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Raging Storm
How one woman lives her dream as a professional wrestler
BY SARA DONNELLY


Alexandra Whitney wants you to come at her. In fact, she insists.

Whitney, who weighs in at 205 pounds, takes up a solid five feet, eight inches of vertical space, and has a voice like Sigourney Weaver, has always been able to protect herself. In case you doubt her, she has a collection of violent anecdotes to prove it. In 1998, while working as a technical writer in California, Whitney decided to treat herself on a whim to a professional wrestling show at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento. She stood in the audience, looking like a librarian on lunch break in her characteristic thick black glasses. As she watched Greg Valentine and the Honky Tonk Man beat the crap out of each other, Whitney’s thoughts turned to her terminally ill Grampy, sick in a nursing home, who was a huge fan of the sport. And then, something happened to Whitney that she just doesn’t normally have to deal with.

Some unlucky punk grabbed her ass.

Now, Whitney describes herself as a fairly even-tempered person. Sure, she enjoyed a career in the military and spent time in a biker gang, but she’s also a moralist. High on Whitney’s list of basic ethical principles is respecting a fellow human being and that fellow human being’s space while said being is recalling a dying grandfather. That day, a stranger broke a cardinal rule. Whitney lost it.

She spun around, chopped the man in his Adam’s apple, kicked him in the side of the knee, and pounced. By the time security caught wind and threw them both out of the show, Storm had pinned the guy against a steel barrier in a double-arm chokehold. In the auditorium lobby, while a frazzled Storm searched for a quarter to call her husband, a man approached her.

"My name is Peter," he began, "and I’m the booker for Sacramento Valley Wrestling. I was thinking if you could channel some of that aggression into wrestling you could make a lot of money."

Fast forward five years, and 39-year-old Alexandra Whitney, aka Blakwidow, aka Amanda Storm, has ditched her job as a technical writer, graduated as "Most Improved Student" from Walter "Killer" Kowalski’s Pro Wrestling School in Massachusetts, and settled down with her husband in a nice home in Casco to work as a professional ass-kicker. During the week, you can find her massaging clients at Amanda Storm LMT, in Gray. On the weekends, she travels around New England in her aquamarine Chevrolet van, with a 16-foot-by-16-foot wrestling ring in the back, appearing at shows as her babyface — or good-guy character — Amanda Storm. Whitney, who is now known only as her alias, Storm, has become one of the best-known female wrestlers in New England.

But Storm’s foray into what she describes as one of the "most sexist" industries in the world hasn’t been a cakewalk. It took her nearly a year to find a school that would agree to teach her to be a wrestler. Most thought she’d be better off as a valet, which is a fancy name for a scantily clad woman who accompanies her wrestler boyfriend to the ring.

Storm refused to be just another bombshell in tight pants, but, for a while, it seemed the only schools that would take her had only that in mind. Finally, Kowalski’s school called with a wrestling offer and Storm and her husband decided to uproot their lives in California to follow her dream. Three broken noses and countless bruises, bites, and scratches later, Storm continues to, in her words, "disassemble the minds and bodies [of men] much in the way a curious child takes apart a pocket watch."

Two years ago, as testament to her legitimacy in a macho industry, former Mr. USA Tony Atlas made her a partner in his Lewiston-based wrestling business, Atlas Championship Wrestling. Together, Atlas and Storm have cooked up a plan to launch a local wrestling show, which will be broadcast on Adelphia Channel 9 three times a week starting this December.

According to Storm, you’re not really in business until you’re on TV. More importantly, she says, television attracts second-tier wrestlers like moths to a flame. Storm and Atlas hope ACWTV will be so popular it will help them launch an independent wrestling franchise that can offer real financial incentives for quality performers. The first five episodes of the series were recorded on November 16.

At noon, Storm arrives at the Auburn Boys and Girls Club in her van and begins unloading her one-ton ring. It is Sunday and the club’s gym is musty and cool. Hundreds of small black skid marks dirty the floor. Handmade posters on the brick walls tout the benefits of "Sports, Fitness, and Recreation" and "Health and Life Skills." Storm stands in the center of the floor, weary but wide awake in a Looney Tunes T-shirt and bright yellow leggings, barking orders at a handful of burly men as they unload the steel frame and mats from her car. Storm is the only female wrestler on the day’s program, which includes roughly 30 small-time roughhousers from as far away as Montreal, Pennsylvania, and New York.

These days, the only way to make a living delivering a suplex is to make it to the big time: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which is the only national-level outfit around. If you aren’t tall enough, hot enough, buff enough, or just plain lucky enough to hang with your Kanes and your Undertakers, you’re limited to the second-tier independent companies, of which ACW is one of at least 5000 around the country. According to the Maine Athletic Commission, our state is home to 215 registered pro wrestlers and nine promoters. The average pay for a match in this world is about $25, if the promoter pays at all, and all of the wrestlers have day jobs to support their habit.

This is the independent wrestling circuit, where troublemakers with the appropriate training and weekends off from work can moonlight as the meanest villain or hottest hero your little town’s rec club has ever seen.

The talent roaming around for Storm’s even this Sunday reads like a typical roster on the Maine circuit: an executive in his fifties from Massachusetts who doubles as the Baron; a gawky 18-year-old fisherman from Portland calling himself Christian Angel; the silver-mohawked Skunk O’Malley, who works in computers and once ran for mayor of Marlborough, Massachusetts; a Navy reservist from Bangor calling himself Shipwreck; and a local favorite — a 7’2" trucker in jean overalls known as Bull Moose.

Some of the wrestlers on the independent circuit are hobbyists, others hope one day to be discovered by a WWE agent. For the Atlas taping, roughly half are out-of-state residents. And more wrestlers keep coming in — Mark Jaguar, Tony Omega, Dangerous Donnie, the Tank. As the hours tick away before the 3 p.m. bell time, Storm’s cell phone rings off the hook with queries for last-minute directions and questions of all other manner.

One wrestler calls asking if he could bring along his buddy.

"We’ve got plenty of guys," Storm says to the wrestler on the phone. Pause. "Have they sized him at all? Over 200 lbs? Well, if you want to bring somebody with you, we’ll try to do what we can."

Storm hangs up and returns to the ring, where a short, boxy-jawed boy named Kevin Kaos is busy yanking on one of the steel posts while the Baron manipulates a tension cord along the ground.

"Billy Kryptonite should be here," Kaos says. "I saw him in Portland yesterday."

If you’re anxious to check your yearbook to see if you went to school with Billy Kryptonite, Christian Angel, or the Baron, think again. Few of the wrestlers at the ACW taping, including Storm, agree to give their real names. Instead, they use what wrestlers in the biz refer to as their gimmick name, or their wrestling alter-ego.

A bizarre flourish of the gimmick name is the gimmick hometown. For example, Christian the lobsterman is from Portland, but when he’s dressed in a top hat and a red feather boa as Christian Angel, his hometown changes. What’s strange about this tradition is the gimmick hometowns of the ACW wrestlers aren’t exotic — no Cancun, Mexico, no Bangkok, Thailand. American Rockstar C.J. Summers calls the mean streets of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, home. The foul-mouthed manager Kevin Kaos supposedly spends his off-hours in nearby Ringwood, New Jersey. And the babyface Christian? Why, Albany, of course.

"Tony [Atlas] usually, in the show, says I’m from Albany, New York," says Christian, shrugging. "I’ve never even been there."

Reality in the world of professional wrestling is about as pliable as an iron bar in the hands of Hulk Hogan (which is to say, very). Storm remembers watching old black-and-white tapes of 1960s wrestling matches with her grandfather, when Killer Kowalski’s frantic arm waving and grandstanding was about as flashy as the matches got. These days, a colorful character is as important to the fans as a well-executed pin. Wrestling has become big business. WWE, which celebrates its 20-year anniversary this March, reported revenue of $94.4 million in its most recent quarter and produces more than 330 live shows around the world every year. The WWE Web site, and magazines like Raw and the WWE Magazine, help to develop elaborate backstories about the wrestlers, which include intense rivalries, long-standing feuds, and soap-opera-like romances with sexy female valets. You knew that.

But second-tier wrestlers take themselves just as seriously. Many, including Storm, have Web sites where they distribute merchandise with their gimmick name, update fans on recent wins, and generally spout off in character.

Wrestlers in the second-tier circuit take their work so seriously, in fact, that they rarely divulge their real names even to their peers. Before the taping, Storm showed me a picture of a recent tag-team win. In the photo, she and her partner, a man in a black ski mask, flex ecstatically for the camera.

"Who’s the guy in the mask?" I asked. "Is he here today?"

Storm seemed confused.

"You know, I’m not really sure," she said. "I never saw his face."

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Issue Date: December 5 - 11, 2003
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