The greatest little show on earth

Illustration by Bryan Gomm

J-Mazing tore his wrestling attire from his chest as though he had been taught by Hulk Hogan himself. He let out a roar and it seemed he would jump back in the ring and start tearing apart the other midget wrestlers he had been throwing down on all night.  Instead, he pulled suspenders over his now bare chest and carefully placed a fedora on his pint-sized head and began thrusting his various little body parts dangerously close to a blonde woman’s head. She pulled out a dollar bill.

It was at this point that I asked myself where I had begun making the mistakes that led me here and bought another pint of hard cider.

The Micro Wrestling Federation will, for a certain sum, bring a crew of between six and ten little people to an appropriately sized venue. Theywill bartend, dance, sing karaoke and joke around to the great amusement of all. They will also pound each other with trash cans, the wrestlers being of a comparable size, and pile drive the sense of shame right out of you in a half-sized boxing ring.
I had come hoping to experience some sort of harking back to the traveling shows of P. T. Barnum. A surprising, but nevertheless wholesome, display of human strangeness offered up on those strange human’s own terms. Little people being empowered by owning their littleness and saying, “Hey, we can wrestle too. We can kick the same degree of butt as anyone. Little people power!”

To a certain degree, this is precisely what it was about. The wrestlers I spoke with said they considered each other to be family. Some said they had been on the road for over two years, putting on a gladiatorial extravaganza every other night to the amusement of all in attendance and seeing the proverbial mountains’ majesty and amber waves of grain in the process.

But perhaps those in attendance didn’t share the wrestlers and my sense of the empowerment inherent in doing what you love. Many weren’t looking for entertainment – they were looking for a freak show they could feel superior to. I heard some in the crowd shouting slurs, calling out “%@$# you, midgets!” To these misguided boors, the wrestlers were tiny and different and deserving of only the kind of attention that weirdness brings. And there was certainly a lot of weirdness going around.

The MWF is not unaware of this.  In fact, they use it to their advantage. The key is to get these people as drunk as possible, and keep the booze flowing all night. This, perhaps, exacerbates the contempt of those who stupidly enjoy contempt, but it brings in the money. After seeing the country and being with their family, the crew all said that the pay was great. To keep they pay great, you have keep the people soused with wallet in hand, ready to pass the announcer a few bucks for a picture with Shae Sprong, the sexy referee, or throwing a fiver into the ring during the Chippendale finale. A high-minded intellectual such as myself could easily make the argument that the wrestlers are being exploited and demeaned, and this is not without merit or evidence. But the fools and bigots were very easily parted with their money, and this seemed to me a fitting retribution.

After yet another hard cider, I came to the conclusion that it was not a series of mistakes that had led me here. Yes, it was shameless, base and silly. But entertainment is shameless, base and silly. Advertisements and models are shameless, base and silly, as are actors, movies, bands, paintings and full-sized wrestlers. The same thing brought me here that keeps me watching episode after episode of Futurama and reading page after page of The New Yorker – a little diversion. Or, in the case of Midget Mania, a little diversion.

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