Catharsis In Tights

The dusty vastness of a National Guard armory seems an unlikely place to inspire thoughts of Greek drama, particularly Aristotelian catharsis. But, as Law pummeled Nick Fury or Pure Player was slammed to the ground by Sadistic Scott before an enthusiastic crowd on a recent Saturday night at the Hendersonville armory, Aristotle and independent wrestling shook hands. There, on a twelve-foot square stage surrounded by a highly engaged audience, tragedy was acted out, emotions purged, tension released.

Dee, from Hendersonville, has attended every match staged by the Southern Wrestling Association since its birth nearly two years ago. Neatly dressed in jeans and a white blouse that set off her red hair, she seemed a demure, well-spoken young woman until her nemesis, Law, stepped into the ring, at which point she was transformed into an invective-spewing Fury. “Me and Law hate each other,” she explained later. “We’ve had this relationship since the beginning.” Dee also harbored a strong dislike for one of the referees she called The Chicken Choker, to whose dishonor she displayed a sign she had made herself depicting, naturally, a referee strangling a chicken. “He can’t count past two,” she said disdainfully.

Dee is typical of the SWA’s fans, sometimes over a hundred of them, who loyally attend each month’s bouts to follow the choreographed fortunes of their heroes and villains. SWA is one of hundreds of the strictly local spawn of the World Wrestling Federation, generally acknowledged as the Big Time of entertainment-based wrestling but viewed by many of SWA’s fans as too slick, like a big-budget Hollywood film compared to a scrappy independent picture. 

“This is where you see all different kinds of wrestling,” said Law, otherwise known as Lyle Case, as he prepared for the evening’s performance. “The WWF’s the same old thing all the time. It’s the independent wrestling where you see new styles and some of the more hard-core stuff.” Law and his fellow wrestlers fondly recalled an SWA hard-core match earlier in the year, when SWA’s founder, Ralph “Pops” Rhymer, thoughtfully provided an automobile to incorporate into the evening’s matches. Rolled onto the armory’s floor and parked next to the ring, it provided a landing pad for various bodies ejected from the ring as well as an object to be attacked with sledgehammers and reduced to a heap of crumpled metal and shattered glass by the end of the evening. It was, all agreed, immensely satisfying. “You don’t see something like that on WWF,” Law said.

Still, there are similarities between the independents and WWF. There are the wrestlers’ characters, for example, as carefully planned and developed as in the Big Time. Lyle, who when not being Law in the ring is a detective with the Hendersonville Police Department, said he came up with the idea for the character based on all the negative images of the police he encountered during his day job. Law wears black storm trooper boots, a chain wrapped around the waist of his black tights, and a T-shirt that says ‘Got Blood?’ on it. For extra effect, Law will sometimes carry a club wrapped in barbed wire into the ring.

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