Get ready to rumble

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Jan 052010
 
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Editor’s Note: The Collegian understands that the term “midget” is derisive and used it only in the context of explaining this idea.

In two weeks, Danny Campbell will go home for Thanksgiving.

For the past two months and much of the last two decades of his life, Campbell’s body has been beaten almost daily with aluminum trash cans and folding metal chairs. He has been punched, kicked and slapped more times than he could possibly remember.

“You become immune to physical pain after awhile,” he said Thursday night.

His body is just over four feet tall with a barrel-like torso and muscular limbs that betray years of training and athleticism. Arms crossed, he stands with the confidence of a man almost twice his size.

Known in the ring as “Little Nasty Boy,” 44-year-old Campbell is the oldest athlete in the Micro Wrestling Federation — a company of seven “little people“­ that perform their professional wrestling act in bars and theaters across the country. The group performs as many as five nights a week, rarely in the same town.

On the road, the wrestlers live their days and nights in hotel rooms, airplanes and oversized travel vans. They have become so adapted to this nomadic lifestyle that, when asked by a reporter before their Thursday night performance, none could confidently say which city they were in.

“Hotels and fast food get boring after awhile,” Campbell said in a hotel room hours before the show.

“I can’t wait to get home and have a home-cooked meal.”

Hundreds of spectators packed into Old Town’s Sunset Event Center Thursday night. They crowded the bar and created a line for drinks that snaked around one of the building’s pillars and into the dining area.

The crowd, described by one patron as “eclectic,” included college students, Fort Collins residents and out-of-town visitors. Despite the wide range in age, race and apparent economic status, everyone seemed to have paid the $20 cover charge for the same reason.

“Midget wrestling’s too good to pass up,” said Lacy Lockwood, a senior health and exercise science major.

By the time show began, open seats at the venue were scarce. In the bar area, the crowd was so thick that it was difficult at times even to move.

The crowd was gathered around a miniature wrestling arena in the center of the venue. Draped over the ropes of the ring were the group’s memorabilia: t-shirts bearing the slogan “I support midget violence.”

Just before 9 p.m., the shirts were removed and the athletes performing the first bout took the stage with the aid of a stepladder.

Wearing only minimal costumes, the performers took on the heroic or villainous roles that have been the standard in professional wrestling since the days of Gorgeous George or Hulk Hogan.

For more than two hours, the wrestlers performed an act complete with props, body slams and a steel cage match. Fans chanted and jeered their allegiances while the athletes wrestled in and outside the ring, jumping from the top of the six-foot cage and at one time fighting on top of the venue’s bar.

“I was amazed and surprised at how nimble they were. You see regular sized people who can’t do half of what they did,” a senior journalism major Amanda Keller said.

Each of the matches was refereed by the group’s newest member: a tattooed, dark-haired woman called Pixie, who stood three to four feet off the ground.

Recently discovered while working as an exotic dancer in Little Rock, Ark., Pixie is the newest member of the group and the only performer who does not wrestle. Though she has been with the group for two months, none of Pixie’s fellow performers know her real name.

At the end of the show, stripped to a pink thong bikini, she performed lap dances for members of the crowd. Mid-way through the striptease — the show’s finale — the event’s emcee, Reggie, was approached by police, who told him to stop the show.

When asked Sunday, the Fort Collins Police Department had no official record of any activity at the Sunset Event Center Thursday night. The action was likely taken on a “bar walk” and not officially reported, FCPD Officer Pearson said.

The word “midget,” which is considered offensive by many people of short stature, is used frequently in the Micro Wrestling Federation’s promotions and the show itself.

While each member of the group agreed that they identified with the term and did not find it offensive, it holds a place in the American vernacular as a slur that depicts little people as objects of circus-like entertainment.

“When the event is so closely tied to the characterization of people of short stature as midgets, then the event is less about wrestling and more about using a person’s physical difference as entertainment,” said Gary Arnold, the vice president of Public Relations for the Little People of America, in an e-mail.

Senior Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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