February 4, 2005

Moonsaults On Mattresses: The Wild World of Backyard Wrestling

By Ryan Furtado

DUBLIN, Calif.—To be perfectly honest, there’s not that much to do in Dublin, Calif. But now there’s backyard wrestling.

If you’re a teenager trapped in the East Bay suburbs, you really have to use your imagination to entertain yourself.

Waves of rampant development have given birth to strip mall after strip mall, mixed with endless fields of track housing. I mean, I like to go to Orange Julius as much as the next guy, but how many times a week can you go to the mall?

To quell the boredom of suburbia, a select group of high schoolers created an organization known as N.C.W., or Non-Stop Chaotic Wresting. On Sundays, N.C.W. members gather in their parents’ backyards to wrestle, showcore style.

In theatrical wrestling, there are two distinct styles: hardcore and showcore. Hardcore is known for things like rolling around on piles of thumbtacks, or hitting opponents with flaming two-by-fours.

Showcore, the style N.C.W. follows, is known for its flamboyant personalities, like Super Fly Jimmy Snucka. It’s somewhat choreographed, with a predetermined routine that plays out like an overtly dramatic brawl. It’s the stuff you see on television, like the WWF or the WCW. And the handful of N.C.W. wrestlers just can’t get enough of it.

“It’s my passion above everything else,” says Cole Calcote, an 18-year-old student at Dublin High School. From the time Calcote watched Mexican wrestling legend Ray Mysterio Jr. in action, he was hooked. “I was enthralled how almost poetic the movements were,” he says. “It (wrestling) looks so barbaric, but when you sit down and look at the grace it takes to do those things, it just fascinated me.”

That same fascination quickly turned to obsession and became the N.C.W., a small group of young, devoted wrestlers who want nothing more than to get it on within the squared circle.

This weekend Calcote and Paul Dennis, an 18-year-old student at California High School, are pitted against each other in a head-to-head match-up that they’ve been practicing for the past few weeks. Within the N.C.W. the two are better known, respectively, as Grim and the K.O.A, or King of All.

The Saturday before the match they set up the ring at the Dennis’ household by using four metal posts, attaching few pieces of ropes to the poles, and three old mattresses. After the ring has been hastily assembled the two go through their routine, which they’ve broken up into several distinct segments that touch on some of the more difficult maneuvers such as moonsaults, belly-to-belly suplexes and D.D.T.’s.

They’ve been going through this routine for months, adding a few slight variations for each match. No matter how much they practice, though, this is still wrestling, and getting injured is part of the risk. As Dennis and Calcote complete their elaborate routine, Dennis catches an elbow to the face. Immediately, blood seeps from his nostrils and runs over his lips.

“I call it athletic acting — the injuries are just as real as football,” says Dennis, who now suffers from chronic knee and back pain.

“We do everything we possibly can to not get hurt, but it’s dangerous,” Calcote says. “I once jumped off a 14-foot playground tower and when I hit the ground my feet came out from under me and I landed directly on my tail bone. I couldn’t move for two minutes and thought I was paralyzed. I really scared the hell out of myself.”

The next day an intimate crowd of friends and family gather in the backyard under a small gazebo to watch the match-up. Another wrestler known as “Snowflake” has volunteered to pose as the referee for the match.

Setting the mood for match, the two wrestlers crank up their theme songs, tunes by Link’in Park and Rammstein. They’re dressed in homemade costumes and make their way through the “gate,” which is built out of about 20 milk crates and a piece of blue tarp.

The crowd watches in a strange silence as the two teenagers immerse themselves in their wrestling personas and battle through their 10-minute routine. A number of suplexes and super-kicks later, Grim emerges victorious, finishing his opponent with a moonsault off a small ladder.

After the match the crowd slowly clears out and Dennis and Calcote dismantle the ring, storing it away in the garage until the next N.C.W. match-up. Though there’s a distinct lack of glitz and glamour in the N.C.W., there’s no sign the league will be defunct any time soon. Calcote explains: “We don’t hold a candle to anything you see on T.V., but what we do share is the same passion for wrestling.”

Ryan Furtado, 24, is staff photographer for YO! Youth Outlook (www.youthout-look.org), a magazine by and about San Francisco Bay Area youths.

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