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The Suburbanite
  • Wrestlers look to put choke hold on addiction

  • It was likely the first – and possibly the last – time that well-tanned men wearing feather boas, neon-colored spandex shorts and cowboy hats paraded out onto the stage of a church to classic rock music.


    It was also a night when sermons, worship songs and Bible verses were swapped for body slams, frog splashes and suplexes.

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  • It was likely the first – and possibly the last – time that well-tanned men wearing feather boas, neon-colored spandex shorts and cowboy hats paraded out onto the stage of a church to classic rock music.
    It was also a night when sermons, worship songs and Bible verses were swapped for body slams, frog splashes and suplexes.
    The Dustin Batdorff Invitational “Dropkick the Addiction” pro wrestling event at River Tree Christian Church was an amalgam of a good cause and one of the most unlikely events to be held in a place of worship. Two worlds that seemingly had nothing to do with one another came together in support of a good cause.
    The event was a fundraiser in memory of Dustin Batdorff, a 2008 graduate of Jackson who died Sept. 25, 2011 after a year-long battle with an addiction to opiates that began with taking a friend's pain medication.
    Batdorff, a standout athlete for the Polar Bears whose successes as a grappler began at an early age, died the night before he was scheduled to enter rehab for his addiction.
    His story was shared before the matches began in a video comprised of old family videos and photographs showing Batdorff, his siblings and parents during happier times. The video is a tool the Batdorffs use when they speak to students and community groups on the issues of addiction and support.
    His family decided the best way to honor his memory was by raising funds for the Stark County branch of the S.O.L.A.C.E. program, which stands for “Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Everyday.”
    The group's mission is to help those who have lost a loved one to addiction and to assist those with addiction issues in changing their lives. Nearly everyone who picked up a microphone during the night echoed that message and made sure the point was communicated.
    The evening began with promo videos for six matches to take place during the night featuring local wrestlers and competitors from Ohio Championship Wrestling.
    There was the “Battle of the Stache” between “Mega Star” Marion Fontaine and OCW champion Jeremy “The Butcher” Madrox, tag team matches and more singles competition and all were qualifiers for a six-man match at the end of the night to decide the champion of the event.
    Prior to the first match, ring announcer John Orlando called all of the wrestlers out to the ring as the lights dimmed for a 10-bell salute to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives to any sort of addiction.
    In another unique twist for a professional wrestling event, an opening prayer was offered up. Then it was time to start the action.
    Three hours of wrestling entertained the crowd of more than 500, including five rows of VIP fans seated around the red-aproned ring, topped with black canvas and red turnbuckles.
    Page 2 of 3 - Each match featured a fan favorite against a “heel” (a wrestling term for a bad guy) and plenty of shenanigans.
    In the first match, Matt Taylor took to the ring and initially looked to curry crowd favor by saying what an honor it was to be part of such a special event.
    “This is a great night and if we can help just one person with an addiction through this event, then it is something to be proud of,” Taylor said.
    However, Taylor quickly turned on the crowd by insulting their intelligence, physical conditioning and just about anything else he could think of. His tirade led to an onslaught of boos, but those boos turned to cheers when his opponent, “The Hot Commodity” Matt Mason, came through the curtain and entered the ring.
    Despite Mason’s attempts to skirt the rules and out-think Mason, Mason cruised to the win in his Ultimate Warrior-like ring attire and climbed the turnbuckle in each corner after the match to salute the crowd.
    Another fan favorite was the tag team match between the duo of OCW tag team champions Joey Vengeance and Juice Jennings, and their opponents, “No Shame” Jimmy Shane and Robby Starr.
    Jennings, the wrestling name of Dustin Batdorff's brother Anthony, came up with the idea for the event after seeing the potential of the auditorium of the church where he and his family regularly worship. The Batdroffs approach the church with the idea and received plenty of support during the planning process.
    Anthony Batdorff is a fan favorite when wrestling in Northeast Ohio, but when he and Vengeance hit the road, they often find themselves with the crowd cheering against them.
    With a home crowd, especially a collection of young fans seated not far from the ring, squarely on their side, Jennings and Vengeance finished off Shane with a flying elbow from the top rope followed by a high-arcing frog splash for the three-count and the pin, drawing loud cheers from the crowd. Following the match, both of the victors donned their DBI t-shirts, pointed to them and then pointed skyward in a gesture for Dustin Batdorff.
    There were plenty of laughs throughout the night as well, especially in the “Battle of the Stache.”
    The lone man in the ring without a mustache was referee Jake Clemons, who had to endure several attempts by both Fontaine and Madrox to pull fake mustaches from their tights and slap them above his upper lip so he would be hirsute enough to properly officiate the contest. Madrox earned the win despite bending the rules by grabbing the ropes while pinning Fontaine.
    There were two other components to the night, the first a spaghetti dinner held prior to the event. There was also a silent auction throughout the night, with a range of items and gift baskets up for bid in the church atrium.
    Page 3 of 3 - An Xbox gaming system, gift baskets from local restaurants and shops and other items were auctioned off in increments of $10, with the winners announced at the end of the night.
    The Batdorff family, which comprised most of the volunteer force for the night and could be identified by name tags on their shirts identifying them by their relationship to Dustin Batdorff, also sold brown-and-orange event shirts to raise money. Their message and the message of the event, beyond the submission holds, clotheslines and dropkicks, was urging anyone who knows someone with an addiction to get them the help they need before it is too late.
    The final match, appropriately enough, ended with Jennings defeating Madrox by submission. It was a win for the Batdorff family in the same way they hope to assist families and individuals in gaining victory over addiction.

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