Tex Lonestar is the Cal Worthington of Houston Wrestling. Standing tall in the middle of the tiny makeshift ring, donning a ten-gallon hat and vintage Western suit a la Nudie Cohn, he is tonight's ring announcer and hype man.
"Tonight, history will be made," he announces as the crowd goes wild. "A lot of history fans out there," he continues as the crowd laughs hysterically.
Long before Houston had fancy craft beers served on every block in town, we consumed a steady diet of Lone Star Beer and barbecue and were into sovereign-state things like watching the rustling of scrambled calves at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or going to the Sam Houston Coliseum to witness some good old-fashioned rasslin'.
The Coliseum is no longer, replaced by the palatial Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, but the lore and legend of live wrestling in Houston lives on. The iconic Numbers (300 Westheimer) might be Houston's goth club/dance haven of choice, but on this night I'm here to watch a Bayou City beat-down of epic proportions.
That's right; I'm here to catch some Doomsday Wrestling. What once started as a one-time event at Helios is now a semi-annual affair across the street at 300 Westheimer.
I show up at 8:30 p.m., half an hour later than the doors opened, hoping to miss a line. Not only is there one, but it's long and inside it's standing-room only. Luckily, though, I had been eying a front-row seat that had been "reserved" with the ol' "something left in the chair" trick, but no one has claimed it at show time. I sweep in to take it right before the opening bell rings.
Next to me is a ragtag trio of superfans. I try to make some small talk, but they're not here to make friends. Two of them won't even give me their name, but the leader goes by "Danny Boy." Not only did they all bring signs and props, but they're packing a mother-load of "Sancheezies," Doomsday cheese puffs named after co-ring announcer Dirty Sanchez, and thrown at the wrestlers ad nauseam during the entire show. As it turns out, Danny Boy's trio is also taking selfies in front of the ring throughout the festivities.
To catch you up to speed, tonight Doomsday's reigning World Heavyweight Champion, Chuck Wagon, is unable to defend his title due to an unfortunate touch of irritable bowel syndrome. Yikes! Therefore, the winners from each of the five bouts will go head-to-head, mano y mano, in a five-person battle royal!
On tonight's card, a matchup for the ages:
Bout 1: El Bano vs. Precious Jules
Bout 2: Charlene Lonestar vs. Animalia the Untamed
Bout 3: Beefy Joe vs. Bojoffo
Bout 4: Mr. Cuddles vs. Top Banana
Bout 5: Hot Flash vs. Russian Bear
Their names give you a glimpse into their wrestling personalities. Top Banana, a possible love child of Ric Flair and "Macho Man" Randy Savage; and Hot Flash, an adorable older woman known as "The Menopausal Maiden" and whose entrance song is Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On," are instantaneously near and dear to my heart. But Mr. Cuddles, a half man/half cat(?) whose signature moves are "feline leukemia" and making biscuits on his opponent's backside; and Beefy Joe, a loveable meat counter/deli guy who carries around a big piece of salami, are clearly tonight's crowd favorites.
What may seem like a fly-by-night team of amateurs, especially compared to the big guys of WWE and their ilk, is a well-oiled machine - and, actually, a refreshing take on the sport. It's an Andy Kaufman level of absurdity in the ring, but Doomsday's wrestlers are much more fit for the rigors of abuse these battles take on the body. These guys are professionals, but ones with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. They make it look easy and effortless.
And I have to say: combining high-flying acrobatics with a heavy-handed dose of comedy makes for an excellent night of low budget, but highly entertaining spectacle of bemusement.
Story continues on the next page.
The show reaches its height when Montezuma steps into the ring. He's a giant. Standing at what seems like ten feet tall and weighing in at 500 pounds, Montezuma towers of all the other wrestlers. He is here to take El Bano's wrestling powers away. In a sad twist of fate, the loveable everyman, El Bano decides to never wrestle again in order to save the entire crowd from getting Montezuma's Revenge. The crowd is grateful and the screams of adoration reach a fever pitch. They love it. Made up of a motley crew of young and old, they can't get enough of the show.
Texas has a rich history with the sport. The first family of pro wrestling, the Von Erichs, hail from the Lone Star State. It's been years, but you can still find people in the far reaches of the state who can still name all five brothers, and reminisce while speaking of the sad story of the "curse."
But in Houston, of course, the greatest wrestling promoter was the late Paul Boesch. My earliest memory of seeing Mattress Mack was seeing him give his sales pitch on Boesch's late-night TV-wrestling showcase on Channel 39. He brought us many a great match, and put Houston wrestling on the map. And who didn't love the Texas Outlaw, Austin-born "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes?
These matches were legendary and made my childhood Monday-afternoon lunchroom conversations that much more bearable. I was a young kid, but I can still remember my friends telling me about how bummed they were when Abdullah the Butcher made an opponent bleed so profusely that his friend's mom decided it was time to leave and escorted the group home before they ever got to the main event.
Boesch died way back in 1989, and the torch has been passed to what some might still consider newcomers to the sport. The folks behind Doomsday have been blazing their own trail since 2003, and have only grown more and more popular with each passing year. The way Tex Lonestar tells it, he and his friends are "hams and cutups," but that's not all.
"We thought it would be fun to do some sort of show," he says, "so we came up with an over-the-top comedic wrestling show."
His mom and dad helped by making a ring and costumes, and the rest is history.
Tonight's show ends with El Bano reclaiming the belt from Montezuma and banishing him from Doomsday. The other positive is Tex and his crew are working on doing more than two events a year. After this fun-filled night of action, we can only hope so.
Doomsday Wrestling returns to Numbers on Saturday, July 18. The cast will also appear during Houston's Comicpalooza from May 22-25. See facebook.com/DoomsdayWrestling for more information.
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