By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Guys like Incontrera and his friends.
"If we get into wrestling, Steven, we should be a gay tag team," Blake says from the backseat as we near the XCW Arena, a former rock club just off the highway and the promotion's base of operations for the past year. We just stopped at a convenience store outside Denton and filled up a cooler with beer. "We'd be the most unpopular wrestlers in Texas. Dude, Texas has a natural repulsion to homosexuality."
Incontrera laughs, considering the idea. It reminds him of something. "We wave dollars at Brett Barnes sometimes," he tells me, referring to the current XCW champion, a muscle-bound pretty boy who doesn't look unlike a male stripper. "They start freaking out." He drops his voice an octave and adds a twang. "'What the fuck, you faggot!'"
I start to regret my choice of traveling companions. I came to see blood in the ring, not trickling down my face because someone's aim was off when he was firing a full beer can at one of these guys. It's not like they blend in here, where more than a few of the necks are red and almost all of the collars are blue. Incontrera is wearing a sports coat, for Christ's sake, a fact that is tempered only slightly by the Lex "The Total Package" T-shirt he's wearing underneath it.
But they enjoy the attention from the other fans. They are, in fact, fans of the other fans. For instance: the chubby Goth kid who never misses a match, perched ringside in a camp chair the size of a throne, drinking Mountain Dew out of a three-liter bottle and rubbing his girlfriend's feet. (His name is Ryan Ridgway, I find out later.)
He's here tonight, of course, along with 100 or so others. The crowds have grown in the past year, since XCW moved into its permanent home. Before, when it was based in a strip mall on the other side of town, it'd draw maybe 50 or 60 people, and that was on a good night.
"I think a lot of it is word-of-mouth, because the shows are so good," says Lady Draven, XCW's only regular female wrestler. "You know, like these last few WWE pay-per-views--I'll go out and watch them with some friends, and it'll be like, 'Why would I waste $35 to pay for this when you could go to XCW and see a better show for less, and something that's more real?' And there's a lot of people who didn't go for all this time, even though their friends were begging them to. They finally go for one show, and they're hooked. I think XCW puts on a superior product than what other people are putting out there."
That may be taking it a little far. XCW tries hard, but it still has a ways to go before it can equal WWE in the production value department. Right now, that amounts to an iMac and a video projector. The black walls and dim fluorescent lighting in the "arena"--not to mention the cheap beer and cheaper pizza in just about everyone's hands--make it feel like a party in someone's basement, which it more or less is. It's two weeks until BattleBox 6, XCW's answer to Wrestlemania.
There is a buzz in the crowd when a promo for the event flashes across the huge video screen behind the ring: "Violence...It's Coming...Blood...It's Coming...Mayhem...It's Coming...4/29...BattleBox."
If you want to know how Nite has set XCW apart, well, there's the recipe.
"Most of those kids hear worse at school," he says, and if episodes of South Park are any indication, he's right. "They're there to see a great show. They're there for the entertainment. It's a cheap place to bring your entire family. I'm not really surprised, being that there's just not a whole lot to do in Denton. For 40 bucks, you're able to bring, you know, your kid, your wife or whatever and sit down and have a good time. They can pretty much yell and scream all they want to and get away with it. You don't have to get onto 'em for it. Unless they say something they're not supposed to, but...you know?"
The kids are indoctrinated to the ways of XCW from the beginning. There's no kiddie pool here. The T, XCW's ring announcer, comes out as XCW's rap-metal theme song fills the room, accompanied by a highlight reel culled from the promotion's six years in business on the video screen, with enough blood to pass for a slasher film. The T warms up the crowd, promoting a new sponsor and BattleBox at the same time. "When you see someone getting their face smashed in a fucking fence, it's gonna be a Hurricane Fence!"