Backstage, they behave just like a group of professionals on a sales trip: the younger employees razz the rookie and flirt with the female employee as a grizzled veteran counts the days until retirement.
But Pit Bull, Little Shae, Ricky Benjamin, J-Mazing and Jay Diesel aren't selling anything. They're performers in the Micro Wrestling Federation, which made a stop at Qwest Arena on March 8.
"We do maybe 10 or 15 shows a month," says J-Mazing. He stand 3 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 70 pounds, with a chiseled upper body and tattoos on each bicep. He used to be a Chippendale dancer.
When I ask how he got involved in the league, J-Mazing says that he and Ricky Benjamin were both playing in a Canadian mini-basketball league when they saw an ad on the Internet. It seemed like a good gig and it didn't require experience, so they thought, why not. They soon joined the rotating cast of 10-plus athletes who perform at Midget Mania events to packed houses around the country.
The performers come from all over the country. Some of them went to wrestling school first, but this group tells me they all saw the same ad on the Internet—even the guy they all bitch about who was 4-feet 10-inches.
"People in the audience used to shout that he wasn't even a midget," J-Mazing says. But mostly, they say the problem was he was too heavy for the other performers to work with.
Pit Bull, the veteran, gives short answers to my questions. After doing this for nine years, he has the tone and eye roll of someone who has heard it all before. He's ready to get out and go back to school for computer programming.
"It wears you down over time," he says gruffly.
Jay Diesel, the rookie, has none of that weariness. Though he doesn't yet laugh as comfortably as J-Mazing or Little Shae (the one female performing tonight), his eyes are eager and alert. Itching for the match, he sprints to the ring when his name is called and puts on an energetic show.
And what a show it is. The wrestlers pummel each other with the ring bell and a Wiffle Ball bat, execute choke-slams, drop-kicks, clotheslines—that flip their opponents upside down—and even cross-body presses off the top rope. J-Mazing puts a giant metal trash can on Ricky Benjamin's head, and he, in turn, putters helplessly around the ring like R2D2. The show ends with Little Shae, the referee, clothes-lining and pinning a wrestler who struck her out of turn to show, as the announcer says, "Girls can do anything guys can do." Then J-Mazing, the ex-Chippendale dancer, gives lap dances to female members of the audience to show that principle works both ways.
At one point, our interview was interrupted by Tyler "Shorty" Freeland, a semi-local MMA fighter who towers over the cast at 4-feet 11-inches. He wanted to say hello and wish the wrestlers a good show.
"Shit," J-Mazing says. "Was that you that just did that fight against Diego Melendez?"
"Yeah," says Freeland.
"I saw that," J-Mazing bellows. "That was an awesome fight."
Backstage before the show, I had asked the performers if they ever felt exploited.
Their answer was a Greek chorus of "Hell, no!"
"We're making money," Pit Bull snorted, as if that was the most obvious answer in his repertoire.
To see a slideshow from Wednesday's event, click here.