The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

September 24, 2013

A Rich Kelly column: A slammin’ good time!

Grandson and, yes, even Grandpa, have a blast at Magnum Pro Wrestling extravaganza

ASHTABULA — We all do some things we don’t like, but I did something I NEVER expected to do again in my life Saturday night. I took my 12-year-old grandson, T.J. Skinner, a huge fan of “big-time wrestling,” especially the WWE variety, to the Magnum Pro Wrestling show at GO Ministries on Station Avenue at the former Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.

For reasons not to be listed here because of space limitations, I will not list the reasons why I don’t allow that stuff into my home.

However, I came to learn quickly that programs like this one, promoted by Marlo Sams as a fundraising project for the ministry, are fun and also eye-opening as to the skills needed to be part of it all.

With a crowd split nearly down the middle of adults and child, with each half of those groups nearly 50/50 between boys and girls, the event was called, “3-Demption.” There were 3 competitors, actually well trained athletes and actors, in each event, with tag-team matches in groups of teams of 3 as well. In a small ring, skill was the prime requirement to pull off the many slick and difficult moves each competitor successfully accomplished.

“That was cool, how those guys managed to move around in that first match,” T.J. said.

Veterans Ryan Whitten and The Bouncer battled with T-Wolf, making his pro wrestling debut. The humor came through from the start.

As the grapplers went at each other, The Bouncer admonished the rookie, T-Wolf, to let the big boys do their thing while he (T-Wolf) remained in a neutral corner for his opportunity. As the veterans locked up, T-Wolf sneaked in to join the pretzel building fray, only to be sent back to the corner by The Bouncer, the clear fan favorite for the match.

T.J. giggled quite a bit with all of that.

After several minutes of back-and-forth tumbling action, sparked by advances to the crowd for cheers, The Bouncer finally ended the match with a pin of T-Wolf.

The kids really enjoyed it all.

Caleb Fetters joined some friends to yell and cajol the grapplers much of the night, especially in dealing with the “bad guys”.

The second match of the night had a “spiritual” setup. Preacher Joseph Christian Slick, adorned in a choir robe with a cross on the front and carrying a “Bible” while sprouting spiritual truths, clearly wasn’t the good guy.

“Sometimes, I think some of these guys are just in this to get the other guys tired out,” T.J. said. His point was well taken, as everybody in the event showed superb athletic ability to ply their craft.

One of those young men, as well as two well conditioned ladies named Angeldust and Tuff Tina, have gone through rigorous training to be part of the program.

One was Brandon Taylor, a bundle of energy built into a 160-pound body who pranced, danced, and jumped his way around the ring in his match.

“I live in Akron now and work full time,” he said as he mingled with fans later in the event. “I wrestled for four years at North Royalton High. My grandfather took me to a program when I was 5 or 6, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Not all the grapplers are behemoths. Eli Thomas is the largest at 299 pounds, while several are either near half of that or very close. All are well conditioned and manage skills with great ability.

“Being my size, I’m not able to showcase my talents in wrestling like I would like, but being athletic is very important,” Thomas said. “Coordination, strength and competitiveness comes to the forefront in what we do. There are training centers we must go to before getting into this. It is hard work, but the relationships we have among each other are fantastic.”

These events on the local front are not big-money tickets. Sharing revenues with benefactors is important, according to promoter Sams.

“We just want to bring in some entertainment for the communities and have some fun,” he said.

Taylor mentioned that he gets some articles like T-shirts to sell on his own, as do most of the wrestlers.

“Some of the guys wrestle several times a week, if they can make it,” he said. “We all work full time for the most part, and do this for fun. If we get several shows a week, we can make some cash with our gear that we provide. I’ve got a good deal with a guy on shirts that helps me a lot.”

The event also had a local flavor in the ring as well, as Willoughby resident and former wrestler at Harvey, Tyler Shaffer, played the role of T-Wolf to perfection, if not victoriously in the ring.

“I’ve been in training for this for a few months now,” he said. “This is my first year. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. I was sitting with my brother and dad one night, and four years later, after watching a while, I was hooked. Having just gotten going in training, I haven’t settled into the system yet, but this is a lot of fun being part of this group.”

The biggest thing with this entertainment is appreciating the athletic skills needed to successfully negotiate each match.

“It takes a lot of work and skills to do this,” Taylor said. “Every once in a while, one of those punches or slaps or hits connects for real. I had a match a couple weeks ago when I slipped and got nailed. I was out on my feet for several minutes.”

One thing that came through as the night went on was the care and skills among the wrestlers have for each other regarding safety in the ring.

“Later in the night, I could see and hear the wrestlers talking to each other during matches before they did some of those tough moves,” T.J. said. “Some of those moves, I just can’t believe how they are able to roll and jump and land on their feet. That’s amazing!

“I can’t see how than can climb up and then jump off the top ropes as fast as they do.”

The two ladies in the program are Angeldust, a tiny-but-fit blonde from Phoenix who bears a striking resemblance to Tanya Harding.

Her foe in the match on the female side was Tuff Tina, blessed with athletic skills and the looks of a model. She landed what may have been the biggest “punch” of the night early in her match in a mixed tag-team thriller. She landed a haymaker to the face of a male opponent after being admonished by his partner that she should “be home doing dishes and laundry” instead of wrestling. That line drew the loudest comments from the fan galary of the night.

The heavyweight title went on the line in a late match between Joey the Snake, “Simply Sexy” Shawn Blaze, and titleholder Joey Vincent Martini. Clearly not a fan favorite champion, Martini and the others moved their tired-and-sweaty bodies through the longest match of the night, clearly putting some great work into the movements as well.

“For big guys, they can really move around in a hurry,” T.J. said.

Props came into play as well over the night.

Preacher Slick used his “Bible” to land a couple shots to the head of foes, and the grand finale came about when “Flyin’” Ryan Burke entered the arena after Martini staggered to his title win. Carrying a briefcase of “money,” Burke, possibly one of the best good guys for Magnum, capped the night with a pin of Martini to the screams of nearly 100 fans who definietly got their money’s worth of fun and entertainment for the night.

“I didn’t like when Marcus beat up his partner,” T.J. said. That came about in the mixed tag team bout. After losing via pin, Aces High member Marcus , seemingly still dazed, attacked his partner, Alexander, “knocking” him into near unconsciousness.

“It was really great, though, when Tuff Tina whacked the big guy in the face,” T.J. said. “That was just plain funny.”

“It’s hard to pick a thing that stood out for me,” he said. “I was really impressed with how those guys, even the big guys and the girls, are able to jump around and climb the ropes without getting hurt more often. That’s not easy.”

The fans were vocal and loud, especially some of the women. The bad guys did their best to be villains, the good guys drew the biggest cheers and interacted with the crowd, and I am forced to admit that, as one who will not support big-time stuff like this at all, these wrestlers and their friends have acquired a new fan. When I told my wife, Joan, I had a good time, it was fortunate she was already sitting down.

Comaraderie was everywhere.

Brandon Taylor said it well: “We want to put on a good show every night. These are good people, we have fun, and it’s good to stay active like this. It’s work.”

Even the “bad guys” know how to please the fans.

Brandon X,while showcasing athletic abilities of all of them, he got tossed out of ring, apparently dead on his feet, rolled over on the floor in front of us, rolled up on the bench, looked at me, and asked how we were doing and if we were having a good time.

Then, he rolled his eyes and head again, and staggered back into the ring, where he promptly did it again at another part of the ring to talk with somebody else.

Wonderful!

GO Ministries director Pastor John Salters was appreciative of the efforts of Sams & Co..

“We try to do this once a month,” he said. “We took the summer off to get some other things taken care of, but we’ve been doing this for several years now. People enjoy themselves, it helps us out and we have a good time.”

T.J. wore a grin almost entirely around his head while leaving the venue.

So did his grandfather, something even the grandfather is shocked by.

Hang on, folks, but it’s a good night of fun, skill and games.

The next Magnum Pro Wrestling program at GO Ministries will be on Saturday, Oct. 19. Details can be found online at www.magnumprowrestling.com.

Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson. Reach him at heavensthunder@centurylink.net.

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