Cloverdale’s All-Star Wrestling Keeps the Dream Alive
Even though I arrived at the Alice McKay room an hour and half before show time, as my breath was making small clouds underneath the flood lights, there was already a line-up of about 15 people at the door. The cold had not stopped them from coming out and showing their support for Mr. Xstatic, Sloan, Bambi, The Great Kasaki, and others who would battle it out in the ring at tonight’s All-Star Wrestling match on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
Perhaps you remember wrestling with your siblings, using the living room carpet as your ring mat whilst the weekend WWF match was broadcast simultaneously in the background. Maybe you had an Andre the Giant doll that stood in as acting Ken when you took Barbie out on a date. Or maybe you’re truly old-school and you can recall watching the legendary Gene Kiniski on Friday night wrestling on your black-and-white TV. Whatever your recollection might be, rest assured those memories come home as ASW.
As soon as I entered the arena, there was a spark and energy already in the ring. The children of the organizers and wrestlers were burning off excited energy on the mat; high-kicking, sparring, and practicing slams off the ropes. As the cold but undeterred people started to fill the arena, it became evident tonight’s games were a family affair; In one row alone, there were four generations of family members, holding posters and photos of their favorite wrestlers, vying for the perfect spot to egg on their champion.
For those who may be skeptical of the independent wrestling scene being able to match the excitement of a full-stadium show, your fears would be put to rest upon experiencing the grand entrance of the night’s first contestant, The Great Kasaki. Akin to the entrance the Randy Savage 2x4 family used to make, the great one will keep you into the story. I was fortunate to catch up with The Great Kasaki, who is not only a wrestler and trainer at ASW, but just got back home from an extended tour of Japan with Dountoburi Pro Wrestling. “Japanese crowds want to see strong-style striking; American crowds want to see big moves,” comments The Great Kasaki.
“There is still a story to Japanese wrestling”, says Mark, aka, Mr. Xstatic, who also toured with Dountoburi Pro, and also recently finished a tour in India as a trainer. “There will be a very tongue and cheek break of humor, and then it’s back to some serious fighting.”
A pleasant surprise of the evening events was the break-out women’s match between Bambi and Sloan, two talented and kick-ass female wrestlers. With some self-declared seriously blue eyes and long blonde hair, Bambi was one of the female members of the troupe that toured with Dountoburi Pro, and she was keen to share her experiences.
“I didn’t want to come home!”, remarks Bambi. “Wrestling was so different in Japan. The crowd is [more serious] and respectful. They wouldn’t yell things out like ‘take off your shirt’; they want to see a real fight between two women or two men.” There also seems to be a challenge to wrestling in Japan. Bambi comments “They (a North American) trainer might not ask you to do something, or be afraid that you might get hurt. But not over there; if a guy will do it, so will you too.” “I ask you to do everything here!”, quips The Great Kasaki with a laugh.
I had such a great time at All-Star Wrestling, caught up in the drama and showmanship, that I almost forgot that wrestling is a real sport. The men and women in the ring are athletes and can take a tumble now and then. As I was standing ring-side capturing a photo of Mr. Xstatic diving off the ropes, I saw him plummet to the ground and I heard a cracking sound.
The crowd of referees and photographers rushed to his side. A few moments later, he arose, and leapt back in the ring to finish the fight. At the end of the match, I ran into Disco, one of the owners of ASW. “He’s okay; we got our First Aid Attendant to check him out and he’ll be alright. If we hadn’t had the mats on the floor however, it would be a different story. The risks we take!”
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(The Breakers challenge Azeem and Billy McCoy then Fabulous Fabio vs Gangrel the Vampire Warrior fight for the ASW Heavyweight Title)