Raw Rasslin'

It's a fine Tuesday night in the Zona, and Saddam Hussein's chrome-dome, um, brother-in-law Sheik Samir Hussein is getting his ass beat down by a big-assed Catholic priest in a dog collar known as Father Punishment. The shirtless Sheik had come into the rasslin' ring at The Sets in Tempe, cocky as hell, wearing black britches with a yellow stripe, and waving an Iraqi flag like he was parading 'round Sadr City. For some wack reason, the freaky Sheik is paired with the luscious, blond temptress Karma in a co-ed tag-team bout versus that Judas priest and his brunette bud Adrenelyn, dressed á la early Britney Spears in a short Catholic schoolgirl skirt and white top.

"See, Samir Hussein refuses to tag his partner Karma, because she's a woman and thus beneath him, " Chris McLennan shouts into my ear. "Even though he's in trouble, he won't take any help from a girl."

Chris and her hubby Jim are the unpaid promoters of Impact Zone Wrestling (, which holds its maniacal matches every other Tuesday at The Sets -- a bar, pool hall and game room with all manner of diversions such as foosball, darts and Ms. Pac-Man. Two or three times a month, The Sets turns over one of its barrooms to the IZW. And on this particular night, 80 to 100 sports fans have turned out for the smack-down, each paying $5 a pop: blue-haired grannies, Beavis and Butt-head look-alikes, white-trash hotties, redneck rowdies, jersey-clad college types, foul-mouthed tykes and sometimes whole families. As Chris gives me, the Big Pun of P-town, her color commentary on what transpires, they're all screaming their asses off, spitting insults at the warriors doing battle before them.

"Finish that little faggot off, Father P!" screams a skinny septuagenarian lady nearby where Chris and I have taken ringside seats. "You better do it, or I will!"

"You fight like a little girl, Hussein. Where's your skirt?" yells another of the hot-and-sweaty hoi polloi.

Just then, when it looks like the iron Sheik's about to punk out to the bearded, red-and-black-clothed padre, there's a cry emanating from the back of the crowd near the beginning of the runway, and we hear the thunderous approach of one of the Sheik's buds, a two-ton sumo-size Samoan named Tonga who hops into the ring with amazing agility and opens up a king-size barrel of whoop-ass on the sinister minister, driving him from the stage. Samir's already lost the match, but it's Father Punishment who got spanked this eve.

This is only one of several slammin', butt-kickin' IZW brouhahas that goes down while this Kreme-filled escort to all nighttime entertainment in the PHX is flyin' solo. Where be my sapphic sidekick, the L-word Milla Jovovich? Seems Jett's ailin' this week, busy at home hosting her Aunt Flo. She had a note from her moms and everything. So I let her skip gym, and decided to hit the IZW with my own damn self for company.

I'm in the hizzouse as a guest of the McLennans, who by day run a mail-order bead company called Trash City ( out of their home in north Phoenix. On the side, they're involved in promoting a whole host of entertainment activities, from a comedy "slamfest" to producing up-and-coming filmmakers with Trash City Films.

"Trash City is sort of an umbrella company, and IZW is one of our adopted children," Chris tells me. "For IZW, we find them the venue, and we promote them and market them. IZW has its own training center in Phoenix down on University and 44th Street, and some of their wrestlers go on to the WWE. Horshu used to be a wrestler here, and now he's Luther Rains with the WWE. And John Cena was from here, and he's gone on to WWE."

IZW has a base stable of about 20 wrestlers, including such outrageous acts as the Navajo Warrior, the Hawaiian Lion, Cowboy Jack Durango, Lawrence "XXX" Tyler, Outlaw Mike Nox, The Crock, and GQ Gallo. The best of the bunch travel all over the country and to other countries, doing their flying kicks and sleeper holds for fans in places such as Japan, Korea and England. After the Sheik-Father Punishment duel, I run into IZW Commissioner C.C. Starr, a hefty fella with curly hair who's sort of the Captain Lou Albano of Arizona, if you know your rasslin' history.

"For my readers, would you have them regard wrestling more as a sport, a performance, or both?" I ask the Jerri-curled giant.

"The basis of it is always sport," intones the Commish. "It's very intense physically. And these guys don't have an off-season. A lot of them work 48 weeks out of the year to make a living, and every night, their bodies are taking a pounding. But you have to be an entertainer, too, and get butts on seats. We try to entertain, while giving folks the solid wrestling you had in the '50s, '60s and '70s."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons