It’s two hours before the first match, and Kaser Szymanski is a little restless.
He’s already been up in the ring, rolling around on the mat and putting an arm-bar on a much, much larger opponent. Now he’s back in the front row watching the wrestlers loosening up their muscles and stirring up the crowd at the High Velocity Wrestling arena in Hendersonville. It’s Saturday night and a special evening for High Velocity as the wrestlers and the fans celebrate the organization’s ten-year anniversary.
High Velocity owner and promoter Gary “Viper” Benfield takes the microphone to express his gratitude to the fans and to announce that High Velocity will be leaving its current venue at the end of the year and taking the show on the road. They’re calling it the High Velocity “Kick ’em in the Face Tour.”
Later, Viper will take on Magnum (aka, the Loaded Gun) in one of the bouts. Right now, though, he’s trading trash talk with Section Eight, the other half of their long-standing wresting feud. With Viper and Section Eight standing together, the ring is supporting at least 500 pounds of melodramatic menace and mayhem.
Kaser’s mom Holly is in the audience with him. The lad has been intimately involved with wrestling, she says, quite literally his whole life. Kaser will be two years old on his next birthday. His daddy, who wrestles under the ring name of Scotty Claymore (yes, he wears a kilt into the ring), will soon be squaring off against the dastardly Protegee. Scotty, by the way, was the one suffering Kaser’s earlier arm-bar.
Holly shrugs apologetically as Kaser starts crying and fidgeting. “He just wants to be up there with his Dad so bad,” she explains. The lights, loud music, and the crowd don’t seem to bother the child nearly as much as being denied ring time. “I used to come to the matches when I was pregnant,” Holly says, “so he’s pretty used to being here.”
Scotty Claymore drops by to hug the boy and help his wife get the pint-sized combatant settled down. “I can’t keep putting you in the ring,” he tells Kaser, then says to a bystander, “Just breaks my heart.”
There is still some time before the first match, so Scotty takes a few minutes out of his warm up to explain a few things about pro wrestling. He’s been performing at the arena, he says, for more than five years and intends to keep doing it as long as his body holds up. He, and other participants, are remarkably candid about what some unenlightened people might call “fake” fighting. “I don’t think anybody here tonight believes that this is actual fighting.” he says. “Obviously, we’re not trying to hurt each other; in fact, we train hard to avoid hurting anybody.”
What some people might call fake, Viper and his colleagues prefer to call “pre-determined outcomes.” The point is not to crush one’s opponent; the point is to put on a good show for the fans. That’s not always simple or safe. If this kind of wrestling seems easy, consider for a moment what’s involved in “The Viper Bomb.” In this display of weighty acrobatics, the very large, barrel-chested Viper climbs to the top of the turnbuckle where he is attacked by his opponent, the equally large Magnum. After some artistic slapping and snarling, the two of them do a complete flip, with Viper landing on his back and Magnum flopping on top of him. The physics involved and the major “air” they get during the stunt mean that a miscalculation or misstep could result is some serious hospital time.
One of the first matches of the evening features a masked tag-team called Nacho Crunch, who emerge victorious. It’s a vocal crowd — when a villain wins, he will often be greeted with chants of “You still suck,” or perhaps something a little spicier than that.
When you think about it, this kind of performance is really just high-flying physical melodrama, complete with villains, good guys, and even a story line.
And despite the body slams, submission holds, and other fictional violence, this is family entertainment. Half the audience on anniversary night were kids and their families. After the last bout, kids swarmed the ring careening off the ropes and imitating some of the acrobatics they’d just witnessed.
It’s too late, though for the tiny Kaser. His daddy vanquished the villain…while finding time to flash the audience with a hoisted kilt…and the evening has come to a satisfactory conclusion. Amidst the squeals and shouts of the frolicking kids, the little warrior has fallen sound asleep on his mother’s shoulder.