brendan halpin


As a former theater kid, I have a lifelong love of the theater and a sense of ongoing sadness that most theater is inaccessible to most people. I mean, yeah, there are often cheap student tickets available (but, of course, 50% of people in the USA don’t attend 4-year colleges), and if you jump on something quickly, you can sometimes find a ticket for 30 or 40 bucks, but for most professional performances in the Boston area, anyway, you’re looking at between 75 and 150 bucks per ticket.

So I’m always interested in efforts to make theater more accessible. I recently saw The Interrobangers, by M. Sloth Levine at the Boston Public Library. Tickets were pay-what-you-want, and, as a result of this (as well as the subject matter, probably), the crowd skewed much younger than a typical theater performance.


Went to The Sons of Italy hall in Watertown, MA for a Chaotic Wrestling show last night. There was a canine-related urgent care visit early in the evening (everything but my wallet is fine), so I wound up getting there late and missing sneering heel Ricky Smokes beating smarmy babyface Brad Cashew. (Am actually quite gutted about this because apparently they made the folding chair legal for this match, and also I think Cashew’s got the making of a great heel, but I don’t really care for him as a face. But I guess he’s got that hair, so…)

I also missed a couple of other matches—my friend Greg informed me that the heels were winning everything—and arrived just in time for….


I was a theater nerd in high school, and while I do love movies and recorded music, there is simply nothing better than a live performance. So on Friday, I went to the Sons of Italy hall in Watertown, Massachusetts, to enjoy a Chaotic Wrestling show. While other forms of live performance have gotten prohibitively expensive, wrestling remains blissfully affordable. My friend Greg got us tickets and really splashed out for the expensive seats: 25 bucks.

Aside: I’m kind of obsessed with the fact that pro wrestling is heir to a long tradition of popular theater reaching back at least as far as the 16th century and the Commedia Dell’Arte. No, seriously. This does not mean that I crave respectability for pro wrestling. Horror movies are starting to get respectable, and the result is that we’re being deluged with overlong, artsy “horror” movies in which nothing happens for the first hour. But I do think we should recognize that this is one of the very few forms of professional theater that is affordable to regular people. If you want to see Fat Ham at the Huntington Theatre in Boston (and I do!), it’ll cost you 55 bucks for the cheapest tickets. Whereas if you want to go to the next Chaotic Wrestling show, 15 bucks will get you in the door.

And if you do go, you’ll get three hours of high quality entertainment. You’ll get the high-flying acrobatics of Aaron “Evil Gay” O’Rourke! You’ll get the gritty toughness of Mortar! The insufferable arrogance of Ricky Smokes! The preening of Paris Van Dale! And the awe-inspiring mullet of Love Doug! Great character work and great stage combat skills. There were several moments that made me go, “holy shit!” Yes, the outcome is scripted, but the athtletic talent on display is real and often breathtaking and even more impressive for the fact that they’re trying not to hurt their opponents while appearing to beat the bejesus out of them.

I laughed, I yelled, I came home hoarse, and I really enjoyed a couple of great plot twists. (Long-time heel Chase Del Monte somehow got relegated to waterboy status, but then he rebelled and threw in the towel for his boss, costing him the match!) And then there was this: Brian “The Mecca” Johnson came out and gave a long, rambling speech (I suspect it was stretched out because Shannon Levangie’s match seemed to have been canceled at the last minute, which was covered up by having someone hit her in the back of the head with a bouquet of roses with a metal pipe concealed inside.).

Anyway, so Mecca goes on and on about how he got off on the wrong foot by disrespecting everybody, and now he has this contract saying he can have a title shot at any moment, but he’s going to “be a man” and wait for the next event in two weeks.

Later, ring announcer Rich Palladino says he’s very proud of the inclusive nature of the company and calls out the fact that there are a couple of fans “dressed how they want to dress, and we think that’s great.” (I’ve seen these folks at previous shows—they are assigned male at birth people in full makeup and fabulous dresses.) He says every month is pride month at Chaotic wrestling.

At the time, I was like, “wow, it’s like maybe not cool that he called these fans out like that, even though he was telling everybody how welcome they are.” But then, after Brad Cashew defeated Ricky Smokes in a grueling championship match, he’s making the rounds, getting high fives from fans, and he goes over to the area where those folks were sitting, and a person in a dress and long wig punches him in the face! And then hops over the barricade! It’s Mecca! In a dress! He demands his title shot then and there, and, wearing a dress and full makeup, beats the shit out of the exhausted Cashew and claims the championship belt!

Folks, it was a beautiful moment. And the fact that the whole thing was set up with the fans who were mentioned from the ring made it even better.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the performers are friendly and accessible and will happily sell you their merch?

Though I know the speech about inclusivity was part of the Mecca storyline, it was also true. There were all kinds of people in the ring and in the crowd, and everybody was welcome. And the vibe never even approached the “maybe violence is brewing” vibe you get at a lot of alcohol-drenched sporting events. It was just a great night at the theater.

If you live in Greater Boston, I highly recommend you check out a Chaotic Wrestling show. And if you don’t live here, I recommend you check out your local wrestling promotion. These aren’t giant evil corporations—they’re small DIY enterprises running mainly on a love of the art form.

#Review #Wrestling