A recent Friday night at the Largo Event Center draws in people from the light rain outside. A line stretches out of the door — spectators waiting to get their tickets scanned or pay at the door. Right inside the door, you can buy a slightly overpriced Bud Light or some food.
The wrestling ring, smaller than those seen on WWE pay-per-view, commands attention in the center of the venue. Those who could find seats, and those standing behind, create a wave that encapsulates the ring. The crowd is vibrant and energetic.
A Trump impersonator sticks out of the crowd, bronzed from a fake spray tan and donning the iconic red “Make America Great Again” cap. On another side of the ring, a TikTok star draws his own crowd of spectators lining up to take pictures with him.
The large crowd of people trying to buy tickets at the door forced a late start. About a half-hour past the intended start time, the show gets rolling. “Little Miss,” the announcer, grabs the attention of everyone in attendance from one side of the ring.
Her short spiel is followed by “Ivar,” the main announcer and commentator for the night’s show. Although he can no longer wrestle due to issues with a brittle bone disease, he still got the crowd pumped up with a performance of rock songs to kick things off.
Soon after, the opening fight begins. “Lil’ Chola” faces “Pinky Shortcake” in a diva fight that electrifies the crowd to kick off the evening. A brawl between “Disco Dom” and “Micro Tiger” follows the divas before the main event: “Syko” versus “Baby Jesus” compete for the championship title.
None of the performers are over 5 feet tall.
What is micro wrestling?
The Micro Wrestling Federation (MWF) is on a 200-date tour doing multiple shows a week for packed venues all over the country. One of these sold-out venues was at the Largo Event Center on Feb. 17. The MWF is a wrestling company that specializes in dwarf wrestling. The company has grown exponentially in the past two years, and its TikTok account currently sits at one million followers.
Wrestling is an entertainment sport with the goal of putting on a performance for an audience. Individuals with dwarfism participating in pro and amateur wrestling is a practice that dates to the 1950s. Often these people of small stature are used in gimmick matches in between the main events.
But, there is one organization solely dedicated to this division of wrestling. Founded in 2000, the MWF is the longest-running little person organization within the wrestling industry.
Despite being over 20 years old, the organization has just recently gained a massive surge of attention due to TikTok. Videos such as the “Micro Wrestling roll calls” have gained over five million views. In these short videos, the camera goes in a line from one entertainer to the next, spotlighting their unique call signs.
Derec Pemberton, also known as “Syko,” is one of the most popular performers who spoke on the app's impact.
“I need to give credit to TikTok,” Pemberton said. “If it wasn’t for that, this venue would only have been half as packed as it was tonight. TikTok has changed my life and many of the other micros' lives…I’ve been in entertainment since I was a kid, and I have never gotten this much stardom or following and I’ve been wrestling for seven years.”
The MWF uses its performers as wrestlers, referees and even running the merchandise tables at the events. This gives the group, and its performers, full control of their product. Concerns of exploitation have always been present regarding dwarf wrestling, according to Content Producer Jason Sereno. These concerns are partially why dwarf wrestling died out of mainstream wrestling. Through TikTok, many of the MWF wrestlers believe they are taking control of their narratives.
“A lot of people are afraid to promote dwarfs because they fear being looked down upon or being seen as exploitative,” Pemberton said. “Lots of people are afraid to back us, but with TikTok we are able to promote and make content being our own people. Now I am able to reach the kids and audience without anyone else getting involved.”
Sereno joined in 2018 and has taken over the social media and promotion for the group.
“All the TV shows try to show that little people can do everything we can do, but we try to show that little people can do extraordinary things,” Sereno said.
As they travel the country, Sereno says their crowds are always a good mixture of people – wrestling fans, and those who are becoming fans of MWF. Sometimes, he says, there are the people who attend looking for an oddity.
“Those audience members quickly learn that isn't the case and, by the end of the night, have a newfound respect for the performers in the ring -- and hopefully the next little person they meet,” Sereno said in an email.
The organization is growing quickly. On Feb. 25, the crew debuted their first pay-per-view for $9.99. The show is still available for purchase, and can be found on their website at microwrestling.com/payperview.
According to Sereno, there are some big things in the works that can’t yet be disclosed. Wherever the road takes the MWF next, the group is already changing perspectives.
“To see these guys break tired stereotypes, on what I consider to be the frontlines of humanity, has been an awe-inspiring experience,” Sereno said. “From dingy honky tonks to sold-out arenas, they've never faltered. And their continued success is a testament to their hard work, love of wrestling, and dedication to each other.”
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