When I try to picture the HBO version of professional fighting, a particular image immediately pops into mind. The four women of Sex and the City are throwing each other around a ring, the crowd cheering wildly as the occasional airborne Manolo Blahnik flies through the air.
Apparently, it's very different from the image conjured by the founder of Asylum Championship Wrestling, Brandon Bishop.
Bishop deemed ACW "the HBO version of pro wrestling" because the association is "controversial and cutting-edge." With a slogan like "Insanity + Brutality = ACW," and a 420-pound wrestler named "Carnage" on the roster, how could it be anything but?
Bishop founded ACW in 2001 almost by accident. Back then, he owned a nightclub in Lawton, Okla., aptly called "Asylum." Management needed Monday night entertainment, so Bishop located a ring and recruited some buddies to pose as professional wrestlers, strictly as a joke. However, the bar crowd loved it, so he ditched the club scene and delved into a career as a full-time independent wrestling entrepreneur.
Shortly after, ACW moved to Texas, where it built up a following over several years. Then, this May, ACW relocated to Colorado Springs. Bishop has been fervently advertising his business ever since, targeting true wrestling extremists.
"We want the fans that are completely nuts," he says. "That suits us fine."
The ACW's roster consists of 18 active fighters, several of which will go head-to-head Aug. 31 in some pretty unconventional events. The current champion, Irish Phenom John O'Malley, aims to protect his title in a steel-cage match against challenger "Mr. Saturday Night" (aka Michael Barry). There's also a three-way match between "The Pastor" Kenneth Campbell, Rexx Reed and the infamous self-titled monster, Carnage.
ACW affiliates itself with the independent wrestling circuit, a global network that became popular in the United States in the 1960s and '70s. Back then, it drew fans by the thousands.
The entire wrestling industry took a hit in June 2007 when popular World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit asphyxiated his 7-year-old son and wife, then hanged himself " a double murder-suicide that authorities linked to steroids, painkillers and depression. Bishop wants to counteract the recent bad publicity by recruiting a fresh fan base that has no preconceived notions about the sport.
"It's every form of entertainment and athleticism wrapped into one live theater," he says. "We are like a family: the wrestlers, fans and staff. I have a place to go that is tight-knit, and it's great being part of that family."
Now if only I could get my clan to agree with Bishop's assertion that steel-cage fighting promotes family affection. Thanksgiving Day could become a lot more entertaining.
ACW's fifth annual Insane-A-Versary Live Pro Wrestling
The Bigg City Event Center, 5825 Mark Dabling Blvd.
Friday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m.