MERCED -- Professional Lucha Xtreme Wrestling stars took some time away from the ring to get up close and personal with Merced fans during a public news conference Wednesday.
The appearance at the American Legion Post 83, 939 W. Main St., was to announce an upcoming benefit show scheduled for March 16, organizers said.
"Lucha Xtreme" TV show favorites such as Wiseguy, Al Azar and INS Legacy members JR Kratos and Brian Tannen all made appearances on Wednesday.
Between signing autographs for fans, the four wrestlers said they pursued pro wrestling after a lifetime of dreaming.
"I can honestly say I'm doing what I've always wanted to do," said Wiseguy, 26. "It's entertainment and it's one heck of a show -- I can guarantee that."
The wrestlers will battle it out in Merced as part of a live taping for Lucha Xtreme's weekly show on KAIL-TV, airing Saturdays at 9 p.m.
And for Mercedians, it's a chance to see the Lucha Xtreme wrestlers in action.
"It's humbling to be in a position to entertain fans and let them escape from their reality," said Kratos, 30. He and his partner in crime, Brian Tannen, play villain characters on the show.
Tannen, 21, said he wasn't allowed to watch wrestling as a kid, but still found himself dreaming of becoming a wrestler. "I've always been a fan of wrestling," he said. "The show's going to be good for the city, and it's going to be a lot of fun."
Al Azar, 28, said the feeling he gets when he's wrestling is like nothing else, and bringing a show like Lucha Xtreme to Merced is a "game changer."
"We're just like World Wrestling Entertainment -- but we're local," he said. "It's lights, camera, action."
Chuck Bussey, hall manager for Post 83, said the building will be transformed into a professional wrestling arena -- a first for the venue.
"We've had some amateur wrestlers perform before, but nothing to this extent," Bussey said. "It's above anything we've ever seen in Merced. We're going to have a ball one way or another."
The Post 83 will get a portion of proceeds from ticket sales, Bussey added. He said he plans to have Lucha Xtreme return to Merced for shows in the future.
Lucha Xtreme Wrestling Entertainment President and Chief Executive Officer Lance Cardoza said his goal is to take the show "on the road and in your community."
"It's at home. They can come and be entertained here," Cardoza said. "We want to encourage kids to keep dreaming, and put on a good family show. We're excited to be coming to Merced."
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. at Post 83 in downtown Merced. Advance tickets are $10; at the door, they're $15. VIP Fan Access tickets are $25. Tickets can be purchased at the American Legion office and El Bajio Supermarkets, by calling the venue at (209) 722-0940 or via www.luchaxtreme.com.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.