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Oct

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Wrestle mania on the streets of Copenhagen

 
There are countless odd subcultures all around us, and occasionally they invite us to participate. Spending a night at Copenhagen Championship Wrestling made me realise we should accept these invitations, as we can learn a lot from them

He arrived clad in the Danish flag Dannebrog – a modern day Holger Danske – and stepped up as Denmark’s last hope. But now he lies beaten, bruised and humiliated, pinned down by Mr Universe – a skinny man with a ponytail and leather jacket to illustrate he’s the villain.

The crowd goes wild as the referee taps his hand on the ring floor for the third time, putting our hero out of his misery. Denmark has lost. The rambunctious and drunk audience boos and cheers the wrestlers, as Mr Universe steals the Danish flag and exits through the smoke filled arena door.

Luciano – aka Mr Opera, a perverted-looking, full man in a white suit and sporting a twirled moustache – announces through a broken and distorted soundsystem that there will be an intermission before the main event – the epic matchup between Michael Fynne and The Hangman.

This is a wrestling show, but it’s not taking place in Las Vegas or at a packed arena somewhere in the Deep South. Instead, we are in the decidedly less glamorous KPH Volume on Enghavevej.

Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

Getting sucked in
I only heard about the event the day before and was immediately intrigued. I’ve always been interested in the quirky and weird subcultures that exist beneath mainstream culture. Where niche interests can flourish and likeminded weirdoes can congregate and enjoy themselves.

The morning before the show I learned that the newly founded Copenhagen Championship Wrestling had only sold 13 tickets to the show. I could already picture the condescending article I would write, ripping on geeks who think they are Hulk Hogan.

But standing outside in the hot September night, waiting for the show to recommence, me and my friends – who I had dragged with me – are positively pumped.

We had just witnessed possibly the most outlandish evening entertainment Copenhagen has to offer. Grown half naked men body slamming each other and hurling insults at the audience and each other. It was a curious mixture of fitness competition and soap opera melodrama, with the latter being much more prominent and interesting.

Thankfully, about 150 people had shown up, as this is not an event that would work without a loud and participatory audience. I chat with a Swedish man who had crossed the Øresund bridge just to attend.

“I love wrestling!” he exclaims. I’m not there, but I get the appeal.

Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

Honest fun
The only way to explain wrestling is by comparing it to a children’s play for adults. The audience participates, boos, cheers and the wrestlers constantly interact with the crowd. Everything is fairly obvious. In many ways wrestling is the anthesis to everything that defines our culture today. From our TV shows to our politics, the lines between heroes and villains have never been less clear. But in wrestling we know which is which. The bad guys wore masks, black clothes, or just tell us to “fuck off”. Great, we get it.

We Europeans have had an arrogant sense of the New World as being populated by philistines and the uncultivated. The CIA was so aware and worried about this problem that during the Cold War it threw money at Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and sent Louis Armstrong on European tours to combat this image among the cultural elites.

And it’s undeniable that wrestling is as American as bodegas are Danish. It captures all the elements we associate with American entertainment – violent, crass, silly, but ultimately just honest fun.

It is this honesty that was so evident during the Copenhagen Championship Wrestling show.  Despite being a choreographed, pretend event, it was paradoxically devoid of pretense. I might have entered the wrestling ‘arena’ expecting to roll my eyes and laugh ironically at an undoubtedly weird episode. But as soon as I started laughing shouting and cheering, my intentions went out the window.

Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

Finding community
The headline event was the most captivating. The Hangman had a sizeable fanbase of grown men wearing nooses around their necks. And Michael Fynne got right in the audiences faces, aggressively grabbing people and looking like he was out for blood.

In the end, after a tightly fought match, our hero won – this is after all a children’s play for adults. We scream, we have been entertained.

Outside I meet The Hangman, aka Jesper, and what stands out is his undeniable passion for wrestling.

“I have loved wrestling since I was nine. And the chance to be able to do this with all these incredible people is amazing. I always want to improve my wrestling, and tonight I made so many mistakes. Michael Fynn made me look like an idiot.”

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Copenhagen Championship Wrestling in KPH Volume last month. Photo: Aleksander Klug

He explains how wrestling has not just been fun, but has had an incredibly positive effect on his life.

“I have started to eat better, train more, but there is also this incredible community. We all are there for each other, we all support each other, and I have not been able to find that sense of community anywhere else.”

Walking away from the arena, we are pretty much all smiles. It has been ridiculous, and somewhat embarrassingly entertaining. It has given us that special joviality that can only come from watching people do what they love – from when people stop worrying what other people think, and just go for it. There is a unique honesty in that, which cynical times could use a lot more of. M

Culture

By Elias Thorsson

Managing editor. @Eliasthorsson elias@murmur.dk

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