Cinco de Mayhem, a scripted, theatrical, acrobatic, athletic celebration of professional wrestling, slammed into La Poblanita in Bremerton Friday and Saturday.
Aside went the restaurant’s tables and booths for a couple days, replaced by a large wrestling ring — the stage for conflicts between fans’ favorite local faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys). The two-day event featured more than 40 local wrestlers during the Cinco de Mayo weekend.
“It’s comic books essentially: heroes and villains and larger-than-life characters,” said the show’s booker, Rob Milliron. “It’s off the wall.”
Or perhaps better stated: off the ropes. Milliron’s characters bounce off the ring’s boundaries, flip each other over their shoulders, shove each other across the floor in carefully-calculated throws and toss in a few theatrical chokeholds, all the while maintaining their big personas. It’s, of course, not entirely genuine, but there is real blood, sweat and bruises to go along with the dramatic flair.
Milliron crafts his storylines for each match and links them to broader multi-show story arcs to keep fans coming back for more. Heroes and villains each draw their own raucous fans.
“I most like manipulating the emotions of the crowd,” he said. “You make an agreement with the crowd that they’re going to watch some stuff that isn’t necessarily the most real and believe it, and you’re going to do some things that aren’t real and pretend that it is. The crowd and the performer are making this compromise that you’re both going to believe that it’s real. That’s unique to wrestling and I appreciate that.”
Ryan Reidel and his son Tavis showed up before one of Saturday’s matches, and the youth got to hop in the ring to experience it all firsthand with some of the event’s experienced performers.
“Where else are you going to find this opportunity?” Reidel said, watching his young son test out acrobatic wrestling dives, somersaults and flips for the first time. “It’s just so goofy. It’s kind of a joke: ‘Oh, it’s fake wrestling!’ But you come here and you watch it, and you start cheering. You forget this is fake.”
Bremerton-based Suquamish Championship Wrestling, the group organizing the weekend’s festivities, has regular matches and practice sessions. It’s a way to have fun, but it’s also a way to help local kids, Milliron said.
“We train a lot of youth,” he said. “Bremerton has a lot of at-risk youths, so we give them a place to train and stay out of trouble.”
Tyler Callaghan, an 18-year-old Bremerton native watching the sessions Saturday, said he has trained with the group and has learned more than just rolls and pile drivers. He’s also gained a few life lessons along the way.
“I’ve learned how to respect people and cherish other people’s values over mine,” he said.