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Mike Pankow

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Wrestling cosplay group just too sweet

Wrestling cosplay group just too sweet

By Mike Pankow

September 10, 2018

Professional wrestling is all about colorful characters and creativity and so is cosplay.

So much like peanut butter and chocolate coming together to form the perfect combination for a candy bar, wrestling and cosplay are an ideal mix.

Too Sweet Cosplay, a Chicago-area based group of costumed wrestling characters, brought it loud and proud to last month’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

Dress-ups ranging from “The Demon” Finn Balor, Chris Jericho, Bubba Ray Dudley, Bayley, Kenny Omega, Nikki Bella, Randy Savage to Roddy Piper were on display around the convention.

 “I’ve been a wrestling fan since the 1990s,” said Chicago resident Steve “Stvo” Jay, one of the heads of Too Sweet Cosplay, who was decked out as Bubba Ray Dudley. “I started out with a house show at the Rosemont Horizon, then I watched WrestleMania 7. Decades later, some friends and I were running a wrestling photoshoot at Anime Central, which was a lot of fun. I’ve been doing that since 2013. Later on, I met all these good people and basically started another group together.”

Jay, Jay’s girlfriend Raquel Cee, Andrew Man, Nikolas Melendez and Ezra Vickrey are the leaders of the group, which has grown exponentially over the last year or so.

Jay, 34, would dress up with a small group at conventions like Anime Central and C2E2 and do wrestling cosplay photoshoots at those shows. Meanwhile, Melendez and Vickrey became friends with Man a few years ago and they started their own cosplay group around C2E2 in 2017, called Bullet Club Chicago. Jay also knew Man through Jay’s “WWE Cosplay Day” shoots, so they decided to merge into what is known today as Too Sweet Cosplay was created in 2017 when the two groups combined into one.

The group hosted a vendor space at Wizard World Chicago for the second straight year. This time around they constructed a custom-made entrance set and would play music for cosplayers through a Bluetooth speaker.

The main group of Too Sweet Cosplay range in age from 26 to 34, showing that wrestling is for more than just for kids and young adults.

“It’s about the love for professional wrestling and the joy it brings us,” said Northwest Indiana native Melendez, 26, who was wearing a CM Punk-themed shirt. “I look forward to this gathering for the friendship, to have a common niche that brings us together.”

For Senna Chandra Fenette, who was dressed as “The Demon” version of Finn Balor, Too Sweet Cosplay was an opportunity to step out of her shell and put her creativity on display.

“Me and my buddies got together to watch the 2017 Royal Rumble,” said Naperville native Fenette, 30. “The guy I’m dating now started trolling me with pictures of Finn Balor, the Demon King. I was like, ‘Where has this theatrical beauty been all my life?’

“I was looking to be a part of something and not have to walk on eggshells. I love wrestling because of theatrics. I adore the Demon King. … I have a niche and it’s given me such huge confidence.”

At Wizard World, there are people dressed as superheroes and villains like Spider-Man, Captain America, Deadpool, Black Panther, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn and cartoon characters like the Scooby-Doo gang, He-Man, Skeletor and Disney princesses. Too Sweet Cosplay helped to kick the door down in terms of pro wrestling cosplay. And they’re not limited to just WWE stars. Wrestlers past and present from many different promotions were portrayed.

“This gets everybody together,” said Chicago native Cee, 32. “A lot of people tell us that we’re the first group of people to come to a convention and do this.”

There were even a few local wrestlers at Wizard World doing cosplay, including Joey Roth as Piper and Roxi Heart at Lady Loki, plus another veteran independent wrestler who dressed up as Pentagon Jr.

“There’s something about wrestling cosplays that brings out the best in you because you see the character, you see the personality, you see a different side of you,” said Man, who cosplayed as Jericho and Omega during Wizard World. “It shows that they go hand-in-hand. What better way to bring everybody together.”

Man, 29, a Bloomingdale native, said his favorite cosplay overall is Ryu from the video game Street Fighter.

“I’m a huge fighting game fan,” he said. “He’s definitely one of my favorite characters in the game. I connect with him the most.”

The two highlights of Wizard World for Too Sweet Cosplay were their photo shoot in the lobby that drew over two dozen wrestling cosplayers and a visit to the group’s table from WWE legend Billy Gunn and former IMPACT Wrestling Knockout Velvet Sky.

Gunn, his son Austin Gunn, and Sky interacted with Too Sweet Cosplay and even did their own entrance at the group’s table.

“It shows that cosplay and wrestling can go together,” said Northwest Indiana native Vickrey, 27, who was dressed as “The Villain” Marty Scurll. “Cosplay is not a bad term. People say, ‘They pretend to be wrestlers because they want to be one.’ Wrestling and cosplay have been as popular as it’s ever been over the last few years.”

Too Sweet Cosplay has made a big splash on social media, registering over 1,200 likes to its Facebook page. Several wrestlers have liked the group’s photos on Twitter. Cosplay groups from around the world have reached out to Too Sweet Cosplay, including World Wrestling Cosplay from England.

Jay said he and Cee had a special interaction during WrestleMania weekend this year in New Orleans.

“We were at WWE Axxess,” he said. “We did our first-ever out-of-state photo shoot in New Orleans. There was the group of cosplayers from Japan. They actually joined our photo shoot.”

For the group, cosplaying as their favorite superstar is all about sharing their love for pro wrestling and having fun.

“When a little kid comes to our booth and they see the (championship) belts, they’re like, ‘Can I just hold that for like five seconds?’ ” Melendez said. “It’s like the coolest thing in the world because of the smiles on their faces, little kids or even grown adults.”

There’s an instant connection between Too Sweet Cosplay and wrestling fans, especially youngsters.

“I didn’t even have my (Finn Balor) sashes on and this little girl comes running up to me and is like, ‘Balor, Balor, Balor,’ and oh my God, my internal organs just melted,” Fenette said. “So, I brought out my belt and had her pose with it. That just made my day.” 

For many more photos from Too Sweet Cosplay at Wizard World Chicago, go to https://www.windycityslam.com/photos/

 The heads of Too Sweet Cosplay, Andrew Man (from left), Raquel Cee, Steve "Stvo" Jay, Nikolas Melendez and Ezra Vickrey, pose at Wizard World Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Saturday, August 25, 2018.  (Photo by Mike Pankow)

The heads of Too Sweet Cosplay, Andrew Man (from left), Raquel Cee, Steve "Stvo" Jay, Nikolas Melendez and Ezra Vickrey, pose at Wizard World Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Saturday, August 25, 2018. (Photo by Mike Pankow)

 Alejandro Rivera (with Socky the Sock Puppet), left, and Senna Chandra Fenette, who cosplayed as "The Demon King" version of Finn Balor, pose at Wizard World Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Saturday, August 25, 2018.  (Photo by Mike Pankow)

Alejandro Rivera (with Socky the Sock Puppet), left, and Senna Chandra Fenette, who cosplayed as "The Demon King" version of Finn Balor, pose at Wizard World Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Saturday, August 25, 2018. (Photo by Mike Pankow)

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