A Scar is born

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

Van Horn also sent some of his HIW men up to Phoenix to take part in the events Scar was setting up here.

Before long, those contests were expanding outside backyards. Scar says they attempted one match at a construction site, using chain-link fencing as a steel cage, but a vigilant security guard prevented it from happening. Some shows took place in actual rings, however, including two in 2001 at the Madison Street Boxing Gym.

In Tucson, meanwhile, Van Horn had sought out the guidance of local wrestler Ron "Section 8" Sutherland III, who charged Van Horn and his HIW recruits $600 each to receive six months of schooling from the big-time pro. Basic moves came first, such as headlocks and arm bars, followed by "bumping," or learning how to absorb the force of a fall. Van Horn in turn passed on what he had learned from Sutherland to Scar and Outrage, and they have considered themselves "professional" wrestlers ever since, even though neither had ever made a dime at the sport. (Since then, Scar's earned a pittance in the ring. A recent match, for example, brought him a $20 payoff.)

Scar’s mom, Stephanie Haugen: “God, I wish he’d stop this.”
Scar’s mom, Stephanie Haugen: “God, I wish he’d stop this.”
Man Killer B helps Scar stagger away from the “Double Hell Death Match.”
Man Killer B helps Scar stagger away from the “Double Hell Death Match.”

Scar says he didn't need any training for how to take a club to the head. Pain was just something he tolerated better than other wrestlers. He says that before matches, he asks his opponent how hard they want to be hit. "I'm not just going to be a fucking psycho and swing as hard as I can, but if they tell me they want me to do it, then I'll do it," he says.

In addition to his signature Scar Drop, the wrestler also performs Russian leg sweeps and various suplexes, as well as aerial moves, or "high spots." There's the "Corkscrew 450," for example, a twisting flip off the top turnbuckle landing him on an opponent's midsection with his back or leg.

Scar says he likes to hear cheering, but boos -- known as "heat" in the wrestling business -- also please him. He's known as a "tweener," a wrestler who's neither a face or a heel. Matches are like dances, he says, where he and his opponent have mapped out a few sets of holds ahead of time. The promoter predetermines the winner, and Scar and his foe will decide how the match should end. A referee, keeping an eye on the time, secretly cues the wrestlers to start that final sequence with an instruction to "go home," or end the contest.

Despite all the preparation, Scar says that most of the action is improvised. Wrestlers subtly whisper instructions to each other while they have each other in headlocks, and sometimes he has to remind them to whisper into his right, or good, ear. Outrage says he's learned which side to talk into.

"We're not idiots, like a lot of people think," says Van Horn, who continues to invite Scar to wrestle in Tucson shows put on by HIW. "The style of wrestling we do, people think we don't plan it out, but actually the whole match is planned and whatever you see has already been planned out a month ahead."

Van Horn says he's impressed by the punishment Scar takes in HIW matches, including having a plate glass shattered against his skull.

Such is par for the course in the Tucson matches. At a show in April, one wrestler clubbed an opponent on the head with a beer bottle, while in another contest a wrestler pounded an opponent with a baseball bat covered with thumbtacks. Blood is also frequently spilled at shows where participants blade or are accidentally cut from hard shots from weapons. Clips of that kind of action have been finding their way into videos traded on the Internet, and the HIW's reputation as a hardcore outfit is growing.

The HIW and Van Horn, who wrestles as "Chaos," are featured prominently in The Backyard. In one segment, describing the thrill he gets from the bloody action in the ring, Van Horn gushes, "It's like go-downtown-gay-bashing!"

It's one of the more disturbing things said in a very disturbing film. Young Arizonans drive each other into piles of thumbtacks, scrape barbed wire across foreheads, and even light each other on fire. (Says Scar, when asked about Van Horn's homophobic utterance: "That's just Ryan, he's my friend . . . I mean I can't just hate him if he hates gay people, you know.")

But perhaps the strangest moment in the movie is a brutal contest between Scar and a California 17-year-old who goes by the name "The Retarded Butcher."

The two are seen clobbering one another with fluorescent light tubes, and Scar is tossed onto a tray of thumbtacks. The match concludes with the intervention of the Retarded Butcher's horrified mother, who witnesses her son's hobby for the first time. Besides stopping the match, she's seen tossing the remaining tubes over a fence.

Scar says he still had a good time, but claims the mother "owes me two light tubes."

Scar can rattle off a catalog of injuries, including a broken ankle, fractured wrists and fingers, a dislocated shoulder and a screwed up neck and back. He considers any wound, no matter how severe, to be trophies of his experience.
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