Micro wrestlers find larger than life appeal

In front of a standing-room grandstand at the Johnson County Fair on Tuesday, a 3-foot-6 entertainer and WWE-style wrestler named Micro Jackson, donning a sparkly glove and red jacket, sang “Wanna Be Starting Something” and “Beat him.”

The dance routine preceded a high-flying action involving wrestlers of similar stature garnering cheers and admiration as they traded suplexes, clotheslines and power slams. Others kicked their foes off the mat or hit them with props such as a wet floorboard and a plunger, which wrestler Pinky Shortcake used to her advantage against her opponent, SyKo.

Although not as tall as most people who look at them, the members of the Micro Wrestling Federation have found a way for people to look up to them, as they have followed a path to stardom that earns them hundreds. , even thousands of fans every night they perform.

Micro Jackson, real name DeShawn Richardson, takes his stage name from his origins as a dancer growing up in Georgia.

“I decided I was going to be an artist. I was a dancer and in high school there was no other job for me. Making little money doesn’t work for me,” Richardson said. “I knew micro-wrestling about three years before I came here. My girlfriend said to me, ‘You have people who look like you.’ »

Derec Pemberton, who stars as SyKo, was a high school wrestler in Kansas City, Kansas and started his own micro wrestling business 10 years ago before it was shut down by an athletic commission. From there he went to work with Extreme Midget Wrestling, where he performed for six years before spending the most recent year with the Micro Wrestling Federation.

“It was extremely hard to find other people and dwarfs there, so I started my own business, just me and my brother, who is also a dwarf or a little person,” Pemberton said. “My brother and I grew up around carnival and we were always doing show business. He wrestled, but not continuously. We’re both in the limelight because we’re both big TikTok stars. »

Domenic “Disco Dom” Feldi, a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, saw a social media post from the federation, but he didn’t have a video showing athletic moves for wrestling. Despite this, he received a call about six months later asking if he was still interested in becoming a wrestler.

“My thought process was that I wanted to be a wrestler all my life,” Feldi said. “The opportunity presented itself and I wanted to try it, and since then I have flourished.”

Ashley Waterhouse, known as Pinky Shortcake in the ring, has some of the deepest roots in professional wrestling. Originally from Maine, his father and uncle were Queasy and Sleazy respectively – two of Jerry Lawler’s Three Kings of the former World Wrestling Federation.

“It was pretty awesome. I was able to take my dad out as a manager and when I was a baby, and I rang the bell to start the games. I met some pretty top guys. I got to know Tony Atlas, Sabu,” Waterhouse said. “I kind of decided after I graduated from high school, I was going to go out and start my journey. A year later, I started micro-wrestling in another company.

The other wrestler on the team who made it to the Johnson County Fair, BreAnnah “Little Miss” Belliveau, said she followed in the footsteps of her brother Ryan. After originally not caring about wrestling, the Vermont native, who is the fourth generation of little people in her family, decided to give it a shot and is now in her sixth year of wrestling.

Although wrestlers can earn between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, they put on five to six shows a week. Many of these shows take place at the federation headquarters in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but much of their profession takes them on the road.

Waterhouse, a nine-year-old micro wrestler, has been to London, Wales, Germany, Mexico and the contiguous 48 states, and now takes her baby on her travels. Richardson, however, spent long periods away from his family, he said.

“It’s a lot of travel, it’s a lot of dedication and I say it’s different,” Richardson said. “Sometimes it’s hard for obvious reasons to be away from family. Thank God for FaceTime and for being able to know your reason for doing it in the long run. It’s the people who are out there cheering you on. These are the interviews coming in and people are so fascinated. People are fascinated by me anyway, but now they’re fascinated by “he’s a little person and Micro Jackson”. They know me by my name other than my appearance.

Being on the road with other little people forms a community for the wrestlers, who had previously faced discrimination in other environments.

“Some of the guys have never been around other little people. By working here for this job, many of us can excel and be successful,” Belliveau said. “We are not discriminated against by this job and by this place If I get a job at McDonald’s, I may be discriminated against – and I have been discriminated against in several different jobs.

Richardson said he was also discriminated against, not just because of his height, but because of his race as a black man.

“I’m short and black so sometimes when people judge me I wonder which one but because of my personality and the way I carry myself I’ve never had to deal with outright bullying because I won’t allow it to happen,” Richardson said. “For me, I have to work twice as hard to get people to respect what I’m doing.”

In the ring, however, these preconceptions and discriminatory thoughts often crumble, Pemberton said.

“I know that when someone sees the show, their perception of my ability to do things is always different than when they leave,” he said. “I like to be underestimated.”

These reactions include kids becoming fans of the micro wrestlers.

“My favorite thing is the kids’ expressions and the fun they have,” Waterhouse said. “It’s to show that it doesn’t matter if you’re tall, short, skinny or fat, you can do whatever you want.”

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