Hyson knows that, as much as he may try to dissuade youngsters from hard-core backyard wrestling, he has helped to inspire it. "My story in the ring is David and Goliath," he says. "I appeal to the children, to the little guy. I'm probably the smallest pro wrestler out there other than the midgets. Any guy who can relate to the underdog can relate to Spike Dudley."
While he knows kids are imitating him, he doesn't feel any responsibility for the dangerous stunts. "It's a show, and if you can't grasp that, then you got bigger problems than pro wrestling," he says. He then mentions Lionel Tate, the 14-year-old Fort Lauderdale boy who was recently sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing a six-year-old girl while imitating pro-wrestling moves two years ago. Tate's actions can't be blamed on pro wrestling, Hyson asserts: "I never went into a backyard and killed someone mimicking something I saw on TV."
Hyson's disdain for EFW dissipates a bit when he hears that small crowds gather for their shows. "Is that right?" he asks with a note of surprise. "Well, that's tremendous. More power to them."
Hyson is definitely wrong about one thing: The EFW members care deeply about the "art form" of pro wrestling. And they have some genuine wrestling skills (especially John and Gio). The members carefully plan and choreograph their matches, have a championship belt, and predetermine who will win it. But unlike the pros' performances, EFW shows have a raw, unpolished feel and exceedingly long and awkward lulls between moves. And far too often they make mistakes, which usually prove to be gory and sometimes downright frightening.
That brings us back to the February 24 match with Gio, Jason, and Edwin.
The match begins with Jason goading the crowd, which has already been warmed up with John's copious bleeding. Wearing sliced-up denim shorts and a white T-shirt, Jason greets the spectators with an Italian salute -- a stiff hand flick under the chin. To make sure they don't miss his point, he shouts: "Fuck you!"
Then comes Gio, who stalks about in the manner of a caged animal. Next Edwin Lebron, whose wrestling name is "Havoc," jumps into the fray, and the bloodletting begins. The beginning of the performance features hard body slams onto a makeshift wooden stage littered with hundreds of thumbtacks. The tacks drive into Jason's back, hands, arms, and legs -- a friend later counts 250 holes in his back, which looks as if it has been attacked by a swarm of killer bees.
Jason then slams Gio's head into the tacks. Gio rises to reveal several thumbtacks in his forehead. Blood trickles down his face. Gio is the only member of EFW who takes tacks to his head this way. It's one of his specialties.
Seeking a little blood revenge, Gio grabs some barbed wire, wraps it around Jason's head from behind, and pulls in the manner of a shoeshine. But the metaphorical shoe is Jason's forehead, and the rag is a strand of barbed wire. Jason's head is cut, and Gio's mission is accomplished; there is more blood. Jason counters by grabbing a can of lighter fluid, dousing a table, and lighting it on fire. Then he picks up the smaller boy and slams him through it. The fire goes out.
Then it's time for Gio's 12-foot dive. Edwin lays Jason, who pretends to be stunned in the classic, cheesy style of pro wrestling, onto the table while Gio climbs the ladder. After a moment of hesitation, Gio, with his stepfather in mind, makes his leap and has a miserable landing. The crowd shouts its approval, and one fan throws an orange at Gio, perhaps in an effort to get him back on his feet.
After a minute on the ground, the boy overcomes the pain. He grabs the orange and throws it at Jason. The crowd laughs. Gio and Edwin then hang Jason upside down from a lower rung of the ladder. Gio leans the bed of nails against Jason's chest, and the crowd loves it.
"Oh shit!" shouts one onlooker.
"Yo, just hit the bitch, yo!" hollers another.
Gio takes a running, diving leap into the back of the bed of nails, compressing them into Jason's stomach. The problem is that Gio doesn't fake it well, and the impact is obviously weak. The lame stunt ends an otherwise memorable EFW match.
The show is officially over, but there's one more bloody fight to go -- and this one is unplanned.