PLEASANT GROVE -- A usually quiet neighborhood in this northern Utah County town isn't expected to be so quiet on Saturday night.
That evening, you will find a motley collection of creatures with names like Super Destroyer, Good Vibes, Dog Breath, Johnny Fever and the Disco King. A UFO will crash-land, fireworks will light up the night sky and a few brawls will break out. All in the name of entertainment.It's part of an outdoor production presented by the Utah Grappling Association, one of hundreds of "backyard" wrestling organizations around the world spawned by the popularity of professional wrestling.
But UGA isn't exactly professional (participants are not paid and admission for spectators is free of charge), nor is it really wrestling (they freely admit it is fake).
Utah Grappling Association shows are staged in a makeshift ring -- a trampoline -- and every line, move and scene are carefully scripted, choreographed and practiced.
The draw, say promoters, is not violence but rather good, clean, action-packed fun.
"It's more like a play than a wres- tling match," said Chris Smith, one of the founders of the association. "This isn't for people craving hard-core violence. There's no breaking chairs over people's heads."
"We don't have any problem with people saying we're fake. We don't take it too seriously and nobody gets hurt. In a way, it's a parody of pro wrestling."
The Utah Grappling Association brand of rasslin' will be on display at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at 1202 E. 300 North in Pleasant Grove in the cul-de-sac where Smith's parents' house sits. The title of the show? "Hey, I Think This Is Fake." Smith expects their largest crowd ever for the one-hour performance -- at least 200 spectators (bring your own lawn chair).
In 1991, Smith, then 14, and his friend, Jamon Chiniquy, then 15, decided to establish their own wrestling federation. The teens, huge pro wrestling fans, originally called their organization the Pleasant Grove Wrestling Federation.
They staged 30-40 shows on Chiniquy's backyard trampoline before crowds of 30 to 200, mimicking moves of pro wrestlers. "We copied WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and started doing our own gimmicks," Smith said.
After a two-year hiatus (following LDS Church missions), Smith and Chiniquy have revived their act. "It's our little hobby we never gave up," Smith said.
Now, they want to take it on the road. "We just love doing it," Chiniquy said.
Today, the Utah Grappling Association includes 15 wrestlers, ranging in age from 13 to 25. Smith and Chiniquy, both Utah Valley State College students, write the scripts, create and portray the characters, build the props (like a UFO they've created for this week's performance) and set up the special effects. They've been working on their current show, which debuts Saturday, for about five months and they plan a tour this summer of other towns in Utah and Idaho, which they are willing to do at their own expense.
Smith and Chiniquy are aware that some Pleasant Grove neighbors would rather not see this event take place in their town, especially since it coincides the with the conclusion of Strawberry Days festivities.
Opponents say the group, like pro wrestling, promotes violence. But the wrestling promoters strongly disagree.
"The stereotype wrestling has now involves violence and sex," said Smith's wife, Amy. "We want it to be as far away from that as possible. What we do is family entertainment."
Smith says pro wrestling no longer interests or influences him. "I don't watch it anymore," Smith said. "It's gotten disgusting."
Backyard wrestling has grown to be something of a phenomenon in recent years. Hundreds of organizations similar to UGA exist all over the country, with names like the Adolescent Wrestling Society and the Xtreme Wrestling Federation.
Most of the brands of backyard and pro wrestling features chair-throwing, crude gestures and foul language. Utah Grappling Association is different, Smith said.
"We don't allow that stuff. What we do is not violent. You see more violence in a high school football game. What we do is acrobatics and comedy. Everybody knows it's rigged. We just want to put on a good production."