If It Ain’t WildKat It Ain’t Wrestling,” is covered on nearly every T-shirt in the gym of Metairie’s Grace King High School. “Another One Bites the Dust” is blaring from the speakers. From the front row seat I can see toddlers flexing their muscles, students making last minute touches on signs, and families and hardcore fans yelling from every direction, anxious for the WildKat Sports Wrestling match to begin. A pair of enthusiastic announcers begins to tease the crowd with the idea of wrestling rivalry, a concept I have only seen on television as I walked by my brother’s room in high school. It occurs to me immediately that this is quite the event with a huge following of loyal fans.
New Orleans-based WildKat Sports and Entertainment is the area’s most popular wrestling training program. Founded in 2011 by wrestling professional Luke Hawx, the program works hard to create the next generation of pro wrestlers. From what I can gather, Hawx isn’t messing around, and the training proves to be vigorous and successful as a number of wrestlers make their way to the stage in the middle of the auditorium. Each intro is more entertaining than the last, with rap music playing, chanting and clapping, and lines of fans waiting to get their hands slapped.
It occurs to me immediately that these fans are serious fans. Not only that, but they will start a chant about anything and everything. In the middle of one of the first matches of the night, the crowd erupts into a collective cheer of “El-bow! El-bow! El-Bow! El-bow!” Maybe that’s the norm at wrestling matches, but for me, it was the beginning of a very entertaining evening.
The show begins with Bu Ku Dao, a WildKat extraordinaire preparing to make his big exit from the program, thanks to an opportunity with WWE NXT. After a spirited goodbye, the real magic begins. A triple-threat match is quick to follow, featuring men in glittery costumes with embroidered words such as “The Stud” and, simply, “Better.” While wrestling has been argued time and time again as being choreographed and nearly painless, my up close seat gives full access to all the fights and action. Wrestling is certainly a form of entertainment, but that stage floor is not made up of mattresses and marshmallows. Each time one of the wrestlers is thrown down, I wince. They slap, stomp, and shove. There are even handcuffs brought out at one point, quite possibly the most violent part of the show. It’s clear early on that WildKat definitely knows what it takes to get a crowd worked up.
During intermission I get some time with founder, Hawx, and he easily explains to me that wrestling is so much more than entertainment, and for him, is a long-time passion since the age of three. I’ve always been curious about how the wrestlers “get in the zone” for a match, and upon asking Hawx this, he says, “I’m a nut. I’m always into it.” This, I believe, as Hawx repeatedly made his way around the auditorium to chat with fans and high-five the little ones. He’s clearly passionate about his fellow wrestlers as well, the people he has pushed and trained to perform the best shows in Louisiana.
“I’m a nut. I’m always into it,” Luke Hawx, founder, WildKat Sports and Entertainment
As I watched each wrestler perform flips and moves against each other, it occurred to me more than once that the training must be extreme. Luke Hawx describes it as, “The hardest thing in the world.” With three-hour sessions three times per week, it’s no wonder that many of these wrestlers make it to the big time.
With wrestlers making their way onto the stage, a new persona seems to overcome them. Different dialogue, attitude, and moves get the crowd going wild. Wrestler Bu Ku Dao, a longtime wrestler from a very young age, describes his wrestling persona as his normal personality turned up to level 100. Even as an observer it’s easy to see that these guys don’t hold back once they’re inside the ring. Whether it’s a hobby or a career path, most of them recall having a slightly different wrestling personality compared to their everyday attitude, a sort of alter ego. Danny Flamingo is one who clearly displays this behavior. Prior to his own match, Danny was easy-going and talkative, and upon his introduction, this attitude turned into an extreme one. It’s as if the capes and masks turn these men into characters other than themselves; into characters they can easily play and have fun with, entertaining huge, adoring crowds.
The night brought forth the tremendous goodbye of Bu Ku Dao, with the event of “Bu Ku Dao or Die,” as well as unbelievable (and truly unexpected) wrestling antics.
Whether you’re a fan or a fellow wrestler, WildKat offers exactly what it promises – sports and pure entertainment.