Inside New York’s world of underground wrestling

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BROOKLYN — Inside the gym of a youth center at a Brooklyn church, on a chilly Saturday night in October, we entered New York’s world of underground wrestling.

“Our secret identities are school teachers, construction workers, some are even lawyers and doctors, dare I say,” said Matt Striker, whose legal name is Matthew Kaye. “They have a passion for doing this, but doing this at this level doesn’t pay the bills. So they have their civilian jobs. We’re almost like superheroes if you think about it.”

The 44-year-old wrestler is a middle school teacher during the day, but on certain nights he dresses up in his “superhero” costume and transforms into an “evil school teacher.”

Danielle Paultre, 24,  turns from professional piercer into “Willow Nightingale”

“I’m pretty much myself amplified,” said Paultre. “These are pieces of me that I just want to exaggerate. I find that Willow is an exaggerated version of Danielle”

Before the matches even begin, workers, wrestlers and volunteers unload wooden planks, metal beams and foam padding to build the ring. It’s a three-hour process.

The crowd consists of all ages, from the rowdy to the more composed, all of them gathering to escape their real world drama.

When we visited, the big match included WWE legend Billy Gunn.

“It’s one thing to watch it on TV. It’s another to be in the audience and feel the energy from the people,” said Gunn. “Cause you get to leave all your worries outside that little door and come here and just have a good time”

So if you’ve never attended a wrestling match before - brace yourself.

Next match will be in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Dec. 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 8pm.

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