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Now showing: a throwback throwdown

Two requirements for wrestlers: fast-paced action, clean language

By LOGAN NEILL
Published October 21, 2006


The mere mention of their names by the announcer is enough to make fans seethe. And the very sight of “Fabulous” Phil Davis and “Superstar” Sean Davis sneering and parading around to the throbbing strains of Warrant’s Cherry Pie as they hold up their title belts brings a blistering chorus of boos.

The 300-pound Sean, who sports wavy platinum blond hair and dresses in outrageous trunks with the words “You’re Just Jealous” sewn onto his mammoth backside, shouts into the microphone.

“The belts are back home where they belong!”

He adds more fuel to the fire by admonishing the crowd that they should be grateful to be in the presence of Full Impact Pro Wrestling’s “greatest tag team champions.”

Though champs they may be, in professional wrestling parlance the guys who bill themselves as Heartbreak Express are “heels” — villains, and the duo excels when it comes to getting the crowd’s blood boiling.

A red-faced teen in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey screams insults at the flamboyant tag team as they double up on challenger Bobby Hopkins.

Hopkins’ partner Jaison  Moore manages to mount a comeback with a stunning “clothesline” chop to Sean Davis, only to succumb when the pair uses their celebrated “flapjack” to effectively ending the night for the challengers.

It’s easy for most people to dismiss pro wrestling, with its over-the-top theatrics and exaggerated violence, as nothing but a stunt show.

Sal Hamaoui would not disagree, except that as promoter for Full Impact Pro wrestling, he knows what his fans want.

“They know it’s not real; they just want to be entertained,” offered Hamaoui. “We just try to put on the best show we can and let them decide whether it’s worth the money or not.”

Hamaoui launched FIP in August 2003 with a two-pronged mission: to bring clean, inexpensive, family-style professional wrestling to far-flung areas where other promoters never venture.

In the year that Hamaoui’s company has been promoting shows in Citrus, Sumter, Pasco and Hernando counties, FIP has managed to amass a following.

The Oct. 13  wrestling performance, the second that Hamaoui promoted in Brooksville, brought in about 120 paying fans to the Hernando County Fairgrounds. Though the turnout wasn’t quite what he had hoped for, Hamaoui believes that will change in time.

From all indications, he’s on the right track. Most shows in Citrus and Sumter counties, where FIP has been staging monthly matches for the past eight months, have drawn 300 to 400 fans.

With $10 to $15  adult and $5 kids admission prices, it can be a cheaper night out than most movie theaters — and some ardent fans might argue, way more entertaining.

Though interest in wrestling may be on the wane, FIP appears to be a throwback to earlier times when Florida was a true hotbed for professional wrestling.

During the 1960s and 1970s,  Championship Wrestling From Florida, a weekly syndicated TV show that aired weekly on about a dozen stations throughout the state, brought wrestling into thousands of households.

Hamaoui, 37, says he too got hooked watching host Gordon Solie interview stars such as Dusty Rhodes, Dory and Terry Funk and Mike Graham. In fact, in 2002 it was Graham who approached Hamaoui, who was running a video production company, to produce a wrestling series for a South Florida station. The meeting ultimately encouraged Hamaoui to try his hand at promoting.

Most of FIP’s early shows, which were held in metropolitan areas, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, failed to draw much interest. It was only when he began looking into smaller markets — those with less competition for entertainment dollars — that Hamaoui began to realize FIP’s potential.

“People in those areas feel a bit left out when it comes to live entertainment,” Hamaoui said. “They aren’t going to go to the city for wrestling.”

As a self-avowed old-schooler, Hamaoui disdains the raw, profanity-filled slug-fests that big-time entities such as World Wrestling Entertainment and TNA Wrestling currently use.

 “The problem with stuff like WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is that they’ve gotten away from what made wrestling fun, the story plots that made the good guys good and the bad guys bad,” said Hamaoui. “It’s just garbage.”

Hamaoui counters that image by controlling the quality as well as the continuity of his product. About the only thing he asks of the 20 or so independent wrestlers on the FIP roster is that the action be fast-paced and the language stay clean.

Sean and Phil Davis (whose real names are Sean Pascoe and Phil Dodson) are the longest-running act on FIP’s roster. As Heartbreak Express, they have starred on nearly every card, and, according to Hamaoui, are a part of the relationship that keeps fans coming back week after week.

When not in the ring, the two teammates lead fairly quiet lives. Dodson, 29, works nights at a Kmart in Tampa. Pascoe, 30, works for a medical supply house. Weekends allow them to escape into a world where conflicts are resolved with head locks, scissor holds and body slams.  

“We have a lot of fun with it,” said Dodson, who has been wrestling for nine of his 29 years. “It’s role-playing. It allows you to go out and be someone for a little while that you’re not in real life.”

Yet, however staged wrestling appears to be, Dodson and Pascoe insist there is a lot more realism than most people think. Both have suffered  their share of fractures and sore ligaments.

“You can’t fake gravity,” offered Dodson. “When you hit the mat or the floor, it’s real. And it hurts.”
Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

FULL IMPACT PRO WRESTLING
Upcoming matches will be held on the following dates:
Nov. 10: 8 p.m. at Citrus County Auditorium
3610 S. Florida Ave., Inverness. Tickets are $15 for adults $5 for kids 13 and under.

Nov. 11: 8 p.m. Sumter County Fairgrounds,
7684 State Road 471, Bushnell. Tickets are $10 for adults $5 for kids 13 and under.
Doors for all shows open at 7:30 p.m.
For information, call (352) 422-4582  or visit www.fullimpact.com.