Brian, Rory Walker's 19-year-old son, wanted to spend some time with his dad before leaving on a two-year LDS Church mission. He knew one of his dad's favorite sports was professional wrestling, so he bought a couple of tickets to the American Wrestling Association show at the Utah County Fair last weekend.
Unfortunately, Brian got pneumonia and spent the night home in bed. But Rory couldn't stay away. He left Grandma at home to take care of Brian and dragged his wife, Cori, to the show."I love it," said Rory. "It's great." Before the Walkers moved to Sterling, Sanpete County, to open a grocery store, they lived in Tooele, and Rory spent three hours every Saturday watching professional wrestling. "We don't get anything down there in Sterling, and I really miss this stuff."
Walker wasn't the only wrestling fan at the fairgrounds Friday night. The Camaras brought their two sons, 2-year-old Sam and 7-year-old Jeremy. Sam seemed pretty oblivious to what was going on, but Jeremy, sporting a brand-new AWA T-shirt, knew exactly what he wanted to see. "My favorite part is watching them hit each other," he said.
And hit each other they did. Although the show seemed a little slow, contrived and fake at first, it didn't take long before the small crowd became actively involved in what was going on inside the ring.
The real excitement began when AWA women champion Madusa Miceli and Sue Sexton stepped through the ropes. Fiesty Miceli had the crowd hating her within seconds. "Run her pantyhose, Sue," yelled one spectator. When the dust settled, Miceli retained her title, and Sexton left the ring, throwing Miceli's feather-trimmed robe into the crowd in a final gesture of anger.
Jeremy wasn't too impressed with that match. "Girls are stupid when they fight like that." But father Lionel said Jeremy just isn't old enough to appreciate women wrestlers yet.
By the beginning of the sixth and final match, the crowd had seen a proud Russian who insisted on playing his national anthem, a blood-covered Great Indian Chief Wahoo saved by tag team Top Gun, and crowd favorite Greg Gagne defeat Soldad Ustinov. By this time, most spectators were either sitting on the back of their chairs or standing up to see things more clearly.
"It's exciting to watch," said Paul Beck of Spanish Fork. "They really perform up there. You know they've got to be good athletes, and I like to watch good athletes do their stuff. The stuff they do up there would kill normal people."
As a matter of fact, professional wrestling can be dangerous. "This has been a bad year for wrestling," said AWA spokesman Rob Russen. "There have been four or five deaths already."
Contrary to what most people think, Russen claims none of the matches are set up. "These are not people who spend an afternoon rehearsing with each other. These are highly skilled athletes who have put a lot of time and money into training for their career. It's all real. That was real blood on Chief Wahoo's face. Those are real matches."
Whether that's true or not becomes fairly unimportant. What is important is that professional wrestling is becoming more popular every day and that people pay to watch it.
"Brian really missed out," Rory said. "I'll have to go home and tell him all about it. This has been great."