Magnum Pro Presents: Anniversary Volume 4

Donny Dollinger 152 views

A trash can is flying through the air at Jaysin Strife in front of screaming fans. Stevie Richards, a former WWE wrestler, tosses Strife onto a table and drags him across the floor by his hair.

It's just a typical Saturday at Magnum Pro, a wrestling league.

Wrestlers in the Council Bluffs-based group emerge from a curtained backstage into a cloud of smoke. The crowd screams, cheering on their favorite characters and cussing out the ones they can't stand. At times, it's unclear whether red-faced, screaming fans are actually furious or just caught up in the moment.

Magnum Pro is not politically correct. It's definitely not high-brow entertainment. But there's just something fun about watching a couple of people kick each other's behinds.

"There's this stereotype that a lot of wrestling fans are kind of redneck and don't know a whole lot and don't realize that it's predetermined and all that, but we just enjoy the spectacle of it," said fan Brian Johnson, who grew up watching professional wrestling and now attends Magnum Pro.

The league comes from humble beginnings.

Founder Nathan Blodgett, who wrestles under the name Jaysin Strife, began the league in 2011 in an Eagles Club in Council Bluffs. Blodgett had to build a custom ring to fit the club and its 10-foot ceilings. It was a far cry from Sokol Auditorium, where Magnum will begin holding its matches starting this month.

Initially, he said he wanted to draw the "hipster crowd."

"I wanted them to come in and be drinking PBRs all night, and just be like this is ridiculous, we all know wrestling is fake, but c'mon, this is entertaining, we're having fun," Blodgett said.

Blodgett and his friends started wrestling in the backyard when they were teenagers. They would smack each other with boards and whatever else they could find. He wrestled for the junior high team, but once he hit high school, he quit because he was hazed and had ribs broken.

When he was 19, working as an assistant manager of a Foot Locker, he faked illness to attend a wrestling show.

His original plan was to turn 20 and head to school to be a stuntman. But at that match, he ran into Hype Gotti, a well-known wrestler in the now-defunct Omaha Wrestling Association. Gotti said Blodgett looked like he had it in him to be a wrestler. He took Blodgett under his wing and began training with him at the OWA's wrestling school.

Blodgett began traveling the Midwest to compete. He's wrestled on the West and East Coasts, Europe and all over.

Fast-forward a few years, and Blodgett is successfully running the biggest wrestling league in the Omaha area. The wrestlers are personalities, and their matches are all-out performances.

The whole event plays out a bit like a soap opera. Wrestlers yell names at each other in the ring and get in verbal and then physical fights.

Donnie Dodge announced a match in September, his face painted red, turning him into "Huska." By day, Dodge is an Omaha firefighter. But on his off days, he used to don bright-red clothing and a face-painted mask to smash opponents in the ring. He is now retired.

A tag team called Guns N Beer spent most of its time in the ring drinking booze and playing the part of stereotypical rednecks, shotgunning cans of beer in flannel as they battled their Spandex-clad opponents.

Another villainous wrestler fought as the Gorgeous Alex Gretzky. He waltzed around the arena, holding a mirror and looking at himself. "I don't really feel like wrestling tonight," he says. "Why don't we have a pose down?"

Joey Anderson of Guns N Beer responded: "I'll give you a pose, but afterwards, we're having a chugging contest."

The pair got in each other's faces and eventually came to blows, in a ridiculous fight much like those you've seen in the WWE. The crowd called out to Gretzky, attacking his faux vanity and screaming, "You're ugly."

Wrestler Mikey Danger, real name Mike Stonebraker, said that a lot of people are skeptical about wrestling.

"Wrestling has a stigma about it that it shouldn't have," he said. "I think a lot of people are stuck in the mindset that we're trying to fool you with smoke and mirrors."

But Stonebraker swears that every punch and kick makes contact. Nobody is trying to knock you out or hurt you, he said, but he feels every one of those punches. Blodgett has been knocked out more than a handful of times.

Sokol Auditorium will welcome the "Magnum Pro Battle Royale Cup," complete with a tag team "tables, ladders and chairs" match. The winning team will have to climb a ladder to snatch a wrestling belt, hung in the air above the ring, to be declared the champion. There will plenty of tables and chairs to smack one another with. Saturday's event will feature some of Magnum's signature wrestling, too.

More than 500 people came out to the most recent Magnum Pro Event, held at the Ramada Plaza Convention Center in early September. Blodgett said he hopes this week's crowd is just as big.

"If you keep pushing the envelope, people are going to start latching on and loving it," Blodgett said.

Buy Tickets

Sokol Auditorium and Underground

(402) 346-9802

The Sokol Auditorium is located at 2234 South 13th Street in the Little Bohemia neighborhood of south Omaha, Nebraska. It is a local...