CHICAGO — What is it with alternative rockers and wrestling?
Following Husker Du's Bob Mould into the world of wrestling entertainment, Chicago rocker Billy Corgan, leader of Smashing Pumpkins, has helped form the local firm Resistance Pro wrestling. It celebrates its first anniversary Friday with a program at Teamsters Auditorium, 328 S. Marshfield Ave.
"I love the passion of the people involved," Corgan wrote in a quick email exchange while rehearsing with the latest incarnation of the Pumpkins.
Like Mould, who briefly wrote scripts for World Championship Wrestling, Corgan handles the "creative" for Resistance Pro, developing storylines for the wrestlers. Yet unlike Mould, who left WCW about a decade ago in a conflict with other writers, Corgan actually owns the business in a three-way partnership with Lockport's Baron brothers, Jacques and Gabriel.
"Billy is the creative," Jacques Baron said. "What you see out there is Billy's story — actual development of the characters and personas."
If "the Baron brothers" has a wrestling ring to it, it's fitting in that they tried their hand in the field in the late '90s.
"We were not very good," Baron said. "We didn't achieve any success. But the passion never left us."
So they went into wrestling promotion, until they were left high and dry last year, three weeks before a bout when featured guest Dennis Rodman canceled when he was suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Barons are Pumpkins fans, and Corgan had actually attended some of their matches as a wrestling fan himself, so when they reached out, he said he'd appear instead of Rodman — and wouldn't charge a fee.
"Billy came in and was just a huge help with everything," Baron said — backstage, in the locker room, working the crowd. Afterward, they went to their partners and said, "We want to work with Billy. He's great, he knows what he's doing," Baron recalled. "They said, 'Nah, we won't tell him how to write a song, we don't want him to tell us about wrestling.'
"If the company doesn't want to grow, why are we sticking around?" Baron said. "So we called Billy and said why don't we start our own company from scratch? We can run it the way we want to. You can be in charge of the creative, and we can have fun with it."
Resistance Pro was born in August of last year and launched its first show on Black Friday. A year later, Friday's program, with a title borrowed from Judas Priest, "Sad Wings of Destiny," is the 10th it has put on.
"To make it a year in a business as tough as this," Baron said, "it truly is a celebration."
They've averaged about 350 fans a show, but with as many as 600 for the larger events, including previous outings at Teamsters Auditorium. They draw on the many independent wrestlers trying to make it out there, many in the Chicago area.
"We try to pick the people we can actually do something with and help them achieve their dreams. They have to buy into what we're doing," Baron said. "They can have fancy moves, and it can be exciting, but that's it. There's no story, there's no substance. We want you to work safe, we want you to work smart, and there's got to be a reason why everything happens."
That's where the fans' emotional involvement is generated, and that's where Corgan's stories come in, drawing on his fondness for Chicago's rich wrestling tradition including the likes of Dick the Bruiser, Andre the Giant and Baron Von Raschke. "That's the kind of feeling we are trying to bring back," Corgan said.
"Sad Wings of Destiny" finds "The Ego" Robert Anthony defending his Resistance Pro heavyweight title belt, and Melanie Cruise defends her women's title against Nikki St. John in what's termed an "I Quit" match, in which they beat on each other until someone gives up. "I don't remember, in my recollection, two women competing in a match like that," Baron said. Resistance Pro's tag-team tournament also crowns a champion.
Baron insisted it's family entertainment, saying, "It's a fun, clean, safe sport, but you've got to accept what it is." The eventual goal is to build an audience that will sustain monthly or even weekly matches. To go national, they'd need television, and to that end Friday's match will be recorded.
"TV helps you expand your audience," Baron said. "There's a lot you can do online with video, YouTube. But it's still not the same as national TV.
"If we could get there, that would be the ultimate dream," he added. "If we don't, at least we can say we busted our asses and tried."
Corgan was expected to be at Friday's event, but as a promoter, working the crowd, advising the wrestlers. He said it was unlikely the Pumpkins would ever tag team a show with Resistance Pro, adding, "Rock and wrestling make strange bedfellows."