The matches are athletic, acrobatic mini-plays. And when the wrestlers meet before the match, there’s much improv. This is grass-roots pro wrestling, where you immediately know whom to root for and whom to boo.
INSULTS ARE FLYING faster than backbreakers and body slams.
This is grass-roots pro wrestling, where you immediately know whom to root for and whom to boo.
The official name of the summer event is long and unmemorable (the “Backyard Bunkhouse BBQ Brawl and Rock ’n’ Wrestling Rager 2!!!”), but everyone here calls it the “Thrilla in Tukwila.” It’s held 6,638 miles from the Philippines, where Muhammad Ali beat Joe Frazier in 1975 for the heavyweight boxing title in the “Thrilla in Manila,” one of the best fights ever.
Ali boasted the bout would be a “killa and a thrilla and a chilla.” It was held in a huge stadium, and watched by more than 100 million viewers on closed-circuit TV.
In Tukwila, it’s wrestling, not boxing, and the event is staged on the asphalt parking lot behind Randy’s Restaurant just south of the Museum of Flight. An 18-by-18-foot ring is set up within a perimeter of hay bales and small bleachers.
The insults aren’t exactly sophisticated, high comedy. It’s more Larry, Moe and Curly, with a few face slaps and eye gouges thrown in.
It’s hot, and the event starts a little late. Two local rock bands are set to perform. The first band’s drummer says they play loud and are atonal. The decibel level is so high, it covers the sound of jets taking off in the background from Boeing Field.
The second band is an all-women group of rockers, Razor Clam. The keyboardist says her stage name is Clam Rash. This is not pursued further, but it turns out there is such an allergy to shellfish.
Now to the main event. The first wrestling match is a four-man bout between the Eh Team from Canada and the Cook Brothers. Another wrestler says the Eh Team is not really from our friends to the north, he thinks, but Spokane.
The Eh Team is introduced and establishes itself as the bad guys. They attempt to lead a cheer for Donald Trump. This goes nowhere.
The next match features three wrestlers. The first one out is the villain, Nick Radford, known as the “Vegan Delight.” He hurls insults to the crowd about being all-consuming carnivores and is met with taunts about Field Roast, which is grains, vegetables and seasonings melded to create imitation meat. (Other than its high sodium content, what could anyone find wrong with Field Roast?)
The third match is between Danika Della Rouge and Guerrero de Neón. Rouge is the only woman on the program, and de Neón establishes his nastiness with an immediate sucker punch, headlock and throw-down.
Rouge is shorter and lighter but quicker — and she wins.
Pro wrestling referee Aubrey Edwards lays out what has to happen.
“Good wrestling has a storytelling aspect,” she says. “It’s best when I’m sucked into the story.”
In wrestling, she says, there’s the “baby face” and “the heel.” Participants know the outcome, but not the audience. Edwards says, “You can’t always have the good guy win.”
Edwards’ background is classical ballet, and she likens wrestling to dance. And acting. Her day job is a program manager, doing software development. But …
“We don’t talk about our day jobs.”
The wrestlers include a chef, a massage therapist, an internet worker, a car-dealer employee and a person who repairs surgical instruments. The wrestlers have taken classes. They learn how to take a bump, a hard bump. How to fall, do a headlock, a chinlock, hair-pulls and the Tilt-a-Whirl (this is where the charging opponent is lifted and spun before being slammed down to the mat across a knee).
Or the pile driver. This move, one wrestler dropping another on his or her head, is not seen often because it’s so dangerous.
Whatever is said about the matches, do not call them fake, even if the outcome is predetermined. The matches are athletic, acrobatic mini-plays. And when the wrestlers meet before the match, there’s much improv.
While the Thrilla is an annual event, not to be repeated until next year (and maybe not in Tukwila), every other weekend, there’s wrestling at 3-2-1 Battle! at Evolv Fitness in Seattle. And fans can find numerous local events on Facebook.
Steve West, who teaches beginning wrestling techniques, says few can break on through to the other side of making a living at the sport. It’s hard enough to make expenses.
Best to keep your day job.