When most people think of professional wrestling, what comes to mind is the candy-coated, slickly produced sports entertainment you can find on television every week. But there’s another, more traditional style, the kind many people grew up watching on WTBS and in flea markets and armories all over Georgia.
In fact, there’s probably no better place to live than our state if you want to see independent professional wrestling with any frequency. Georgia has an undeniably important position in the history of the sport. You may not be able to see Dutch Mantell and Steve Keirn at the J&J Center anymore, but you can still find the the same spirit at Southern Fried Championship Wrestling, 30 minutes west of Athens in Monroe.
Charles Anschutz, the company’s owner and promoter, has been attending shows in the area since the early 1970s. Not content merely to sit in the crowd, Anschutz says, “I told a friend that I would one day have my own show, even if it was just one time.”
That “one time,” in April 2013 at the Monroe American Legion, kicked off SFCW’s now twice-monthly schedule. The crowds at these evens, often numbering more than 300 fans, eventually proved too large for SFCW’s second venue, the Old Monroe Primary School gym. Beginning with this Saturday’s show, the wrestling action will take place at Monroe’s National Guard Armory, at 436 E. Washington St.
[Editor’s note: Due to the impending ice storm, the venue for Saturday’s event has changed. See the new location at the bottom of this page.]
The reason for the interest is obvious: To date, SFCW has hosted legends like former NWA World Heavyweight Champion “Wildfire” Tommy Rich, six-time WCW World Tag-Team Champion Marcus Alexander “Buff” Bagwell and 2014 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The series has also featured in-ring action from some of the best wrestlers currently working in the state, such as Uhaa Nation and the phenomenal Kyle Matthews.
“Old-school” wrestling is a term often used when referring to SFCW’s particular brand. Crotchety old fans like me often default to just calling it “real” wrestling—though I’m fully aware that this makes me seem like kind of a jerk. In a sport where authenticity is a line drawn in shifting sands, what defines the “realness” of a professional wrestling, anyway? The answer lies partially in the fans. Maybe it’s the close physical proximity of spectator and performer, but there’s a level of interaction between them at shows like SFCW that you’re never going to see on television.
In fact, over the past few weeks, there have emerged two different storylines that involve fans making the transition into the ring to settle a score with a wrestler who has wronged them. (Note: Please don’t think you can get actually away with this. It’s all fun and games until you cross the line and put your hands on a performer without permission and wake up confused in the Clearview Regional Medical Center.)
At the Jan. 25 event, Tim Rice, a fan who had been having an escalating beef with wrestler Chris Nelms, put an end to the disagreement once and for all, defeating Nelms in a bloody “street fight” that, per a stipulation of the match, ended with a blood-soaked Nelms having to wear a dress. As it turns out, though, this may not be the end of the story. Due to interference in the match, Rice, alongside Bodacious Blade and a mystery partner, will take on The Company (the team of Chris Nelms, Jerry Nelms and Jamie Holmes) Saturday in a six-man tag-team match.
Nelms says, “Tim Rice is not a wrestler. He’s just a fan who got lucky. I’ve been busting my backside for nearly a decade in this business, and when he, Bodacious Blade and their mystery partner step in the ring with The Company on February 15th, I guarantee that the outcome will be different.” It should settle the score once and for all. Maybe.
That match is a part of a show called “Valentine’s Vendetta,” where fans will also see Monster Maul’s first title defense since defeating Vicious Vic Roze for the SFCW Heavyweight Championship Jan. 11. He’ll be facing Cody Hall, but he’ll have to watch his back with regards to Roze, as Maul’s victory in the title match was anything but clean.
Other contests will include Justin Legend and Shane Bell, of The Elite Revolution, taking on “Cowboy” Roscoe Ray and Kody Jack for the SFCW Tag Team Championship. Kody and Roscoe will also have to be on the lookout for the third Elite Revolution member, “As Seen on TV” Nigel Sherrod, who was suspended by Commissioner Anschutz after the Jan. 25 event. Sherrod says he is using the 30-day vacation from in-ring action to “hit the gym, train and get faster and stronger.” Of course, there’s always the possibility that he’ll be seen on Saturday.
“Charles knows as well as I do that he had no right to suspend me,” says Sherrod. “Everybody in the building that night knows that I didn’t do anything wrong. He may be able to keep me out of the ring, but he can’t stop me from buying a ticket. Not that The Elite Revolution needs my help to beat Roscoe and Kody, but—well, you never know what’s gonna happen.”
Whether he chooses to adhere to Anschutz’s ruling or not, Sherrod is right on one point. Saturday’s event promises to be anything but predictable. Others scheduled to appear include “The Lethal Dose” Stryknyn, the 500-plus-pound Geter (making his SFCW debut), an inter-gender tag-team match, in which the team of Pandora and Tommy 2 Much will face off against AJ Steele and Aja Perrera and, as always, much more.
See Culture Briefs for a photo gallery of SFCW action.
Robert Newsome is the editor and publisher of The Atomic Elbow, a quarterly professional wrestling fanzine based in Athens. More information can be found at theatomicelbow.blogspot.com.
WHO: SFCW Valentine’s Vendetta
WHERE: American Legion Post 64, 318 Alcovy St., Monroe
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $10, $5 (ages 6–12), FREE! (under 6)
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