Professional wrestling slams in Fairmont for charity event
By EDDIE TRIZZINO, Times West Virginian of Fairmont
FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — When he was a kid, the only time “Ron Mathis” stopped bouncing around was when wrestling was on TV.
He honestly can’t recall a time in his life when he didn’t want to be one of the wrestlers he saw on TV, recreating the essence and the moves of his heroes from his childhood.
“The way my dad tells me the story is when I was little, can’t get a kid to stop bouncing off the wall except for during that hour of wrestling,” Mathis said. “It would literally be like ‘Bounce, bounce, bounce, stop, freeze,’ and then once it’s over ‘Bounce bounce bounce.’ I don’t have a conscious memory in my life of not wanting to be a wrestler.”
On July 14, Mathis found himself slamming onto the roped ring in a wrestling rumble, using his physicality as entertainment for a fundraising event at Palatine Park.
ThundeRRR in the Park provided a variety of entertainment for guests at Palatine, which included wrestling, a bike show and live music, including the food vendors normally situated at park events.
This was the first appearance of a wrestling event at the park, which seemed to be a surprise hit with the locals.
“It’s hard to find things other than music,” John Provins, events director for the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission, said. “It’s obvious there’s not a huge crowd this time, but it’s telling me ‘Let’s do this again next year and put it in center stage.'”
The event was a fundraiser for the Disabled American Veterans, which was in part organized by the Concerned Bikers of West Virginia, who also organized the bike show.
“We’re going to have a bike judging contest,” Earl Nuzum, president of the CBWV, said at the event. “We set up all the bikes, did the advertising and all that. We were going to have something in the park, and John let me take it from there, and it just got a really good turnout.”
The DAV relies on donations and fundraisers to perform the social work it provides to veterans. Events like July 14’s help the organization assist veterans who are in need of funds, in need of healthcare or in need of general help.
“We’re always interested any time we can raise money because we support hundreds and hundreds of veterans throughout North-Central West Virginia,” George Davis, commander of the DAV Chapter 45, said. “I get phone calls every week from veterans that have turn-off notices on their electricity and gas, eviction notices from their homes, homeless veterans, if the VA Hospital gets a homeless veteran, they call me and we help pay them a hotel bill.
“Every penny counts when it comes to trying to help out veterans, so we’re always out trying to do what we can to raise any kind of money.”
With the bike show organized by the CBWV, Tim Cross was looking for an opportunity to get his company, Real Shot Wrestling, a broader audience in the area. With the event already booked, Cross volunteered to provide the entertainment of wrestlers.
“I have been traveling here and there with wrestlers to shows and wanted to just do something more homegrown,” Cross, the founder of Real Shot Wrestling, said. “We’ll do any and every event that we get asked to do. We’ve done birthday parties, we’ve done musical events, we’re doing this show here for the veterans and the bikers; anywhere where we think that people will be entertained by pro wrestling we’ll bring it.”
Cross founded the company in September of last year, wanting to bring the industry of entertainment to Fairmont. For himself and for the wrestlers, it’s all about entertaining the audience.
“This event we volunteered because there should be some entertainment here for this event,” Cross said. “It’s a ‘Thank you’ from Real Shot Wrestling to the veterans that are here that have risked their lives just for us to be able to pull this off; I feel like this is the least we can do.”
Participating in the pain is also for the love of wrestling, as Mathis described. His on-stage persona allows for him to become an exaggerated version of his own self.
“I like to think of it as it’s me just amped up times 10,” Mathis said. “When you’re out there, I’m not like that in person, I’m kind of laid back and I don’t like making a spectacle of myself. Here in wrestling I feel like this is where I belong so I can be me times 10.”
Even though Mathis met his opponent just minutes before their match, the two were able to grapple, throw and slam one another around the ring with total trust. And despite the stunts being exaggerated, the peril of the situations can be entirely real.
“You can’t fake gravity,” one of the wrestlers “The Nomad,” said after his match.
The “Thrillbilly Ox” has been wrestling for almost 20 years, and through all that time, he’s found that the community built around the sport is one of support, where everyone has one another’s backs.
“Everybody is like family,” he said after his match. “We’ve got each other’s backs, we joke a lot, we joke all the time.
“We’re family, that’s how we survive in this.”