Get in the ring
Local wrestling federation brings guerilla theater to Veteran’s Hall
Ceiling fans slowly spin above the heads of the 40 or 50 wrestling enthusiasts seated in folding chairs around the square wrestling ring that dominates the center of the huge, echoey auditorium of the Veterans Memorial Hall. The lights go down, and a gargantuan hip-hop rhythm reverberates through the house PA as strobe lights begin to flash on the auditorium stage. Striding through the curtains, a slender, well-muscled young man in a black-and-red robe steps to the front of the stage and crosses his heavily taped wrists dramatically over his head. The strobes glint on his black sunglasses and facial piercings. The crowd roars and cheers.
Draven has made his entrance and mounted the ring. Mayhem is sure to follow.
And it does. Next out from behind the curtain steps Draven’s nemesis and arch-enemy the powerfully built linchpin of the MainEvent Wrestling Federation, Brian Cage. Judging by the continued roar of the crowd, it’s impossible to tell which wrestler is most favored by the fans.
In the ring the two men face each other, radiating hostility as lanky, long-haired referee Brad Nalbone motions them apart, awaiting the clang of the official bell to be struck by ringside commentator and MWF commissioner Bic Bickley.
The bell clangs and the ring becomes a maelstrom of flying limbs and bodies. Cage backs Draven into a corner and pummels his chest with resounding blows. Draven rebounds from the ropes with a flying kick, “the cracked smile,” that sends his opponent crashing to the scarlet mat. Cage hoists Draven vertically above his head and swings him down in a spine-cracking whip across his knee. The mat glistens with accumulated sweat and more than a drop or two of blood.
Finally, after seven or eight minutes of bone-wrenching, acrobatic combat, Cage succeeds in subduing Draven long enough to get a three-count pin slapped out by the referee. Enthusiastic applause fills the auditorium as the two fighters exit the ring.
Having seen very few wrestling matches since watching the Saturday-night TV bouts featuring such contenders as Gorgeous George, Bobo Brazil and Killer Kowalski back in the early 1960s, this writer had his enthusiasm for the sport rekindled several months back when he accepted an invitation from Mr. Lucky owner Matt Hogan to come to his establishment and observe a match put on by Chico’s own pro-wrestling squad, the MainEvent Wrestling Federation.
I went in expecting a few laughs at what would undoubtedly be a dorky and totally staged event. And I did get more than a few laughs, thanks to the brisk running commentary by ringside announcers Bic Bickley and E.C. Funk. But what really blew me away, and kept me coming back to see more matches, was the absolute derring-do and commitment to excellence projected by the young men of the Federation.
It was shortly after seeing a match at the Veterans Hall that I obtained an exclusive interview with mustachioed, bespectacled MWF commissioner Bic Bickley, 25, who gave me this condensed run-down of the federation’s history: “Well, I joined the MWF in April of 2003. I actually debuted for the TWA (Trampoline Wrestling Association) in 1998. Then, when the TWA folded in 2001, I signed a contract to become the commissioner of MWF in April of 2003.
“The MWF originated at Second and Warner Street stadium, where we put on great outdoor wrestling action for our fans and soon drew quite a following.
“Our first indoor show was at Off The Wall Soccer arena and soon after that, thanks to the support of Matt Hogan, we began booking shows at Mr. Lucky’s as well. We now have the majority of our bouts at the Veterans Hall, thanks to the support of hall director and veterans’ activist, Gideon Pendergraft.”
Regarding the MWF’s mission, Bickley said, “For me it’s always to entertain the MWF fans. On Sunday nights in Chico there’s not much to do and it gives people an alternative to hitting the bars and getting wasted. I’d like to see the MWF continue to grow and become a well-known independent federation on the West Coast.”
For an inside-the-ring perspective, I also pursued an interview with MWF mainstay Brian Cage. An intensely focused athlete, the side-burned Cage, 21, has been a wrestling enthusiast since his kindergarten days.
Asked about his connection with the MWF Cage said, “I love it and it has consumed me. The MWF is something I’m very proud of and I’m still shocked that we have built something like this so fast and at such a young age.
“I continually thought it could get big if everyone believed in it, and I finally got everyone to believe and go for it. And with the financial backing of investors Stephanie Norton and Jamie Weber we were able to turn it from a hobby into a business.”
Cage had this to say about the intense rivalries between factions within the MWF, “Draven and I have the biggest feud, which has lasted since 2001, and really heated back up in August 2004. And not all feuds or heated match-ups are exaggerated. There are plenty of times when the two wrestlers just don’t get along for a bit, or just really don’t like each other.”
Also commenting from a wrestler’s point of view was 21-year-old heavyweight Tons O’ Fun, a jovial fellow who often makes his entry to the arena by circling the ring and throwing souvenir Twinkies to his fans.
Summing up the challenges of living in Chico while building and maintaining a pro-wrestling federation, Tons said, “My day job working at Thornton’s Chevron hasn’t been too big of an interference with the MWF. [The Thorntons] are very understanding people and have even come to see a few shows. Before we moved into the Vets Hall we actually had problems moving the ring from place to place. All in all, I’m surprised that with such a large group of people we are able to pull off a show almost every weekend.”
With its revolving cast of about a dozen and a half flamboyant characters ranging from strongman Iron Weber, to heavy-weight champ Di’oh, to high-flying pirate/acrobat Crazy Cap’n Steve-o, to maniacal whirlwind Justin Chainz, the MWF has established itself as the longest running improvisational theater and rogue athletics troupe in Chico.
Between the impossible-to-fake hybrid of physical mayhem and astounding acrobatics of the bouts and the often hilarious ringside commentary of the announcers the MWF consistently offers quality entertainment at a bargain price in a fine venue. If you’re looking for something genuinely different to do on a night out, check out the MainEvent Wrestling Federation.