The Ultimate Fighting Championship busted its way into America’s hearts in November 1993, when its first bout was filmed at Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena. The $4 billion mixed martial arts machine has since moved its HQ to Las Vegas, but local wrestling outfits have stepped in to fill the violence void. Although their styles vary, each production is the real deal—or as real as fake fighting can be.

Lucha Libre & Laughs

If It Were A Wrestler, It’d Be: The Mad Scientist
Origin Story: The six-year-old production started as a “silly experiment” combining stand-up comedy and World Wrestling Entertainment–style grappling, says founder Nick Gossert: “They have similar energies. If you strip wrestling down to its core, it’s big muscle men in their underwear pretending to fight each other. It’s absurd.” Local funnymen Sam Tallent and Nathan Lund act as ringside commentators at the monthly performances, and other comedians deliver punch lines between matches, which include tag-teams, four-on-fours, and, at one show, a beer-chugging competition that occurred mid-fight.
See It: November 21 at the Oriental Theater

New Era Wrestling

If It Were A Wrestler, It’d Be: The Badass Babysitter
Origin Story: Zach and Stacie Bowman started their own family-friendly promotion in 2011 so kids could enjoy matches free of cussing and unseemly storylines. “I wouldn’t take a six-year-old to see someone bleed all over the place while they’re getting hit with a chair,” Zach says. But no gore doesn’t mean no fun. Join a fan faction, such as the Wardog Warriors, and cheer on hero Damien “Wardog” Payne as he clotheslines bad guys like Tony Morales.
See It: November 3 at Mile High Comics

Primos Pro Wrestling

If It Were A Wrestler, It’d Be: The Masked Masochist
Origin Story: “Our storylines are a little edgy,” owner Joe McDougal says. “My character is a cult leader with a harem.” The up to 30 fighters who train at McDougal’s Primos’ Butcher Shop professional wrestling school in Sheridan square off each month with grapplers from around the globe. And the clashes can be…um, graphic. The gory Slave to the Deathmatch tournament every September, for example, involves brutal props like barbed wire. (Warning: The red stuff leaking out of that guy’s head isn’t corn syrup.)
See It: November 3 at the Watering Bowl

Rocky Mountain Pro

If It Were A Wrestler, It’d Be: James “Body Slam” Bond
Origin Story: To maintain RMP’s reputation for composed presentations, CEO Matthew Yaden requires great lighting and a top-of-the-line ring at each performance. “I won’t even use any local talent that doesn’t train with us,” he says. But like 007, a penchant for violence lies beneath the professional exterior. Denver wrestler Allie Gato throws down with nationally known personalities like WWE superstar Al Snow. The Rackhouse pub hosts a monthly RMP bout, and Yaden organizes several events a month (some televised) at various
Denver venues.
See It: November 23 at the Rackhouse

This article was originally published in 5280 November 2018.
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.