A wrestling event that plays it safe -- at least for the fans

Dirty Ron McDonald, right, and Guy Cool wrestle during a FIST Combat event.
Dirty Ron McDonald, right, and Guy Cool. FIST Combat produces a parking lot pro wrestling event to a handful of spectators and a livestream audience in an attempt to honor Covid-19 health restrictions.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
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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.

Dirty Ron McDonald crashes to the pavement during a match against Guy Cool.
Dirty Ron McDonald crashes to the pavement during a match against Guy Cool.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
RJ Nascimento, 8, a Dirty Ron McDonald fan, sits ringside.
RJ Nascimento, 8, a Dirty Ron McDonald fan, sits ringside.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Wrestler Slice Boogie loses his facemask early in his match against Jheri Gigolo.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
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Bodacious Baron spits beer on Motros during a tag team match between the Lucha Daddies and Ring Wormz.
Bodacious Baron spits beer on Motros during a tag team match between the Lucha Daddies and Ring Wormz.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
San Diego police officers talk with Mikey Gordon, who persuaded them not to shut down the event.
San Diego police officers talk with Mikey Gordon, who persuaded them not to shut down the event. The officers never left their vehicle and drove away minutes after arriving.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“ 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.”

Slice Boogie  leaps on to Jheri Gigolo.
Slice Boogie leaps on to Jheri Gigolo.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Randy  Order backstage, left. Order carries a yardstick and threatens to expel fans who are not properly socially distanced.
Randy Order backstage, left. Order carries a yardstick and threatens to expel fans who are not properly socially distanced.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Randy Order slams Dirty Ron McDonald into a wooden board.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
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The Infection, of the Ring Wormz tag team, is kicked during a match against Motros Jungle.
The Infection, of the Ring Wormz tag team, is kicked during a match against Motros Jungle.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
 Dawn Sabatino and family cheer on wrestlers from the back of their pickup truck.
Dawn Sabatino and family cheer on wrestlers from the back of their pickup truck.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Dirty Ron puts makeup on before the parking lot wrestling event.
Dirty Ron applies makeup backstage.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Veinom Guerrero in a match against Ryan Kidd and Curt Stallion.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Guy Cool, front, and Dirty Ron McDonald batter each other.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
 Dirty Ron McDonald lands on a pile of tacks while battling Randy Order.
Dirty Ron McDonald lands on a pile of tacks while battling Randy Order.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Dirty Ron McDonald catches his breath after wrestling.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)