Fangs, nun chucks and pizza toppings will fly as members of Champaign Ladies Amateur Wrestling (CLAW) get in the ring tomorrow for what will be the greatest showdown Champaign-Urbana, or perhaps even the universe, has ever seen. CLAW is a gang of ten women with butt-kicking alter egos, whose mission is partly to “avenge the world’s wrongs.” Buzz had the honor of meeting with founding members Melanie “Feral Hannah” Sheckels and Joanna “The Slice” Troutman.
»buzz: How did you start CLAW?
»Melanie Sheckels: I have a friend who had done something like this in the nineties in Kalamazoo, and she mentioned off-hand in a comment on Facebook one day that she was thinking about women’s wrestling again, and I said that’s an amazing idea that sounds super fun, and I kind of took it and ran with it and got all of my closest friends involved and then they got their friends involved… We all just were looking for something fun and creative and absurd- just something different to do with our spare time. It became like a second job for a lot of us, but it’s a great job.
»buzz: Have you been training?
»MS: Oh yeah, we’ve been training hardcore.
»Joanna Troutman: First we spent time with one of my coworkers who is a black belt in karate. But she teaches self-defense classes, so she taught us different attacks and how to respond, and how to fall down properly without hurting ourselves. And then our coach Jared a.k.a. David Breakfast kind of took it to the next level in terms of incorporating a lot of wrestling moves, because he is a big WWE fan so he has a lot of knowledge there. It was a combination of those things, mixed with our own creativity and ingenuity for the rest.
»MS: That and we watched lots and lots of wrestling videos. It’s everyone’s new hobby.
»buzz: So you’re The Slice. What is your background story?
»JT: So I’m a demi-god. My father is Pizzeus. So he’s the creator of pizza, you could say the creator of all. But my mission on this planet is to spread the good word that pizza is the food of the gods and all must bow down and worship pizza. And you can pay homage by eating pizza, that’s a good place to start. My motivation in CLAW is to make people worship pizza.
»MS: Are you ever going to be conflicted if one of the wrestlers tries to eat you?
»JT: Well, I think at one point I decided I would regenerate. But I have to give you permission to eat off my body.
»buzz: What is Feral Hannah’s story?
»MS: I’m kind of a wild creature woman. As a young child I attacked my family, I bit my little brother, and I drank a lot of battery acid. My parents eventually became overwhelmed and dropped me off in a forest where I was raised by meth-addicted wolves. One day I came upon an abandoned campfire and I found some drug store foods, some Cheetos and Doritos and such. And it awakened a hunger in me and it made me a new feral beast. And I left the forest and entered the world on a quest for genetically modified foods.
»JT: So her character doesn’t speak.
»MS: She kind of just growls a lot…which has started to carry over into my real life. Like today I was digging for a clean t-shirt and rummaging through a laundry basket; I couldn’t find one and I just started growling.
»buzz: What went into planning your debut event?
»MS: To start off, we just watched wrestling videos and ate pizza together and kind of brainstormed. But then as it started taking shape and people decided it was really going to be a thing, we got quite a bit more organized and serious. Actually I was initially kind of organizing it but then I asked Joanna to start having a more central role because professionally she is a project manager. So that has been a huge help. And I’m a nurse, so I’m used to managing the lives of people. With our powers combined, we kind of divided things up into different areas and delegated things to all the various wrestlers. We had a video team to work on that, and a promotions team, we had a team of people just working on the Kickstarter. And at the same time working on making our matches, practicing wrestling, making our characters and making our costumes.
»buzz: What are your future plans for CLAW?
»JT: It’s a matter of lining up our next show. We’re really hoping to do Pygmalion, wink wink. We’ll just be lining up our next match for September or October, so we have plenty of time to prepare.
»MS: And get some new characters in the fold…I would also like to add that I was not kidding, it’s still a secret dream of mine that we go on a tour of shopping malls.
»JT: Oh yeah, that would be so awesome, yes.
»buzz: What has been your favorite part about doing CLAW?
»JT: A lot of it for me has been the positive response we’re getting from people. For one, it’s really rewarding to do this cool thing with your buddies, it’s a new creative outlet and I feel like there’s this new thing that I’m productive at. People are really pumped about it and that feels really good.
»MS: I definitely feel like we’re making something that Champaign-Urbana was kind of hungry for, and they are into it. Like Feral is into Doritos.
CLAW’s debut performance will take place on Saturday, July 11 at 6p.m. at Mike n Molly’s, accompanied by live music from house band Bookmobile. Check out the CLAW Facebook page or Kickstarter for more wrestler bios and a video made by Swede Films to get you pumped up for the big showdown.