In this sport, cheating and antagonizing rank high
If you’re wondering what would be fun and different to do this weekend, try hooking up with Adam Pearce. He’s flying in Saturday morning from San Diego to visit some friends who live in Sandy Fork.
Sandy Fork? Oh yeah, Sandy Fork is what you might call a hamlet in the southwestern corner of Sussex County, near Trap Pond and Laurel.
But Adam’s trip to Delaware isn’t strictly social. In fact, while he will have fun visiting his friends, Adam will also be making a whole lot of people mad. Also known as Scrap Iron, Adam makes his living beating people up and boiling the blood of others. He’s a professional wrestler. And not just any old professional wrestler. Adam has worn the National Wrestling Alliance’s world championship belt four different times.
So when can you see Adam Pearce practicing his craft? That would be Saturday night at the fire hall on Main Street in downtown Ellendale. (Don’t speed, for God’s sake!) Doors open at 6 p.m. First bell at 7 p.m. $10 for adults. $5 for the kids. The fire department, according to Jimmy Furbush, makes money off renting the hall and selling food. Promoters and wrestlers take the rest.
Scrap Iron Pearce will be on a card with several other wrestlers - male and female - all converging on Ellendale for two reasons: to win and to entertain (and to make money for themselves.).
“This is a sport based in athletics but it’s also about entertainment,” said Pearce in an interview from his San Diego, Calif. home late Wednesday afternoon. “Every wrestler there will be giving 100 percent.”
He said the professional wrestling of today is different from how it was when I was growing up, watching the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Argentina Apollo and Haystacks Calhoun. Bruno was the nice guy of the pro ranks, but don’t get him mad. He didn’t get to be world champion by being all nice. Get him in the ring with the evil likes of Luke and Jerry Graham and it was a classic match between right and wrong.
“These days, wrestling is faster and flashier," said Pearce. "It goes hand-in-hand with what our youth are watching on TV. Lots of shooting and car crashes.”
Professional wrestlers are often known for trademark moves that distinguish their styles. For Argentina Apollo, it was the flying drop kick. For Adam “Scrap Iron” Pearce, it’s a move so powerful and devastating that it was outlawed in Mexico. The Pile Driver.
“It gets the old 1-2-3 in a hurry,” he said. “Essentially what I do is turn my opponent upside down and then drop as quickly as I can to slam his head into the mat. That compresses their necks and in some cases knocks them out. If I want to do it in Mexico, I have to do it when the referee is looking away. As far as I’m concerned, the only good referee is a blind referee.”
But Adam, doesn’t that sound like cheating?
“Hey, did you hear about that Tampa Bay pitcher that they called out during the game the other night with the Nationals, because he had pine tar in his mitt? Someone said if they’re going to check all the pitcher’s gloves for pine tar they’re going to see a lot of new gloves on the field. And I remember a San Diego pitcher named Randy Jones. He said ‘If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin.’”
Wrestling and cheating go hand in hand for Adam Pearce.
“I’m more likely to punch my opponent in the face than chase him around the ring.”
“It’s easier and faster to knock a guy out rather than running laps around the ring. If I can get my hands on you, I can take you out and get home to my family faster.”
At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Adam Pearce can get the job done many ways. From what I hear, he has the mouth to match. “My all-time wrestling hero - no question - is Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. From Chicago, like me. He had the gift of gab and a knack for antagonizing the audience. That’s what I’m known for. As I told you, professional wrestling is about athletics and entertainment. Fans want to be part of the show.”
So what’s that say about society?
“No comment,” said Adam, but he couldn’t hold back. “Americans gravitate toward good vs. evil stories. They always have. And 99 percent of time the good guy wins. Me, I’m the antagonist.”
His match in Ellendale this weekend, against an as-yet-unnamed opponent, will take Pearce one step closer to what he hopes will be his fifth world championship. He will be wrestling at the Hopkins Pavilion - a hockey arena - just outside the Twin Cities of Minnesota. “That will be on July 7. I’m hoping a little fireworks will blow my way and I’ll be wearing the championship belt for the fifth time. That will be against my arch nemesis - Colt Cabana.”
So what’s Pearce’s day job? “Exactly what I will be doing in Ellendale,” he said. “I wrestle two to three times a week, 125 to 150 matches a year. It’s fulfilling and has allowed me to afford a lifestyle I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to enjoy. In the past six months I’ve been in Australia, Canada, Germany, England. Wrestled in venues with as few as 300 people, up to 50,000 people at the Tokyo Egg Dome in Japan. That was exhilarating and crazy - a sea of humanity that I will never forget. But it’s a tough travel schedule with a young family.”
When Pearce flies back to San Diego on Sunday, after his headlining engagement in Ellendale, he will be celebrating his 34th birthday.
And how much will he have made by pile driving the head of his opponent into the mat and firing up the righteous indignation of the crowd with his aggressive but cheating ways?
“I’d rather not get into that,” said Adam. “Let’s just say I wouldn’t get on that airplane in San Diego to come to Ellendale if it wasn’t worth it.”