It’s the middle of a warm summer Saturday afternoon, and the two dozen or so heads inside the Tanker (4825 SE Hawthorne Blvd., facebook.com/tanker.bar) are turned up at the television above the bar, watching grown men dive through tables of barbed wire and jam thumbtacks through their bare feet.
It’s not a Saw marathon. It’s pro wrestling—specifically, All Elite Wrestling, the new company looking to challenge WWE’s monopoly on the industry.
In Portland, if you want to watch basketball, soccer or even mixed martial arts, there’s a bar on every corner. If you want to geek out over board games or retro arcade games, there are plenty of places for that, too. But for fans of the fake fighting arts, there’s pretty much just this tiny Barmuda Triangle dive, which shows the major cards from both WWE and the fledgling AEW.
But as a communal experience, going to the Tanker on wrestling day isn’t all that different from going out to watch the Blazers during the playoffs.
There are chants. There are “oohs” and “ahhs” whenever someone pulls off a big move. In the back corner, the hosts of the local Mark Set Go podcast are set up with a live mic, ready to survey the room about who they’re rooting for in the next match.
And when WWE castoff Shawn Spears pops out of the crowd on TV to bash Cody Rhodes in the head with a chair—well, the reaction might not be quite on the level of a Damian Lillard buzzer beater, but it’s close.