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  July 15, 2001



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Backyard battles
'There's no danger,' insist pro wrestling wannabes

By TIM BAINES -- Ottawa Sun
 Staged yesterday in a south-end Ottawa backyard littered with championship belts, a canoe paddle tipped with barbed wire and cooking utensils, this was no gang fight. No malice or injury intended.

 It is the showcase for a legion of backyard wrestlers who insist their life and limbs are in no danger, despite repeated warnings from professionals.

 The yard backing onto Walkley St. is barely able to contain the 25-or-so pro wrestling wannabes attending on this day.

 A mattress and sheet of foam covered by a blue tarp provide the landing pad and wrestling ring. Three ropes are strung across the corner of the wooden fence. A kiddie pool and baby toys have been pushed off to the side, thankfully not included in the arsenal of hardcore weapons which will be used.

 "WRESTLEFEST"

 Internet chat buddies Ottawa's Total Kaos Wrestling, Capital Wrestling Alliance, Inner Nepean Wrestling and Kingston's Limestone Wrestling Organization have come together in this small space for "Wrestlefest."

 Like pro wrestling, these backyard battles are scripted. Each wrestler has entrance music. Some have gimmicks -- Major Pain enters through the crowd carrying a kendo stick and swilling a can of beer (a gimmick borrowed from former Extreme Championship Wrestling star Sandman). The participants perform moves such as the Samoan drop, DDT and various plunges from the upper rungs of a ladder.

 One of the participants is Rich, a 17-year-old from Kingston who has a birth defect which left him with only 7 cm of small intestine.

 He cannot eat solid foods and is fed nutrients through tubes each evening. Also working against him is his size (5-foot-3, 98-lbs). And while he has no delusion about a pro career, Rich's eyes twinkle when he speaks of his passion for backyard wrestling, a hobby which has already provided him with a broken foot and shoulder.

 "The saying I like to go by is: 'Pain is temporary,' " he says. "The whole thing is we're not going out there to kill each other. It's about timing and putting on a good show. I know my limits, but accidents do happen."

 Seventeen-year-old Jesse, also from Kingston, wants to train for real next summer.

 "My mom works with an organization which deals with brain-damaged people," says Jesse. "She told me she's seen what can happen, but she says I'm old enough to make my own decisions."

 Steve is 4-foot-11, 75-lbs. Just 13, he's got the ring name Ultimo Bison and is popular with opponents who find it easy to work with a smaller wrestler who has advanced technical skills.

 "I don't worry about getting hurt," he says. "I've had a few minor injuries ... the next morning I've been a little stiff, but nothing major."

 The INW started in 16-year-old Nick's basement three years ago. As the young wrestlers became more daring, the height limits of the ceiling pushed them outdoors. Now they practise in Jesse's backyard, with a nine-foot-high play structure as a launching pad.

 "We don't do anything stupid," says 16-year-old Marc, whose mom pleaded with the boys not to practise at her home. "She said she didn't want anyone dying on her property."

 Mike offered to host Wrestlefest in his backyard, deciding against a more public venue. The 19-year-old defends backyard wrestling as nothing more than friends having fun.

 A LAUGH

 "I've been doing this since I was nine," he says.

 "There's no danger in what we do. My mother watches it and laughs. The most common injury is a nosebleed."

 Even with pre-match planning, some punches and kicks still find their mark, which is why the World Wrestling Federation has aired advertisements discouraging backyard wrestling and one of its biggest stars has issued his own warning.

 "I do feel like I've probably contributed to it indirectly and I think there's a feeling amongst the kids doing it that I just jumped off my roof and worked my way right into a lucrative wrestling career," Mick Foley writes in his best-selling book Foley is Good: And the Real World is Faker than Wrestling.

 "I think if the kids knew that in my first six years ... the emphasis was always on the basics, the fundamentals and that I didn't start throwing anything even remotely risky into the repertoire for a few years.

 "In some of these cases these kids have elaborate rings in their backyards and in many cases their mom and dad are cheering them on as they risk permanent paralysis."

 The backyard masters of mayhem aren't above the law, either. A father of one U.S. youth was fined $1,000 after his stepson was injured jumping from the roof of a house onto a burning table.

 But that won't stop local backyard battlers. Their passion will keep their dream alive.


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