October 1, 2014

Elyria
Fog
59°F
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Wrestlers battle hunger with heart-pounding action

SOUTH AMHERST — You wouldn’t want to cross paths with the likes of Aftermath, Shawn Blaze or the Meat Market Mauler. And you definitely wouldn’t want to get in the wrestling ring with them.

But about 70 loyal fans braved Saturday’s snow to watch more than 20 Mega Championship Wrestling stars beat the tar out of each other at the South Amherst Community Center.

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Jason Bane holds “Killer” Chris Kole before slamming him during their match Saturday at South Amherst Community Center.

“I’d get up there if I could avoid a broken neck,” said Logan Perkins, 12, of Elyria, who spent the night getting autographs from his favorite MCW characters.

The real action, though, was at the door, where canned goods were collected to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank.

It was a small take — only about 100 cans due to low attendance because of the storm — but MCW owner Jeff Traxler, 34, of Elyria, said he appreciated every donation.

The night’s proceeds from ticket sales were also were being given to Second Harvest, he said.

Traxler said he wanted to be a wrestler ever since he was a small boy. “I just didn’t know where to go to do it. So I decided I was going to do it myself,” he said.

In 1998, he launched Mega Championship Wrestling and lost $4,000 trying to produce a full-blown extravaganza with his first show.

Today, he’s fixed those early mistakes and draws about 200 people to 10 shows a year in South Amherst and Norwalk, and at Lorain County Community College.

He’s also found about 20 regular musclemen to perform, including Jake “Sodapop Johnson” Marimberga, 23, of Sheffield Lake.

Some nights, Marimberga plays a good guy in the ring, and other nights he’s a bad guy.

“You want them either cheering or booing at you. It doesn’t matter which one, as long as you’re getting a big reaction,” he said.

“Killer” Chris Kole, 25, of Lorain, has been with Traxler since the start but has wrestled all over the world, too.

In the past several years, he’s performed with the USO for troops in Japan, Korea, Guam, Bosnia, Kosovo, Germany and Austria.

The crowds were sometimes as big as 15,000, but Kole said nothing prepared him for an audience of millions when he went on national television in October. That’s when he fought 347-pound WWE superstar Umaga at The Q in Cleveland. The fight aired on Monday Night Raw on the USA Network and on Telemundo.

The huge Samoan wrestler quickly ripped Kole limb from limb, but it was still the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Kole said he has wanted to be a professional wrestler since he was 4 years old, when his mother would take him to matches. He was so excited that he made his own ring with twine and practiced body-slamming a stuffed animal, he said.

Now Kole is Traxler’s top trainer at a wrestling school in Elyria, where he drills students for as long as two years before they’re allowed in the MCW ring.

“It’s a lot harder than people think. I bounce 95 percent of the guys who come in within the first week,” he said.

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.