Just ask Rebus Works owner Shonna Greenwell. Today, the men of local wrestling outfit GOUGE Wrestling will be smashing and bashing outside her arts and crafts gallery, entertaining spectators as they take part in another one of Rebus Works’s Food Truck Rodeo.
So, just how did an art gallery owner hook up with a bunch of tights-wearing bruisers? Well, for starters, she lived next to one for years.
“Count Grog was my neighbor,” says Greenwell, referring to the wrestling manager and GOUGE commissioner. She got invited to one of their shows back when they were performing over at the Berkeley Café. Greenwell, who was dabbling in photography at the time, found them to be the perfect photo subjects.
“These guys, or men and women, would completely go into this other ego or other personality, and it was always your classic, like, good vs. evil,” she says. “And they would get the crowd riled up, and you could get all your frustrations and everything out. You could yell whatever you want and basically cheer for whoever you wanted as well.”
Greenwell got the GOUGE crew to perform outside Rebus Works for one paid event, but it turned to be, in Greenwell’s words, a “borderline disaster.” She forgot that because Rebus Works is located below the Boylan Street Bridge, passersby could watch the action from the bridge and not pay a dime.
This time, the undeterred Greenwell decided to make this event free and invite food trucks to serve food during the wrestling. That way, Greenwell could get a percentage from the trucks and give money over to the wrestlers.
Both Greenwell and GOUGE (which is an acronym for “Gimmicks Only Underground Grappling Entertainment”) have the same goal when they get together for these rodeos: to entertain the kiddies. This has certainly been GOUGE’s mission ever since it rose from the ashes of Southern Championship Wrestling, a Raleigh-based ’90s crew that dissolved in 2004.
“SCW was populated by drunk frat boys—which was great, because we made some money off drunk frat boys,” says Greg Nosorjak, the SCW/GOUGE creator also known as Count Grog. “But, right now, I think, you know, kids can’t go to WWE. They can’t afford to go to a WWE show or their parents don’t want them to go to a WWE show. So, I’m giving them an alternative for family-oriented entertainment.”
Considering GOUGE’s knack for old-school gimmicks and over-the-top, cartoonish characters, the performers feel kids will be smitten with them.
“I have nieces and nephews,” says wrestler Lou Marconi (both his real and stage name). “I don’t have any kids of my own at this time—not that I’m aware of anyway. And I wouldn’t have a problem having them come here and watch the show.”
The GOUGE guys are well aware that wrestling outside a gallery which traffics in high art and fine crafts can be seen as, well, odd. Greenwell believes there is some artistic merit in what they do.
“I was showing my photographs of wrestlers, and I thought it was fine art.”
However, the GOUGE wrestlers are also entertainers for hire. So, whenever and wherever they’re needed, they’ll always be ready to mimic beating each other senseless.
“We have set the ring up at the parking lot of Sadlack’s,” says the Count. “We do a lot of things with the city of Raleigh, where it will be the Fourth of July in downtown Fayetteville Street. We’ve done that before. We’ve the Raleigh Amphitheater downtown.
"We’ll set the ring up anywhere people wanna have us.”