Lyle C. Williams
Combat Zone Wrestling's David Starr
Sammy Guevara, a baby-faced wrestler in tiny yellow trunks, steadies himself atop the turn-buckle, launches into an arcing back flip and lands chest-to-chest with his opponent. Despite his acro-batics, he soon rolls out of the ring, defeated. Some kids in the crowd taunt him: “Justin Bieber! Justin Bieber!” The, in fact, rather Bieberesque Guevara tells the hecklers to shut up and kicks an empty folding chair before limping away.
Guevara and 20 others associated with the local Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) were gathered for an exhibition event at Northeast Philly’s Vogt Rec Center on Friday, a fundraiser for Masada, CZW’s injured world champion. A hundred spectators paid the $10 suggested donation to watch their favorites: Danny Havoc, the “Death Match Drunkard,” known for getting bloody; Devon Moore, the “Notorious Scumbag” in a red pimp suit; and David Starr, an arrogant villain whose catchphrase is “Look at it!”
Outside in the parking lot, drinking (medicinally, he says) from a paper bag, Masada shifts his weight from leg to leg. The South Jersey resident is covered in tattoos and wears a long, pointed beard. When he discusses his overwhelming medical bills, he grits his teeth. In May, the 14-year pro tore the cartilage in his knee during a match. He needs arthroscopic surgery, which can cost upwards of $20,000.
“I’ve been wrestling on it, because it’s my only job,” Masada says. CZW vice president Maven Bentley explains that the wrestlers are independent contractors, free to wrestle where they choose and keep all the proceeds from the merchandise they sell. But they do not get benefits like health insurance — hence, the fundraiser. Moore, of Roxborough, says groups like CZW were more profitable before Vince McMahon, owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, started buying up smaller organizations in the ’90s. “Vince monopolized it all,” Moore says. Now, wrestlers find it pays better to work abroad, where matches can draw 20,000 fans. “In Japan, wrestling is considered a respectable job,” Masada says. “Here, it’s considered a hobby.”
Masada’s real-life predicament sounds remarkably similar to that of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, from the 2008 film The Wrestler. The connections are even more literal: Mickey Rourke trained with CZW at South Philly’s Alhambra Arena.
As the last match concludes, the audience chants Masada’s name. He joins Bentley and his fiancée, Christina Von Eerie, also a CZW wrestler, and accepts a wad of cash. Then, Masada thanks the fans and walks slowly out of the ring.
Find more information at giveforward.com/fundraiser/2fg2/masada-knee-surgery
Council Prez organizing community groups to scuttle land bank bill
UPDATE: Inquirer City Council reporter Claudia Vargas is now reporting a compromise has been...
Documents raise questions about cost of new prison
The state Department of Corrections is constructing a $400 million, two-prison complex to replace...
Philly non-profit finds way to reverse blighted properties
The rowhome at 1342 S. 16th St. in Point Breeze embodies Philadelphia’s problems with blight....