Jake's Big Break

A computer geek dons a blue wig and takes a flying leap at the fringes of pro wrestling.

It was a great gig. The Vans Warped Tour, a traveling punk-music show, had recently decided to add pro wrestling to its act. The promoters had selected a San Francisco outfit called Incredibly Strange Wrestling. It wasn't exactly the bigtime -- Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan would not be showing their faces anytime soon. But by the end of the summer, the show had made 45 stops.

And ISW had its own appeal. At every stop, wrestlers like Ku Klux Clown, the Monkey Medics (guys who wrestle in gorilla suits) and the Poontangler (with her infant son, actually a bearded midget) hit the mat. They were joined by Culo de Muerte (roughly, "Ass of Death"), El Pollo Loco (a Satanic chicken) and El Homo Loco.

Though it was hard to name highlights in a tour filled with them, a few stood out above the rest. There was the time in July, in Utah, where the crowd chanted, "You suck dick!" to The Cruiser, and without missing a beat, he yelled back, "Yes...I do!" Or the time in Idaho, when the Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice in the audience tried to kill ISW wrestler and neo-Nazi The Oi Boy, who had entered the ring to the song "White Power."

A wigless Jake Shannon (right) gives a salute with Vampiro.
A wigless Jake Shannon (right) gives a salute with Vampiro.
The good boy: Jake, GIl Shannon and Joey Senter in a quiet moment.
The good boy: Jake, GIl Shannon and Joey Senter in a quiet moment.

And then there was Libido Gigante's classic match against lucha libre star Vampiro. It was at the Toronto Skydome, with 14,000 yelling fans. The contest started out well for Jake. "He let me beat the fuck out of him with a bat," Jake recalls. "So that was really cool." But Vampiro is a genuine headliner (he later threw The Oi Boy through a table and kneed the announcer in the groin), and Libido Gigante was destined to lose. Still, it was quite a memory.

Road life was hard, yet one thing that Jake liked about the show, in which the audience is given tortillas to throw at the ring performers in place of more dangerous bottles and cans, was its social consciousness. For example, he says, when MoBush loses to The Cruiser, "What we're trying to do is make the gay guy the good guy and the hetero guy the bad guy. So you can see the message."

Plus, at $150 a day, the pay was great.

Early on in Jake's new career, Joey and Gil, despite their past personal differences, would go to all of his wrestling matches together. "Honestly, being a parent -- and being a single parent -- I was worried that he'd get hurt," Gil remembers.

"They're kind of scary," adds Joey. "He says he knows what he's doing, though, so I just grin and bear it."

"When I thought of professional wrestling, I always thought -- well, I don't want to say lowlifes," Joey says. "But that's kind of what I thought, to be honest. And my son is kind of weird. So I guess it's still true."

"The first time I saw pro wrestling, I was nine years old," recalls Kimi Cobb, Jake's fiancée. "My brother forced me to watch it. I cried." Now, she says, "It's pitiful. I know all the theme songs." (The two met when Jake spotted Kimi in a bookstore, followed her to the bathroom and waited outside until she came out.)

"I've seen him wrestle," adds Rucker. "I don't think I'd bring my seven-year-old."

Even Jake's parents, despite their unequivocal support, haven't liked everything they've seen. "I'm not being a prude, but I don't think all that stuff is necessary," says Gil. "I've seen the stuff on TV, and I think that's okay. The off-color stuff, though, I don't think is necessary.

"But," he adds quickly, "Jake is my best friend, and I'm happy for him."

"Maybe someday," Kal Rucker adds, "we can say, 'We knew that guy back when he sat in a cubicle next to us.'"

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help