Bumbershoot returns to Seattle this weekend with Bumbermania, the festival's inaugural foray into the international folk art of professional wrestling. The matches are presented by Tacoma’s Grit City Wrestling, the newest local school offering classes to prepare aspirants to the squared circle. An oft-quoted cliché purports that wrestling, “ain’t ballet.” While Terry Funk and Swan Lake seem worlds apart, there are similarities—physical discipline, complete dedication to body-altering performance, and the desire to perform in the brightest spotlight.

If Bumbermania will be your first live wrestling show, imagine a scene that blends the communal spirit of football crowd chants (domestic and international) with the audience participation of Rocky Horror and you get something that resembles wrestling’s typical audience. Yelling at performers is generally encouraged as wrestlers thrive on crowd volume to push them through the risky stunts and crashes both in and out of the ring.

Ringside photographer for SOS Pro Wrestling, and an experienced freelancer covering everything from sports, weddings, portraits and pets, Jamie feels that capturing wrestling is more complex than her other gigs. “It’s way more than just sports photography—it’s journalistic and it’s portraiture. There’s a lot of drama and you’re helping tell that story. Plus, weddings feel less stressful now since I don’t have to worry about chairs flying at my head.” 

Bumbermania's talent comes from all over the Pacific Northwest—Washington, Oregon, and Vancouver BC—and each day features two sets of matches in the afternoon and evening outside of MoPOP. Because it's a locally themed show, wrestlers will step outside their usual gimmicks to become avatars for NW icons in cosplay combat. For example, as a nod to hip-hop’s 50th anniversary (as celebrated in MoPOP's current collection of exhibits 50 Years: Honoring 50 Years of Hip-Hop History) the old school will face off against the new with Broadway posse boss Sir Mix-a-lot trading body slams and dropkicks with Macklemore repping his Bogey Boys fashion faction (and Kendrick stans). 

Greg “Namor” Sage, survivor of the infamous Ramones Orange War of 1995. CHRISTOPHER HONG

It may be the first Bumbermania, but this isn't combatant Greg “Namor” Sage's first foray into Bumbershoot battle. Sage was 16 when he watched the Ramones at Memorial Stadium in 1995. “It was very hot and they were giving out oranges for people to stay hydrated," he said. "At the end of the show, the crowd formed two masses at each end of the field and people were just throwing oranges and peels at each other. My friends and I ran through the middle of the ‘Orange War,’ and got destroyed. It was amazing!”

Another performer with festival history is “Verified” Steve Migs, who co-hosts KISW’s morning radio show. Migs can’t wait for his second taste of Bumbershoot glory—his former band Peter Parker played the fest at the venue formerly known as EMP’s Sky Church in 2002. “I don’t know how many people can say that they have performed at Bumbershoot as a drummer and a wrestler! It’s crazy to think that was 20 years ago with my old band and this year I’ll step out from behind the kit and into a wrestling ring!”

2022 Queen of Thorns champion Rebel Kel. CHRISTOPHER HONG

Established local talent Rebel Kel and rising star Amira Lukens are also on the Bumber bill. Known for chokeslams and boots to faces, Kel trained at the esteemed Buddy Wayne Academy, she’s held multiple local titles, and was champion of DOA Wrestling’s second annual Queen of Thorns tourney in 2022. Despite her accolades and fighting spirit, the rangy athlete billed as “The 6-foot Stunner,” is reflective when thinking about her wrestling education. “The hardest thing for me to learn in wrestling was to let go of self-doubt and to love myself exactly as I am.” 

Before graduating to perform inside the ropes, Oregon Pro Wrestling student Lukens regularly traveled 220+ miles from Salem, OR to set up rings at various promotions. When you’re a rookie wrestler part of paying your dues is helping with the physical labor of assembling and disassembling a ring made up of a steel frame, topped with wooden 2x4s, thinner than you’d think foam padding, and stretched canvas. Looking back on her first full year on the indie circuit as a wrestler, Amira recalls her first match in the same 2022 tournament won by Rebel Kel.

“My debut match I lost to Su Yung and was eliminated in the 1st round but it still felt so wild to finally get to wrestle in the ring I had set up so many times," she said. "Fast forward to this year and instead of being eliminated, I was overwhelmed to be the tournament champion! It was so rewarding to experience that with all the fans and people who supported me as I blossomed in the past couple years and it meant something more to me than I can explain. My life has basically become consumed by wrestling I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”

Bumbermania takes place in the Recess District at Bumbershoot on Saturday and Sunday at 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm.