Key Peninsula residents of all ages gathered at the KP Civic Center May 21 for a night of fighting, food and fun, courtesy of North West Pro Wrestling (NWP).
Although the evening’s entertainment didn't begin until 7 p.m., the civic center was packed by 6:30. The main gymnasium had been transformed: A full-size wrestling ring was set up in the center of the gym, and chairs occupied the rest of the floor space, the upper level and balcony. A concessions stand and merchandise booth occupied one corner of the room and was humming with activity when the show began.
Soon, however, the crowd returned to their seats as the combatants were introduced and the matches began. Each of the gladiators entered the ring and attempted to subdue their opponents with punches, kicks, holds and high-flying acrobatics. Adding flair the matches was the signature style of each wrestler: Some were clad in standard wrestling attire, but others wore clown outfits, skull masks or karate costumes. One wrestler known as "the Chef" entered the arena with a wooden spoon and a chef’s hat. He also carried a large soup pot, from which he threw candy to the audience, making him a favorite with the many children in attendance.
The spectators themselves quickly warmed to the action. The underdogs and favorites earned cheers with every landed punch, while the villains' every success was met with a wave of boos and hisses.
The night ended in a spectacular all-out brawl, with almost a dozen wrestlers packed into the ring, fighting it out until only one remained standing. The crowd departed happy and satisfied, but not before one particularly hated wrestler challenged a crowd favorite to a title match next month.
NWP is a passion for the people who organize it. "I wanted to bring wrestling to the Key Peninsula ever since I was a kid and I went to skate night at the civic center," NWP founder J.D. Mason said. He put the league together in July 2013. Only 20 people or so attended their first shows at the civic center, but they now draw crowds of over 100 every month, with dedicated fans returning to cheer on their favorite wrestlers.
Those wrestlers also make up a huge part of the crew who keep NWP running smoothly. Combatants and referees come from all over the nation, with some trained locally but others hailing from Florida or Utah. In addition, more behind-the-scenes workers are needed to handle audio and photography, and to record the matches. "They all do amazing work, and we wouldn’t be anywhere without them," Mason said. New partnerships have allowed NWP to obtain sponsorships and broadcasting time on their online TV channel.
"NWP is good family fun," said Mason. "There is something for everyone, whether it’s the high-flying stunts or the old school, hard-hitting wrestling. Pro wrestling is like seeing a live action movie fight. You get all the excitement of the hero versus the villain, but the best part is, as a fan, you get to decide who that is," Mason said.
NWP returns to the civic center July 16. For more information, go to: www.northwestprowrestling.com
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