NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California Screaming

November 30, 2000

The astonishing growth in the popularity of professional wrestling in recent years has spawned a nationwide phenomenon, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Teenage boys are getting into makeshift rings for a "sport" called "backyard wrestling." Some are whacking each other over the head with steel folding chairs and baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, like their heroes on TV. Except these teens are drawing blood for real.

  • An estimated 1,000 federations -- including the Backyard Brawlers in New York, Global Championship Wrestling in Chicago, and Backyard Hardcore Wrestling in Crawford, Colo. -- have sprung up around the country in the last two years.
  • Most members meet online, joining up with other kids in their area to practice and compete, using fire, thumbtacks and barbed wire in their matches to heighten tension and rev up the crowd.
  • Wearing little, if any, protective gear, the combatants body-slam and pile drive each other, while some take swings with fluorescent light fixtures or throw mousetraps, hoping they'll catch skin.
  • Videos of the events are Webcast, traded and sold online.

The violence has alarmed many parents and has put professional wrestling organizations on the defensive, but the kids involved shrug it off.

"Yeah, sure, we're getting hit in the head with chairs and getting cut and everything and bleeding, but, you know, we walk away," said Chris Jackson, a 19-year-old wrestler from Upland, Calif.

Is it cultural decline? Or natural selection at work? At least, say some of the parents who allow the fightfests to take place in their backyards, it's not drugs or gangs.

Source: Susan Carpenter, "Full of Fight," Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2000.


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