Backyard Wrestling

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 exceptions.

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 wrestling.

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 generations.

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 equipment.

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 Backyardwrestling.com. After the new millennium, many sites emerged and one well-known today known as thegbywn.com.


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