Backyard Bloodbath, Part 2

What inspires young wrestlers to mutilate themselves with tacks and barbed wire? TV? Or dear old dad?

The boys nod.

Medics soon determine that John needs emergency medical care. In addition to the cut, he also has a hematoma on his forehead, likely from a chair shot. The EMTs wrap a collar around his neck, lay him on a backboard, and load him into the ambulance. Rich's mother arrives and tells the police about her son's problems: the threats, the lack of child support, the probation, and the anger.

Finally John's mom, Carolyn Lister, comes home. In a blue spring dress over a bathing suit, she appears to have been at the beach. (She said later that she was getting her hair done.)

Colby Katz
Gio holds EFW's championship belt.
Colby Katz
Gio holds EFW's championship belt.

"You need to get control of your kids," Tarbox admonishes her.

Lister tells the officers she has tried to no avail. John has taken over the house, she complains.

"Has he hit you?" Tarbox asks.

"No, but he's thrown and broken things," she says.

Before heading to the hospital to see her son, Lister complains the authorities simply don't understand. For her, backyard wrestling isn't a troubling trend, it's an inevitability. So she calls for official regulation. "I just wish the city would get a place where they could do this under some kind of supervision," she says. "They could use fake blood."

In the end Tarbox decides not to arrest anyone. He says he hates what he sees, but since it's all consensual and takes place on private property, he's powerless. With no victim there's no crime, and he believes charging Lister with child neglect is unwarranted.

Though the bloodbaths continue, the Coral Springs Police Department has managed to slow them down. They've been called to John's back yard, mostly following neighbors' complaints, a half-dozen times in the past couple years. Indeed EFW doesn't charge admission anymore because cops threatened to arrest the wrestlers for running an unlicensed business.

The February 24 show went further and got uglier than planned. The wrestlers didn't want the police to come. John didn't want to lose a gallon of blood (though he was determined to lose a cup or two). Gio didn't want to injure his chest. Rich didn't want to get in a fight or gash his eye. He's still a bit hazy about the fight and says he was in a sort of trance when he was holding Frankie by his neck. "All of a sudden, I thought, What am I doing?" Rich recalls of the moment before he let go.

Of the three injured, just John went to the hospital -- and only because the medics gave him no choice. Gio's mom refused to take him there. Rich's mother took him to the emergency room, but after waiting a couple hours, they left in frustration. Rich ultimately opted for butterfly bandages, and now both he and John boast thick scars, lifelong mementos from the show.

Of all the wrestlers, only Rich resorted to violence in the chaos following the show. The others called for order. It's not about hurting anyone, they say. People get hurt only when they screw up. It's about the craft of professional wrestling in its rawest form.

But they won't be practicing that craft before crowds in John's back yard, Lister promises. She says the February 24 debacle led her to ban shows on her property. EFW members say that won't stop them. Just moments after the police left John's house, Jason was already plotting the group's next move. "We won't be able to do it here," he said with resignation, "but we have a great place out in a field where we can have our next show."

It's scheduled for April 21.

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