As the first wave of Covid-19 infections spread throughout the country, a San Diego-based pro wrestling club known as FIST Combat held a series of “drive-in” events. Staging matches for $20 in a San Diego industrial park, they managed a handful of events until being shut down during the summer surge. Underground wrestling is a bubbling stew of athleticism, theater, violence and comic book superhero ethos. It wrings the sweat out of a metaphorical towel soaked with systemic racism, police brutality, a pandemic, economic hardship and a deep political divide seeping from the pores of America.
“ It’s a wild action, comedy, drama, improv stunt show where we all toss bodies in our fancy underwear,” said promoter Mikey Gordon. Gordon, 37, started FIST (Finest Independent Stars Today) in his hometown of St. Louis 20 years ago. Now in San Diego, where they’ve staged shows in bars, pool halls and strip clubs, a San Diego police car pulled up during a May event. Sweaty and spent after a tough match, Gordon talked them out of shutting things down. The police left after being reassured the event complied with COVID-19 guidelines. Nearly a month later, they received a notice from the city to cease operations. “#DriveInWrestling was a success because it brought people together that hadn’t socialized in months,” he said. “That was the biggest possible joy. It was overwhelming.” One of the wrestlers is Randy Order (Mike Zmina). He’s a heavy who fans love to heckle. Dressed as a state trooper, he threatens to arrest anyone who isn’t social distancing and even uses a yardstick to measure. “We’ve always adapted. I’ve always adapted,” said Gordon. “I love this business more than anything.”
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