A Scar is born

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

Because of his aversion to hospitals and doctors, however, Scar tends to treat his wounds himself. After fracturing his ankle during a match in June 2002, he secured it with athletic tape and hobbled around for six weeks until it healed.

His mother worries that his lack of a spleen puts him at serious risk of infection from the kinds of injuries he gets in the ring. Scar has been cut after being hit with fluorescent light tubes and falling on thumbtacks, but he treats them himself, self-medicating with antibiotics.

His mother's concerns were justified in May when Scar spent four days in the hospital. He'd developed a serious infection after digging a splinter out of his left hand with a straight pin and didn't seek treatment until his hand swelled up later. Doctors administered powerful antibiotics and made incisions on his hand to drain massive amounts of pus. Scar says he had run out antibiotics and forgot to refill his prescription.

Scar leads Ryon Van Horn around by the hair.
Scar leads Ryon Van Horn around by the hair.
The IZW emphasizes traditional moves.
The IZW emphasizes traditional moves.

His physician, Dr. Robert Ziltzer, tells New Times that Scar continues to be susceptible to infection because of his lack of a spleen and his tendency to avoid medical treatment until absolutely necessary. Scar's also at risk, Ziltzer says, because the veins in his abdomen remain dilated, and a serious blow to that region could result in internal bleeding, the need for transfusions and surgery.

The wrestler says that he has some limits, such as refusing to perform a move from an extreme height, such as off of a roof or the top of a steel cage. And he's also mindful of his abdomen, using an arm to shield it when taking certain falls or being hit by weapons.

Stephanie, his mom, says she doesn't have the nerve to watch him wrestle, but admits that she's curious. (Scar's older brother, Corey, has warned her for her own good not to watch The Backyard or see Scar wrestle. So far, she's complied.) She'd rather that he just gives it up. "God, I wish he'd stop this. I wish he'd see that he can't afford to do this, but at the same time I understand that he's got to decide those things [for himself] and I'm not going to decide it for him."

Mark Morrone, the SWWF owner, says that his wrestlers hold practices three times a week, honing their skills to keep injuries down. Yet the young organization has already experience one serious accident: a wrestler named KobrA broke a leg so seriously doctors needed to insert a rod to heal the wound.

"Obviously, we're not certified trainers. Anybody and everybody knows that, but we do what we can to pass on the knowledge of what we do know and safety is first and foremost," says the 27-year-old Phoenix resident. "It's just safety -- be careful and don't do something stupid."

But that's hardly the recipe for a careful program. "Somebody's going to get hurt sometime doing this," Mike Knox muttered while watching the SWWF's last public event in October.

Knox, 24, is a wrestler and head trainer for Impact Zone Wrestling, another Phoenix-based circuit and rival to the SWWF, which puts more emphasis on safety and practice.

On a Friday night, trainees at the IZW's west Valley school run through a strenuous warm-up of somersaults and bumping. After a half hour, many of the rookies and more experienced wrestlers are covered in sweat and steal a few moments to chug water from clear plastic jugs around the perimeter of the ring.

The school, located in an industrial park near 35th Avenue and Thomas Road, is where neophyte grapplers come up to three times a week to practice under the watchful eye of veteran wrestlers like Knox and IZW co-founder Steve Islas. Not afraid to practice what he preaches, Islas jumps in the ring and shows a student the correct method of bumping, advising him to "take your time and do it right!"

Intense supervision and instruction is part of an arduous training process, focusing on the defensive aspects of wrestling before anything else, with relentless drilling on bumping and protection. Islas says this philosophy, while monotonous, creates a firm foundation of safety but has soured some potential students who want to learn the flashier moves right away. IZW trainer Charles Campbell says the emphasis is crucial, because wrestling moves are potentially dangerous, even for experienced wrestlers. He cites the August 2000 in-ring death of Tony Nash, a 30-year-old Wisconsin independent wrestler with four months experience who broke his neck landing wrong.

"This business will tear you up. There's any number of things that can happen that can cripple you and kill you. That's just the way it is," cautions the portly 33-year-old, who's seen plenty of accidents in his 15 years in wrestling.

Two of tonight's turnouts to the open, no-cost workout include a pair of SWWF wrestlers: Steven Robertson, an 18-year-old Hispanic Glendale resident who wrestles as agile high-flyer "Steve Mental;" and Tommy Walker, a 19-year-old rail-thin tornado known as "The Showtime Kid." The pair comes to the school hoping for the best of both worlds -- they consider their weekly SWWF practices as "free time" to work on wilder moves they can't do at IZW. Walker says he enjoys the challenge at the school. "They don't put up with any stupid shit. I like that because that's how it's done in the WWE."

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