IT could almost qualify as good clean fun, were it not for the cuss words, and one very beauteous assistant in a mini miniskirt and not much on underneath. Macho men -- some looking like Jack Black in his stretchy pants -- do dropkicks and fly through the air to trample their opponents, egged on by the screams of an audience who knows them all on a first-name basis. And the most mind-blowing part of it all? Seeing a preschool gym, where the neighborhood kids try to make a basket and tumble on mats in their pull-ups, transformed into a spotlit, pungent-smelling arena.
But the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center needed to make ends meet. So twice a month for the last two years it's been renting its gymnasium to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, a group of wrestlers that is like the minor league of the wrestling world.
The fans, some of whom travel from Palm Springs and San Diego to watch their favorites, really get into it.
"I love the family closeness.... I'll keep coming back to support this," said Elizabeth Leggins, who a few moments prior had been cringing as Joey Ryan hurled insults her way, just before he and Davey Richards faced off in the ring. "Last week I chased Jade all around the ring," she said, beaming.
The aforementioned assistant, who goes by the name Jade Chung, gets very involved, alternately grabbing wrestlers by the calf or taunting the audience if it will help her man. But, hey, no one's complaining. After all, it's family. Along with a little acrobatics, some bluster and lots of body slams, flying leaps, guttural grunts and braggadocio. "It's part athletic competition, part ballet and part rock concert," said Chris Batiz, who traveled from San Diego. "It's very entertaining, high-adrenaline, nonstop action." Indeed. Just imagine that your favorite action figure jumped off the shelf of Toys R Us and came roaring to life, seething, writhing, grunting, yelling and lusting for revenge right in your face. And all for 20 bucks.
At this meet, the audience numbered roughly 150, young and old, a mix of ethnicities. There were men. And women -- some there to support boyfriends in the ring, but many just to cheer and jeer. Despite the deafening thud of bodies hitting the floor of the ring, it had a homey feel, maybe because everyone knew it was all a big show.
"We've had families go," said Lamont Everette, the kindergarten teacher at the JCC, "and they said they were tickled by it. But I don't think it's appropriate for kids. It's more an adult thing."
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla is celebrating its third anniversary with a Sunday show at the JCC, then gearing up for a big tournament Sept. 1-3.
"People are coming in from out of the country and the state -- even from Japan," said Michael Mondragon, one of the group's co-owners. He's also a wrestler who goes by the moniker Disco Machine and appears in the ring with his own disco ball, kindly held aloft for him by the ref during his introduction. "We have loyal fans here and abroad. It blew us away when we appeared overseas and people knew about us and everything we do."
As for the JCC, the Sunday show will be the last for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, which will move on to American Legion Post 308 in Reseda. "I'm kind of sad to see them go," said Shannon Kaussen, a JCC board member.
But the thud of bodies hitting the mats will still resonate in the gym, albeit a little more softly: The JCC is working on a deal to create a gymnastics facility for kids that should be ready by the fall.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
Where: Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, 1110 Bates Ave., Los Angeles
When: 5 p.m. Sunday