Oh, the humanity!

Say what you will about professional wrestling. Call it white trash, mindless or the “downmarket entertainments of the chronically unintelligible” (as someone did in this very column last week), but consider this: In what other showbiz genre do you find performers who will shed their blood for your entertainment? I don’t mean athletes who might be injured if something goes awry (though wrestlers certainly are that), but performers who know they’ll be subject to wounds, bruises and pain to put on a good show. Would Jerry Seinfeld have agreed to have glass shattered over his head or thumbtacks pounded into his back during even one of his million-dollar episodes? Would those pussies on Survivor? It’s doubtful (although the way networks are upping the shock ante on “reality” TV, they’ll probably have contestants taking the “Cannibalism Challenge” by next fall).

Though subjecting yourself to bodily mutilation for the amusement of fans may not be the healthiest career choice, it takes a helluva lotta chutzpah. Wrestlers, especially independent professional wrestlers, aren’t paid megabucks for their pain and suffering. Their work is a labor of love. A violent, exhibitionist expression of love during which nachos are sold, granted, but love nonetheless. Wrestlers suffer for their art and their fans. You’ve got to respect that.

There was a whole heap of spandex-clad suffering when Supreme Pro Wrestling staged the first “Japanese Death Match” in Northern California last Sunday at the Colonial Theatre. For those not hip to the concept, the ring is lined with barbed wire and the wrestlers fight with tables, chairs, rail spikes, light bulbs, thumbtacks or whatever they can grab. The result is bloody chaos.

The death match is the finale to a three-hour wrestling card, and despite stellar performances by newcomers and regulars, the crowd is thirsty for blood. Throughout the night, impatient fans squirm in their seats and yell, “My grandma wrestles better than you!” (Apparently, many fans have very athletic grandparents. SPW should consider an “octogenarian showdown” for its next card.)

Before the death match, referees in latex gloves surround the ring. The crowd moves back. Like a twisted version of a Marine World whale show, those who sit in the front rows at a death match may be splashed by tacks and blood rather than pool water.

The match, a team effort by Bulldog Raymond and “The Mentor of Pain” Clint Douglas vs. The Big Ugly and Dante, does not disappoint the bloodthirsty crowd. The wrestlers shove each other onto the barbed wire-lined ropes. Big Ugly smashes fluorescent light bulb tubes over Douglas’s back. Bulldog flies through a table, breaking it in half as the crowd chants “Holy Shit! Holy Shit!” in amazed unison. By the time Bulldog, with thumbtacks in his back, slams Dante to the mat for the finishing move, all the fans are on their feet. It’s shocking. It’s barbarian. Now that’s entertainment!