3-2-1 BATTLE!’s Weirder Steel Powerbombed My Heart (In a Good Way)

Nerds, gimps, and cheating Canadians could all be found kicking ass for an enthusiastic audience at Evolv Fitness last Friday. 3-2-1 BATTLE! Weirder Steel was funny, thrilling, bizarre, and set up one of their biggest shows of the year.

Professional wrestling taps into an element of the Western theatre tradition rarely found elsewhere the dramatic arts: the Dionysian. Anyone who has looked into the history of theatre probably knows about the significance the Dionysia, a festival in ancient Athens that featured three days of dramatic performances and honored the god Dionysus. Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, is the god of wine, theatre, fertility, and ritual madness and ecstasy. When one sees a play these days, wine is likely to be available, but the madness and ecstasy tend to be in short supply. There might be an intense moment of cathartic tragedy and/or a song that gets stuck in one’s head, but theatres are more likely to want their audience members to walk back to their cars having a conversation about some social or political issue rather than how crazy what they just saw was. That is, unless the audience just watched professional wrestling, a form of semi-interactive, semi-improvised action theatre (or “sports entertainment,” as the WWE would say) that gets a more visceral, and, indeed, Dionysian, reaction than any other type of scripted, live drama.

3-2-1 BATTLE! certainly has no problem connecting with their audience on that emotional, gut level. By the time announcers Murray Grande and 107.7 The End’s Cody enter the ring to promote the night’s card, everyone in the building is ready to laugh, cheer, boo, and, most of all, see some action. 3-2-1 BATTLE!’s underground status, in addition to the nature of their shows, probably helps fuel this fanaticism. Pro-wrestling was limited in the state of Washington due to the Department of Licensing regulating it as a combat sport, which resulted in fees too high for local promoters like 3-2-1 BATTLE! and Lucha Libre Volcanica. Local wrestling shows have  been free, with donations accepted, to lower costs, but these regulations still limited the growth of local promotions and the spread of this art form in Washington. However, earlier this year the Legalize Wrestling movement helped convince the Washington State Legislature to pass a bill which resulted in the creation of the brand new Theatrical Wrestling School license. 3-2-1 BATTLE!’s October 20th show, Horror Business, will be their first show with this license, and their first with paying-ticket-only entrance.

3-2-1 BATTLE! couldn’t have put on a much better lead-up show to their first “legal” production than Weirder Steel. The “four-way cuddle puddle” between Pitfall Jones, Sonico, Herman Nerdstrom, and winner the Bird was an early highlight. This match was relatively low-stakes, but featured strong character spots like Nerdstrom’s inhaler use and nerd rage, and Pitfall Jones (an Indiana Jones parody character) disrespectfully trying to steal luchador the Bird’s mask, which inspired fellow luchador Sonico to fight to return it to his fellow competitor. The Tag Team Championship match between Mint Conditioning (Mr. Fitness and Christian Andes, managed by Kiwanis Adonis, member of every secret society on earth, possessor of an incredibly grating voice) and Hero and the Weekend Warrior was less engaging in and of itself, but set up what is sure to be one of the most exciting matches at Horror Business. Emo anti-hero tag team Legion of Gloom attacked retaining champs Mint Conditioning after the match, and challenged them to an “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” match, which will be lit only by phones and flashlights brought by audience members.

The weirdest and most strategically interesting match of the night was Otis the Gimp (from “parts unknown) vs. “The Dynamic” Rook Kelly (Spokane.) Otis the Gimp is a huge, leather-masked wrestler who gets off on pain, is managed by actual dildo The Voodoo Dong, and has many sexually aggressive moves. He was the clear fan favorite, but the crowd was also increasingly supportive of Kelly as we watched him try to figure out how to defeat this seemingly unstoppable sex monster. Otis the Gimp was the eventual victor, and will be wrestling the “King of Dong Style,” viral indie wrestling sensation Joey Ryan on the 20th in a must-see match that might reach critical mass of dick-based wrestling gimmicks.

The last two matches of the night were also very entertaining, and furthered compelling storylines. Seattle Underground Wrestling Champion “The Black Sheep” Dave Turner and Tommy Lawless vs. Eddie Van Glam (“King of Thong Style,” and honestly, no amount of Shinsuke Nakamura tribute titles referenced in one show is too many) and “Mayor of Capital Hill” AsIs NoWarranty featured NoWarranty receiving a brutal two-on-one beatdown. It also cleverly set up the injured, defeated EVG as the grassroots underdog for his Underground title shot match against the imposing Turner at Horror Business. The main event of Hellfire Club leader “The Northern Tyrant” SARIAN vs. former protégé Cubby Soumis was an even more captivating underdog story. The characters’ history together and the sheer amount of heel heat generated by the HFC, especially as SARIAN’s cronies SAGE and Steve West (possibly even typing his name causes “Fuck Steve West!” chants to break out somewhere) cheated to help him win, kept the audience on their feet or the edge of their seat.

The heat for the Hellfire Club was stronger than that for their babyface challengers Fur & Loathing (Big Cat Scott Henson and Kaden Talbain, who featured earlier in the night’s least over match) when they came out to save Cubby from a post-match beating. However, once they added “Holy Shit Machine” Cole Crazy to their team for a four-on-four match versus the HFC (now including Crazy’s dirtbag opponent from earlier in the show, Allan Jepsen) at Horror Business, the crowd was definitely on board to see how this will play out.

3-2-1 BATTLE!’s Weirder Steel had a few weak moments (I don’t know how many people Cody and Grande thought they could get to chant “L-O-L” at a guy who just got his neck brace stolen, even if he does have an annoying voice), but was overall an extremely fun, weird, exciting night of pro-graps. The show featured many talented performers, entertaining gimmicks, engaging stories, and, most importantly, some quality wrestling. I strongly recommend making it out to their next show, Horror Business, in two weeks. If you’ve ever enjoyed wrestling, even if only on television or Twitch, do yourself a favor and join the 3-2-1 Battalion ASAP. If you’re not a wrestling fan (maybe you’re one of the people wondering what this review is even doing on Drama in the Hood ), come get Dionysian, and let one of the hardest working theatre companies in Western Washington win you over.

 

3-2-1 BATTLE! Evolv Fitness of Seattle, 1317 Republican St., South Lake Union, 98109. Next show Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. Tickets: http://321battle.bigcartel.com/product/10-20-horror-business-seating-reservations Info: https://www.facebook.com/321Battle/

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