Pro wrestling fans are often willing to endure bizarre angles and plot devices. The much-celebrated “Attitude Era” was the staging ground for some of the most objectionable content in the history of the genre, but ratings and profits soared for the entire industry back then. Times have changed, though, and at the end of the day, wrestling fans still have their standards. Indeed, for a vocal contingent of online wrestling fans and ring veterans, one Georgia-based independent promotion appears to have crossed the line.
“You Are NOT Getting Booked,” an irreverent Facebook forum that showcases the gaffes and missteps of the world of independent wrestling, has recently taken issue with American Premier Wrestling out of Statesboro, Georgia, for the organization’s use of young children in matches and promo videos. The Facebook group, which boasts over 10,000 “likes” and a voluminous amount of active, commenting members, began sharing content from APW’s Facebook page on Sunday after the promotion posted results from their “kids’ matches” over the weekend.
In addition to posting recent material from APW, “You Are NOT Getting Booked” also shared older videos from the promotion, including a 2014 “triple threat” intergender bout from 2014 between two boys and a girl in which one of the boys delivers a full chokeslam to the girl.
More unsettling content was unearthed by the above-noted Facebook group in the form of a hard-to-watch “promo” video featuring APW performer “Admiral T. Rex Mills” pulling a shirtless boy around by the hair as he rants about the company’s promoter, “Cujo.” At the end of the video clip, Mills picks up the boy and tosses him into an above-ground swimming pool with a poorly-executed gorilla press slam.
Administrators of the “You Are NOT Getting Booked” Facebook page (and its freestanding companion site) spoke to this reporter regarding the controversy surrounding APW’s social media posts and business practices.
” ‘You Are NOT Getting Booked’ is designed to raise awareness,” one administrator maintained. “We’re not maliciously attacking anyone. The material we have posted was originally posted by people affiliated with APW and we have simply re-posted it. A lot of people have responded to what we have shared.”
APW either deleted or otherwise removed their Facebook page on Sunday. Their official website also does not appear to readily offer a means to contact staff, but this writer reached out to two individuals associated with APW for comment regarding the controversy. As of press time, neither person had responded. However, the promotion’s owner, Cujo LeDuc, spoke to Examiner in 2014, touting APW’s “Kids’ Division,” which apparently features children “as young as 7 years old.”
“They are the backbone of APW, no question. The kids help enhance the crowd, keep things in perspective, and definitely support our mission. They are a tremendous draw for us, and a lot of the youngsters show more talent and enthusiasm than some of the adults we have!”
There is noteworthy precedent to the involvement of children in professional wrestling. The son of ECW original Sandman played a dramatic and pivotal role in Sandman’s ultra-violent feud with Raven. In WWE, Rey Mysterio’s real-life son, Dominic, was the subject of a lengthy rivalry between Rey and the late Eddie Guerrero. But a number of wrestlers who have viewed APW’s controversial posts over the course of recent days are drawing very clear distinctions between the hard-to-watch amateur videos and rehearsed and refined efforts of larger promotions.
ECW Original Brian Heffron (better known to fans as The Blue Meanie) slammed the APW content in a public post to the “You Are NOT Getting Booked” page.
“To me this is worse than Pageant Kids. Having [these] kids take bumps while their bodies aren’t fully developed can do long-term damage. Granted, I haven’t seen video NOR DO I WANT TO. But still this is just wrong.”
Wrestling veteran Greg Anthony, a 15-year veteran of pro wrestling, also weighed in on the controversy in reply to a request for comment.
“As a wrestler, booker and promoter I don’t believe this has any place in our business. While I, in no way, fault the children for having a dream to wrestle because I was once just like them, I do fault all the parents and promoters involved. I can’t even grasp what their goal is. It’s my understanding that Georgia has a commission and I hope that someone steps in quickly before someone is seriously injured.”
John Campbell, pro wrestler and co-owner of Imperial Wrestling Entertainment in Michigan, echoed the sentiments of Heffron, Anthony, and others in his statement, also in reply to a request.
“It makes me wonder what kind of audience this appeals to. It is one thing to backyard wrestle and goof around with your friends — I think a majority of wrestling fans have suplexed a buddy while messing around —but this is essentially exploiting children and putting them in harm’s way to make money.”
Unfortunate incidents involving children and pro wrestling are all too familiar to fans and industry watchdogs. As previously reported by Inquisitr, a 20-year old Pennsylvania man was charged with involuntary manslaughter earlier this year after he allegedly killed a toddler by slamming the child on to a bed while simulating a signature WWE move called “The Last Ride.” In 2013, a young teenager reportedly killed his 5-year-old sister with a series of pro wrestling moves that broke the girl’s ribs and lacerated her liver.
While no injuries to the children involved in APW events have been reported to date, a number of individuals have expressed outrage and concern over the material shared by the organization via social media. Administrators of “You Are NOT Getting Booked” have also posted contact information for Statesboro Police and the Georgia Athletic Commission in the event that readers might wish to express their concern to the appropriate authorities. As for APW, their website indicates that an event planned for August 15 has been cancelled.
[Image via Pro Wrestling Wiki]