The Lucha Libre & Laughs showcase is clearly a labor of love for producer Nick Gossert. A filmmaker, comedian and bumbling referee, Gossert is responsible for not only booking the funniest comics in Denver, but also juggling the schedules of all the wrestlers involved, renting the ring and doing the lion's share of promotion. Despite the challenge of putting this all together, and a few minor setbacks, the Lucha Libre & Laughs with celebrate its one-year anniversary with Laughmania! on Sunday, May 11. This edition event features comedians Deacon Gray, Kevin O'Brien, Kristin Rand and Chuck Roy, with wrestlers Delta Jr., El Tecolote, Matt Classic and International Superstar Colt Cabana, and running color commentary from Jordan Doll and Nate Balding. In honor of Sunday's special evening of gutbusters and backbreakers, Westword caught up with Gossert to look back on a year of shows, discuss his love of cheesy Lucha movies, and the similarities between comedy and wrestling.
Westword: Do you get a lot of Juggalos at Lucha Libre & Laughs shows? I know their fan base has some crossover with wrestling. Nick Gossert: Insane Clown Posse are huge for wrestling, and I actually like to admire them for that. They put together Juggalo Championship Wrestling, and they put money into it. They bring in big names. I know guys who've wrestled for them. Colt Cabana, who's on the show Sunday, has wrestled for Juggalos. Their fans are apparently animals. Not actual animals, but you know, like spitters. Colt Cabana did this whole series where he was "officer Colt Cabana" and he was trying to beat up and arrest "Weedman." The crowd was so ferociously against him, they would pelt him with batteries. Can you imagine? I mean, I love wrestling, and getting into it emotionally, but can you imagine being so angry at a man who's fake-fighting that you would throw a 9-volt at him?
I can't imagine carrying that many batteries around. I assume they've been used?
What do they do, save up their batteries all year long just to nail a guy with them? I heard a wrestler on a podcast talk about doing one of their Gatherings of the Juggalos, and there was this guy walking around selling bags of throwing rocks for a dollar. Genius. He showed up with a bunch of sacks, and his plan was to gather all the good throwin' rocks so they could pelt, you know, TilaTequila.
That's pure profit! I wonder if they're concerned about missing and accidentally hitting a brother Juggalo.
We've gotten onto a weird thread already!
I just think it's funny that you've got a Juggalo contingent showing up to the show, although I guess it doesn't surprise me. How do the comics typically do? Do you guys usually draw more of a wrestling crowd or a comedy crowd?
It's been mixed. Wrestling fans are there to have fun, so as long as the comics are fun -- I mean, everybody kills. We had one weird show, it was on a Thursday because I was just trying to be experimental and see if it could work during the week and it had snowed the day before. So it was cold, it was a weekday, and I think only fifty people showed up. Still, fifty people, I mean, everybody got paid. But the energy was weird and a couple of the comics didn't do so well. Other than that one show, the crowd loves the comedy as much as they love the wrestlers. It's a similar energy. It's just goofy fun.
That's why we have the comics doing to color commentary. We've had Sam Tallent and Nathan Lund and this time it's going to be Jordan Doll and Nate Balding. Sam and Lund were really angry with themselves for booking shows out of town for this one, because they've been wanting to work with Colt Cabana. This is the one-year anniversary and they've put a lot into the show, emotionally. You should have seen Lund trying to make it all work. The look on his face, like in Toy Story 3 when they're trapped in the vent and they think they're going to die, and they're just waiting because everything went wrong. That was the look on Lund's face when he realized he'd be missing the anniversary.
Lund loves doing these shows.
He does! Truly, deeply. He's gotten to get in the ring and knock over some bad guys. He got slapped in the chest and I actually broke character as ref to laugh at him. These really big, muscular guys -- Peluche Maldad and Fuego -- were giving him chops and just not pulling their punches at all. It sounded like a baseball being knocked out of a stadium.
Did he say anything afterwards?
He loved it. He thought it was great.
Do you usually try not to break character as the referee?
By and large I play kind of a goofy, bad ref. I get easily distracted, like most referees, and the bad guys sneak attack when I'm not looking. There was one show where there were these drunk girls down front. You know, just "wooooo!" Going crazy. One of the favorite wrestling tricks is when the bad guy points something out to the ref so his partner can go foul the good guy. So he's pointing at these "wooooo!" girls. So I look and she pulls her shirt up and flashes me her tits. That's when I knew I was doing something right.
Is Deacon going to be back? I know he likes playing his manager character, too.
Yeah, he'll be back. Once again, he's another huge fan. It's something I've always suspected and learned out more and more: Most comics are huge wrestling fans. It's like, "You too? I thought I was the only one!"
Keep reading for more from Nick Gossert. I liked your classic '80s WWF. I got pretty into NWO-era WCW in middle school, my friends would order those pay-per-view matches. It kind of tapered off for me after that.
Yeah, most people grow up. I came to it so weirdly, because I'd always loved wrestling but then I got into MMA. I had a legit MMA career and then got hurt. I started paying more attention to wrestling after I lived in Mexico for a while. So I essentially matured and then crashed right back down.
Were you into Lucha in particular, or did that come about when you were in Mexico?
A little bit. I was downtown, back when Media Play still existed, and I saw a movie in the bargain VHS bin. It was called Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolfman. I saw masked Mexican wrestlers fighting monsters and thought, "What the hell is this? $1.98? You're going home with me, my beauty." And it kind of got me into Lucha. Back in the '60s and '70s, the Lucha stars would shoot three-piece-of-shit movies every year. They'd be masked wrestlers, but also scientists who solved mysteries. Santo is like the Hulk Hogan of Mexico, and in the movie he builds a time machine to go back in time to fight Dracula and take his treasure. Why? I don't know.
So it started with the movies rather than, say, Rey Mysterio?
No, it wasn't really. I wasn't paying as much attention to wrestling at that point. It's kind of what started me on this weird journey of mine. I saw a bad wrestling movie because I already loved bad movies. Then I looked that each wrestler made like fifty movies. Every one for about $500. Beautiful insane dog shit. So much weirdness.
Do you have any favorite ones that you found after going down that rabbit hole?
Some of my favorites are The Champions of Justice. It starts out with them riding their motorcycles to a match with surf music playing. The plot of the movie is that each of these wrestlers has a beautiful goddaughter who's in the Miss World pageant. They get kidnapped by an evil scientist who has an army of super-powered midgets who wear these goofy red spandex outfits. There's a great fight scene where it's all the wrestlers fighting midgets.
Do these movies acknowledge how ridiculous they are in any way?
Oh, no. They are playing it straight.
That's beautiful. There are so few things that exist like that anymore.
I hate it when there's winking at the camera. Like an episode of Family Guy. I've met one of the biggest stars in Lucha Libre history, his name is Blue Demon, and I know his son. Blue Demon Jr. is a very serious man. He's got a sense of humor, but like a lot of those old-school Lucha guys, he's very serious about what he does. So they went in to be in these movies, getting paid a couple thousand dollars at most to shoot for three days. One of my favorite things about watching the old color movies is how terrible the wardrobe is. Blue Demon's mask is blue and silver, you think they'd try to stick with a theme, but he's wearing like a brown jacket and a green turtleneck.
I like that they keep their Luchador masks on all the time and no one says anything about it. How are you feeling about reaching this important anniversary?
Pretty darn good. A couple years ago, knowing that I'd been kind of involved in the local wrestling scene, Nathan Lund called me up about wanting to have wrestling as part of Too Much Funstival. It was at Casselman's. There were two tag-team matches, some comics and the bands. I remember thinking, "Damn it, there's something here if we just switch around the ingredients." I let it marinate for a while and worked on other things, then just decided, "Fuck it. Let's do this show. Let's do this one thing, let's make it awesome and have a great time."
I didn't think there would be more than the one show. But I got Sam and Nathan to do color commentary and I got Jordan to host, and I set up the wrestling matches thinking it was going to be the most fun thing ever, and it was. And like most fun things -- be it comedy, wrestling or heroin -- once you get a taste of it, you're going to want that next taste. So we started doing it every six weeks. We had a little setback when Dos Equis dropped their sponsorship. Fortunately, the patron saint of Denver comedy, Kayvan Khalatbari, stepped in. He's obviously not putting a million dollars into this thing, but he kept it going. Now it's an official Sex Pot-branded comedy experience. That's why we've been able to hit the year mark and bring in some names.
It must be a challenge to coordinate everything behind the scenes.
Oh, yeah. If you think about what I've got to put together, I've got to get comics lined up, set a date at the theater, sell tickets and arrange for sponsors, because it's insanely expensive to put on. It's an insanely expensive show. It's a lot of pressure to make sure we have the ring at the right time. There's various sources for rings, but only one guy who's really in my price range, so I have to make sure I'm not running a show the same time that he is. Then I have to coordinate -- and I'm not saying that some of these guys have concussion problems -- wrestlers who I'll call the day of, like, "Where are you? You're the main event," and have them tell me that they're in Mexico. Heck, the first show, I didn't know who'd be in the matches until an hour before the show.
Are there a lot of locally-based wrestlers?
There's some really good local wrestling. For that straight WWE-style pro-wrestling, New Era Wrestling out in Golden puts on great shows every month. For the more hardcore ECW stuff, Primos is amazing; they fly in lots of stars. For Lucha Libre, you have Hugo bring in guys like Fishman Jr. and put on these amazing shows. Then I just take everybody from everywhere and bring them to my crazy comedy wrestling party.
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Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words