TEXAS CITY - Cigarette smoke, spilled beer and a rowdy bar crowd - just another day at the office for Ricky Sells.
The 21-year-old Austin native steps into the ring showing all the confidence a performer needs to entertain a crowd. But inside, he’s bracing himself for the worst.
"There's always the drunk idiot that tries to bring you down," Sells said. "But at the end of the night, I've got his money in my pocket."
Being heckled at and discriminated against has been part of Sells' life for as long as he can remember. The only difference these days is that he gets paid to embrace it. At 4 feet, 2 inches and 85 pounds, Sells is a performer for the Midget Wrestling Entertainment, a group of dwarves that travels around the country, performing in a variety of venues. Most of their bookings come from bars like Scoreboard Sports Bar off FM 1765, where they entertained nearly 100 locals on Sunday night.
For most of the "midget wrestlers," which they prefer to be called when the term isn't used in a derogatory manner, political correctness is trumped by the rising popularity of the such-labeled sport.
"It's all about the context - no one calls it 'dwarf wrestling,'" said Reginald Smith, business manager and promoter for the Tennessee-based company. "It's a new kind of entertainment, but it's getting big."
Founded in 2000, the MWE prides itself in being the "Greatest Little Show On Earth." Last year, they performed in more than 180 venues across 33 states, Smith said.
For Sells, the biggest benefit to being a micro wrestler is what he feels most people take for granted - employment.
"I'd walk in job interviews, and they'd swear up and down that they couldn't hire me for all these fake reasons," Sells said. "But this job has opened up opportunities I never dreamed of having."
Since he became a wrestler in 2009, Sells has been on the television show, "Bones," appeared in a Jimmy John's commercial and had countless other television appearances.
Sells considers being a micro wrestler as an increasingly opportune path for an aspiring actor. He realizes many members of the audience might see what he does as a gimmick, but he said he leaves the ring feeling empowered by his performance. His character, "Ricky Benjamin," a three-time gold medalist wrestler wearing a red, white and blue unitard with faux Olympic gold medals was a crowd favorite Sunday night.
Fellow wrestler Alex Peters, 29, has been a regular on World Wrestling Entertainment as his persona, "Pit Bull." Peters has traveled to Japan, England and Mexico to perform as a micro wrestler and now can laugh at the criticism he received growing up in Alabama.
"This is my calling," Peters said. "I couldn’t picture myself in a cubicle, working a boring desk job where everyone is always staring at me. They still stare, but this way, they pay to do it."
COLUMBUS, GA - It’s OK to support midget violence — that is, assuming you pay the required cover charge and keep your hands out of the wrestling ring.
I learned the lesson in June, when I covered a Midget Wrestling Entertainment event at downtown Columbus nightclub Oxygen.
I cheered as the show’s mini athletes kicked and punched each other.
I stayed mesmerized when they sported “I Support Midget Violence” T-shirts while interacting with fans after the event.
And now, in a testament to the depth of my journalism career, I’m covering midget wrestling again. The stars of the Midget Wrestling Entertainment return to Oxygen tonight.
Amid global challenges and political dilemmas, you raise an important question:
Do we really need another article about midget wrestling?
I acquired a certain level of wisdom after attending my first Midget Wrestling Entertainment event. I’m now call myself a midget wrestling enthusiast, rather than a mere spectator.
Before I outline what to expect tonight, there’s an obvious issue to address. Some of you likely think this column is offensive.
“The term midget is non-offensive to us as long as it’s used to promote the Micro event and not used in a derogatory manner towards little people,” according to information posted on the Midget Wrestling Entertainment’s website.
Got it? Many post-show discussions of midget wrestling rely on a simple mantra: “You had to be there.”
However, if you’re looking for an advance glimpse into tonight’s event, I’ll emphasize there’s nothing amateur about the ordeal.
The stars will entertain you. My first brush with midget wrestling included a ring announcer and a nightclub packed with excited partiers.
Something else that impressed me? The show’s stars are multi-talented.
When I went to Oxygen in June, one of the mini athletes followed the main event with a special performance that involved hip gyrations and $1 bills. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
I went into my first midget wrestling event bogged down by questions about the event’s potential offensiveness.
When I interviewed the wrestlers, I feared they’d consider my questions condescending.
Instead, we talked about their travel schedule, training regimen and the wildest place they’ve performed. (The honor went to a small town in Ohio, strangely.)
Midget wrestlers aren’t intent on scrutinizing your choice of words.
They’re too busy gaining support for their brand of violence — the kind that causes the most pain when you realize you’re too tall to participate.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516.
Cleveland, OH - Generally, when people think of wrestlers, they’re thinking of mammoth people towering over six feet tall built with muscle on top of muscle. That’s not completely true; and Cleveland found this out Saturday night when the Midget Wrestling Entertainment came to McCarthy’s Ale House downtown.
Six wrestlers less than five feet in height stepped into the ring for single and tag team matches. If you thought wrestling on the WWE was entertaining; then you haven’t seen anything yet until you experience micro wrestling.
And judging by the television appearances (FOX, truTV, CMT, WWE, Jerry Springer), people are starting to catch on since the MWE started in 2000.
Janesville, WI - When J-Mazing was introduced to the crowd, he walked out to bass-thumping rap music and roaring applause.
He flexed his muscles, flashed the peace sign and did the moonwalk across the wrestling ring.
He later flew off the top ropes to elbow drop a wrestler, smashed his head with a garbage can and speared him with a pool cue.
J-Mazing might be 4 feet tall, but he fought dirty and would have intimidated any man. He was tough, cocky and absolutely ruthless.
He was one of five wrestlers in the Midget Wrestling Entertainment, described as "the greatest little show on earth," who performed at the Rock County 4-H Fair on Wednesday.
The event had sparked controversy in the community.
Opponents said the sport was degrading, wrong and had no place at a youth fair. Proponents said the wrestlers were athletic, entertaining and equal to others.
Fair officials said it was a family show chosen to attract a new demographic of people. Some swear words and sexual lyrics could be heard in the show's music.
"I came out to support the midgets," James Ferguson of Stoughton said. "It's no different than two grown men fist fighting. People go out and watch that, too."
Hundreds of people ranging from toddlers to grandparents packed the grandstands. Rap, heavy metal and country music blasted the air. Everyone was amped.
The wrestlers did body slams, leg drops and clotheslines. They beat one another with chains, clipboards and garbage pail lids. They flew off the ropes and performed high-flying stunts. They even beat up the ref, a woman.
"It was the best event I've ever seen," Anthony Daniels of Janesville said while waiting to meet wrestlers. "I think it's better that they have small people doing it because it's more entertaining. I loved it."
Afterward, kids and adults got pictures with the wrestlers. They received autographs. They also had the option of buying a T-shirt that stated, "I support midget violence."
The wrestling was similar to World Wrestling Entertainment. The wrestlers have personas, just like those in WWE. Micro wrestlers had names such as Pit Bull and The Kid.
Denver, CO - Welcome to a special edition of Moving Pictures. We got a head start on the weekend last night, and oh, man, what a night we had! We’re still recovering from it, in fact, as we write this, trying to replenish our electrolytes and all that. We finally experienced the night we’d all been looking forward to since it was announced, the members of the Midget Wrestling Entertainment making their highly anticipated debut at 3 Kings Tavern. Calling it the coolest freaking thing we’ve ever seen wouldn’t come close to doing it justice. Midgets pommeling each other? Time of our lives, hands down. Oh, and then after that, Lyin’ Bitch and the Restraining Orders ripped our faces off. Take a look at what you missed after the jump!