Sports

WrestleCircus Leads the Pack of Impressive Promotions in Town


Photo Frankie Cardenas

Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream. Mark Henry, the world's strongest man. The phenom, the dead man, the Undertaker. Legends of pro wrestling that have called Austin home, and right now the city is in an independent revolution, with three local promotions. There's Inspire Pro Wrestling, spotlighting Lone Star State talent; Anarchy Championship Wrestling, celebrating Japanese joshi-style women's wrestling; and WrestleCircus. In less than a year, its blockbuster shows crammed with global talent like luchador Rey Fenix, and the super-hot wrestling faction the Bullet Club, have made headlines around the wrestling world. Last month, Dusty Rhodes' son Cody defended the prestigious Ring of Honor world championship in its ring, a moment that founder Al Lenhart called "really cool." It wasn't just his high-impact match with Scorpio Sky. After the bout, Lenhart said, "Cody was in the ring, holding a dog, with thumb tacks in his back, raising money for Austin Pets Alive!" WrestleCircus is a super-indie – part of that elite cadre of promotions mounting shows rivaling big companies with TV deals. Its success exceeds the wildest dreams of Al and his wife, Lexi, who never really planned on becoming wrestling promoters. They were happy with their corporate jobs – Al in IT sales, Lexi in pharmaceuticals – when a massive medical emergency changed everything. Recovering from a bout of neurotoxin poisoning, Al's mind went back to growing up poor and watching wrestling with his family as a kind of escape. He said, "When I started getting better, I came to Lexi and said, 'I want to set up a wrestling promotion.'" That didn't mean running away from their corporate day jobs, but instead applying the lessons learned from successful tech start-ups to the locker room. For example, they stream all shows via video gaming platform Twitch, which means viewers can tip wrestlers directly (for their next show, Texas vs. the World, all funds raised will go to Hurricane Harvey aid). Lenhart said, "When we travel for work, we get an itinerary, and we're not put in shoddy two-star hotels, and we don't pack 10 people into a room. We try to make the wrestlers feel like stars." Word of their shows' quality has been locker-room talk internationally, making it easy for them to get top-line talent. But for Al and Lexi, it's not about high-profile headliners. "It's this whole, inclusive thing that started with us focusing on the people behind the curtain and the people in the seats."

WrestleCircus: Texas vs. the World, Sept. 9; CircusMania, Oct. 21; Carnival Carnage, Nov. 18; Ring of Fire, Dec. 16. Travis County Expo Hall, 7311 Decker. www.wrestlecircus.com.

Inspire Pro Wrestling: Fade to Black III, Nov. 12. Austin Sports Center, 425 Woodward. www.inspireprowrestling.com.

Anarchy Championship Wrestling: www.anarchychampionshipwrestling.com.

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