Wrestling fans in the Valley have few options for live shows (WWE only visits a couple of times per year and national independent promotions prefer to run shows in the northeast), so for now, Mesa's Elite Xtreme Wrestling is the closest thing we have to a local wrestling scene.
Independent wrestling is as "fake" as what you see on television -- mostly men in their shiny underwear pretending to fight.
Good indie shows are a great place to watch future stars learn their dramatic trade in more athletic exhibitions. And it's live. Bad indie shows typically feature goofy comedy acts and harebrained "violent" -- or "Xtreme" -- matches. Judging by the Tuesday night's show at The Duce in downtown Phoenix, EXW brings the good and the bad.
Their opening match was for the Tag Team championship. "The Freak Squad," Frenchy Riviera and Dom "The Bomb" Vitalli, faced Woodrow Santinelli and J.B. Badd in a decent match highlighted by a pose-down between Riviera, a fat man with JELL-O biceps, and Santinelli, a bulky dude wearing Woody the Woodpecker trunks.
Next was a contest pitting a man in a loincloth, known as "The Manimal," against "Thunder." Manimal carried a massive bone to the ring, chewing on it as fans chanted "Manimal's gonna eat you!" at Thunder. Their match ended in about five minutes, and the less said about it the better.
Former WWE wrestler Johnny the Bull Stamboli came out with "Always Trending" Tyson Tyler, an ex-minor league baseball player whose wrestling persona involves him constantly plugging his Twitter account.
The best match of the night featured a young masked wrestler called Shadow Fox battling husky Rexx Reed. Fox is a high-flier, diving all around the Duce while Reed tried to keep the match on the mat with clever counters and moves. The worst thing about this was Reed's ringside manager, "Beaver Playboy," who seemed to be wearing his father's bathrobe and pompadour.
The main event didn't disappoint, either, as "Bird of Prey" Kyle Hawk had a very good match against "The Vegas Kid," Cutler Knight. The two performed some complicated wrestling sequences while executing every move crisply in a solid bout. Hawk is particularly impressive in the ring.
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EXW hosts a regular program at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill in Mesa on most Tuesday nights. The company's biggest stars, Val Venis and Derick Neikirk, took the night off Tuesday but expect to be there next week.
EXW isn't Ring of Honor or Dragon Gate but it's a decent show for wrestling fans hungry for something more than what's on television.