CASE KEEFER/IPHONE PHOTO
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 | 2 a.m.
If Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley needed a respite following the end of KISS’ South American tour last week, they didn’t find it at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday night.
The pounding their bodies take by performing in a new city every night paled in comparison to the one their Arena Football League franchise, the Los Angeles KISS, endured against the Las Vegas Outlaws. Stirred by owner and Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil’s fiery desire to send this particular opponent away mad, the Outlaws put the KISS in the dirt for the second time in a month.
Las Vegas’ 49-16 victory over Los Angeles improved the team’s record to 3-2 in its inaugural season.
“When we got in this league and saw the division we were in, we knew KISS was our biggest rival,” Neil said before kickoff. “I knew we had to beat them. It was instant.”
Neil drummed up ways to elevate the stakes against a team headed by the band he first toured with more than 30 years ago almost as soon as the AFL awarded his ownership group the Outlaws. The Outlaws’ lone home game against the KISS was branded the “Rock Star Rivalry” and the two teams played for the Dollar Loan Center rivalry trophy.
Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” blasted over the speakers arena’s whenever the Outlaws made a big play, starting with receiver Gerald Young running the kickoff back 56 yards for a touchdown the first time the team touched the ball. The game never really improved for the KISS as Outlaws quarterback J.J. Raterink accounted for four touchdowns while the defense forced three turnovers.
Neil was arguably the most animated member of a crowd of 5,800, sitting a few seats down from former NFL coach Mike Shanahan in the first row and yelling regularly.
“I lost my voice last game,” Neil said.
His famous long blond hair tossing from side to side, Neil took to the field an hour before the game to encourage his players. Simmons and Stanley were more hands-off, though the former did say he engaged in some trash talk with the Outlaws on the way to his dressing room.
“I saw some of them and greeted them correctly,” Simmons said. “I said, ‘Hello (expletive),’ and other superlatives. But you want that. Why the (expletive) else would you step in a ring relatively speaking?”
Simmons and Stanley hope the KISS play with that mentality regardless of the team on the other sideline. Unlike Neil, they assigned no extra significance to the series with the Outlaws — which will feature one more game in Los Angeles this season on July 18.
“I believe rivalries are natural between any two teams in every sport,” Stanley said. “Anyone you can compete against is an inborn rivalry. We don’t need to make this into the WWE.”
Neil considers Simmons and Stanley friends, but believes beating the Outlaws means more to them than they’re letting on.
“I think it’s because they lost the first one,” Neil said. “It’s a rivalry you can’t deny. It’s there and you can’t ignore it — rock and roll versus rock and roll.”
Several fans dressed up in KISS face paint and outfits for the contest. A few people also sported outlaw costumes, which went along with a handful of Mötley Crüe and KISS T–shirts spread throughout the stands.
“It gets people to root for their favorite band,” Neil said. “Hopefully there are other rockers, and I know there are country guys, that want to get into this league. It’s going to show what this league is all about and bring it to another level.”
Simmons and Stanley agreed with Neil that their two teams playing each other frequently would prove mutually beneficial in the long run. They’re passionate for the arena variant of America’s most popular sport.
Simmons and Stanley could easily spend the next few weeks resting up for the start of their European tour at the end of the month, but they’d rather be at the games.
“It’s good for everybody when people from the outside who aren’t vested in football wake up to the fact that this is great family entertainment,” Simmons said. “The assumption that everyone is already a football fan is delusional.”