Taking sport to extremes

The matches take place in bars, and 'alcohol seems to fuel the crowd,' one owner says.
A body slam from the ropes is what John Thorne hopes to give professional wrestling wannabes in Northeast Ohio.
For the past two years, the co-owner of Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) has watched his dreams of creating a local and alternative World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) universe come to fruition.
"It's just kind of our view of professional wrestling and what we want it to be," Thorne said. "I've been involved in a few groups since I was a kid. I just picked up likes and dislikes, and me and my two partners got together and kind of came up with the idea of doing it our way."
Admittedly, the Brooklyn, Ohio, resident is following in the footsteps of WWE's Vince McMahon. Equal parts visionary, showman, entertainer and wrestler, Thorne -- whose wrestling name is The Passion John Thorne -- said there are roughly half a dozen wrestling organizations throughout the Cleveland area; however, he believes AIW is a cut above.
For adults
Not only does AIW stage its matches in bars -- not gyms like many of its peer organizations -- but the story lines aren't cleaned up for family viewing.
"It's more like the WWE with an adult edge," said Thorne, 23, who during the day works for the Cuyahoga County Recorder's office. "We stick to some traditional things but then we stray away and do our own thing. It's kind of a mix that seems to be working for us. We'll do everything from your traditional one-on-one good guy, bad guy match. And then on the same show we'll have a match with six different guys that are just really fast-paced doing flips."
This means often the conventional full nelson and pile driver may give way to a hard-core match featuring tables and ladders.
Thorne said audiences, which have ranged from 150 to 400 people in the past, enjoy the wrestling entertainment in the nontraditional venues where alcohol is served and expletives fly. So far the AIW has appeared at Peabody's DownUnder and The Beachland Ballroom.
"People just seem to have more fun," Thorne said. "We're like more of a party atmosphere where people will be drinking and be yelling at us. The alcohol seems to fuel the crowd. We have steel barricades and a 15-person security team of guards to make sure nothing gets out of hand."
The real deal
Just like the WWE and its predecessor, the World Wresting Federation (WWF), the matches may be staged but that doesn't mean the action isn't real.
"It's very dangerous for the performers," Thorne said. "Everyone on the show has gone through at least a year of wrestling school."
Sensing an opportunity to expand his operations, Thorne is taking AIW outside of Cuyahoga County. The AIW makes its Mahoning Valley debut Friday at the Youngstown Banquet Center (formerly Krakusy Hall).
"We appeal to people who have never even watched a professional wresting show in their life," Thorne said. "It's something that nobody can really explain. We've had everyone from middle-aged fathers to teenagers and never had one complaint. Everyone always seems to come back."

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