Wrestlepalooza at First Avenue, 1/12/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Wrestlepalooza, with Masked Intruder
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 12, 2013

First, let's get this straight. Wrestling isn't fake; it's rigged. That's not hair-splitting, either. If you don't follow wrestling, you might mistakenly judge it as a sport. Think of it instead as a live soap opera performed in the round. Like in any soap opera, a fight breaks out every now and then, or, rather, a caricature of a fight. Like in any soap opera, there's not much moral ambiguity; the good guys are noble everymen, the bad guys are vain, unlikeable shitheads. Twists, turns. Oohs and ahs. Of course, Susan Lucce never jumped from a 20-foot ladder onto a menagerie of her co-stars. That's probably the only difference though; wrestling is theatre with actual danger.

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So don't call it fake unless you're ready to throw out a lot of other worthwhile stuff on silly grounds. If you think wrestling is beneath you, if you're contemptuous of its conceits, if you think it's silly or absurd, go to the next wrestling night at First Avenue. It's not terribly cheap, and it doesn't come around often. But it's more gripping, earnest, good-natured, and entertaining than just about anything else you're liable to see in the Mainroom. It's just fucking awesome. And when was the last time you walked out of the Mainroom, turned to a stranger, and said "that was fucking AWESOME."

Here's how it works; the ring sits on the floor. You stand around the ring, or up on the mezzanine, or wherever you can get a view. The stage is set with gear for a band, who performs between fights. A runway connects the ring to the stage and the stage to the green room. That's where the wrestlers enter. The wrestlers come out, they wrestle, they mouth off, the match ends, the ring girl comes out and does a striptease, maybe a band plays a couple songs. Repeat until it's over.

Half an hour after doors opened, the line still went halfway down 7th Street. First Avenue security was frisking people more thoroughly than usual, but it wasn't really necessary; the crowd was good-natured, happy, chatty. They even seemed impervious to the cold and didn't mind the frisking (always a sort of an indignity). Lots of them were years-long devotees, and they gave stirring treatises on the wrestlers they liked, the intricacies of their plots, how they'd fared last time F1rst Wrestling came through more than a year ago. They clearly took it seriously, but not too seriously.

The first match was a tag-team. A wrestler named 6% Body Fat (seems a little generous; during the match, the crowd struck up an amusing chant of "12 PER-CENT! 12 PER-CENT!"), Mr. Kincaid, and Renny D. went against Wildcat and Zero Gravity. The former team were the heels (that's wrestling cant for "bad guys," the ones you boo), the latter were the faces (the ones you cheer). It set the night off wonderfully; 6% was the obvious captain, a vain, jiggly slob in Zubaz tighties who proclaimed his sexiness to the crowd and to his opponents, who met him with resounding boos and middle fingers. Zero Gravity and Wildcat were nimble, acrobatic luchadores, and though 6% dominated the first half of the match, Zero Grav and Wildcat prevailed, to the surprise of no one. It's the general rhythm of a match; the bad guys jump ahead early but get usurped in the end. It happens every time but it never fully fails.

Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Then came Queenie von Curves, a burlesque dancer. She strip-teased from a sequined cabaret gown to pasties and a g-string, all to the tune of "Pour Some Sugar on Me." And she did, in the end, pour sugar on herself. It was bawdy as hell and pretty bush league, rather like the wrestling, and it drew thunderous applause.

Colin Cambridge and Shawn Daivari fought the night's most impressive match, though it was an undercard and both combatants lacked the performative gimmicks of their colleagues. No masks, no fancy entrances, just very, very good wrestling. They hit a little harder, ran a little faster, flew a little higher.

Masked Intruder came from Madison for the show and played the interlude between the second and third matches. They're pop-punk on a sugar bender. ADHD, by-the-book pop-punk. That means clever, pun-centric, a little romantic, funny, predictable. But so was everything about the night, so it worked out.

Photo by Stacy Schwartz

They wore colored ski masks that evoked Peelander-Z, though perhaps unintentionally. A little crowd rushed to the front of the stage, pogoing and head-wagging. A fifth member of the band (something like the toaster from the Bosstones) patrolled the stage dressed as a mall cop before running amok through the crowd, evidently overcome by the sugar-high energy of the music. They played three sets through the night, none more than 15 minutes long, each one as good as the last, which is to say just good enough.

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