Sweat sprayed, spandex shimmered, tattoos glistened and bodies were slammed Sunday during the debut performance of Cen-Cal Professional Wrestling, San Luis Obispo’s first WWE-style wrestling company.
“Let’s see some blood!” was one of many gleeful heckles streaming from Atascadero resident David Paniagua’s mouth.
“The good guys are playing the crowd. The bad guys are cheating when they can and distracting the ref. There’s good chemistry,” said Paniagua, who had researched the wrestlers online beforehand to know who to heckle.
Twenty-three male and two female wrestlers from across California and as far away as Phoenix, took to the stage for the performance, which was clearly a crowd-pleaser.
“I didn’t think I’d be digging it so much,” said spectator Michael Conway of San Luis Obispo.
More than 250 people of all ages attended the performance, which was at The Graduate in San Luis Obispo.
Kimmy “Shellhammer” Butler, a female wrestler from Chico who was manning the merchandise table while recovering from an elbow injury, was impressed with the turnout.
“You’re lucky if you get 50 people at a debut show,” she said.
“We wanted to give San Luis Obispo something else,” said Dominick “Dis-kord” Balsamo, one of four wrestlers who co-owns the organization and formerly trained in Santa Maria.
Tired of being on the road, Balsamo worked with Brian Campbell (“Sledge”), Jason Turner (“J.D. Horror”) and announcer Jimmy Ray to bring wrestling to San Luis Obispo.
“We’ve already beat ourselves to death working for pennies. We want to shake our wrestlers’ hands and say ‘thank you.’ We’ve got a sober locker room policy. … And the women’s matches aren’t meant to be skin-show spectacles. They’re athletes,” said Balsamo, who works as a paralegal when he’s not wrestling.
The opening match of Sunday’s performance featured Kadin Anthony, a car mechanic from Pismo Beach who wrestles under his own name. He came to the stage in rainbow tiger-striped leggings, lace-up boots and a neon bandana.
“A lot of people think it’s fake, but that’s really not the right term. It’s a form of entertainment, but there are injuries,” he said.
Butler echoed the sentiment: “You can’t fake a fall from 10 feet. I’ve broken my collarbone in three different places.”
She’s hoping to take down opponents in the Cen-Cal Professional Wrestling’s next show, which will be May 24 at The Graduate. The group plans to hold a show every two months.