By Mike Mooneyham

Aug. 12, 2006

So you think professional wrestling is just a soap opera for men? Or that its major sponsors target an 18-34 male demographic that craves rough-and-tumble may mayhem mixed with over-the-top theatrics?

Perhaps you go with the notion that pro wrestling attracts a mostly blue-collar crowd that prefers the sport’s macho-like qualities to more refined athletic endeavors such as baseball and soccer.

If the answer to at least one of the above is yes, then I’d like you to meet Lisa Brown. The Mount Pleasant resident flies in the face of the stereotypical wrestling fan, and in fact represents a growing number of female followers of the sports/entertainment genre.

Brown is an attractive, personable 42-year-old mother of five – ranging in ages from 3 to 17 and including 6-year-old triplets – whose official title could just as easily be “Supermom” as “Superfan.” She’s also a highly educated and highly successful computer whiz who’s just as comfortable driving her motorcycle to work at SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) as she is supporting her children at T-ball games and school functions.

Over the past year, however, she’s found time to devote to another passion: professional wrestling. She readily admits she’s got the wrestling bug, and she’s got it bad.

How hooked is she?

The fact that she carries around Rob Van Dam and Randy Orton trading cards in her purse might offer a clue. Another tell-tale sign is that she tirelessly searches eBay for all the latest wrestling action figures.

“My husband says if I buy another wrestling action figure on eBay, he’s going to kill me,” she jokes. “So I bought a (John Cena) spinning belt instead.”

Brown says she caught wrestling fever from her younger sons. “Because I work all day long, I like to do things with them at night, and they always wanted to watch wrestling. And it’s addictive. I love (WWE) Raw. We even tape it so we can watch it again.”

So addictive, she says, that she and the children “snuck out” of a beach house the family recently rented to go home and watch Raw when nobody else wanted to see it.

“My kids are the ones who hooked me. We plan our weeks around Smackdown, Raw and ECW. I have no idea what we are going to do when school starts. I would consider home schooling, but I have to work, and (husband) Mike would probably have justification to have me committed.”

She laments the fact that Mike, a pilot for Delta, hasn’t yet embraced the sport.

“I keep telling him to sit down and watch it. It’s so cool. He hasn’t given it a chance.”

Maybe it’s because she bought 50 action figures in the span of a week.

Lisa goes ringside

Brown has only been a wrestling fan for less than a year, but she’s trying to make up for lost time. She attended her first live pro wrestling show Thursday night at The Plex in North Charleston. The program was a Total Nonstop Action (TNA) event, and while it wasn’t the more popular WWE and drew less than 500 fans, Brown and her five children enjoyed the show just the same.

“It was beyond all my expectations. I couldn’t believe all the energy. It was so much fun. I came to work today and everyone asked, ‘What is wrong with you?’ I told them that I went to my first wrestling show yesterday, and I had to tell them all about it. I couldn’t even imagine it would be that great.”

It didn’t matter that she didn’t know everyone on the show.

“It really didn’t. It was more the wrestling part of it. My kids were so into it … and so was I.”

And it didn’t take long for the outgoing fan to get involved in the interactive part of the proceedings. She approached TNA performer Chase Stevens after the show and “scolded” him for hurting the feelings of her adorable 3-year-old daughter Maria.

“I went up to him and told him that he was one of the nicest-looking guys on the show, but that he came off with an attitude and hurt my little girl’s feelings.”

“My little girl loves you, and now she thinks you hate her. We would have rooted for you,” she told the wrestler, whose job as a heel (“bad guy”) is to do make fans hate him.

“Whoa, settle down,” the stunned grappler said before approaching Maria and allaying her fears. “Oh, darling, I’m so sorry,” the wrestler said before posing for photos with his newest fans.

“She now thinks he’s the greatest,” says Mom.

A family affair

If you didn’t know it by now, pro wrestling plays an important part in the Brown household.

“All my kids love wrestling. Even my little girl. She likes the same ones I do – the good-looking guys. My little boys’ favorite is Rey Mysterio. They have those cute masks that they wear around the house.”

“They hate Randy Orton,” she declares. But, she quickly adds, “Randy Orton is gorgeous.”

It’s not all about the looks, she says. A former intercollegiate gymnast herself, Brown says she admires wrestlers who are athletically skilled in the ring.

Her favorite – bar none – is ECW star Rob Van Dam.

“The reason I like RVD so much is because of the way he moves in the ring and the heights he achieves. RVD is an all-out, go-for-it, sacrifice-your-body athlete, and I am an athlete. I always tell my boys that when they go out there and participate in sports, you give it your all. So when he’s out there, I am excited, and he just pumps me up.”

What also excites Brown – especially since attending her first show – is the fact that her husband may be letting up on his heretofore aversion to the rest of the family’s favorite pastime.

“He said that it (the TNA show) was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He quizzed me about the show, and he was as envious as anybody could be.”

Is there a chance?

“He said he would have been there in a heartbeat.”

Brown says she can’t wait until World Wrestling Entertainment rolls into town with either a Raw, Smackdown or ECW brand show. She’s already planning a road trip to an upcoming live Smackdown event in Anderson.

“If he’s here, Mike will go with us. And I think that may be a turning point for him. Thursday night’s show was a turning point for me.”

Free spirit

Lisa, a native of Montana, and Mike, her husband of 20 years, both graduated from the Air Force Academy. She has a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering along with an MBA from Colorado State University. The couple lived here four years while both were in the Air Force before moving to Kansas City and starting a family there. They returned to the Lowcountry in 1993 and have lived here ever since.

Brown, who owned the education-administration product that many private area schools use, worked as a program manager at Blackbaud for four years before switching jobs and joining SAIC, the largest employee-owned research and engineering company in the country. The company is enmeshed in some of the government’s most sensitive work, from redesigning Army combat systems to bioweapons defense and improving electronic snooping for the ultra-secretive National Security Agency.

She’s a free spirit who likes riding her “bike” to work each day.

“I wish it was a Harley but it’s not. It’s a Yamaha V-Star Classic 650. I love my motorcycle. In the wintertime, when no one else will drive it, I drive it. Here at work, everybody else has a Harley, but they still let me ride with them.”

Wrestling nights at home are devoted to such family functions as making WWE iron-on shirts with the children. “When they wear out, we make more of them. That’s what we like to wear.”

Brown admits wrestling is taking up an increasing amount of time, but the girl just can’t help it.

“Unfortunately, I feel like if I watch more wrestling, that’s all I’ll do.”

Then again, there’s always the new WWE 24/7 On Demand service, a wrestling-around-the-clock possibility here in the near future.

“Really?” she asks. “I can’t wait!”