Backyard Wrestling

What?: Unprofessional wrestling in a non-professional envirnonment.



Backyard wrestling (commonly abbreviated as BYW ) is a loose term used to describe
the controversial practice of professional wrestling as performed by usually untrained fans
in an unsanctioned, non-professional environment. Backyard wrestling is a title applied to
underground filmed and produced wrestling shows, videos and matches carried out by athletes
most of whom are untrained and mostly males between the ages of 12 and 30. Though
backyard wrestling was not unheard of prior to the 1990s, the modern backyard wrestling
"craze" lasted from roughly 1996 to 2001, during a time when televised professional wrestling
was enjoying a period of unparalleled popularity, commonly referred to by wrestling fans as
the Monday Night Wars .

In the years following its inception backyard wrestling has developed into an underground scene
where federations often produce, trade and distribute their videos online. As it continues to evolve,
the style of backyard wrestling has been transformed into an artistic form of professional wrestling
with innovative moves and gimmicks all of its own.


Many of those who practice backyard wrestling embrace a style that emphasizes risky high spots
(which can involve diving or taking bumps from rooftops or ladders ) and the liberal use of weapons
in matches. These may include thumbtacks, barbed wire, tables, plywood, fire, glass and fluorescent
lamps. Even among participants who shy away from this, there still is a considerable level of inherent
risk involved. Many professional wrestling holds require extensive training to perform correctly and
safely, which few backyard wrestlers have received. These and other concerns are at the heart of
the controversy surrounding the practice.

Backyard wrestling is so called because it is often literally performed in yards, though most any
location can host a backyard wrestling match, including parks, fields, garages, playgrounds, vacant
lots, warehouses, living rooms, barns, basements, and school gyms. It is common for backyard
professional wrestling promotions, or " feds ," to construct their own homemade wrestling rings or
purchase a professional one. Wrestling on trampolines is also common, which allows for visually
impressive moves to be performed with a minimal risk of injury. Others opt to simply perform matches
on a base, mattress, or the bare ground which, in most cases, is more dangerous than performing in
home-made or professional rings.

Relationship to pro wrestling

Backyard wrestling is modeled almost entirely after professional wrestling , and many performers
are dedicated fans of the form of entertainment. Backyard matches are usually "worked " in the same
way professional matches are, with finishes booked in advance and participants going over high
spots beforehand. Like in professional wrestling, backyard wrestlers can be seen communicating
with each other during bouts. However, while hardcore wrestling matches are often criticized for
lack of direction, the same may be said for much of backyard wrestling, especially considering the
aforementioned lack of training. This can result in poor communication and, thus, a high risk of injury.

Backyard wrestlers often create story lines and gimmicks in their wrestling events, creating persona
and styles of their own. These characters are sometimes modeled after popular characters of the past
and present. Connoisseurs of the sport often criticize backyard wrestling as more sloppy and not as
well thought-out as professional wrestling, especially because of the tendency of backyard wrestlers
to use more absurd gimmicks and story lines. Creativity and organization are also important issues in
creating successful wrestling events, which the majority of backyard wrestling inherently lacks.


In its history, backyard wrestling has changed significantly in terms of its professionalism, safety
provisions, popularity, and hardcore style. Backyard wrestling tends to follow the trends of
professional wrestling and changes in accordance with what the fads and trends are in the major
promotions, such as World Wrestling Entertainment or Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

Backyard wrestlers Crossen and Charley "Luxury" Lane started their own kids' professional league
called the "Kids Quad Cities Pro Wrestling" in March 1984. This later became the NWF Kids Pro
Wrestling. Twin Cities based promoter and trainer Eddie Sharkey actually co-promoted a sold-out
wrestling event that featured matches from both Pro Wrestling America (PWA) and NWF Kids Pro
Wrestling at the American Legion Hall in Champlin, MN in November 1986.

In August 1997 the now defunct CWF a backyard promotion originating from Vallejo, California
began filming the television show CWF Devastation. "Devastation" aired between 1997-2000 on
California public access stations and has often been cited as the inspiration for the legendary west
coast backyard movement of the late 1990s. CWF Devastation was celebrated among underground
wrestling communities for its original writing and innovative cinematography; as well as brutal violence
and its cutting-edge wrestling style. CWF Devastation featured many notable backyard wrestlers
including: The Master Kevin Blake , Nick Knightengale, Johnathan Fallen and Butcher Knife.
CWF Devastation was relaunched in 2006 under the name Vae Victis as an independent wrestling
promotion based in Northern California.

In late 1998, the Street Wrestling Federation (SWF) was started in Manchester, Connecticut. By
mid-1999 they broadcasted a weekly public access show titled SwF: Caution. In 1999 comments
from the public about the harsh language used on the show temporarily forced SWF to cancel its
show. SWF Caution aired for one year on local public access television until 2000.

In February of 2001, Modesto Championship Wrestling (MCW) , a backyard wrestling
promotion originating from Modesto, California picked up where CWF Devastation left off with
their public access television program MCW Extreme. MCW Extreme aired on cable one channel 2
in the greater Modesto area in 2001. The promotion then launched a spin off to MCW Extreme in the
spring of 2002 called MCW Unleashed. MCW Unleashed was featured on the AT&T Broadband
Public access channel. MCW's final television series "Mayhem in Modesto" aired from early 2003
until the end of MCW in November 2003. The success of MCW's various television broadcasts,
landed the organization a feature in the backyard wrestling documentary film The Backyard. The
Backyard was a documentary highlighting backyard wrestling which was released on DVD and
Home video in 2002.

In April 2006, the backyard federation In Your House Wrestling Alliance (IYHWA) , began
broadcasting videos via YouTube and have gained popularity in the wrestling community on that
service. IYHWA has the distinction of gathering over one million views with their first uploaded video.

Hardcore phase

Backyard wrestling became infamous for its out-of-control and unregulated dangerous stunts. Many
people, most commonly male teenagers, frequently risked their lives in attempted dives, jumps, falls,
and bumps. Many others would use sharp and harmful weapons, performing matches with flaming
tables, barbed wire, light tubes, thumbtacks and sharp metal tools such as cheese graters. While
these violent practices carry a more extensive legacy in Japanese wrestling promotions such as
Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, many attribute their stateside popularity to the rise of Extreme
Championship Wrestling .

These activities, which were also closely linked to the reckless nature of other teen-centered shows
such as Jackass , were part of the "hardcore" phase of American professional wrestling , ushered
in by the extreme style of promotions such as ECW , Xtreme Pro Wrestling , and Combat Zone
Wrestling . However, when these promotions closed and/or toned down their extreme nature,
backyard wrestling followed suit, leading to less dangerous activity. Because of this, the heavy
bleeding and use of dangerous weaponry in backyard wrestling has now faded from use, with some

The "backyard wrestling craze," as it was, began to slow down between 1999 and 2000. Increased
media attention and reforms within the professional wrestling promotions themselves led to a generally
unpopular view of wrestling and unprofessional stunts, leading to a decline in the popularity of
backyard wrestling. This did not, however, lead to a total extinction, as several popular Internet
wrestling communities still feature active message boards dedicated to the practice of backyard

Independent circuit

After 2000, many individuals changed and realized that the dangerous stunts they were doing had
grave consequences. The Internet and television was more supportive in that it led to the distribution
of information on professional wrestling which helped many individuals discover the proper way to
perform certain moves. More professional wrestling schools and small independent wrestling
promotions formed at this time as well, accepting particularly skilled backyard wrestlers.

As a result, more of the younger independent wrestlers admit to having backyard wrestling
experience, some claiming it is a hobby that they pursue while performing professionally. This does
not reflect the majority of professional wrestlers however, as backyard wrestling is often drastically
different from that shown on television. Nonetheless, some independent wrestlers claim they continue
backyarding because, whereas wrestling professionally means being told how, who, and where to
wrestle by a booker or promoter, backyarders are their own bookers and promoters and can enjoy
the freedom of wrestling their friends however they like for their own recreation. However, training
in a "backyard wrestling environment" is often frowned upon by professionals, and the sport has a
strongly negative connotation.


Many backyard wrestlers cite Mick Foley as their inspiration, as a video of Foley's backyard
wrestling exploits with his friends in college gained widespread attention after portions of it were
shown on WWE television which glorified it as his entrance into the company. However, Foley
himself discourages the practice of backyard wrestling. While he made a career by distributing a
video of himself doing dangerous stunts such as jumping off a rooftop onto a mattress, he downplays
what he did and says it is too dangerous. In his book Foley Is Good, Mick Foley recalls an instance
where he was interviewed for a television piece about the growing trend for backyard wrestling. He
claims that comments he made having viewed footage of a legitimate professional hardcore match
were deliberately misrepresented and applied by the production company to a backyard vignette.

Some professional wrestlers and most, if not all, professional wrestling promotions discourage
backyard wrestling in public comments, because it involves legal risk to the promotions in the form
of lawsuits by individuals. Several lawsuits have been brought against wrestling promotions, most
prominently WWE, alleging that people have caused serious injury to others by imitating professional
wrestling moves they saw on TV. As a result of this pressure, WWE now features prominent
disclaimers during its programming which urges fans, "Don't try this at home." WWE also claims that
it refuses to watch any videos by backyard wrestlers hoping to get into the Company, and it does not
acknowledge backyard wrestling as training or experience.

Some professional wrestlers have admitted to practicing it themselves during their younger years.
Those who have done so include the Hardy Boyz, CM Punk, New Jack, The Insane Clown Posse,
"Sick" Nick Mondo , RVD, Bryan Danielson, A.J. Styles, Tyler Black, Ruckus, etc. While many
backyard wrestlers believe that backyard wrestling is good preparation for future exploits in
professional wrestling given Mick Foley's career, prominent wrestling school operators have often
stated their disdain for the practice. Harley Race, in particular, has said "I absolutely hate it" and
"It's just absolute stupidity."

Media attention

In the earliest recorded media coverage from 1984 and 1985 that covered Backyard wrestling, the
message and stories being told were nothing short of "positive" from well respected news outlets
such as the Minneapolis StarTibune and KSTP Eyewitness News. Between the 1980s and 1990s,
the style of Backyard wrestling evolved to a much more violent form, focussing more on the "high risk"
maneuvers and "dangerous" stunts which triggered a much different view from the media.

Backyard wrestling, and its forefather, professional wrestling , both reached greater popularity
during the late 1990s and were the subject of disdain from the media. It was a frequent topic for
documentaries and televised news programs, often serving as an indication that the MTV Generation,
as it had been dubbed, was among the most reckless, least guided, and most immoral of all teen

Although the implications of backyard wrestling on teen culture and on society as a whole compose
a far more complicated debate, most media attention (and adults) in the United States feared that
backyard wrestling was a degradation of society and of youth.


Backyard wrestling videos are produced usually by the owners and/or wrestlers of the federation.
They are readily available on the internet and on most pre-dominantly YouTube. These videos are
commonly filmed on camcorders in precedence to being edited with the camera operator occasionally
providing unequipped commentary on the matches in the background with the exception of audio

However in alternative cases, the commentary may also be produced through the process of editing
using a computer microphone or headset. In further noting, an outstanding number of wrestling media
on the internet, are shown in montage clips, highlights, or music videos with heavy metal or alternative
rock music in the background while some rather comprise an entire full-length show with perhaps
few of the aforementioned elements.

In addition, a handful of backyard wrestling organizations promote themselves through public-access
television in their regional area. Also, there has been a film, documentaries, and television episodes
surrounding the phenomenon.


Since the late 1990's, online communities were created that were dedicated to backyard wrestling
on messenger boards and a popular website such as After the new
millennium, many sites emerged and one well-known today known as


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