I looked at my watch and saw that it was 7:20 p.m. “Time to leave,” I thought to myself as I didn’t want to be late. I texted my buddy Mitchell to meet me at the bar by 8, and with that, I hopped in my car and made the 25-minute drive over to Warren. As I arrived at the Hot Rock Bar, I felt a rush of excitement and curiosity fill me. I walked in to see a prototypical sports bar, screens everywhere, patrons enjoying their alcoholic beverages, and then I turned to my right. There I saw it, in all its 12-by-12 foot glory: the micro wrestling ring. Where there was normally a stage, it had been replaced by this ring, the lights from the ceiling shining down upon it. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that it did look glorious. As Mitchell and I waited at the bar for Jack Darrell, the owner and promoter for the Micro Wrestling Federation to arrive, we took in the sights and smells and atmosphere that was around us at the bar. We walked over to the ring and touched the canvas and the ropes. They were sturdy, to say the least, and as I smacked the mat to see how hard it was, I felt a rush of pain to my hand and realized that it was not a very soft surface. I know I wouldn’t want to be suplexed on it. At around 8, Jack and the Micro Wrestlers walked into the venue. Jack greeted us and we made small talk. He asked us if we had ever been to a Micro Wrestling event before? We replied no, and he goes, “Well then, you guys are gonna be in for a treat, because we put on a hell of a show.” Jack is what you’d expect from a typical promoter: an over-the-top character who knows how to work a crowd. I liked his candid attitude and spirit and enjoyed our brief chat. He also is a man who does not waste time, as punctuality is key for his business and something he prides himself and his performers on. After our chat, he led us to the back so that we could meet the wrestlers. I thought I was going to see some high energy, zany characters, but I was treated to... well, the complete opposite. What I saw when I entered was just down-to-earth, normal guys, who were chilling. It reminded me of my playing days when before a big game, we would do whatever we could to calm ourselves before the adrenaline kicked in. As we entered the room, we first met with Flying Ryan who, at the time of the show, was the current Micro Wrestling Federation Champion.
Ryan, a nearly five-year veteran of the business, told us about how he got started in wrestling. “I was a fan growing up, and I saw a Facebook post about it, and I called up, and they needed a little person to come out, so I did, and didn’t really train, and they just threw me in the ring, and I’ve been doing it ever since.” This was a common theme we found through the night, with most of the performers not really having any training in the business when they started they learned through trial by fire. We chatted about the grind of the business, and Ryan explained that they do about 200-300 shows a year. We asked what the travel was like. “It’s crazy. It’s rough being away from your family, but then it’s like, when I am at home, I want to come back on the road because I love this business.”
Next up was the fighting Irishman, Paddy McGregor. Paddy, another veteran of the business, came to the States when he was young. He grew up loving fighting, and getting into the business was a natural progression for him. I asked him whether he was a babyface or a heel (good or bad guy). He replied, “I am a face – you know, I try to make the fans happy. If they’re happy, I am happy.
After Paddy, we were introduced to the newest addition to the Micro Wrestling Roster, Big Daddy Bruiser. Bruiser, who has only been with the company for about 10 shows, said his main focus right now is on learning the business. We asked him what it was like being new and being a heel, and he said, “I love it. I am new to it getting use to people booing me, but I love it so far.”
From the rookie, we moved on to the two brothers, Baby Jesus and Lil Show the Redneck Brawler. The brothers are the two longest-tenured wrestlers, having gotten into the business nearly 15 years ago. They were asked to come work for Memphis Wrestling by the King Jerry Lawler, a wrestling legend. “We went up there, and Jerry was there, and we did some work for him, and we’ve been wrestling ever since.” With their many years in the business, we asked the brothers what their greatest moments were. Baby Jesus said, “My greatest experience was being in Vegas wrestling in front of 4,000 people, and this one guy jumped off of the titantron on me and the crowd went crazy.” For the Redneck Brawler, it was his experience being in Wrestlemania last year. “I filled out a form for WWE maybe 3-4 years ago, in case they need a little guy, and they called me up out of the blue and asked if I wanted to be part of the show, and I was like, hell yeah, so I flew out there a week before the event and got to meet everyone backstage, and it was amazing, and eventually I got to go out as one of the pancakes for the new days entrance, and I ended up doing the worm in front of 80,000 people, which I will never forget.” As we talked with the brothers, we asked them about the grind of being on the road all these years. They both admitted that it takes a bit of a toll on them. They both have dealt with some injuries, and we asked them why they kept doing it. As the Brawler explained, “When I go out there, I’m pumped on adrenaline. When my music hits, and I lace up my boots and put my ring gear on, and I step through those curtains, there’s nothing like it. When I am in that ring, I’m somebody, and I never thought in a million years I would get to do this. You know, growing up, I didn’t know what I was gonna be. I knew I loved wrestling, but I never thought in a million years I would get to live my dream. When I am in that ring, nothing else matters, nothing except me and my opponent, and we are going to try to steal the damn show, and if we don’t, we’re gonna come real damn close.” Seeing the passion that these two men still had for the business, even after all these years of performing, was remarkable to witness.
After our engaging conversation with the brothers, we got to meet Heavy Metal Mario. Mario got into the business through a friend who got him into contact with Jack, and from there, he started out as a referee but quickly transitioned into a wrestler. I asked him about how he came up with his wrestling character? “Well, I was working at this nightclub before I got into wrestling, and I would dress up as Mario sometimes, and when I was talking to the boss, and he was like, ‘Well, why don’t you dress up as Mario out here?’ and I said, ‘Alright, but you gotta let me put my flair on it,’ and since I am very metal – you know, I got the tats, the full beard, the chains, it's really my style – and that’s how Heavy Metal Mario was born.” Mario told us he’s one of the high flyers of Micro Wrestling, so I asked him if he ever gets thrown into the crowd, and he goes, “All the time, and we did a huge show last year in Georgia where I got thrown into the crowd, and they caught me and I crowd surfed, and since then, this guy (pointing to the Redneck Brawler) throws me out all the time.”
Once we ended with Mario, we were on the search to find the one current female performer in the Micro Wrestling Federation. We found Lil Miss outside, and her upbeat personality was a change of pace from the focused, down-to-earth, and relaxed attitudes of her male counterparts.
She started about two years ago on the suggestion of her cousin Ryan. “I saw how he was traveling and making good money and getting to experience things most people don’t get to experience, and I wanted to be a part of that.” I asked if she knew much about the business before she got into it, and she said no. “For me, I went into this not really knowing anything about wrestling at all, and Jack wasn’t sure what he was gonna do with me. I started as a ring girl, and I held up posters in the beginning, but then I transitioned into being a referee.” I asked what’s the key to being a good referee, and she said, “It’s all about facial expressions. I watched WWE refs to see what they were doing, and then I took some from that and started doing my own thing, and I noticed from this job that the key thing is facial expression, it makes the show. If your face is just dead up there and you’re just counting, you’re not really interacting with the show, and I have had several fans come up to me and go, ‘Your face made the show. If it wasn’t for your face and just your whole performance as an official, the show wouldn’t have been as good.’ It’s really all about showmanship at the end of the day.” From her positive relationships with fans, I asked her about what the response has been like from the little person community. “So, it’s 50/50 as far as little people go, because of the history of little people in terms [of] entertainment as carnival acts, or being used as freak shows, and also because for a very long time, we used the term ‘midget,’ which is a derogatory word, which did not help, but since we went politically correct a few years ago and became the Micro Wrestling Federation, the community has been more accepting. We’ve had little people and regular tall people who come to our show and expect to see a freak show or not a serious event, but when they come to our shows and they see what we actually do, they are shocked. I have had people come up to me and be like, ‘OMG, you guys are actual athletes. You just are smaller and do it a different way,’ and they are always asking me how do they join in or see us again.” We also chatted about what her other tasks are within the promotion, and she explained that alongside Jack, she helps with the business side of the company. “I have helped him book a few shows in the past, but mostly I work with selling the merchandise to the fans, which I love, because I can get a lot of one-on-one time with the fans that the guys don’t necessarily get, and I really enjoy connecting with our fans.”
After our poignant conversation with Lil Miss, we were on to the man himself, Jack Darrell.
We started our conversation by finding out how he got involved with Micro Wrestling and he said, “Well, back in 2006 I met a man named POD (Pissed Off Dwarf), and I became his booking agent. At the time, I was booking a Chippendales show, and I was booking a stable of comedians, and I saw POD, and this guy was amazing, and I’m like, Dude, you’re the Hulk Hogan of Micro Wrestling, and I’m gonna sell this show, and I ended up buying the company from him in 2008.” I noticed how it seems they have exploded in popularity over the past few year, and he goes, “Absolutely. With social media platforms available to artists like us, it allows us to get our product to way more fans than ever before.” Mitchell asked how the booking goes with venues, and Jack explained how in-demand Micro Wrestling is. “People blow up my phone all the time. I usually get five venues a day calling to book us.” We asked about what they look for in a venue, and he explained, “Well, we separate our shows based on the day of the week. So, for example, we take Monday and Tuesday off. Then for Wednesday and Thursday shows, it’s typically a bar like the one we are at tonight, or a club someplace that can hold a minimum of 200 people. If I can get 200-250 people on a Wednesday, then that’s good, and on Thursday, we usually get 300 plus. Last week, we had 600 on a Thursday. For the weekends, I won’t book any venue that can’t hold at least a thousand people, and so I say for us a small show is 2-300 people, average is 500, and then last year we did over two dozen shows that had over 1,000 people in attendance, and our biggest show was over 3,000.” He then went into how the company has grown over the past few years. “When I got back here in 2016, I was selling the show to venues for $5,000, anywhere between $3,000-5,000. Now my number is 5,000 for the weekday shows, and 10,000 for the weekends.” From scheduling, we moved into what he looks for in the performers he hires. “The one thing I look for is attitude. It’s all about attitude. In the past three years, I’ve had to get rid of about 10 guys because of their attitude. If you don’t want to be social, we can’t have it. Part of this job is being a local celebrity, and you gotta socialize with the fans, talk to them, take pictures with them, and have a positive attitude, because this job is tough, it’s a grind, and things happen, but if you have a good attitude about it, you will be very successful.” We moved from what he was looking for to what is the future of the company, and I saw a glint in Jack’s eyes as he was ready for this question and very happy to share with us the bright future of the Micro Wrestling Federation. “Well, last year, we did $1 million in gross sales, and our performers are making a very good living. We could keep doing what we are doing, and we would be successful, but we wanted to branch out and expand, and so we have just recently signed a three-year lease in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and so that is going to be huge for our company. Now that we have a home base, we will be running shows out of Pigeon Forge five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, and eventually, we will be running two shows a day, seven days a week. At the same time, we will still be touring, and so we will be able to expand our company exponentially by running a lot more shows.” As we wrapped up our colorful chat, I asked Jack what was the one thing you want people to take away from a MWF show? “Well, I want them to know that we are gonna be on time, that they’re going to see the best wrestlers out there. Also, if you’ve never seen a MWF show like most audiences, we are going to smash any preconceived notions you may have about micro wrestling and show you that our performers are legit athletes, and we are a legit company, and our show is going to leave you in awe, and you’re going to love every second of it.”
After we finished up with Jack, Mitchell and I were getting ready to go to watch the show, when all of a sudden, the Redneck Brawler asked us to come over to him. We obliged and he asked us if our hands were available. I asked why, and that’s when Heavy Metal Mario jumped in and asked us, did we want to catch him? Mitchell and I were a bit surprised by the question, and Mario explained how they do a spot in the match where Redneck throws him over the ropes, and they wanted to know if we were comfortable catching him so he doesn’t hit the floor. We enthusiastically said yes, and were excited at the prospect of being part of the show. The wrestlers explained to us what the signals would be to know it was time for him to be thrown over the ropes and to be ready for when that time came. With that information, we were shown to our spot in the bar to watch the show. Knowing we would play a little part in it really added to our already palpable excitement. The show started with an introduction of the wrestlers to the fans. Jack, who also is the MC and announcer for the shows, got on the mic and asked the fans the same question he asked us when we first met: “Is this your first ever micro wrestling show?” Every hand in the venue, which had been filled to capacity, went up, and then with an added bravado in his voice, Jack goes, “Well, prepared to be amazed!” The show started with a handicapped tag team match between Heavy Metal Mario, Paddy McGregor, and the Redneck Brawler. As the Brawler came into the ring, he started to rile the crowd up. It was clear to us that this was a man who loved being a heel (bad guy), and as a 15-year vet, knew exactly how to get the crowd angry. He mocked a few fans, and the crowd booed him out of the building – the exact reaction he was going for. Then entered the two babyfaces to a thunderous applause. The match was physical to say the least, and the bumps these men were taking were brutal. Back and forth the action went, and as I was watching, I couldn’t help but marvel at how athletic these individuals were. About 10 minutes into the match, we got our cue from the ref, and we got close to the ringside and waited. Sure enough, not a minute later, we became part of the show when we caught Mario, who had been thrown from the ring. Catching another human being is not as easy as these professionals make it, and I was sore the next morning as I’d caught a knee from Mario in the face. It was all good, though, because the adrenaline and rush from that moment was intoxicating. We stayed for the rest of the match, which was excellent, and afterward, as the wrestlers were heading towards the back, we checked in with Mario to make sure he was fine from the spot. He assured us he was OK and said we did it exactly right, which was great validation for us.
After the show, we thanked the guys for their time, thanked Jack for allowing us the opportunity to witness and be a part of this spectacle, and we left still buzzing from the high of the event. When I finally got home and decompressed, I kept thinking to myself, wow, that was so much fun.
The Micro Wrestling Federation is not a sideshow, carnival act or freak show. It is a legitimate promotion and wrestling company, built on the hard work of the men and women who make up the organization. These athletes go out there, night after night, risking their health and livelihood to live their dreams and entertain fans all over the country. Whether it’s a road show or at their new home base in Pigeon Forge, if you get the chance to see their show, I implore you to check it out. It is a great experience that you will never forget, and if you’re lucky like I was, you may just get to be part of the show.