That fan, who became part of the action during a NWA Smoky Mountain ProWrestling Federation exhibition Saturday, wasn’t identified.
He also wasn’t charged with assault, although he was ejected from the festival by police after becoming an involuntary recipient of a sleeper hold by “bad guy” wrestler Robbie Cassidy.
Cassidy and his tag team partner, Tony Givens, call themselves “The Illuminati,” and in pro wrestling culture they would be considered bad guys and villains.
Their opponents for Saturday night’s Mount Carmel Block Party bout were “good guys” Mountain Goat Jack and Rain Rodriguez.
Prior to the actual bout, Cassidy and Givens began taunting the crowd, as one may expect wrestling bad guys to do.
The crowd was told multiple times throughout the night, “Do not touch the wrestlers.” They could scream, yell, taunt and exhibit their feelings toward them in a number of ways, but they could not physically touch them. The Illuminati’s taunts put that rule to the test Saturday night.
“We were pretty much running down Hawkins County,” Cassidy said. “That’s our job as bad guys. We were talking about the wheel tax and about how they have a one-night block party in a gas station parking lot, and we’ve got a weeklong festival called Fun Fest in Kingsport — things like that.”
Cassidy added, “That pretty much set everyone off, and this one gentleman was wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Elvira’ on it. Tony made a comment about his Elvira T-shirt, and he ended up ripping it off, and that’s when I found it funny and got out of the ring.”
Mount Carmel Police Chief Jeff Jackson said the crowd was beginning to take The Illuminati’s taunting seriously.
“The audience was telling them, ‘Go back to Sullivan County,’” Jackson said. “I told one of them (wrestlers), ‘You better have plenty of security because I’ll just tell you right now — if this mob comes after you there aren’t enough of us to stop them.’ They did a good job, though. They got everybody riled up.”
The fellow who had ripped off his shirt crossed the security barrier between the spectator area and the ring, and according to Cassidy “he got in my face.”
That was acceptable behavior and added to the pre-bout excitement, Cassidy said.
What the shirtless man did next was unacceptable, however.
“All of a sudden he blows past me and hooks Tony Givens’ leg, who is in the ring, and he won’t let go of it,” Cassidy said. “So I grabbed him in a sleeper hold, and he started to go out a little bit. About that time here come the cops and the promoter’s father, and they all pulled him back. We shoved him back into the crowd, and he was escorted out.”
Cassidy said verbal taunting between spectators and the wrestlers is part of the show, but physical contact is taboo — and that’s mainly for the safety of the wrestlers.
The wrestlers don’t know if the spectator has a weapon or something potentially harmful in his or her hand. Cassidy said if a spectator gets physical, “it’s on.”
“To Hawkins County’s credit, they all took it in stride except for that one guy,” Cassidy said. “All the fans left the show happy except maybe for the guy I put in a sleeper hold.”
Perhaps the shirtless, overzealous spectator can take some solace from the final result of the bout.
Although The Illuminati won the bout, Mountain Goat Jack and Rain Rodriguez did deliver one final boot to the groin in a post-bout sneak attack while the Illuminati were celebrating their victory.