Story-ideas-1011172

The wrestling Chutzpah Europe loves to hate

  • SportJTAWrestler
Like many Israelis visiting Europe, Leeor Brooks is keenly aware of his compatriots’ reputation abroad for rudeness.
by CNAAN LIPHSHIZ | Jul 05, 2018

The boorish stereotype is so well known, it has its own term there – “the ugly Israeli” – and has been the subject of many an awareness-raising campaign. There’s even an entire non-profit, Good Will Ambassadors, devoted solely to educating Israelis to behave better abroad.

But Brooks isn’t part of that effort. A professional wrestler who tours Europe regularly, he has taken the “ugly Israeli” to new levels, building around it an entire persona called “The Chutzpah”.

The characteristics of The Chutzpah “are pretty straightforward”, the 28-year-old told the Israel Broadcasting Corporation in a recent interview. “An Israeli who doesn’t give a f**k, an a**hole who’d do anything to win. A classic villain.”

Wearing his white-and-blue spandex costume emblazoned with a star of David, Brooks likes to deliver short, insulting introductions before his matches.

“All my life I didn’t understand why my grandfather left Prague for Israel,” he said at a recent match in the Czech Republic. “But now that I’m here, I can fully understand why he did that move. Your country stinks! Your president is corrupt, he’s a drunk!” he hollered as the audience booed, many of them smiling. “Everybody here tonight can kiss my ass!”

During the choreographed fight – a match that involves real blows, enormous exertion, and plenty of theatrics – Brooks delivers what he calls a “krav maga kick” to his Hungarian adversary’s groin.

As the rival lies on the mat feigning unconsciousness, Brooks ceremoniously puts on a kippa and shouts out in Hebrew: “Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, king of the universe, amen!” as he lands his so-called “chosen people elbow blow” on the prostrate athlete.

The crowd chants “F**k you Leeor”, as Brooks flips them the finger.

“I was looking for the boos,” Brooks, a 6 foot 1 (1.8m), 220-pound (99.7kg) redhead, told the Israeli film crew in Prague in January, as he was squeezing sweat out of his ponytail. “I’m not here to be a crowd-pleaser.”

Soft spoken, polite, and eloquent in English and Hebrew, his real-life demeanour seems the opposite of the loud-mouthed, trash talking brute he portrays on stage.

“Most fans nowadays know that professional wrestling is in fact theatrical sport and not a competitive competition, so you mainly work on their emotion with your skills in and out of the ring,” Brooks said.

“I guess it’s sort of like stand-up comedy or a movie, just [that] you [are] wearing tights, and your stage is the ring,” he said. But ultimately, it “is all about putting smiles on people’s faces”.

Brooks, a video editor and personal trainer from Netanya, is pursuing a stand-up comedy career. He is a popular performer among wrestling promoters in Europe. They book him for matches on a monthly, and sometimes weekly, basis.

That’s no small feat in a field that’s saturated with hundreds of performer-athletes, each plugging their own shtick in the hope of landing gigs. There are hundreds of wrestling leagues with varying degrees of professionalism, Brooks said.

“The competition is nuts. You have hundreds upon hundreds of different wrestlers, and you have to find a unique niche to find an audience,” he said.

Brooks began wrestling in 2012 under a different persona, or gimmick, as they are known in the field. A wrestler told him in 2015 that he should create an Israeli character. Initially, Brooks expected his persona to appeal to Jews. But he also ended up a favourite of sorts among non-Jewish audiences who respond to his act because it’s provocative, at times funny, unique, and stereotypical.

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