Special to The Wilson Post
If Mike Sircy’s grandmother hadn’t flipped over professional wrestling three decades ago, the wild and wooly sport just might not be slapping the mat in Lebanon today.
“My grandmother (Ruth Mammie Allen) started taking me when I was around 2-½ years old,” said Sircy, the local promoter of NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) Top Rope. “She was missing a leg but would get us to the matches somehow to the old Hippodrome in Nashville. She was always right by ringside and would beat the heck of the ring posts with her crutches.”
So he knows firsthand how infectious the sport can be.
“The fans love seeing someone get beat up on. They can’t wait for that bad guy to get laid out,” he said. “It’s very entertaining and also an adrenalin rush for them. Some of the fans would love to be inside that ring with an opponent. This is their way to participate in it; being five or six feet from the ring and seeing people pulverize one another at times.”
The 1977 Lebanon High School graduate has organized the pro wrestling events at the Wilson County Fairgrounds since 2003. The matches were being held the last Saturday night of each month, but changes are coming to the local ring this week.
Feeling like he’s won the lottery, Sircy is exhilarated to be taking his production to a new venue on East High Street in the building that formerly housed Krooners and making it a weekly event, beginning Saturday night. The site should seat about 225 fans.
“I looked over the figures for the last 3-½ years for Lebanon, talked to wrestlers and fans, and I listened to the fans, and they kept saying, ‘I want it more often.’ Luckily, this building finally opened up to where I can lease it,” Sircy said.
Not only is wrestling going to be a Saturday night mainstay, but Sircy says it should also be coming to Lebanon cable TV in early 2010 as he is in discussion with a couple of channels.
The final wrestling event at the fairgrounds three Saturdays ago featured Jason James, Petey St. Croix, Vic the Bruiser, Slacker J, Chick Cannon, Kliff Hanger, Rudy Switchblade, Johnny Punch, the Boogie Woogie Boy and Miss Boogie, Lawrence the Well Dressed Man, J.D. Fluffy, C.D. Thriller, The Ice Man Chris Echols and Rocksan.
While not exactly household names, the wrestlers enjoyed a love-hate relationship with local fans. This is obviously a vicarious sport as wrestling enthusiasts holler and ring cowbells while cheering the good guys and mocking the bad guys.
The audience runs all ages from babies and school kids to middle-aged and senior citizens. Hailing from Lebanon, Hartsville, Cookeville, Carthage and Smithville, they sit in metal chairs, chewing hot dogs, burgers, nachos and cheese, popcorn and candy bars and sipping soft drinks.
All eyes stay glued on the 18-foot-by-18-foot-square ring with its white canvas floor, red ropes and black corner posts as this is where the action flies fast and furious.
Lebanon’s Mary Barnes, 79, has been attending the matches since Sircy started them six years back. “I like the wrestlers, especially Boogie Woogie Man. Some of them get on my nerves. I fuss with them,” said Barnes, as she works a word search puzzle waiting for the next match.
This night was the first for Nedra Moran of Lebanon. “I thought my 6-year-old son Ledarian would enjoy this, and it was local,” Moran said.
For the wrestlers who grapple here, the thrill is not unlike that for actors who perform live theater. Gary Valiant, 38, aka the Boogie Woogie Boy, has been wrestling since 1989, and even his wife Daphne has gotten into the act as Ms. Boogie. He wrestles full time, performing five to six nights a week in places like Nashville, Memphis, Horse Cave, Ky., and Booneville, Miss.
“I dance and try to kiss the kids and the women,” Valiant said. “The fans keep you going with their hollering and shouting. It’s just a rush, getting in front of a live crowd.”
Roxxanne Biggerstaff, 30, aka Rocksan, resides in Old Hickory and has been wrestling for 10 years. She also manages the career of her boyfriend Slacker J. With long black hair and shoulder tattoos, Rocksan tells of having an orbital bone in her face broken while wrestling on a Pay Per View match.
“We’ve got attitude and a reputation for hitting hard,” she said of the duo. “This is a rush, and it’s fun in small venues. There is a camaraderie you don’t get any place else.”
Manchester’s Paul Arp, 23, competes under the name of Petey St. Croix. He has been wrestling for seven years and has been the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion. Laid off awhile back from his job of making conveyor belts, he wrestles two to three nights a week in such Middle Tennessee towns as Tullahoma and Columbia.
“My cousin, he wrestled. He brought me into it,” said Arp, handsome with the clean-cut look of a young farmer. He’s wearing tights, trunks, kneepads and black wrestling boots
“I do it for the feeling you get. You just feed off the crowd reaction as you entertain the fans,” he said. “I’m a good guy, a fan favorite with a lotta heart. You wrestle to be the champion and win the belt. That’s what it’s all about.”
But this night good-guy Arp loses his match to Echols and with it goes the colorful belt he had carried since July.
“One of my jobs is to make the people hate me,” said Larry Cartwright, aka Lawrence the Well Dressed Man, who has been wrestling out of Nashville for the past 20 years.
A bad guy, he does this for the sport and for “getting to work with such great guys.” His day job is performing apartment maintenance, and his love for the ring goes back to childhood.
“We lived downtown near the sports arena in Nashville. My dad took me every Saturday night,” Cartwright recalled. “Tojo Yamamoto (a famous Nashville wrestler of yesteryear) started training me. He told me, ‘I’ve taught you everything I can in the ring, Now I put you with somebody else.’ He sent me to Gypsy Joe. Tojo could teach me all the wrestling moves but he couldn’t teach me all the psychology. That’s where my psychology came in.”
Said the NWA Top Rope Cyberspace Heavyweight Champion, “I’ve been to a lot of wrestling shows, and this is one of the most family friendly wrestling shows that I been at. At a lot of smaller towns they cuss and do stuff. I can bring my son here and don’t have to worry about a lot of vulgarity.” Sure enough, Cartwright’s 12-year-son Austin sits in the crowd this night.
“If they work five nights a week, they can make $45,000 to $50, 000 a year,” Sircy said of the wrestlers he brings to Lebanon.
Most events feature a dozen to 16 wrestlers in one-on-one or tag team matches. As the announcer, Sircy is a part of the show as well as he controls a microphone and speaks to the crowd and to the wrestlers.
Sircy promotes and travels to wrestling events practically every day across Tennessee and Kentucky. He has held promotions in more than 100 towns, mostly in the Southeast. He has put on wrestling matches in 35 different cities this year as he travels about 35,000 miles annually.
“We’re very lucky to be part of National Wrestling Alliance. I can pull wrestlers from around the world,” Sircy said of the NWA, the oldest sanctioning body of professional wrestling in the world. Started in 1943, the NWA maintains its headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.
Lebanon native Sircy spent 20 years in the Air Force as a medical specialist and medical information systems specialist. He holds a degree in information technology that he earned at Almeda University in Atlanta. The father of two grown children, he works for the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche as senior Web engineer over their international site and reports to their Swiss office.
When Sircy was 6-½, his wrestling-loving grandma died.
“I never got to go to wrestling matches again until it came to Lebanon when I was in the seventh grade. Nick Gulas (a famous Nashville wrestling promoter) brought wrestling to Southside Elementary in about 1971,” Sircy said.
Gulas promoted wrestling in Lebanon from 1971 until 1974. His son George Gulas held wrestling bouts here from 1978 to 1981, and Burt Prentice managed wrestling events from 1989 to 1995, according to Sircy’s best recollections.
Then Sircy revived it in 2003. He’s not quite a one-man show in putting together events, but he wears a variety of hats. Among other talents, he makes the championship belts that NWA wrestlers buckle about their waists.
The sport is his bread, meat and drink.
“I love professional wrestling. I live and breathe pro wrestling,” Sircy said. “I have wrestling videos back from the 1960s that I still enjoy watching to this day. People do not believe me, but wrestling is my form of relaxation.
“Once I go through those curtains in the back (after he introduces the wrestlers in the match), I can sit down and look out at the fans and I don’t have to look at the ring to tell if everything is going right or wrong,” said the Cedar City wrestling guru. “If the fans are on the edge of their seats, we’re doing it right.”
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org