This is what it feels like to be hit in the face with a metal chair: It kills.
That's according to Jim Duda, 25, of Kaukauna, who wrestles under the name Assassin in an Appleton-based wrestling league called Packerland Pro Wrestling. Most assassins deal with guns, poisons and the occasional throwing star. Duda's method involves stripping down to tight red shorts and repeatedly kicking an adversary in the face and stomach.
Duda, who has a friendly face reminiscent of Green Bay Packers tackle Mark Tauscher, can't count how many chairs have been cracked against his forehead. Ten? Twenty? Your guess is as good as his. Duda's best chair story is the one where he took three smacks to the head in one match, a beat down that culminated with the chair being set on fire and drop-kicked into his face.
This is not wrestling as you know it from television. This is actual, live, bone-crushing mayhem, and it happens every Sunday afternoon in a large yellow ring erected behind Chris Bassett's house on Appleton's north side.
Bassett, a former World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) wrestler and owner of Packerland Pro Wrestling, trains local wrestlers to be lean, mean, smack-n-smash machines. Then he puts on wrestling matches booked at local bars and surprises people expecting the glorified soap operas of televised wrestling shows.
"That's what sells tickets," Bassett said. "Because everyone goes, 'Oh, wrestling is fake. And then they come to our show and say, 'Holy cripes! Did you see that? He hit him for real!'"
If there were doubt over how real is real, Duda took a break from some serious assassination action during a recent training session on a sunny, late August Sunday afternoon to fetch a metal chair out of Bassett's garage. It was black and speckled with rust, and the backrest was half-smashed.
"That's the contour of my head," he said, pointing to a cranium-sized dent in the seat. So, yeah, Duda gets slightly peeved when people call him a faker.
"Yeah, it gets under your skin," Duda said, "because I've been doing this every Sunday for seven years."
If you play your cards right, your head could be denting metal chairs in no time. Bassett is looking for four to six wannabe wrestlers to train this winter and hopefully unleash at PPW shows throughout Wisconsin by spring. But finding the right guy is tough. Last summer a dozen prospective wrestlers came out for a try out, and they all "collapsed, puked or were carried out to the car by their loved ones," Bassett said.
"They're going to me, 'Mr. Bassett, this is not what we thought it was. When does the acting start?' I said, 'Son, you're not even close to the acting part yet. You haven't even gotten through the warm-up. This is what we do to warm up to start to wrestle and you're puking and passing out, and you're quitting already? Get back in the ring.'"
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