Wrestling Fans Get A Hold Of Some `Good, Clean Fun' The Audience Won't Find Foul Language Or Chair-throwing In The New Soul City League.

Posted: May 25, 1998

He tossed a 260-pound wrestler over his head. And then Lenwood ``Hard Rock'' Hamilton grabbed the microphone and lectured children in the stands.

``Remember, kids. Take your vitamins. Go to school. Listen to Mommy and Daddy,'' said the 380-pound wrestler in the sparkling black-and-gold costume who bills himself as the ``defender of the youth of America.''

About 550 spectators danced, cheered and booed Saturday night at Viking Hall in South Philadelphia during the inaugural event of Hard Rock's new Soul City wrestling league.

The event, billed as the ``ShowDown ThrowDown in PhillyTown,'' featured 10 matches with wrestlers such as Johnny Rebel, who came out waving a Confederate flag, and included a midget match that pitted Li'l Louie against King Sleazy.

It was a night of leg drops, elbow drops, and other wrestling moves, such as the ``the avalanche'' - Hard Rock's signature move, in which he tosses a guy back over his head. The blaring rap music was aimed at youths, and Hard Rock gave away hundreds of tickets so that local children could see the show for free.

``He's a great guy. He's got a great heart for kids,'' said Samuel Van Stone Downing, who got plenty of freebies for children in his nonprofit sports and education foundation, Van Stone Productions.

But the ShowDown also featured beer for the grownups, and the busty Lady T, who paraded around the ring in a star-spangled outfit.

Hard Rock is a former pro football player who was a noseguard with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, and also played a game with the 1987 Eagles. His idea was to establish what he calls the first minority-owned wrestling federation in the country, and bring back the golden age of wrestling, rather than staging bloody contests where guys use foul language and bang each other over the head with chairs.

``Get ready for good, clean fun,'' the ring announcer asked, at the beginning of the ShowDown. ``Are you ready to rumble?''

D. Love, 26, of Northeast Philadelphia, noted the crowd was more integrated than the average Phillies game.

``What I like is the blacks and whites intermingling,'' Love said. ``Racial barriers have been crossed.''

Children raced up to the ropes surrounding the ring, slapped hands with the wrestlers they liked, and screamed insults at the ones they didn't care for.

``Mr. E is a punk,'' yelled Rondell Gold, a 13-year-old from South Philadelphia who wore a No. 45 Michael Jordan jersey. His mother said she thought it was good, clean entertainment.

``It's interesting, and it keeps the kids out of trouble,'' said Teresa Gold.

Steven Mangini, 13, of South Philadelphia, and his brother John, 15, were up at the ropes, getting into it with the wrestlers, who often gave it back to the crowd.

``I like when they talk trash,'' John Mangini said.

Eric Massenburg, a veteran wrestling fan, said he wondered if the new league would attract enough high-caliber matches to compete in a section of town that already features the World Wrestling Federation, World Championship Wrestling, and Extreme Championship Wrestling.

``If you look at it from a kid's point of view, they're really into it,'' said Massenburg, 35, of Wynnefield. ``If you're used to the big boys, the ECW and the WWF, it lacks something.''

He wasn't one of the fans who was cheering wildly for wrestlers such as the Chain Gang, two burly guys in sleeveless denim with numbers on their shirts who billed themselves as graduates of Holmesburg Prison.

Hard Rock was sweaty and smiling after the event as he signed autographs for children.

``I do this for the kids,'' he told them. ``It's all about y'all.''

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