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Fans and Fighters Say Professional Wrestling Is the 'Real Thing'

July 14, 1988|PAUL McLEOD | Times Staff Writer

Randy Neverman lumbered into the world of heels and heroes recently at the Aviation Center in Redondo Beach.

A certified public accountant in the San Fernando Valley by day, the aspiring "Beast" of the fledgling Pacific Wrestling Alliance at night, Neverman, 35, approached the dark blue wrestling ring with the sultry "Valet Beauty" in tow. He wore a loin cloth and black boots, with silver chains around his neck. The Valet Beauty, a buxom, bleached blonde, wore a black miniskirt with matching top.

It really did not matter to the crowd of about 300 whether Neverman won his professional wrestling match against "The Power Bomb Riki Ataki" (He didn't.) All eyes in this match, one of seven on the card, seemed to be on the Valet Beauty, who jiggled and wiggled and teased her way around the ring while the men fought.

It's no wonder that people ask whether professional wrestling is to believed.

It is, say the aspiring professionals, such as Stephan DeLeon, 19, and Neverman, who plunked down $1,800 each to attend the Pacific Wrestling Alliance's wrestling school in Carson. More than a dozen wrestlers have joined since the school opened five weeks ago. Once they master the fundamentals, they are ready for bouts with the alliance and other organizations.

Another believer is alliance founder and promoter, David Ziarnowski, a Cal State Long Beach public relations dropout. He quit a job in the international courier business and staked the family fortune ("The wife and two kids") on his dream of building a new pro wrestling empire. The new alliance scheduled five events in July. Ziarnowski hopes to book 12 events in August.

"Promotion gets (fans) in," he said. "What you put in the ring will bring them back."

Still, the question that has always dogged professional wrestling is: Are the matches real?

"This is a business," Ziarnowski said. "If done right, you can make money. (We) are doing it right."

Later, he added: "These are not fake bumps and bruises" on the wrestlers. He said that the sport is regulated by the same state Athletic Commission that oversees boxing.

$10 Admission Fee

It is not a hokey business, say many of the 250 followers who shelled out $10 each to sit on folding chairs near the ring in what once was a high school gymnasium.

It was a mixed crowd. There were young men, mostly teen-agers, with heavy-metal T-shirts. Older men and women jeered the contestants.

The biggest applause of the evening went to guest announcer Wally George, an Anaheim television personality.

When the event was over, a young boy left his spectator's seat, climbed through the ropes and bounced into the 19-foot-square ring.

Is it fake? "I don't know," the boy said with a shy shrug. An older sister standing at ringside answered for him: "Some of it is."

They smiled nonetheless.

It is the thrill of the crowd that drives them, say the wrestlers.

"I love being in front of the crowd," DeLeon said. "It gets the adrenaline going."

$600 Purse

DeLeon dropped out of Birmingham High School in Van Nuys two years ago. He has wrestled for the best-known organization, the World Wrestling Federation, once. His biggest purse has been $600 (most make about a third of that per match). To supplement his income, he works as a security guard, hoping one day to advance to a bigger wrestling organization.

"Wrestling can be financially rewarding if you are picked up by one of the major groups (such as the federation)," he said.

But some things cast questions on the validity of the sport. In Redondo Beach, Neverman was introduced as being from the "Island of Borneo." He told a reporter he was a fullback for Ohio State University in the early 1970s. The sports information office at the university could not find a record that he played. And was it sporting for the 6-foot-11, 425-pound "Harlem Warlord" to spit repeatedly on a semi-conscious "Marco the Persian Terror" as he lay on his back in the middle of the ring?

Said "Flying Billy" Anderson, who runs the Carson training facility for the Pacific Wrestling Alliance: "The reality is, this is a business. It's all too clear when you look (at yourself) in the mirror."

Even if promoters fudge the truth a bit and if results are sometimes staged, the physical punishment that the participants receive is not.

Besides knee problems, DeLeon claims to have broken both wrists and his nose in the ring.

"I tore my knee up real bad," DeLeon said. "I wrestled two days after surgery. I tore my stitches out."

Neverman claims he was bitten recently during a match with George (The Animal) Steele on a World Wrestling Federation television bout. He displayed what looked like a bite mark on his right leg.

Said Neverman: "There are times at night when I can't sleep. I'm busted up. It hurts. The pain is intense. I wonder why I'm doing this. But then I come back. You learn to live with it. There's more to life than sitting behind a desk and working out at a gym."

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