best friend in high school would regularly sport a black mesh jersey that said “Stone Cold” on the back. And because he is still my friend, I will not use his name.

Wrestling was ubiquitous in that prepubescent world, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t get into it. And believe me, I tried. I remember going to my neighborhood friend’s house to watch WCW Raw, thinking if I fake fandom for a while, eventually I’ll genuinely enjoy fake wrestling.

It never happened.

I haven’t watched a televised wrestling match in at least 12 years, and until last Thursday, I had never attended a “professional” wrestling event.

Writer’s note: Because I don’t want to wear out my shift and quotation marks keys, please know that sarcasm is implied when I use the term “professional” from here on out.

The men of Rocky Mountain Championship Wrestling came to Powell to put on a show at the fairgrounds and raise money for Park County Relay for Life last Thursday.

I first heard about it when I received a flier for the event.

The flier advertised the night’s main event — a U.S. Title (no specifics on which title or if “U.S.” even stands for United States) match between Atlanta’s Billy Lit, aka “Mr. Electricty” (sic), and the defending champion, Eric Darkstorm (real name probably Eric Eugene Darcowitz).

After my last over-exaggerated sigh I placed the release announcing the event in the paper and washed my hands of the concept of pro wrestling in Powell.

And then my editor assigned me to shoot it.

OK, fine. I thought I’d get a few usable shots (whether or not I accomplished that is debatable), maybe a few laughs and take off.

I showed up to what looked to be an empty fairgrounds and walked around until I found a dozen or so cars scattered around a building towards the very back of the property. I don’t know what this building is normally used for, but on Thursday it was equipped with four sections of bleachers surrounding a blue-matted wrestling ring.

The stands were slowly filling with people who I couldn’t blame for attending the event, no matter how much I wanted to. For one, they were supporting a good cause, helping to raise money for the fight against cancer. Secondly, it’s hard to knock someone searching for some original entertainment in this town. Most everyone was accompanied by at least one child, but both the kids and adults came ready to spend a couple hours laughing, cheering and yelling at the wrestlers and their over-the-top supporting characters.

The evening’s first match featured “good guy” Jake Booth against “bad guy” (and homeless Daniel Stern-Randy Quaid hybrid) Krunch the Equalizer.

Krunch, who came out with his crooked manager known eventually as “Weasel,” didn’t seem to be a fan of the rules — such as they were. His favorite move was pulling Booth’s hair when the referee wasn’t focused on the action (which was about 80 percent of the time).

Only two of the six wrestlers I saw could be described as “fit,” but all showed an endearing amount of athleticism and disregard for their bodies, all in the name of entertainment.

I came into the night not caring, and not wanting to care, about wrestling, wrestlers or wrestling fans, but I have to admit the show they put on, and the willingness of the crowd to let itself go and become engrossed with the drama of the evening, was downright impressive. While I made fun of wrestling before, during and after witnessing it firsthand, there’s a part of me that can genuinely appreciate what these troopers of wrestling’s minor leagues strive for. I believe they care about, above all else, putting on a good show. And though I have little to compare it to, I believe they succeeded.

The night’s greatest moment (and this is inarguable) came when a masked mountain of a man known as Bulldozer engaged with a young boy who apparently was heckling him ringside. The boy, confined to a motorized wheelchair and maybe one-fifth the size of the tattooed adult in spandex shorts, wasn’t fazed by Bulldozer’s stare down. Instead, with a flick of his hand he evoked as much sound as a modestly sized, half-full, tin-roofed room can produce.

The boy guided his wheelchair towards a surprised Bulldozer as if to say “What? You want some?!” Bulldozer did not. Instead, he chose to back down, turn and run scared from the boy. It truly was a professional move (writer’s note does not apply).

The boy drew one extra decibel from the crowd when he decided to give chase, following Bulldozer halfway around the ring to send the crowd into an absolute frenzy.

Former Powell mayor Scott Mangold, who acted as the ringside announcer and honorary bell-ringer, looked beside himself as he watched the agonizingly heart-warming scene take place.

It’s possible this genius bit of crowd interaction was planned. If it was, then kudos to everyone involved for nailing the execution.

But I like to think it was a bit of spontaneous fun that lifted the spirits of everyone smart enough to come to the show.

The kicks, punches and chokes might be fake, but in this moment, wrestling became very real.

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