Mark for War

Mark for War: Circle Takes the Square

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Back in the day, I had to get together and watch wrestling with people. Raws were fare game to watch in the comfort of my own home in my underwear, but when a PPV was fifty bucks a pop, guys and gals had to chip in and watch together. I can honestly say that I’ve bonded with great friends over a PPV. I can also say that I’ve spent three hours with people I’ve loathed just to save a few bucks. That said, I don’t regret a minute of any of those experiences. Wrestling is awesome to experience with others, friend or foe. As we all know though, the WWE network has allowed us to watch PPVs, and pretty much everything else, all by our lonesomes without a big financial burden. The days of both organic and forced wrestling communal engagements are over. Or are they?

When my friend Roger Riddell came up to Chicago from Washington, DC this week, mainly to get away from the Veterans Day concert the city was having (which was expected to have a modest crowd of 800,000), I knew I had to watch wrestling with someone. One of our things on our “to do” list while he was here was to check out a place called The Squared Circle: a wrestling-themed bar/grill on the North side of Chicago owned by Lisa Marie Varon (formerly WWE Diva Victoria). We thought that we’d head there on Monday Night to watch Raw and kill two birds with one stone.

It was my first time at the Squared Circle, and going in, I told myself that I was going to probably write about it for my column this week, regardless of my experience. If it was good, it was good. If it sucked, it sucked. 

We rolled up to the packed bar at 7pm for the start of Raw. Before arriving, we wondered if we’d be lucky enough to run in to the Diva of the establishment at some point during the evening. Our question was answered when about two minutes in to us being there,  said Diva rolled up to our table and said, “Hi, I’m Lisa,” and engaged us in a welcoming conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever had an owner in the history of going to bars and/or restaurants go out their way to do this. Super awesome feeling! I immediately got the vibe that Lisa, unlike the vast majority of bar owners in the city of Chicago, doesn’t hide in her back office, while her place is jammed with customers, counting her money. She interacts with all the tables, talks wrestling, takes pictures, and makes you feel like, frankly, your at her home with a hundred of her closest friends. 

There were a plethora of flat screens covering the wall. I assumed that a couple of the flat screens would have the Monday Night Football game on them. Uh, nope. Not at The Squared Circle. You are in a WRESTLING BAR. When Raw‘s on, Raw‘s on. FUCKING AWESOME! There was also a bunch of legit wrestling memorabilia on the walls as well, signed and made out to the bar (not just randomly obtained via an eBay purchase). There’s also a wall strictly devoted to wrestler/celebrity signatures. It’s pretty badass to see a bunch of dude’s names tagged on a wall, many of which have “HOF (insert year here)” next to their names, like it’s the bathroom in a Punk Rock club. Great touch!

Food was killer. Beer was killer. And yes, several things on the menu were shout-outs to the wrestling world. But instead of just calling a Burger the “Bret Hart” because it has Canadian Bacon on it, the SC goes with a little more of the inside joke route that only us Smart Marks will get. My favorite was the sandwich called the Gail Kim Chi. 

During commercials, Lisa and crew occasionally used a Jimmy Hart-style megaphone to communicate with their patrons and tell them about upcoming events. There’s a WWE event coming to Chicago where the SC will be running a bus to and from the arena. I love the idea of raging on a party bus on the way to an event, and getting driven back to a great bar for post show drinks. Saves me a DUI scare.

Toward the end of Raw, Bray Wyatt had a segment. Suddenly, the lights went out in the Squared Circle. I shit you not, a dead ringer for Bray Wyatt in full getup emerged from the kitchen with a lantern. Lisa was in tow, wearing Eric Rowan’s trademark lamb mask. Then they proceeded to stroll through the restaurant as everyone instinctively took out their cell phones to light the room. The joint went apeshit! 

As Raw concluded and we saw the WWE logo on the screen for the final time, the patrons collectively applauded. Lisa said her goodbyes to all her customers for the final time, like a mom sending her children off to school until next week.

There is a brotherhood/sisterhood that exist among pro wrestling fans. When you see that dude at Six Flags wearing an Austin 3:16 shirt, you know he digs what you dig. You also know that he gets shit on the semi-regular from assholes for simply liking what he likes because it’s “fake” in the eyes of said asshole. The ridicule actually fuels the true fans. And when it’s time to let loose in a safe haven, it’s on! The Squared Circle is beyond a safe haven for wrestling. It’s a place that a place that accentuates and celebrates wrestling fandom. Being there illustrates why I’ve liked wrestling thirty years and have never looked back. Kudos to Lisa for creating such a place. Can’t wait to go back.

Check out The Squared Circle here.

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Match of the Week: Victoria vs. Lita (Steel Cage), Raw 11/23/2003

Glad I was able to find this match online. This is billed as the first WWE Diva’s cage match ever. It’s appropriate that it was between two of the best female bump-takers the WWE ever had, Victoria and Lita. A quick match, but hot from the start. Several headers in to the cage by these gals, press slam and power bomb from the top, and a cage slammed in Lita’s face to end it. Without a doubt, this was the golden age for WWE female competition. Trish and Lita are in, but I really think the HOF needs a few more Divas from this era inducted. Victoria and Chyna would be at the top of my list.

Bonus Bump: Godfather (Right To Censor) on Victoria

One of the most brutal bumps any of the Divas took during the Attitude era.

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