HANFORD — Hanford will be the scene of a slobberknocker Sunday, as professional wrestling promotion Best of the West invades downtown.
This will be the promotion’s second time bringing its televised “Ignition” show to the Hanford Civic Auditorium.
“I think that Hanford has a beautiful downtown area that is all wrapped around the civic center, which is just an amazing venue for wrestling,” said Best of the West co-owner and performer Mike Rayne. “We focus a lot on our TV product, and the civic center is one of the most beautiful venues we run our events at.”
It’s not only the building’s ability to look nice on screen when the shows are later shown on KAIL, Fite.TV and YouTube, but the Hanford crowds bring a lot of energy to the tapings, Rayne says.
“The family atmosphere and community vibe is exactly what we look for in areas we would like to hold our events,” he says. “We pride ourselves on delivering a product that is safe for young children, but still entertaining for the adults as well.”
The matches on the card for Sunday’s local show have big stakes that could impact the Fresno-based promotion’s big two-year anniversary Pay-Per-View show in March, Rayne says.
The two marquee matches on the stacked bill are a women’s match between Shotzi Blackheart and Desi Derata and the main event, sees BotW Champion Funnybone take on challenger Sinn Bodhi for the belt.
Bodhi is a former WWE superstar, who wrestled under the name Kizarny while working alongside the likes of Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, Evan Bourne and others. He currently runs the Las Vegas-based Freakshow Wrestling, which focuses on comedy and features wrestlers like Techno Destructo from metal band GWAR, among other familiar faces.
“Hanford is one of our last stops on the way [to the anniversary show],” Rayne says. “So there is a lot on the line.”
Rayne will also be performing Sunday night. A 15-year veteran of the business, he has performed all over America and Mexico.
“Mexican crowds are more likely to dress up as their favorite wrestlers and bring banners and air horns. The U.S. crowds, though, absolutely get deeply into the story and get very involved in the ins and outs of wrestlers’ backstories and feuds,” he says. “But at the same time they’re all there for the same form of entertainment.”
The night will be hosted by Best of the West announcer A.J. Kirsch, a former contestant on WWE’s “Tough Enough” TV show, where he competed for a shot on their roster while training with wrestling legends.
The phrase I keep going back to when asked about ‘Tough Enough’ is ‘surreal.’ As a fan, I felt like I had won the life lottery,” Kirsch said.
Kirsch says he needs to remind himself it wasn’t all a dream when he recalls filming the show in 2011 when, at a dinner table covered in steaks and booze, that on one end sat “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and, at the other end, sat John Cena.
“Not a day goes by that I am not extremely grateful for my time on ‘WWE Tough Enough,’ “ he said.
Kirsch made his in-ring debut in 2005 but has since leaned into the emcee/announcer role, giving up regular matches in 2012. Kirsch welcomes the transition, and the lack of damage it does to his body that comes along with it, though he says he may still have a few matches left in him.
“I have yet to step foot in the ring at Best of the West as a competitor, but over the last few months, I have been strongly urged by the fans to do so because of constant antagonizing by [fellow performer], Steven Tresario,” he says. “It hasn't gotten to the point that I feel compelled to lace up the boots just yet, but there comes a point when enough is enough.”
The show kicks off at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Hanford Civic Auditorium. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets range from $10-$15, available online in advance at www.botw.tv/tickets.