A Scar is born

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

Following the two-hour constitutional, the wrestlers demonstrate their skills in several mini-matches as a part of IZW's "Friday Night Fury" show for the public. A dozen IZW fans who have paid $5 each, find room to sit on folding chairs amid dilapidated weightlifting equipment, while others lean against walls covered with posters for old wrestling pay-per-views and the 1989 Hulk Hogan bomb No Holds Barred. The spectators faithfully cheer or boo depending on who's in the ring.

The trainer, Campbell, says the appeal of the IZW for its small but growing number of fans is its "old fashioned storytelling," with consistent characters that don't change allegiances on a weekly basis. "You need to create larger-than-life bad guys that are consistently scumbags," he says. "It's important to remember that's what this business is all about: good versus evil."

Knox, who looks like a TV wrestler, with a shaved head, goatee and take-no-shit countenance, lays down the law as wrestlers gather after the show for his judgment. Even the veterans get a stern dressing down. One student is criticized for dangerously kicking his opponent near the kneecap and the head trainer suggests aiming for above or below the joint.

"Steve Mental" sends a competitor soaring.
"Steve Mental" sends a competitor soaring.
Outrage pours peroxide on Scar’s bleeding back.
Outrage pours peroxide on Scar’s bleeding back.

Staying healthy is a common struggle for wrestlers on any level. IZW co-founder Robert Gallo blew out his right knee in the ring in 2002 and couldn't afford surgery, so he just rehabilitated as best he could. The knee still gives him trouble. Campbell says that even if wrestlers can afford health insurance or get coverage through their day jobs, they often are walking wounded, having to work the next day or make their next gig. "They wrap it up, they tape it up, they shoot it up and they get back in there and they do what they have to do."

The IZW's more solid program of training and safety has gradually earned it what all independent wrestlers crave: recognition from the big leagues -- television's WWE. The IZW's wrestlers have landed tryouts with the federation, and they consider themselves lucky.

In June, four IZW men were asked to work "dark" (untelevised) WWE matches in Florida and California, a significant step on what could get them to the WWE's Louisville-based farm club promotion, Ohio Valley Wrestling, and a $500 a week "developmental contract." In May, that's exactly what happened to IZW man Matt "Horshu" Wiese.

"When you get called back to come again you just look at it as a good sign, but you never take anything for granted," says IZW co-founder Steve Islas.

Despite that relative success, Scar says the safe-and-steady style of the IZW isn't for him. "I went to a few shows and all the matches are pretty much the same. Old-school wrestling. I'm not a big fan of it, but either way I hope IZW gets bigger so we can draw more fans to the scene," he says.

Spurning the IZW's more conservative approach, however, makes it nearly impossible for Scar to reach any higher than a fledgling organization like the SWWF.

Gary Davis, vice president of corporate communications for TV's WWE, says his company is "adamantly opposed" to anyone inadequately trained trying to replicate the moves of their wrestlers. The WWE, he says, returns unsolicited videotapes of backyard exploits unseen.

"We're not interested in anybody who would be willing to put themselves in such great risk and will put their partners in such great risk. Our superstars have tremendous respect for their bodies. They understand the most successful match is the match in which they and their partner come out of the ring safely without injury, so they can perform another day," Davis explains.

He says that it's almost impossible to make the WWE on self-training alone. "I know exactly what [the WWE is] looking for," Davis says, "and it's not guys jumping off of roofs into burning tables."

It's a warm summer evening in late June as more than 60 bloodthirsty fans have gathered outside of Pepper's Cantina in Tucson to watch Scar.

The self-professed "King of Hurt" is taking on both Chaos and Zach "Wildthing" Porter in the sadistic "Double Hell Death Match," at HIW's latest blood fest, "Project Impact."

The crowd had already whetted its appetite for destruction with six other contests on the card, witnessing the HIW misfits assaulting one another with chains, handcuffs and flaming baseball bats. The action takes place both inside and outside of the HIW's makeshift ring, situated behind the bar upon patches of dirt and yellowing grass strewn with cigarette buts, broken tables and shards of glass from previous shows.

Although a few wrestlers bleed during the matches, nothing prepares the audience for the massive bloodletting seen during the evening's savage main event. The ring ropes are replaced with barbed wire on two sides and boards of fluorescent light tubes are placed on the ground nearby ready for the breaking.

Going into the match, Scar is ecstatic. "I can't wait for the fans to shit their pants or whatever. I want to just blow them out and give them one hell of a show."

The contest starts out plainly enough with Scar using suplexes and the Russian leg sweep to level his foes, but escalates as Van Horn and Porter dish out plenty of pain. Scar is flung against the barbed wire ropes and has his forehead raked across the spiked fencing material. Each time he connects with the wire, Scar hollers, "Oww, shit!"

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