SPORT REPORT : School of Fake Knocks

Violinists and opera singers have their conservatories, political scientists their think tanks, generals and admirals their academies, but where do professional wrestlers go to learn the ropes? Why, Bill Anderson's School of Wrestling in San Bernardino, of course. Established seven years ago by Bill Anderson (a.k.a. the Black Knight), it has graduated such notables as the Ultimate Warrior, tag-team champs the Mercenaries, Sting (the other Sting), the Magnificent Mimi, the Beast and the up-and-coming Samoan Prince (a.k.a. the Samoan Cannibal).

Three days a week, six to 10 wrestling hopefuls pay $25 a class to master the Sunset Flip, the Turnbuckle, the Clothesline and the Atomic Drop. Anderson and partner Jesse Hernandez show the students how to fake a punch, "sell" a midsection wallop and get slammed to the mat without breaking their backs.

Anderson, 35, also helps his pupils develop their fashion sense and their characters. "We try and let their natural personas come out," says Anderson, pointing out one tattooed and potbellied student. "Adam here is an arrogant smartass, so we let him go with that. We don't try and turn him into an All-American type." Anderson indicates a huge fellow with a salt-and-pepper beard. "Ross used to play football, so he's going to use more of the mad dog image."

The school, one of the nation's few pro wrestling academies, is also a job center offering news of gigs ranging from matches in small-town auditoriums to televised performances in Japan and Mexico. The students dream of joining the World Wrestling Federation and earning the big bucks. Meanwhile, they pummel and pound, slam and somersault their way to fame.

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