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Stacey Nichols – Oil wrestler

FRANK METHE PHOTOGRAPH

“Five fights, huh? Rocky Marciano’s got 40 fights and he’s a millionaire…”
– Inmate Randal P. McMurphy in the movie,  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
rationalizing his propensity for brawling to the prison psychiatrist.

The big guy was tanked up on Jack Daniels and trying to be a wise-ass when he pulled Stacey Nichols’ dress up and over her head outside Chris Owens’ place on Bourbon Street that Mardi Gras day. It didn’t take the guy long to realize he had just made the mistake of his life.

The 5’4”, 120-something pound Nichols laid into him with a flurry of left hooks and overhand rights that would have made Rocky Marciano proud … especially that short, Marciano-like chopping right that traveled no more than six inches and dropped the big dude down to the pavement for the count.

“I had on one of those dresses made outta material that’s stiff and crinkly and when he pulled my dress up … it stayed up,” Nichols says. “It was over my head and I couldn’t see him, but I started pummelin’ him with lefts and rights, Wham! Wham! Wham! [She punches the air with both hands like a double-bladed jackhammer.] When it was all over, my boyfriend is standing next to me and I asked him, ‘Why in the hell didn’t you protect me?’ He said, ‘You were all over that guy so fast, I didn’t even have time to react!’”

Nichols rears back in a chair in her darkened, smoke-hazed apartment in Lakeview relating the Chris Owens punch-out and the countless other street and barroom brawls of her tumultuous 26 years on this earth. Each one is accompanied by a hint of a smile on her lips because one tale doesn’t begin before it winds down and she gets to the good part; the part where she lets on that when each fight was over she was the one left standing.
But a girl can’t be a kid forever: fightin’ and drinkin’ and windin’ up in jail and stuff. She’s gotta think of the future, and a career.

“Female oil wrestling … I love it,” Nichols says. “I’m partner in a company called Female Competitive Wrestling. I was with the WOW [Women’s Oil Wrestling] before Katrina. But when it hit, the guy who owned it lost everything. Last I heard he was married and had kids and was working in a factory somewhere. He’s out of it. But I was in the right place at the right time. I met the guy who actually owns LA Hardbodies (“…the South’s hottest male review…”). Everything took off from there.”

Nichols now has put together a troupe of five gals who not only get slathered up in oil and toss each other around an inflatable ring, but also host wet T-shirt contests and lingerie shows “at pool tournament kinda things” at bars and lounges all around New Orleans and beyond.

“I’m working on a female boxing show also,” Nichols says. “But right now I’m concentrating on what we already have going: oil wrestling! I’m doing the marketing and promoting. I’m printing my own flyers, traveling around the city and to Houma, Lafayette, Slidell and all over the West Bank. I’m constantly booking shows... I’m the coordinator of the shows. I teach the girls how to fight. I choreograph them in dance routines, which they use to open each show. I hire and fire the girls – and I wrestle.”

These grappling gals do their thing on an inflatable mat surrounded by an actual boxing-type ring laid out at some spot in the bar. The wrestlers make anywhere from $150 to $200 a night with a $50 incentive going to the winners of each match: “I don’t want them killing each other, but I sure as shit don’t want them faking it either,” Nichols says. “That lion’s share for the winner insures that they’re going to do their best when they’re in the ring.”

So what’s the road less travelled that takes a petite young lady who otherwise could pose for a photo as an Uptown maid in Daddy’s Carnival court and transforms her into a ferocious machine of flailing fists and feet?

“As a kid I was always getting into fights,” Nichols says. “They threw me out of Archbishop Chapelle High School for fighting. I’ve been arrested for fighting in clubs and on the street and I’ve been to those court-ordered anger management things twice.

“I’ve been in so many fights, I can’t count ’em all. But you know, it’s not like I started them. I’m defending myself. Somebody hits me; they’re going down… and I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman. Like one time I’m in Pensacola vacationing and I got into a fight in a club and wound up getting arrested ... The end result was one of those court-ordered anger management things. The shrink there says, ‘You’ve got anger issues.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, right, I got anger issues. Is that why I’m here, for you to tell me that?’”

“For Katrina, I left and went up to Memphis,” she says. “I got into a fight on Beale Street. I was tending bar at Coyote Ugly there and one night after I got off me and some friends went to an afterhours bar called The Black Diamond. Well, I get into a fight with this girl. I didn’t go to jail or anything, but after that fight they did start calling me, ‘The Ragin’ Cajun’. They called me that the entire time I was there. Now anytime I go to Memphis and run into people I know, they call me ‘The Ragin’ Cajun.’”

Nichols pushes back in her chair and relates how her mom lives in Metairie and says simply, “It suits ya” about her daughter’s choice of careers. She says her dad left long ago and now plays in a band “somewhere in Seattle.” She closes her eyes and talks about how she’s “planning a West Coast tour” and about places “where the bright lights are callin’.” She tells of how she’s getting closer each day of her one big goal in life: “To own a Harley. When I buy that Harley, I’ll be ready to die. All my girls have ring names that we use to introduce them. My name is ‘B.B. Ryder’. The ‘B.B.’ stands for ‘Biker Bitch.’ I love Harleys.”

But just as quickly, she jumps back into the real world with “…Right now though, we’re building. We’re in the infancy stage.”

She says it’s all been worth it, even though she’s paid a hellacious price: torn rotator cuff, damaged ligaments in both knees, every toe broken, nose broken twice … “But the nose was broken in boxing, not wrestling,” she’s quick to point out. “Oh we get banged up out there. That’s what the oil is for – to minimize the injuries. We’re not out there to kill each other. I don’t want that. But we’re entertainers. We have to put on a show. One night one girl got a bloody nose; another one got a busted lip. I got frogged right on my thigh and I was limping for the rest of the show. But each of the girls gives everything for the show. If we get hurt, we just keep wrestling. If I get hurt it doesn’t faze me. The crowd likes that. When we first go out there some of the people think we’re nothing but a bunch of strippers who roll around and stuff. So they’re just sitting there drinking their beers. Then one of the girls will pick up another one and dive bomb her into the mat and whoa, the crowd goes nuts. The guys freak out! They love it!”

Add to that a raffle where a winner selected from the audience comes up and has the pleasure of oiling down the girls, and the mega drawing where the lucky guy (or girl) from the audience comes into the ring at the end of the show and takes on the whole oiled down gaggle of wrestling females. No holds barred.

“It’s all entertainment,” Nichols says as she rubs the kinks out of her shoulder. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be either a bartender – that’s kinda like entertaining – or a standup comic. I love entertaining. I’ll say this though, since I’ve been oil wrestling professionally I haven’t gotten into one fight in a bar or on the street. Not one! So, in a big way, it’s kinda therapeutic. Keeps those ‘anger issues’ in check!”

But even though the “this is now” is here and for real, the “that was then” is never far off. Stacey Nichols never forgets from whence she came.

“I was in Kenny’s Key West [closed down by the late Sheriff Harry Lee because of the frequent brawls that occurred there] in Fat City one night,” Stacey says. “This guy comes up and grabs my ass. I turned around and whoa, you rotten $@*%#. And I decked him. The security guard comes over and throws him out. I turned to my boyfriend – the same one from that Mardi Gras Day thing in front of Chris Owens’ place. I ask him, ‘Are you ever going to step in and do something to protect me?’ Again, he says, ‘Honey, you react so quickly I never have time to do anything.’ That guy is outta my life.
“Then there was the time in this joint on the West Bank …”

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