Greenpoint was awash in red last month as Death Match V, the latest installment of Tender Trap’s no-ring wrestling series, smashed its way though the nightclub. Pro wrestler “The Ultra Violent Beast” Masada took an “art exhibition” victory over “The Hipster Heartthrob” Casanova Valentine in a battle that shattered both wood and glass. As the show’s organizer, Valentine also featured his MC Death Bear street art and a performance by the band Tight Fright.
In June, Valentine (aka artist Christian Taranto) had used an eight-foot ladder to bodyslam his way to victory over “The Wrench” Conor Claxton. Both avid fans and the morbidly curious came looking for more action, and the shirtless, sweaty Tucson rockers of Tight Fright, frequent openers for Death Match, only added to their desire to watch big men shake the floor and rattle the lights.
Death Match is a brief art-show version of the bloody, weapon-strewn hardcore wrestling that was recently curtailed by the New York State Athletic Commission. In light of these regulations Valentine makes sure his show contains visual art, music, and an illustrative fight that shows off the methodic attributes of the sport without being a “real” wrestling match.
As reigning champion, Valentine came out to huge cheers and walked around the room with his mouth open as if breathing fire. Masada entered to less applause and a few boos, but as the match got under way he wasted no time subduing Valentine and dragging him into the front room for a beating up and down the bar as the crowd followed their every move. The interaction with the space was a something out of a Western movie and when Masada rolled Valentine back toward the stage the crowd chanted, “Holy shit, holy shit!”
Masada held control till he grabbed a folding chair that Valentine punched into his face. With the tide turned, Valentine started a beating that ended with a head butt. As Masada lay helpless on the floor, Valentine poured out a bag of thumbtacks that were soon clicking on the bottom of everyone’s shoes. Valentine tossed Masada’s body like a rag doll over the vicious office supplies, but it wasn’t long till Masada retook the upper hand, floored his adversary and proceeded to bash him with fluorescent light bulbs. Masada followed with a fistful of wooden skewers to Valentines’s head and topped if off by dragging a barbed-wired baseball bat across the Hipster Heartthrob’s face.
When Masada went to take his respect from the crowd Valentine got up, took the barbed-wired bat and hit Masada in the groin. With Masada languishing in pain Valentine built up a stack of plywood and bar chairs in order to finish up his opponent. All went well at first as Valentine carried his foe up to the stage but as he lifted Masada up he was overtaken and then it was Valentine up in air being thrown off the stage with a Death Valley Driver move that landed Masada right on top of him. The ref ran over to the pile of bloody splinters and gave the three count that gave Masada the victory. Though the hometown hero was dethroned, cheers still rang out over Masada’s sudden, explosive finish. With Valentine laid out on the floor, friends provided first aid in the form of beer.
Later on, as he wiped the blood from his brow, I asked Valentine how his “art exhibition” match differed from his more formal semi-pro fights. He said, humbly, that “the crowd is the show” and that the art comes from “an emotional interaction with the crowd,” hence audience members coming to his side after his loss. By listening to everyone around him, Valentine figures out “how to manipulate their reactions and play to them.”
When I asked about the next fight, he said that there will be a Death Match VI this fall at Tender Trap and the bill is still being set up. Stay tuned.
Ami Moregore contributed to this article.