Los Angeles Times

NWA slams into Glendale

SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — With body slams, suplexes, dropkicks and hurricanranas taking center stage, there are curtains on opposite ends of the Glendale Studios.

On one end, the likes of National Wrestling Alliance world champion "Scrap Iron" Adam Pearce, archrival Colt "Boom Boom" Cabana, Shaun Ricker, Scorpio Sky and a parade of other glammed-up gladiators make their way through en route to the squared circle.

"You walk through that curtain, the adrenaline just hits," Cabana said, "and that's what takes you through the ride."

On the opposite end, the likes of Chloe Cosette, Edwin Sanchez and Brandee Garvin emerge into an afternoon of action, drama and hard-hitting theater.

"It's really fun to watch," said Cossette, 22 of Arizona. "It's like a soap opera.

"I like the atmosphere here. The fans are really into it, they're very loud."

And on this sleepy Sunday afternoon on Glendale Avenue, the professional wrestlers who burst through one curtain and the frenzied fans who make their way through the other are seemingly equal parts of the experience.

And this is very much the atmosphere and appeal when "NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood" hosts its monthly television tapings at Glendale Studios.

"They're bringing their friends," said Sky, who recently relinquished his NWA TV title to rival Willie Mack during an epic bout on July 22 — the most recent taping in Glendale. "It's starting to create a little attraction in the city I think. Putting on a good show is the main key. People care, they enjoy themselves."

In November of last year, "NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood" moved into its latest, and by most accounts, best venue to date at the Glendale Studios. There it has opened the doors to fans with free admission. Thereafter they are privy to witnessing four weekly, one-hour shows per monthly television taping. The broadcasts air weekly on KDOC at 1 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

"I just knew this would be a perfect setting," said David Marquez, the show's producer, who also owns the NWA and works for KDOC in a variety of roles, such as a producer, director and a liaison to professional sports teams whose games air on the channel.

Thus far, Marquez has been happy with the fate that has followed NWA Hollywood since moving to the Jewel City. According to him, fans are growing, they are beginning to recognize the performers on the streets in Southern California, the ratings are good and he's happy with the show as a whole emanating from the small, fan-friendly Glendale Studios.

"We do fantastic," said Marquez of the show's ratings. "I'm very happy with what we're doing."

Much of the success of the show is dependent on ratings and advertisers, thus Marquez and Co. continue to offer free admission to the TV tapings.

"We have to give it to them so they can taste it," Marquez said. "They're checking us out."

So far it's worked.

"They know who the personalities are," Marquez said. "They know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are.

"I believe we have built a fan base in Southern California on KDOC."

Along with the likes of Pearce, Cabana, Ricker and Sky, there's an abundance of talent currently on the NWA Hollywood roster, most of it young and unknown and trying to rise up in the unpredictable world of professional wrestling.

"They're a wonderful group of people to work with," Marquez said. "They all have passion. They want this to work."

But for as entertaining as the story lines and show may be and as hard-working and talented as the wrestlers can be — "You get to see really good wrestling," Sanchez said. "They're independent wresters, but they're really good. It's an art form." — much of the appeal in the monthly tapings is the atmosphere.

"I'm here every match," said Garvin, 36, of Huntington Beach. "Wrestlers get in my face all the time."

Garvin, who introduces herself as Tattoo Girl, is visible in the front row for most tapings, noticeable not just for the colored ink that covers her, but just as much because she's usually holding a fluorescent sign and getting up close into the action.

No more than five or six rows back on either of the four sides surrounding the ring, the crowd at the Glendale Studios likely numbers just more than 100. Maybe more, probably not less. But it feels big, it sounds loud and it is clearly alive.

Every bump taken in the ring, whether off the top rope, from a body slam or a clothesline reverberates through the studios. The ring bounces and bangs. The crowd cheers, chants, oohs and aahs. Individual voices and faces are heard and seen on the television screen and by the wrestlers themselves, but the audience is an individual entity adding to the show.

It can hear the commentary of Jeff Resnick and Stu Stone, it exchanges verbal jabs with heels like Pearce, Ricker and NWA Junior champion Kevin Douglas and shares in the jubilance of babyfaces such as Cabana, Mack and Sean Taylor.

"I love how it's so personal," said Xavier Baltazar, 20, of Rialto. "They respond to you when you say something."

Baltazar has made the journey many a time with Sanchez, 28, also from Rialto. For them, the lengthy trip is worth it for an afternoon of wrestling action.

"We've come pretty much all year," Sanchez said. "You can hear yourself on TV, so that's great. I love it.

"You get free wrestling out of it, so it's worth it. I love that you can hear yourself [on TV] and [the wrestlers] can hear you."

Garvin's 15-year-old niece was vacationing from Washington state when her aunt treated her to her first live pro wrestling show and she was more than pleased just an hour in.

"I like it a lot," Flournoy said. "I've watched wrestling, but I've never been to one.

"I like that they're actually interacting with the audience."

And then there's Cossette, who, despite residing in Arizona, said she's never missed a Glendale taping. Alas, the petite and attractive wrestling fan sitting all by her lonesome later revealed she had a vested interest in the show, as her boyfriend, though she wouldn't name names, was one of the mighty grapplers emerging from the opposite curtain.

Indeed, fans of all shapes and sizes, from near and far have started to make the trek to Glendale studios.

"It's fun, we just have a good time," said 28-year-old Priscilla Torres, who brought her 7-year-old son Angel from Long Beach. "It's a good place."

The NWA was once the place for wrestling, the biggest and most successful professional wrestling organization in the world, with affiliates in nearly every major United States city and reaching into Canada, Japan and other countries abroad. Its lineage dates all the way back to the turn of the 20th century before its official genesis in 1948. The organization played a huge role in the beginning of nearly every major North American wrestling company, including the World Wide Wrestling Federation (which later became the World Wrestling Federation and is currently World Wrestling Entertainment), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Alas, as the 1980s came to a close, the NWA largely fell by the wayside for myriad reasons, still staying afloat, but never again reaching the popularity it owned with the likes of Lou Thesz, Harley Race and Ric Flair as its champions.

Now, it is viewed as an independent organization, though it still has plenty of affiliates around the country and is clearly finding its momentum in Glendale.

Nonetheless, with its rich history, the tapings at Glendale Studios very much resemble yesteryear in the world of professional wrestling, when the NWA and other territory organizations filmed their TV shows from a studio, with a smaller gathering of fans closer to the action, as opposed to the current WWE model in which the company's performers play to large arena crowds.

"This is real-deal wrestling. It's really a throwback to the days of televised wrestling. I love it," Cabana said of the crowd being right on top of the action. "I'm personally an intimate wrestler. I like that I can look into everybody's eyes and touch everybody emotionally."

One of the most recognizable talents gracing NWA Hollywood broadcasts is that of Percy Pringle III, who's perhaps most well known in wrestling circles for his time in the WWE as Paul Bearer, the manager of the Undertaker. But Pringle, who is under a "Legends" contract with the WWE that entails merchandising and sporadic appearances, was in the business long before his run began in the then-WWF in 1990 and he's a fan of the overall feel that comes with every television taping at Glendale Studios.

"It's more old school. I've been in the business since 1974 and this is the way it was," Pringle said. "We're so much closer to the fans and the fans have more access to us. It's more old school."

Surrounded by raucous and loyal fans and reminders about the days of yesteryear, Pringle doesn't mind flying out to Southern California from his native Alabama on a monthly basis.

"If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't be doing it," Pringle said. "It's all about fun right now."

If nothing more, just about once a month on a Sunday afternoon in Glendale, for everyone involved, fun is at the forefront.

"It's kind of a nod to yesteryear," Pearce said. "It's the same kind of atmosphere and feel that I grew up with and fell in love with as a wrestling fan."

The next "NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood" taping at Glendale Studios is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.nwahollywood.com.

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