It's a strange feeling to have really planned for something big to happen in your life, like a momentous occasion, and then for whatever reason it doesn't happen and your life is filled with anticlimax...anticlimax being a totally acceptable noun for the purposes of this blog entry. For me, October 20th was that day. It would have been my 10 year anniversary and maybe, possibly, potentially the day I would have gotten engaged had a number of things not gone belly-up over the past two years. But they did go belly-up for valid reasons, and while it's probably to everyone's ultimate benefit experiencing a non-anniversary is pure emotional displacement. Anticipating the inevitable Whitman's sampler of emotions that would accompany this day, I wanted to spend it amongst friends seeing something so absolutely bizarre that it would (hopefully) absorb all of my attention.
Instead of celebrating on October 20th, I drove to rural Indiana to a church located in a former warehouse located across the street from a strip mall*. The thing that makes this particular church located in a former warehouse located across the street from a strip mall special is that it's home to the first (and to my knowledge only) church-sponsored backyard wrestling event
The next thing I'm about to say may be the most honest thing I've ever said in my entire life - If you ever, ever, ever need to take your mind off of something, NOTHING will do that more than seeing one grown-ass man in a speedo fake kicking another grown-ass man in a cape all in the name of the son of God. Nothing. You can just click that link and scroll down to see the flier featuring a guy who's kind of dressed like he came from an oil tycoon's wedding (minus the bolo) with some girl that you just know has a hyphenated name that ends in Lynn standing near but not necessarily noticing the dude who looks like he's from The Tick channeling fury through his paws of might and know - from the bottom of your heart - that whatever burdens you carried into FirePro Wrestling, you most assuredly will not be taking out. Being a natural born weird magnet, I've seen a lot of strange things in my time but the moment I saw Pastor "Diehard" Steve step into the ring (which also doubles as the platform where he preaches the following Sunday morning...seriously), it honestly felt like Jesus himself personally handing me the most awesomely strange gift heaven could conjure up.
From the PG-rated trash talk (spewing from both the wrestlers and the audience) to the surplus of unitards to the uber-dramatic storylines, FirePro Wrestling is, no contest, the single most fascinating thing I've ever seen in my life. Events are approximately three hours** long and feature about 20 wrestlers who range from maybe-if-I-was-drunk-and-it-was-Halloween-I-would-think-you-were-a-small-time-athlete to hey-that's-just-a-fat-guy-in-a-mask. There are dropkicks. There are stage names like "Hoss," "Hotbod," and "Devon Fury."*** There are tag team events catalyzed by carefully constructed soap opera-like vendettas. There are crustaches and supportive ring girls and surprise betrayals and empty I'm-gonna-hit-you-with-this-chair threats. More interesting than what's actually there is what isn't - namely the sex, drugs, and rock n roll aspect that's become the hallmark of the modern WWF.
Take out the bikinis, explicit music, realistic violence, token drunks, and potty words and you're left with a family-friendly Disney version of a live wrestling show - one that attracts a bizarre cross-section of families, church-goers, wrestling fans, amateur athletes, and freak-seekers like myself. I think the thing that struck me as the most strange was that it is a surprisingly warm community of people that are hungry for church-sanctioned fake violence. I came prepared for bodyslams, but not for hugs and friendly catch-up conversations between grandmas and spandex-clad men before and after matches. Everyone knew each other. Everyone supported each other even amidst the trash talking - the event I attended was put on to raise money for a local missionary who will soon head to Uganda with his wife to work in a camp designed to help children forced to be soldiers...that missionary is also one of the ring refs as well as the dude who sold me a hotdog during intermission...natch.
In a weird way, it was kind of like being with my own family - they might yell and fight and have an affinity for drama, but the bottom line is that we're built off of something much stronger than what we show on the outside. And while God himself wasn't there taking it from the top rope,**** there was a definite human warmth that was there in that unlikely arena. At intermission, the largest wrestler of all humbly laid down and allowed each and every child in the audience***** to come stand on his chest and hold the heavy-weight championship belt over their tiny heads to "make them feel like a champion," a feeling which seems to be one of the underlying goals of religion anyway. Right then and there I thought Yeah, maybe John 3:16 and Austin 3:16 can coexist after all.
* This doesn't say much in the way of location. Almost everything in rural Indiana is located across the street from a strip mall.
** Oh my God, it was three hours long.
*** Some of these names kind of creeped me out because they sound like the names of dudes my dad hangs out with and as I've mentioned here before,
an unfortunate number of the dudes my dad hangs out with have been stabbed.
**** But seriously, how sweet would that be?
***** And me
Labels: Project Badass