A Scar is born

Matt "Scar" Haugen loves the pain of local extreme wrestling

Outrage goes for Scar first, but the wiry wrestler reacts with the frying pan to Outrage's skull, hitting the gangsta character with a loud thump.

When Doc Fairday then enters the ring, Scar rushes over, mutters "How you doing, Doc?" and administers his signature move, the "Scar Drop." The maneuver has Scar forcing his opponent's head under his armpit, hooking his arms and falling backwards, driving Fairday's head into the mat. Only an expert would notice that Scar protects Fairday's cranium by taking the full impact of the move when he lands on his back.

Scar then circles over Fairday like a predator, holding his kendo stick and taunting him. "Get up, sonny!" he yells. Fairday begs Scar to spare him and asks for a time out.

Delivering damage to Ryan Van Horn in Tucson.
Delivering damage to Ryan Van Horn in Tucson.
Scar spent most of his childhood recovering from 29 surgeries.
Scar spent most of his childhood recovering from 29 surgeries.

"Fuck time outs!" Scar responds before cracking him over the head.

But Fairday gets revenge when he whacks Scar with the trashcan and then stuffs him headfirst into the receptacle. "Get in there, boy. That's exactly where you belong!" he taunts in an approximation of a Southern drawl.

Scar eventually wins the match, but not before enduring even more abuse from Fairday and Outrage. Afterwards, he lies on his back in the ring, grasping his neck with both hands, groaning in both pain and bliss.

"Oh boy, my anti-drug is wrestling," Scar grunts.

The SWWF debuted in January 2002, with a show at the Pioneer Living History Village in north Phoenix, and besides Scar, Outrage and Doc Fairday, the organization is made up of such colorful characters as the mysterious Suburban Ninja who hails from the "Far East" (of the Valley, that is), and the 6 foot 5 inch monster Havok, who weighs in at a hefty 333 pounds. In total, 13 men wrestle for the outfit.

Keeping things in check is Morrone, who acts as a watchdog to ensure that his wrestlers at least make an attempt at safety. Besides his ban on blood, Morrone has forbidden potentially paralyzing moves such as the pile driver. Glass and objects that shatter on impact are also verboten in favor of metal chairs or garbage cans, which simply bend.

Those rules, Morrone hopes, will give the SWWF some credibility and counteract the impression that it's simply another backyard amateur affair. Morrone's financed nearly everything himself, including the secondhand wrestling ring that gives SWWF matches a professional air. His wrestlers work for free and even pitch in occasionally to help cover expenses.

Morrone's put on six shows so far, which included standard pro-style wrestling fare as well as the hardcore stuff Scar is known for. Turnout has grown steadily, with 210 fans attending the last event -- "Tortured Souls" -- in October. But by then, the SWWF had gone deeply into debt. No live events have been held since that time, but Morrone is hoping to maintain things with "Rampage," a 30-minute TV program to air on Cox's public access channel in the coming weeks. The first three episodes will feature highlights from past events, but future shows, Morrone says, will contain footage of new matches. Scar and the other wrestlers say they believe the SWWF will survive, and are training for the eventual resumption of live gigs. Meanwhile, they aren't the only show in town. A few months after the birth of the SWWF, local wrestlers Robert Gallo and Steve "Navajo Warrior" Islas started Impact Zone Wrestling, a rival group with more emphasis on solid training and traditional moves.

The nationwide popularity of pro wrestling has declined sharply in recent years, but Phoenix remains a major market for it. Each time the WWE rolls into town, fans pack America West Arena for the spectacle. Arizona has been so good for business; the WWE will be holding "SummerSlam," its second-biggest pay-per-view event of the year, at America West Arena in August. The WWE's popularity, however, hasn't translated to much real success for local groups that employ wrestlers like Scar.

But that hasn't kept him from dreaming of the big time.

By the time he was 10, Scar knew that he wanted to be a pro wrestler. But he didn't act on his impulses until wrestling on television took a dark turn.

In contrast to the cartoonish style of most televised wrestling in the mid 1990s, Extreme Championship Wrestling, an upstart organization, showed intense and bloody matches with wrestlers wielding objects like staple guns and cheese graters. The long tradition of good guys ("faces") and bad guys ("heels") was dropped in favor of more realistic, and less showy, story lines. ECW's wrestlers also didn't all look like finely toned bodybuilders. You didn't have to be a sculpted, 6-foot 6-inch muscle-bound freak to climb the organization's ranks.

Around the country, viewers like Scar were inspired by ECW to try out violent matches in their backyards. (ECW's heyday was short-lived however; it ceased operation in 2001.)

"ECW pretty much influenced me to get into the whole wrestling thing," Scar says.

He held impromptu matches with friends in garages and backyards that were "just basically hardcore brawling," he says. Body slams collided with hockey sticks and trashcan lids, and real punches were thrown. And Scar began to realize how much he loved the pain.

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