Saturday night might be a little rough in the village of Unionville — literally.
The professional wrestling circuit Pure Pro Wrestling is making a stop at the American Legion in the northern Tuscola County village, in what PPW owner Joe Byrd calls an event meant for the whole family.
“I can’t stress enough that this is a family-friendly event,” Byrd said. “People that are not necessarily wrestling fans are going to get something out of it. It’s got action, suspense, drama, comedy, you name it. It’s going to be an emotional roller coaster that’s going to keep the fans on the edge of their seats.”
The event is set to begin at 7 p.m. at the Unionville American Legion, 3960 Cass St. Doors open at 6 p.m.
“It’s the first time that we’ve had wrestling at our legion hall, and we’re hoping that we continue to do it,” said Unionville American Legion Commander Ken Currey. “I’m told that back before my time, when the legion was originally built, our stage was originally a boxing ring. And they held boxing matches there.”
Five matches are on Saturday’s slate. The headliner match will feature former World Wrestling Entertainment star Zach Gowen taking on Cobra T.A (a “240-pound powerhouse,” and one of PPW’s most popular wrestlers, according to Byrd), in the evening’s final bout.
General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children. Ringside seats are available for $15 and a family four-pack costs $30.
“The wrestlers you’ll see this weekend are just as good as anyone you’ll see on TV,” Byrd said. “They just don’t have the recognizable names. There’s going to be plenty of action, if they’re a wrestling fan, they’ll definitely like the show.”
Hardcore wrestling fans may remember Gowen, who performed for WWE in 2003 and 2004. A 33-year-old Ypsilanti native, Gowen lost his left leg to cancer at age 8. He was the first one-legged amputee to perform as a professional wrestler.
“We’ve had a lot of wrestlers who’ve tried out (for larger wrestling entities), and a lot of our performers are used as local talent when bigger events come to town,” Byrd said. “So the level of talent at this show will not disappoint you.
“Zach Gowen is worth the price of admission alone, he’s an incredible performer.”
While a member of the WWE, Gowen grappled such well-known wrestlers as The Big Show, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar. Gowen was also featured last year in the eighth session of the NBC television program “American Ninja Warrior.”
Currey, who has served as American Legion commander for about 14 years, said PPW and the Unionville American Legion will split profits.
“They approached us because they’re looking to expand throughout the state of Michigan,” Currey said. “They drove through Unionville, saw the hall and asked if we’d be interested in hosting.”
PPW was founded by Byrd, 32, who also spends time as a performer, going by the name Xavier Justice.
“We’ve been around for 11 years now, producing family-friendly pro wrestling events around the state of Michigan,” Byrd said. “And they are always in correlation with the community. We were actually in (Unionville) last week and we did an assembly.”
PPW actually did three assemblies at Unionville-Sebewaing Area School District on Jan. 27. The assemblies focused on anti-bullying and were sponsored by Otherson Insurance Agency, of Unionville, Currey said.
That portion of the PPW program is called Ringside Mentors. Byrd, and tag-team partner Father Time, travel to schools to spread positive messages ahead of a wrestling show.
Like Gowen, Father Time is an unlikely professional wrestler. In his mid-60s, Father Time is believed to be the only blind professional wrestler in the world.
“He’s a cancer and stroke survivor actually,” Byrd said of his tag-team partner. “He’s pretty inspirational, it’s definitely something you don’t see everyday.”
PPW is based in Goodrich, but Byrd takes his show all over Michigan.
“We work in coordination with schools and non-profit agencies for local community-related fundraising events,” Byrd said. “Our business has been used by sporting teams, obviously veteran-based groups and things like that.”
Tickets can be purchased at the door, or at prowrestlingatitsfinest.com.
For the ultimate wrestling experience, Byrd recommends ringside seats.
“VIP ringside seats are the best seats in the house,” he said. “With the price of ringside seating, fans get the chance to go into the wrestling ring before the show or during intermission for a photo opportunity and to meet Zach Gowen.”
The auxiliary for Unionville American Legion will sell concessions, including soda, water, hot dogs and pizza. Since it’s a kid-friendly event, no alcohol will be served.
John Schneider is sports editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at [email protected]