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McKeesport home to NWA East Pro-Wrestling Federation

| Monday, June 28, 2004

From outside, it's impossible to guess at the ruckus taking place inside the Sportatorium. The old warehouse in McKeesport is home to the NWA East pro-wrestling federation, part of the 56-year-old National Wrestling Alliance.

The crowd inside, heavy on reverse mullets, fading tattoos and trucker caps, comes here faithfully to see local guys pound the crap out of each other in the squared circle every other Saturday.

Steelers jersey-clad Dave Lloyd, from Irwin, in his "late 30s," can count how many shows he's missed in the federation's nearly 10-year history.

"Probably none," he said.

Mad Mike, a regular-looking guy in denim shorts, a white T-shirt and backward ballcap, strutted down the ramp, hoisting his heavyweight championship belt into the air to wild applause and pre-macho air-guitaring from the young teenage boys.

It's the moment Mary Jane Humphries, 2, was waiting for. Before the show, standing outside with her grandparents Romauldo and Martha Mendez of Glassport, she'd been dancing and chanting "Mike! Mike! Mike!" in anticipation of seeing her favorite wrestler.

The three stood among family, friends and Trans Ams and pickups with bumper stickers reading, "What would Ozzy do?" and "Kiss me, I'm a wrestler."

"When I die," grandad Romauldo said, "they're gonna bury me in a casket shaped like a wrestling ring."

"We're not gonna buy you flowers," Martha said, "we're gonna buy you wrestling dolls."

As Mad Mike riled the crowd, chants of "Kick Stacy's ass," and other unprintable slogans reached him.

"Yinz all want me to hit a girl?" he said.

"YEAH!" the crowd thundered back.

Stacy is Stacy Hunter, valet and bodyguard. She put Mike through a flaming table at the last show, drawing the ire of at least two women who had to be blocked by wrestlers and referees from attacking her as she made her way to the ring later.

Jeanne Cannon, 42, of McKeesport, and a nonviolent member of the anti-Stacy cadre, carries photos of herself and various grapplers.

"I like the cute ones," she said.

Not so with John Stasko and his sons Richard, 14, and Garrett, 10, seated in the $10 front-row seats.

"They like the intimidation," John said of his sons.

But who enjoys wrestling more?

"We do," Garrett piped up on behalf of his brother and himself.

"It's a combo," John said.

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