Wrestling – a Controlled Riot

by Bowen Craig

I should go ahead and admit up front that, when I agreed to cover this event, I didn’t know fuck all about wrestling. BUT, after a few hours watching this pageant, this entertainment explosion, this show that caters-to-the-whims-of-the-audience better than theatre, better than music, better than other sports…well I still don’t know shit about wresting, but I can’t deny that I had a thoroughly great time at the Classic City Wrestling Event at the 40 Watt.  

These folks know how to entertain. There were organic chants, super-fans of certain wrestlers, manufactured (in a good way) excitement, music breaks for a great band out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, The Dexateens, and more pageantry than you’d find at a local high school homecoming parade or even most Vegas shows.  It was FUN, just really freaking fun.

And for all of you entertainment snobs out there feeling Woke superior to the wrestling crowd, this was the most racially-diverse, most age-diverse, and most education-level-attained diverse crowd at any entertainment event I’ve even attended.  Hell, the ring announcer warned the audience off of racial taunts, off of homophobic taunts, even off anti-trans-taunts before the first match…and nobody cared. 


Owen Knight

Rednecks come in all colors, God bless them.

I arrived an hour before the event was supposed to start, but, as one wrestling fan told me, “If there’s one thing you can count on at a wrestling event, it’s that it will never start on time.” Again, no one cared. If anything, it just gave the audience more time to get properly lubricated before the show.  

Meeting wrestlers, their families, their boyfriends and girlfriends all led to the inescapable conclusion that wrestling is much more of a family business than I expected.  At the small venues, like the 40 Watt, eternally-optimistic cameraman Marcellous Balmer told me, “Expect to see the craziest stuff at these small venues.”  

This night’s featured match/title card/main event was history-making, the first all-female main event in Georgia wrestling history. 

(l to r): Jazzy vs. Ange’lica Risk

I met the participants pre-show, took some pictures, interviewed them…and then I got in the ring. I prefer to think of my entering the ring as “going the extra journalistic mile,” instead of calling it by its proper name, Mindblowing Stupidity for a guy this small and weak to even pretend to wrestle.

Jazzy vs. Ange’lica Risk – Photo Credit: RockStar Sports Photography

Stupidly, I agreed to let Jazzy body slam me. Even more stupidly, after that, I let her father, former wrestler Jimmy Wang Yang, body slam me. I wound up twisting my ankle. They told me how to do it right, and not injure myself, but I didn’t listen. Now I can say I’ve been body-slammed, twice. 

Bowen Craig of AU in “immersive journalism training” by Jimmy Yang Yang, WWE Professional
Bowen Craig of AU withstanding “full immersive body slam” by Jimmy Yang Yang, WWE Professional

The crowd was outstanding — very responsive, into the action, buying into all of the “breaking the fourth wall” aspects of wrestling.  It was, in many ways, like the crowd at a ballet or musical theatre event, completely in tune with the way the crowd at this specific event is supposed to behave.  

One of the many entertaining aspects of the show was that they slowly built the intensity of the matches. First a relatively calm two-man match, then another with more vivid characters, then a highly-energetic tag-team event.  In between the Dexateens played pump-up music.  

The Dexateens

I hadn’t realized before how much the referees are a part of the action. The older ref, who was welcomed to the stage with an organic chant of “Grandpa! Grandpa!,” was particularly good at the exaggerated pantomime arm waves and expressions, indicating how he felt in the moment about individual wrestlers’ actions.  

The two main organizers, Justin Burnham and Cole Taylor, make a good team. Justin is more of the behind-the-scenes organizer and Paul is the front man, riling up the crowd before the show, keeping the action in check, and generally corralling the emotion…and there’s a LOT of emotion.  

That strikes the uninformed “wrasslin’” fan right away. The level of excitement is palpable. You could cut it with a big-ass hunting knife. The expected delay before the show opened didn’t hurt the enthusiasm one bit. If anything, it helped. You’ve got to give a wrestling audience time to get properly lubed up.

Yes, it’s a planned event, yes it’s a coordinated dance, but that doesn’t mean that these peoples’ athleticism isn’t off-the-damn-charts. I was convinced that Jazzy’s body slam on me broke my ankle. It didn’t, but the point is unless you know how to protect yourself from getting hurt, don’t get in the ring.  

There are wrestling training academies, including a few popular ones here in Georgia. All of the wrestlers credited their trainers, naming them. There are too many to list in this article, but if you’re a big guy, or muscular woman, and want to pursue a career in the ring, find the closest academy and explore your options.

Jimmy Yang, Jazzy’s father, was himself a professional wrestler. The dude is strong. He explained a little of the wrestling character development. It is acting. I saw the archetypal fat white guy (who looked like he just finished defending Winterfell before driving to Georgia), the archetypal trio of young, energetic black wrestlers take on the archetypal three Hispanic acrobatic wrestlers, and after Intermission (Yes, they call it Intermission, I told you that it’s closer to theatre than you think.), they laid out the implements in the corners. Learning how to take a hit from a metal chair without dying is proof that you need to train. Jimmy described his character as “The Korean Redneck,” since his people were from Korea and he’s from Cobb County

Metal chair practice pre-show

It’s a family business. Jimmy and Jazzy are legacy wrestlers.  Max, the young woman working the door, is Justin’s daughter. It’s a family.

Anthony Rivera


Anthony Rivera (Referee): “It’s choreographed, but it’s never fake. I was originally going to be a wrestler, but I hurt my ankle in training, so I became a Ref. You’ve got to be ready for a bump. You’ve got to play your part.”

Scotty (long-time wrestling fan): “It’s choreographed, but it’s never fake.”

Lisa (fan): “It brings people together.”

Mike (has done it all): “I was an amateur boxer. Wrestling is like any job, you’re graded on your performance. And, like baseball, there’s a farm system. This is it.”

Jazzy (headliner): “This is history in the making. I watched my dad wrestle when I was little. I used to go back in the locker room.”

Jimmy Yang Yang (her dad, former WWE Wrestler): “It’s a live concert. It’s a live sports show. It’s live superheroes.”

Ange’lica Risk (headliner): “I always talk trash. What’s life without taking a little Risk?”


Rockstar Sports Photography

Georgia Wrestling Training Centers:

World Wrestling Alliance

Glasgow Wrestling Academy and Fitness

Roundtree Wrestling Academy

Atlanta Wrestling Academy

Platinum Championship

Deep South Wrestling

Compound Wrestling

Grindhouse Wrestling