It might be time to rename Dayton to Suplex City.
Those great moments of heart racing, blood pumping, bigger than life pro wrestling are back.
Rockstar Pro Wrestling, an independent professional wrestling promotion, opens its doors to the public at 7 p.m. every Wednesday night at 1106 E. Third Street in downtown Dayton for a live showdown.
Just look for the crowd lined up early to get a ringside seat.
Three years ago, Rockstar Pro opened and quickly became the heart of the Dayton pro wrestling scene. In the beginning, the crowds were sparse – about 17 to 20 people showed up. Today, the arena quickly fills with 300 plus, leaving standing room only for those late to the show.
Wrestling is not a glamorous or easy life, but these men and women continue to climb back into the ring, putting it all on the line. Here are five things you might not know about the local scene and some of its key players.
The word that is the most-stressed at Rockstar Pro is ‘”safety.” This leads us to the next most-stressed word: “training.”
Before a wrestler enters the ring for their first match, they will have performed hundreds of rope bumps, hundreds of falls to the mat and taken just as many flips and throws from their teammates and trainer.
The many hours of training is to prevent a wrestler from sustaining injuries not only to themselves, but to their opponents.
“It’s almost like a dance. You're getting in there with your partner and you’re going through the dance steps. You're going through the motion, but it is one of them very serious dances where you have to be on your game and protect the guy you’re with every step of the way,” said Jim Hutchinson, one of the Rockstar Pro trainers.
How did Hutchinson get involved in pro wrestling? Like most, he grew up watching pro wrestling on TV. Then one night 18 years ago, he found himself in the middle of what he thought was a bar fight. Turned out it was a promotion, but it led him to a wrestling school in Middletown, Ohio.
Zach Wentz wants to wrestle for the WWE someday, which he calls “the big show.” He watches two to three pro match videos a day, trying to learn all the moves of his wrestling heroes.
“If you aren’t trying for the top tiers, then you shouldn’t be here,” said Wentz.
Wentz’s first exposure to the world of pro wrestling was watching it with his dad every Sunday on TV. He was fascinated with the larger-than-life characters of the wrestlers.
He’s only been wrestling for a few months, but recently won his first title match.
Why does he wrestle?
“It’s the crowd,” he said. “The crowd really gets me going. As soon as I hit my curtain, I feel the energy … I feel like I can go for hours and hours.”
Wentz’s strategy for his matches is to be aggressive, hard-hitting and stay away from his opponent with his agility. He also understands he has to take the hard hits when they come. In the ring, he doesn’t feel them – at least not until the next day.
“Soreness – oh my God!” Wentz said. “The next morning is pretty tough, but you gotta do it. When I get home, I make sure I ice and take ibuprofen.”
Bradley Abrahms, better known as “Living Large” amongst wrestling fans, was hanging drywall during the day. At night, he would be sitting in a seat around the Rockstar Pro ring, heckling the wrestlers.
“It had always been a dream of mine to be a wrestler,” Abrahms said.
He still hangs drywall by day, but at night he’s in the ring. Currently he’s one half of the tag team “High-Fiven’ Fat Guys.”
In five years, Abrahms would like to be wrestling in other places in the world. Many of the local wrestlers wrestle in the surrounding states, and some have gone overseas to other countries like Japan and Germany. Likewise, there have been many wrestlers come to the Rockstar Pro Arena from other states to wrestle their best.
It may not look like it, but a pro wrestler has to dress the part. They never step into the ring looking as if they had purchased their tights from Target, or they’d never make it through a match without the tights running.
The cost of pro gear can reach $500 per outfit. Many wrestlers have several different outfits for different types of matches.
“It’s a big investment to get into the business,” said Victor Fust, who is training with hopes of entering the ring soon.
What keeps a wrestler climbing into the ring week after week, taking the beatings they do?
It’s all about the fans: it comes down to giving them the best show of their lives.
“A lot of people want to come to witness this firsthand, how much we have to work for this,” Wentz said. “It’s not just a piece of cake where you can come in and be a wrestler.”
Brad Boehringer, a fan of the events at Rockstar Pro, started like most. He watched wrestling on TV at his grandparents’ house as a boy over 32 years ago. Since then, he’s become a hardcore fan.
Boehringer likes the WWE wrestlers, but the small indie companies have a personal touch that the larger companies just don’t have.
“You don’t get this type of interaction with the big companies like you do with the indie scene,” Boehringer said, while heckling wrestlers from the second row seat he occupies every Wednesday night.
He loves the small companies, which gives him a chance to be part of the action.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I love it!”