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‘Terrific’ takedowns at LACA’s The Main Event

May 14, 2019

Body slams, broken chairs, feuds and fights both inside and outside the ring — The Main Event had it all as the Ludington Area Center for the Arts (LACA) hosted its first ever pro wrestling contest Saturday night.

LACA collaborated with the local Hook and Catch Wrestling Club to bring wrestlers from the Grand Rapids-based Independence Pro Wrestling organization to the art center for the event. About 150 people attended the show, said LACA Director Andy Skinner, many of them cheering on the scripted — yet unpredictable — mayhem.

“It was terrific, and it was pretty funny at times — but that’s wrestling. It brought a lot of new people into the art center. It was pretty successful, but we could’ve sold a few more tickets,” he said, adding, “I’d like to see it again.”

He’s hoping LACA will host another pro wrestling event, but he thinks it would be at least a year before the art center does — despite one fan suggesting they should host it every month, Skinner said.

He said LACA got some criticism online from people asking why the art center would host pro wrestling.

“These guys that performed here spent years creating these characters,” he said. “It’s performance art ... Not your typical theater — but theater.”

Skinner said he was glad to see the children in the audience enthusiastically following the action.

“Seeing the kids chasing these wrestlers, that’s awesome,” he said. “(Some of) these kids showed up around 4 (p.m.) trying to get their autographs — and the doors didn’t open till 6 (p.m.).”

In the first big match, a three-contestant free-for-all, wrestler Tommy Vendetta defeated Adam Wick and Conrad Loucks. In the next match, Zak Ibiza won against Jack Verville — until a 6-foot-10 giant in a bull mask, Apis, entered the ring and pulverized both wrestlers.

Then Derek Wolf accepted an open challenge against “Old Timer” Jeff King, and the two fought using “hardcore” weapons — including aluminum chairs, crutches, a garbage can and more — but eventually King triumphed.

Big Momma defeated Allie Parker to become the Independent Pro Wrestling Women’s Champion; Aaron Orion retained the Michigan heavy-weight champion title against the fan-favorite Karam; and in the headlining main event, the tag-team champion father and son duo the Monroes (Malcolm Monroe II and Malcolm Monroe III) put the final pin on their opponents, the Nomads (Ace Evans and C.J. Anderson).

Wayne Hawk, of Custer, watched the event with his wife and two children. He said they’d seen Independence Pro Wrestling perform before in Manistee and they came to LACA to root for the Nomads. He said it was “devastating” to see them lose, but it’s all in good fun.

Hawk said his son, Trent, is “a huge wrestling fan.”

His daughter, Brooke, added, “I like to shout at people.”

The event also featured a grudge match between tag teams of local celebrities. Ludrock President Ed Santarelli and local experienced pro wrestler Sybil Starr took on Hook and Catch coach Corey Ottgen and Dawn Britton, SandBar owner and member of the band Babe Ruthless.

In the opening banter, Santarelli threw a powder in Ottgen’s face, so for the match both men wore blindfolds. They both fumbled around and finally found each other, helped by Santarelli peeking out his blindfold. The two grappled, and then tagged in their teammates for a tussle.

In the end, Santarelli and Starr won the bout because Ottgen and Britton were disqualified after Corrin VanWyck, a fellow member of Babe Ruthless — who was supposed to be the timekeeper for the event — hit Santarelli with a chair.

Santarelli told the Daily News that all the exhaustion of participating in the match was made worthwhile by seeing the happiness of the kids. Some of them accused him of cheating, but they wanted his autograph anyway.

“It’s way more than I ever deserve in this life ... to have some little kids ask me for my autograph,” he said. “I’m just a knucklehead.”

He also said he was impressed by the dedication, athleticism and choreography of the pro wrestlers, especially their aerial flips.

Starr, who also helped LACA organize the event along with Santarelli, said it was impossible for her to pick a favorite moment in the whole evening.

“I’m still floating on air,” she said.

Santarelli thanked everyone who contributed to the event, especially IOS Productions and Big Round Sound, which handled production and helped transform the concert hall at LACA, with all the lights and fanfare of a pro wrestling venue.