The Daily Illini

Champaign women take down conventional wrestling

By Abby Paeth, Staff Writer

For the woman of The Champaign Ladies Amateur Wrestling, or CLAW, the characters they play in the match, such as Dusty Bazongas and the Thighmaster, are a way of life.

However, on Nov. 20 ssat The Highdive in Champaign, a new legend will arise. With advanced technologies, Dusty Bazongas’ brain was salvaged from her decaying body and placed into the head of a robot known as Rusty Bazongas.

The ladies will take the stage this Friday at 8 and will introduce eight new wrestlers, along with a few new characters including Rusty Bazongas and Cher Nobyl, a 1980s Cher who has contracted an incurable disease and undergoes radiation therapy at a nuclear power plant.

Each wrestler develops their character and comes up with a story to coincide with the personality.

“(My) character is a little bit maniacal and obsessed with chemical warfare and pop tunes,” said Melanie Sheckels, president of CLAW.

Sheckels was previously a character known as “Feral Hannah,” but said that she is excited to announce her new onstage personality, Cher Nobyl.

“Some characters are inherently the same, but they do evolve over time,” Sheckels said. “We’re really trying to build long-term narratives and get people interested in our character’s stories as they progress.”

Sheckels, a founding member of CLAW, said that the idea came from a close friend of hers who had previously done a similar wrestling group in Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 20 years ago.

“I love having this creative outlet with all of these amazing, interesting (and) smart women,” she said. “I also really love performing and I didn’t know that before I started this.”

Sheckels explained that one of the most important parts of CLAW is putting on a show and getting the crowd fired up.

“We created this from scratch and yes, it did initially start out as a group of our closest friends, but it has since grown (into) this bigger production. It takes a ton of work to pull off and we so far have had a lot of success doing it,” said Joanna Troutman, vice president of CLAWss and onstage personality, “The Slice,” a pizza-themed wrestler.

Sheckels said that when she takes the stage she doesn’t consider herself Melanie anymore, but rather the character she is trying to portray.

“I think that I become a different person. When I was Feral Hannah, I was joyfully launching Cheetos at people’s foreheads. I’ve never done anything like that as Melanie,” Sheckels said.

Andrea Black, secretary of CLAW,ss said she will take on the role of Rusty Bozongas’ for the Nov. 20 show.

“I feel like I am a lot more aggressive (when performing), my character is a lot grumpier than I am,” Black said.

Black said while she does get nervous at times, it feels invigorating to perform on stage and become someone completely different.

“I usually am trying frantically to run over all of my moves in my brain over and over again, (and then) I am partially thinking about my facial expressions and getting the audience pumped up,” Black said.

In the past few years, women’s wrestling has progressed, especially with E! channel’s reality TV show, “Totals Divas,” about WWE female wrestlers.

“There is definitely this attitude that says ‘Don’t you ladies hurt yourselves’ and it’s kind of like ‘We’ll be fine,’” Troutman said.

Troutman also said that while she feels a lot of encouragement from her male friends, she definitely feels that there is a stereotype that says women should not wrestle.

“I think I just experience an adrenaline rush. I feel very powerful, alive, stronger than I actually am,” Sheckels said. “We’re not delicate flowers and it’s okay if we take a bump.”

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