Friday, November 13, 2009

Rumble in the Crater

For the first 25 years of my life I was an avid fan of pro wrestling. When I got the chance to cover Portland Wrestling when the organization came to Keizer, I was over the moon. I took more than 250 pictures the night I did interviews for this story, then promptly put the memory card through the washing machine. Fortunately, I'd already pulled the best photos.

Published Aug. 18, 2005, in the Keizertimes

The last time Myra Barr, 65, of Keizer went to a wrestling match she was much younger and a bit more vivacious.

At that prior event, she’d ended up getting into it with one of the female wrestlers.

“Her opponent had a little stump for an arm and I just felt sorry for her,” said Barr.

Last Saturday, Barr put the past behind her and secured front-row seats to Portland Wrestling’s first-ever visit to Keizer. She was joined by her daughter, Pamela Harris, 34.

“I finally got up the courage to come again,” Barr said.

In any other setting the pair might seem perfectly normal, but sitting by themselves, front row at a wrestling match, they stand out like sore thumbs.

“We asked all the guys in the family if they wanted to come, but they turned us down,” said Harris, a first-timer at a pro wrestling event.

Dubbed “Rumble at the Crater,” the Portland Wrestling event drew an all-ages crowd – from toddlers to seniors like Barr, and every age between.

Some were long-time fans; others came just to see what the fuss was about. From high-flying acrobatics to cracking tables, flying chairs and big names like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Portland Wrestling delivered.

The seven-card match featured a variety of talent from the bulky Moondog Moretti to the aerodynamic Dante.

But, for the younger set, it was all about the main event featuring Dr. Luther.

“He’s got so much energy, and he also knows who to trust. Not like Skag (Rollins) who follows anybody,” said Alex Chappell, 12, of Salem.

Rob Warren traveled from Albany to catch Dr. Luther.

“I’ve been watching them on television for about six years,” said Warren, 12.

For others, like Jeff Neuffer of Molalla, the decision to attend was more impulsive. Neuffer and his friends stopped at a department store on the way to Keizer for poster board.

He was still working on a sign insulting Skag Rollins as he waited for the first bell to ring.

For Keizer brothers Jeff and Greg Fislar, the matches were simply a new way to spend the evening.

“It’s excellent that they came down here to Keizer,” said Jeff.

“And you just can’t miss a chance to see Piper,” added Greg.

Then there’s the devoted.

Brian Lowder has been following Portland Wrestling for more than 30 years. He traveled from Vancouver, Wash. with his family in tow and front row tickets in hand to catch the action.

Whereas other attendees have a single poster or two supporting or decrying the wrestlers, Lowder has a sheath of them. Some were made long ago, some were made the day of the event, but all ready to be drawn on the crowd like an archer with a arrow.

“Usually I just find a picture of the wrestler on the Internet and make a quick sketch,” Lowder said.

He also has generic signs. One features Nelson from “The Simpsons” and the phrase “Ha! Ha! You lost.”

Lowder’s daughter used to take wrestler Scotty Mac’s robes after he entered the ring. When Mac didn’t see her with Lowder Saturday night, he stepped aside briefly to ask after her.

“I would boo him like crazy, but he’s a nice guy and he really won me over,” Lowder said.

Lowder keeps several of the signs for himself, but he’s also given them away to the wrestlers.

“They’re all really amazing guys. It was 95 degrees out here earlier and they’re still out there putting on a great show,” Lowder said.

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