The world of wrestling -- um, we mean sports entertainment -- is not unlike the realm of baseball, at least when it comes to tapping new blood. Each has its own version of the big time (World Wrestling Entertainment and Major League Baseball) and an underlying stratum of regional farm clubs serving as a training ground. But that's where the similarities end. The D-Backs draw from the diamond of the Tucson Sidewinders, and WWE wrangles rasslers from the rings of promotions like the Valley-based Impact Zone Wrestling. The biweekly show at The Sets in Tempe serves as an opportunity for "workers" to hone their skills and iron out gimmicks. Out of the countless combatants who've graced IZW's squared circle, a few have even made it to the majors. Ring announcer Justin Roberts has occasionally worked the mike on WWE TV shows for more than two years now, and Matt Wiese, formerly known as Horshu, is currently getting the back of Kurt Angle as Luther Reigns on Smackdown. IZW regulars Navajo Warrior and GQ Gallo also will routinely perform in "dark matches" (or untelevised bouts) at local broadcasts of WWE programs.

Besides, when's the last time you saw one of the boys of summer fling a chair around? Oh wait, never mind.

Like just about everything else once dismissed as silly kid stuff, go-karts have raced into the mainstream of grown-up extreme sports. The F1 Race Factory, bordering the Tempe gateway just south of 48th Street and Washington, requires a valid driver's license to race its modified European karts -- each outfitted with a speedy Honda GX 270cc motor and Yokohama racing slicks -- and serves beer and wine in its Trackside Grill (although tipsy karters are subject to Breathalyzer tests). Plugged in to the Valley's import racing subculture, F1 has hosted Saturday night "Show Your Sh*t!" car shows in its parking lot and has lately become a favorite training ground for the drifting crowd. Regulars consider driving the low-down karts as the purest form of racing -- as close as you can get to feeling every twist and turn on the track without having to peel yourself off it.

At the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, there are several ways yours can become the baddest ass on the road. Bob Bondurant has been teaching Phoenicians how to drive fast and furious since 1990, and offers a variety of driving courses designed to improve skills. The "Executive Protection/Anti Kidnapping" course (four days, $3,995) includes training in "forward and reverse 180s, evading and ramming, and understanding and avoiding attacks." Sure, it's primarily designed for government and military agencies battling terrorists, but take it from John Ashcroft -- these days a terrorist is in the eye of the beholder. The asshole in the SUV who cut you off on purpose is threatening your way of life. Bondurant can give you the tools to keep the roads safe for democracy. Bondurant also offers a less aggressive (and less expensive) "Highway Survival Training" course (one day, $895). Use your own car or slip behind the wheel of one of the school's Cadillac CTSs or Mustang GTs and learn how to manage skids, how to corner safely, and the proper use of brakes.

This is one driving school experience you just might enjoy.

Firebird's Sports Compact Only events, usually held on the last Saturday of each month, are the soft-core version of the illegal street drags that have become harder and harder to find on the over-patrolled streets of Phoenix. Stunnas show off their tricked-out body kits and flaming decals, booming sound systems compete with the roar of NOS-supercharged engines on the track, and bootylicious babes bounce around on a parking lot stage competing for the title of Miss Dream Body. If it all feels too much like a pre-fab Fast and Furious package, just follow a few of the older muscle car guys out of the parking lot after midnight. There's always a 'Vette driver or two who can't resist putting the "ricers" to shame with their souped-up V-8s.

So you've just watched The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar back to back on video and you're wondering where you go to get your drag on in this burg. Well, pull on those pantyhose, girlfriend, tuck in that crank shaft, and head on down to the Sunday night "She-Lounge" at E-Lounge. E-Lounge is the hot new lesbian club in town, and Sunday nights there are turned over to P-town's glorious gals of female impersonation, led by none other than drag diva and longtime Echo columnist Barbra Seville. Seville, who likes to lip-synch Bette Midler in her prime, once flaunted her ab-fab stuff at Wink's, but now that Wink's is no more, she uses the E-Lounge as her stomping grounds. Her co-host for the gig is the lusciously vivacious Miss Angela Dodd, who never fails to have the het boys in the audience drooling for more.

With them for the performance are the campiest cuties, the most daring divas, and the classiest queens of the PHX doing their Milli Vanilli best with torch songs, standards, and the latest tops of the pops. If you want to beat the Sunday night blues without consuming a bottle of Jack Daniel's and a handful of Zoloft at home alone, then the She-Lounge is the place to be.

The introduction of hip-hop nights at the traditionally hard-core rock Mason Jar may be the boldest development of the year -- and promoter Oddy Carter deserves much love for bringing local rap to the land of Sacred Reich and Megadeth. But the Jar's famous no-dress-code policy flies in the face of the brand-name revering conventions hip-hop clubgoers live by, and for urban hotties eager to show off their stuff to the BET-ready beautiful people, the hip-hop room of Jackson's on 3rd is still a much better place to be seen. But the spot with the most respect from rappers and hip-hop aficionados alike remains O'Mallys, a beats-friendly sports bar that's been rockin' the hip-hop scene for four years running. Local rapper Mic Devious begrudgingly admits the O'M has it all: "Open-mike freestyles, good music, ho's," he says. Who could ask for anything more?

Readers' Choice: CBNC

What a leap of faith for one of Scottsdale's most prestigious contemporary galleries to open a branch in downtown Phoenix -- and aren't we glad they did it. Representing an impressive roster of nationally recognized painters and sculptors from the get-go, Bentley not only makes us optimistic about the potential of downtown, but also considerably raises the bar for the quality of art on display throughout downtown Phoenix. Set up in a huge warehouse space that accommodates monumental works -- quite a change from most other charming but cramped downtown art spaces -- this is proof that our bohemian art scene is entering the big time.

We despaired of ever seeing France's The Triplets of Belleville in a timely manner, but only because we'd forgotten for a moment about Harkins' Camelview 5 in Scottsdale. Shame on us, then, for failing to remember that Camelview is the best place in town to see exclusive, often obscure art and foreign films. How dare we forget that we got to see Super Size Me the very week it opened in New York, or that The Twilight Samurai opened at Camelview even before it went into major release? One thing we can't forget: The staff here is ultra-courteous and always knowledgeable about the sometimes oddball films they show. And the popcorn is so good we sometimes forget we're at an art house cinema and just plain pig out.

Readers' Choice: Harkins Camelview 5

BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN ON A FIRST FRIDAY

Roosevelt Street

Any time of the year, the first Friday of the month in downtown Phoenix is a circus. Sure, the main event is still the art -- varying dramatically in quality from something you'd see in a New York gallery to "Hey, my kid could do that!" But our favorite thing about the most happenin' night of the month is the side show outside the galleries along Roosevelt Street between Central Avenue and Sixth Street. If for only one night a month, the heart of a driving city becomes a pedestrian oasis. And the pedestrians range from toddlers in cowboy boots to heavily tattooed teenagers to older folks in comfortable shoes. It's the best time to people-watch, the best time to run into someone you haven't seen in years or just saw that afternoon at the office. Music is playing, and when it isn't, there's a buzz in the air -- or fire, from a fire-breather who just might jump into the busy street as you walk by. Freeze this moment in time, because who knows how long the party will last . . .

BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN ON A FINAL FRIDAY

B-Side Gallery

First Fridays, you'll find us in Phoenix. But final Fridays belong to Tempe, and this is a night that has yet to be tainted by an excess of hype. In other words, you can actually see the work on display by local artists.

At the center of Final Friday is Wet Paint, which transforms into B-Side Gallery on the last Friday of each month. B-Side has become the spot to see eclectic local art, listen to live music and, of course, check out what the hipsters are wearing. But the difference here from First Fridays, as far as we can tell, is that the crowd in attendance actually seems to care about the art and supporting the local scene. The well-coifed hair, white belts and high heels are just an added bonus -- a different kind of art, if you will. And we will.

Best Of Phoenix®

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