BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Since opening in 1953, the Cove Community Center has held events like political debates, mothers groups and school dances. It’s safe to say that Saturday night was the first time it hosted a Texas Tornado Tag Team Match.
The East Corning Street center has agreed to lease space for a series of professional wrestling matches this year, starting with last weekend’s “War on the North Shore.”
About 70 people packed the small hall for the inaugural event, said Christopher Shimkin, president of the Beverly Cove Improvement Association.
“I overheard a man walking past me on the way out say, ‘That’s the best $36 I ever spent,’” Shimkin said.
Shimkin acknowledged that the idea of holding a raucous professional wrestling show in the quiet Cove neighborhood is a bit unusual. When he first brought up the possibility at an association board meeting, he got some funny looks.
“They all kind of chuckled, and I did, too,” he said. “They all said, ‘Let’s try it out and see what happens.’”
The show was put on by New England Championship Wrestling, a company that has been staging wrestling shows at small New England venues since 2000.
Promoter Sheldon Goldberg said he formed the company to provide a “middle step” for wrestlers out of wrestling school who are trying to make it to the “major leagues,” as well as for those who have been to the big time and are looking to reinvent themselves.
The six matches in Beverly included such wrestlers as Johnny Thunder, Antonio “The Promise” Thomas, and female wrestlers Kasey Ray and Nikki Valentine.
“It’s a throwback to regional wrestling that comes to the community centers and schools and is up close to the people,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg, who lives in Roslindale, said he originally planned to hold a show at the larger Masonic Lodge in Beverly. When that fell through, he turned to the Cove Community Center.
Goldberg had a more generous interpretation of how many people attended Saturday’s show, estimating the crowd at 150. Either way, he was satisfied enough to book monthly shows at the site from August through December.
“It’s a great atmosphere for what we’re doing,” he said. “We run a lot of small venues like this. A lot of people from the neighborhood came, which was really nice. It’s a community center. We want the community to come.”
Tickets cost $12 in advance, $15 at the door for adults and $10 for kids under 12. The matches will be shown on NECW’s weekly television show on Channel 62 in Boston, which is shown at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday night/Friday morning.
Shimkin said there were no problems at the event. He described the crowd as well-behaved, with lots of fathers and sons. At one point, he stepped outside to monitor the noise level and make sure it wasn’t causing a “ruckus” in the neighborhood.
Shimkin said he had his doubts when Goldberg touted the show as a “family event,” but said that’s what it turned out to be. “The building wasn’t destroyed; the neighborhood wasn’t destroyed,” Shimkin said. “There hasn’t been any negative feedback in the neighborhood.”
Shimkin said the rental money from the wrestling shows will help the Cove Improvement Association pay for building upkeep and contribute to its scholarship fund. New England Championship Wrestling set up the ring and took it down all in one day, so it was an easy event to pull off.
“I saw no reason not to do this again,” Shimkin said. “All of the wrestlers were nice, friendly people — out of the ring. In the ring, I wasn’t going to mess with them.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.