Billy Corgan — frontman of the Smashing Pumpkins, famous resident of Highland Park — is a wrestling fan. Not the hipster kind of wrestling fan, not the kind of ironic appreciation also given over to bowling and vintage cocktails. Corgan is a real wrestling fan, he has been since he was a kid, to the point that he owns the promotion company National Wrestling Alliance and often works full-time putting on matches and other pro wrestling events.
The next of those events will be later this week in Highland Park and will include a book signing at Madame Zuzu’s, the tea shop Corgan owns and runs with his partner Chloé Mendel, followed by two nights of professional wrestling at Studio One on Green Bay Road, all with select proceeds benefiting the Highland Park Community Foundation’s July 4th Recovery Fund.
Corgan has also recently brought pro wrestling on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins — the first World is a Vampire Festival was in Mexico City in March with a bill that also included bands such as Interpol and Turnstile along with live matches. World is a Vampire next heads to Australia later this month on a 10-stop tour.
His wrestling devotion is no secret at this point — Corgan made headlines founding Resistance Pro Wrestling back in 2011 and has been active as an owner and promoter since — but for those who mostly know his name through his hit songs it can still come as a surprise.
“But less and less so,” he said in a recent interview. “At first, people treated it like another sign of my insanity, then as a curiosity. Now more people know I treat it seriously.”
Since founding Resistance Pro Wrestling, Corgan was next involved with the promoter Total Nonstop Action Wrestling from 2015 to 2016, then purchased the National Wrestling Alliance in 2017.
“I’m still learning how to be a promoter,” he said. He has a small staff and an office and often puts in 40 to 50 hours a week. “It’s a full-time job. There are times when I wish that the music didn’t take so much of my time. But let’s put it this way, the rock still pays for the wrestling.”
He pauses to clarify, he doesn’t want to give the sense that he’s leaving music behind. More that wrestling is not a side hobby. Running the NWA has been a big learning curve. As a wrestling brand, he said, it dates back to 1948; it had been neglected when he bought it but he’s making progress toward making it a viable business.
The book signing at Madame Zuzu’s will be a ticketed event, headlined by heavyweight wrestler Tyrus and women’s wrestler Madusa. The matches at Studio One will be live with Friday night’s “NWA 312” also available by pay-per-view.
Corgan and Mendel have organized fundraisers for the Highland Park Community Foundation’s response fund before. A couple of weeks after the mass shooting that killed seven during the northern suburb’s 2022 Fourth of July parade, Corgan was joined by Perry Farrell of the band Jane’s Addiction for a benefit concert that raised a reported $250,000.
So what is it about professional wrestling?
“I grew up watching it,” said Corgan, now 56. “I am at the point in my life where I like that it’s still rebellious.” It’s an entertainment where the rough edges have not been sawed off, he said. “And of course, the good guy always wins. Good triumphs over evil, there’s both pride and conflict.”
He said he loved that at World is a Vampire in Mexico City — the festival borrows its name from the lyrics to the 1995 Pumpkins song “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” — the wrestling was on equal footing with the music.
“It was never going to be, ‘oh, the wrestling is over there in the parking lot.’ We made sure the ring was right up by the main stages. And it was great, there was a band on stage with 10,000 people watching, and when the band was done, they all walked over and watch the wrestling. It wasn’t like, ‘the wrestling is on, let’s go get a hot dog.’” he said.
The wrestlers felt respected, “and it brought some fun and levity that was so different from the people in black up on stage. Myself included.”
Tyus and Madusa Book Signing will be 7 p.m. April 6 at Madame Zuzu’s, 1876 1st St., Highland Park, with Tyrus and his 2022 book “Just Tyrus,” and Madusa with her new book “The Woman Who Would Be King: The MADUSA Story.” Tickets from $24.95 at NWATIX.com
“NWA 312 Live” will be 8 p.m. April 7 and available via pay-per-view on FITE TV. Audiences can also attend NWA TV tapings at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. April 8, all events at Studio One, 1799 Green Bay Road, Highland Park. Tickets for the live matches and PPV, plus the full lineup and more information, at NWATIX.com