Everybody knows that wrestling is fake. The rivalries are invented, and a mix of water and dye passes for spilled blood. Worse, the bout's victor is predetermined, eliminating any actual competition.
But in Springfield, competition exists outside the ring as two independent wrestling federations vie for the same audiences. For now, it seems, the fledgling Capital City Championship Wrestling, or 3CW, has veteran rival New Midwest Wrestling in a sleeper hold.
Celebrating its five-year anniversary next month, New Midwest has attracted audiences of more than 300 -- double the size of 3CW's best-attended shows. But New Midwest has recently become homeless.
The Sangamon County Board earlier this month denied a zoning variance that would have allowed New Midwest to continue holding monthly wrestling shows at USA Sports Center, 1200 N. Bradfordton Rd. That's the site where Club 10, a popular all-ages music venue, was forced to shut down in August after complaints from neighbors.
"We are desperate for a new facility," says New Midwest owner and promoter Jeremy Duerksen, 24. In the meantime, New Midwest has rented space for wrestling shows at Southeast High School and the American Center, 1501 E. Griffiths Ave.
Duerksen says New Midwest has changed locations five times since its inception and notes that its transience is taking a toll on ticket sales.
"Our numbers are down quite a bit," he says. "We're going to have to start digging into our pockets for money again."
Meanwhile, this Friday 3CW says goodbye to its cramped digs at 1300 N. 19th St., where the 11-foot-high ceiling prohibited wrestlers from leaping off the top rope. In time for its next show, set for later this month, 3CW will reopen in a space nearly twice its size, with 25-foot ceilings, at 1140 Reynolds St.
"The new place won't be so restrictive," says 3CW wrestler Les Thomas, whose signature move is a flying elbow.
Lanphier High School alum Anthony Kendall, 22, founded 3CW last January, after leaving New Midwest. His wrestling character is called Nemesis, a self-described antichrist whose job is to rile the audience.
"I tell dead-baby jokes," he says. "I spit in the crowd. I make fun of NASCAR."
Bickering has been heard between members of the two federations, although Kendall and Duerksen say they have an interest in merging.
The difference between them, both say, is that New Midwest is tamer and more family-oriented.
"We try to keep the blood and gratuitous violence to a minimum," says Duerksen.
Kendall agrees: "Definitely. We're hardcore."