Gripping spectacle as girl wrestles 3 men

Ms Lee aka Alexis Lee (above) executing a body slam on male opponents (from left) Ng Yi Xun, Caleb Tan and Pan Jia De last night at Kampong Ubi CC.

SINGAPORE - Taking out three heavy men in the wrestling ring is no easy task - especially for a petite 18-year-old girl.

Last night, Republic Polytechnic student Lee Xin Yi was seen attempting to do just that. Spectators cheered as she dodged blows from her much bigger opponents while trading dropkicks, cross-body blocks and headlocks.

Ms Lee is the only female out of the 13 athletes who grappled in front of a 300-strong crowd at Singapore's biggest professional wrestling event to date.

The sport is a combination of physical prowess and theatrical performance most famously associated with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Despite the apparent mayhem, the contestants are not really injuring each other. Winners are predetermined and moves are meticulously choreographed.

Last night's show at Kampong Ubi Community Centre was the largest organised by Singapore Pro Wrestling (SPW).

Its founders, Mr Andruew Tang and Russian trainer Vadim Koryagin, met in Singapore in August 2011. After bonding over a shared love of the sport, they set up Singapore's first pro-wrestling league the following year.

"I've been a huge fan of WWE since I was 12, and I wanted to become a wrestler myself," said Mr Tang, 24, a marketing executive at a health supplement firm.

So serious was he about the sport that he started to learn from the 44-year-old Russian, who trained in Canada and set up the first pro-wrestling school in Moscow.

"I wanted to try doing the same in Singapore," said Mr Koryagin. "If it goes well, we hope to expand to other countries in the region."

SPW was set up at a cost of $50,000 and has quickly attracted the attention of wrestling fans. Today, 17 of them - aged from 17 to 28 - pay $160 a month to attend classes at Kampong Ubi Community Centre.

After starting off learning basic techniques such as headlocks and shoulder blocks, they train hard to execute dangerous moves without injuring each other.

It may all be for entertainment, but performing high-impact stunts can lead to real injuries.

Despite dislocating his shoulder three times, Mr Tang - whose wrestling name is The Statement - said the pain is worth it.

His online promos have attracted interest from a Japanese company called Pro Wrestling Zero1, and he will be taking part in matches at its Hong Kong branch in December.

Ms Lee's interest was piqued four years ago when she chanced upon WWE on TV. "There was such a dramatic and intense feeling as I watched them fight," she said. "I was drawn to the storyline and characters."

Unfazed by being the only girl, she said she had expected the pain that comes with the sport. "It can get quite awkward though when the moves require me to be in close contact with boys," she admitted.

Ms Lee, the daughter of an IT firm manager and a secretary, is known inside the ring as Alexis Lee.

"My parents aren't supportive because it's quite dangerous," she said. "But it's addictive - once you take the first jump, you can't stop."

By contrast, 17-year-old Sean Tan has his family's full support. He has dreamt of being a wrestler since his elder brother got him hooked on the shows at the age of nine.

On top of training, he spends five days a week at the gym lifting weights and doing bench presses. "In the ring, I'm young, brash and arrogant, someone you want to slap in the face," said Mr Tan.

For aspiring teacher Kenneth Thexeira, the inspiration was American pro-wrestler Dwayne Johnson - better known as The Rock.

"His screen presence and charisma captivated me and I would go around telling people I wanted to be The Rock", said the 25-year-old, whose ring name is The Eurasian Dragon.

In February last year, he did a Google search on "Singapore" and "wrestling", and SPW's page popped up.

"The little kid in me that was lying dormant suddenly came back and I've not looked back ever since," he said.

Saturday's event, organised in partnership with the People's Association, was a showcase of six matches, including a tag team bout where wrestlers fight in pairs.

Warehouse assistant Muhammad Affi Aidat Othman, 23, was crowned the ultimate victor of the show.

Ms Lee, who also emerged the winner in a segment called the Extreme Junior Tournament, said: "I gave my all, and whether I won or not, it's just another step to improving myself."

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