Every Saturday night the sounds of pain, torture and victory ring out from a small warehouse nestled off Highway 41 near Ringgold. Locals recognize these cries of agony as the signs that the American Wrestling Federation is well and truly back in Catoosa.
After a five-year absence, many of the wrestlers are itching for blood. They have scores to settle, revenges to wreck and championships to defend.
Theres Fly Boy, whose fierce appearance has as much to do with his bulging muscles as the gold bulldog hanging from his neck and the flames on his boots. Hes got an ego the size of the ring and theres no room for any other competitor in it.
Nature Boy Paul E. Lee has wrestled for 26 years, and hes out to prove that an old dog can learn new tricks.
Im going to bring the pain, he told Iron Man at a recent match, and make you love it.
Sledge and Iron Man claim to be the best tag team AWF ever had. But now theyre looking for personal glory. The brothers live and train in Red Bank, Tenn., better known to some as Blood Country. They dont care for the flash of other wrestlers. Instead they show up to battle it out in denim shorts and overalls.
Everyones been asking, said Sledge, if the AWF ever opens up again, will I fight Paul Lee. And Sledge is not one to turn down a challenge.
Add a host of other characters into the mix and youve got a battle of epic proportions.
For the past month the AWF has been hosting qualifying matches for the big event American Torture. The hardcore event will be Aug. 18 and no one knows what to expect, not even the wrestlers themselves.
Expect a lot of bloodshed, said Lee. Weapons will come out. You never know what will happen.
American Torture Match
What: Hardcore event, bloodshed
When: Aug. 18, 8 p.m.
Where: AWF Arena, 4513 Highway 41
Tickets go on sale Aug. 11. Call (706) 965-8508 for more details.
In the past Nature Boy has wielded a table wrapped in barbed wire, and once fought in a ring covered with 25,000 thumbtacks. He claims to have pulled 200 of them from his body after the match.
Were bringing about wrestling the way people love it, Lee said.
Its all in the family
Twenty-six years ago Lee met and trained with a group of Mexican wrestlers and soon developed the persona of Nature Boy. He wrestled for Ted Turner for three years as part of the WCW, and now hes considering trying out for a spot with the WWE.
On July 7, due to popular demand and the need to train, Lee reopened the AWF.
Were ready to put Ringgold, Ga. on the map, he said.
The AWF is a family business for the Lees. Tonja, Pauls wife, works the ticket booth and concessions stand, among other behind-the-scenes duties. Their oldest son, Lex, works sound for the matches while their middle child, Paul, Jr., does sportscaster announcing from the booth. Peyton, the Lees youngest, might be the AWFs biggest fan and his job is to get the crowd excited for the next match.
Wrestling in the Lee house is like a normal day of breathing for others, Paul said. The kids love it. Its in their blood.
The Lees dedicated one of their storage buildings, part of their Budget Moving and Storage day business, to the wrestling arena. It features rows of stadium seats, six mounted televisions, a concessions stand and enough colored lights to decorate a Christmas parade.
The wrestlers enter from a backstage area and onto a catwalk, displaying their attitude to the pounding beat of arena rock anthems. But the focus of attention is, of course, the ring itself, which is bright yellow and blue and about five feet from the front row.
Some say the AWF is wrestlings best kept secret, Lee said. But weve got to come out now, and let people get a taste of professional wrestling, ringside, at a price they can afford.
AWF on TVThe tube: Check the schedules for the CW network and UCTV-3. They might soon be playing live recordings of AWF matches.
The web: After American Torture, the next hardcore event will be Smash Bash in October. The Lees hope to have live pay-per-view streaming online by that time.
DVD: A DVD recording of American Torture will be available nationwide.
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