Backyard Bloodbath

Family dysfunction in Coral Springs means body slams, barbed wire, and thumbtacks in the head

After years of fooling around with such techniques, the EFW held its first show last year, on February 13. Since then they've held about ten more performances, each a little more hard-core than the last. In addition to the founding threesome, EFW has a few other regulars: Jason, a tall and thin 17-year-old who prides himself on how much punishment he can take; Edwin Lebron, who at 18 weighs more than 200 pounds; and Rich Teixeira, a 17-year-old who gives EFW some major heft with his 340 pounds. Another half-dozen teens orbit EFW but haven't wrestled much. Several quit after their first show, unable to take the abuse.

As the EFW grew, an amazing thing happened: People began coming. So many, in fact, that the wrestlers began charging admission, earning more than $200 at a show that drew nearly 100 spectators. John says his performances provide two things he never before had at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: attention and respect. "Now I'm living it up at school," he says in his smooth voice. John doesn't just talk about wrestling; he sells it. "They say, "You're crazy, man.' I mean, I'm small, but people respect me now. They treat you different. Even gangster kids. They like to watch us, and after the show they have, um, gratitude."

David says the teens who come to watch their performances crave blood and destruction. "They aren't really normal," he says of the fans. "But I like how the crowd goes, "Ooooh' and "Ahhhh.' That's why we do this. Our fans are ghetto. They're bloodthirsty, our fans. They just want someone to get killed."

At a show last year, John dives from a balcony into the waiting arms of his friends
Colby Katz
At a show last year, John dives from a balcony into the waiting arms of his friends
Carolyn Lister, with her eldest son David beside her, beams at John, who is beginning to scare her with aggressive behavior
Colby Katz
Carolyn Lister, with her eldest son David beside her, beams at John, who is beginning to scare her with aggressive behavior

EFW always has someone on hand to videotape the proceedings. The wrestlers say they'll cherish the tapes forever -- and they hope to sell some of the footage to companies that market the ghoulish stuff. A similar video titled The Best of Backyard Wrestling, for instance, is currently being advertised on cable television for $19.95 a pop. The members of EFW have also created a Website touting their feats.

In addition to making some money from EFW, John dreams of owning a wrestling ring; practicing in a bare back yard is akin to playing basketball on dirt with a volleyball and a peach basket. But a decent ring would cost them about $1500, far more than they can pay. So last fall, when they forged a loose partnership with a Hollywood-based backyard group called Hardcore Champion Wrestling (HCW), they were ecstatic. HCW is the best organized of Broward County's backyard wrestling clubs (there are at least four of them) and has a ring.

It was, however, a doomed marriage from the start, the backyard equivalent of the Hell's Angels crashing a kiddie party. HCW forbids cursing at its shows, while EFW thrives on profanity. HCW doesn't care for bloodletting, bans self-cutting, and employs just a touch of barbed wire, which is mostly for show. Thumbtacks are a rarity.

"EFW has no wrestling techniques," says 16-year-old Nick Mayberry, a wrestler and HCW promoter. "They just hit each other with weapons and go nuts out there. They beat each other senseless and fly off things like they're crazy. Someone always winds up hurt really bad or in the hospital. They think they're gonna get famous, but they're just gonna get killed."

After a few practice sessions and a show last fall, a staple gun terminated the relationship between the two clubs. When Rich shot a thick, half-inch steel staple into David's forehead, HCW banned EFW for life. The stunt was actually a mistake; Rich was supposed to hold the gun away from David's head so it would make only a partial puncture wound and protrude from his head. In the heat of the match he pressed the gun flush against David's forehead. John removed the staple from his brother's cranium. "It took everything I had to pull that thing out," he says, smiling at the memory. Describing the incident, David states the obvious: "It felt like a sharp object entering my skull."

All the EFW veterans have lengthy injury lists and scars all over their bodies that make them unabashedly proud. In addition to the forehead slashing and about 130 shots to the head, David says he's cracked his sternum, tailbone, shoulder blade, and jaw, as well as a few fingers and toes. He's received medical attention for precious few of those injuries. Instead he lived with the pain until, after a few weeks, it subsided. Both his jaw and sternum now make hideous cracking noises if he moves them in a certain way.

"I don't think they healed right," John says. "Pain is no object to me at this point. If you can get past the stinging, I mean, what is pain? It's nothing. You disregard it or whatever."

Jason was knocked unconscious last year when another wrestler slammed him with a folding chair. He's also been hospitalized with a gashed head and recently ripped open his knee when he fell badly on the bed of nails. The other wrestlers sometimes gibe him when he lapses into a stutter or has a memory lapse. Those chair shots to the head, they laugh, don't come without a price.

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