Grudge Match

Little Nasty Boy sits sullenly at home in Oregon on a weekday afternoon. He has just been informed, for the second time in two weeks, that a scheduled midget wrestling bout in Phoenix, in which he was to take on Pitbull Patterson, has been canceled. The news hits him like a Stone Cold Stunner, especially coming from a reporter rather than the promoter, and just two days before the scheduled bout.

Nasty's angry, but doesn't sound surprised.

"It's bullshit, it's discrimination," he says. "They won't let us wrestle because we're little people. If we were full height, there'd be no question. No one would call a wrestling match a freak show. No one would call us freaks," he barks. "It's total discrimination!"

After a two-year absence, it seemed this past month that Phoenix fans would finally get a long-awaited fix of midget wrestling. Two separate events listed it on the bill: Fight Night, an intercollegiate amateur boxing event and fund raiser for Arizona State University's boxing program, and the ever-popular Rage in the Cage extreme cage-fighting tournament. But no midgets were to be found at either event, and no explanation given to the crowd assembled.

Granted, the fans at last Friday's Rage in the Cage didn't seem to notice. They appeared content watching full-size men roll around on the mat together, with Hooters round-card girls prancing around the octagonal cage on the rare occasion that a match lasted more than one round. However, the mostly college students at Fight Night April 13 were clearly disappointed.

"We come out to support every ASU event," one attendee said, taking a break from accompanying Metallica on air guitar before the event. "But we were, like, super-psyched for this one because the dude said there'd be midget wrestling, and those little guys are awesome!"

First-time promoter boxing coach Larry Lentz added midgets to the Fight Night card to bring in more fans, hoping they'd satisfy their curiosity and then take an interest in his own fighters. Lentz hoped the money generated would go toward sending his boxers to compete in other states next season. "The whole point was to raise money to fly my kids to compete in other cities and raise the level of the sport here."

When the collegiate boxing association learned midgets would be on the same card as the boxers, however, it threatened to deny an intercollegiate sanction. The news hit Lentz like a drop kick from the third rope.

"I was really depressed. I love midgets," he said. Although Lentz tried bargaining with the commission and even considered registering Pitbull and Nasty as boxers so as not to disappoint his fans, there was no way to retain both the midget match and his collegiate sanction.

Mike Martino, president of the National Collegiate Boxing Association, defended the decision. "We pattern ourselves after the NCAA," he explained from NCBA headquarters in Reno, Nevada. "We weren't looking for some type of novelty event to assist [Lentz] in ticket sales. . . . Midget wrestling is more of a spectacle, a three-ring circus. It's entertainment and not in the spirit of what we do."

Lentz disagrees. "I was only trying to promote college boxing in Arizona," he says. "When the boxing commission heard there would be midget wrestling, they freaked out and said they'd pull my sanction. . . . I'd worked so hard to get them; it's not very easy to find a good midget. They're notoriously unreliable. But these guys, Pitbull Patterson and Little Nasty, were great. They were ready to go."

Lentz says nearly 300 people walked away from the ticket booth at his April 13 event when they learned there would be no midgets. "Not only was I really bummed out, but a lot of the fans were upset. Some guys came back after the event; one guy really freaked out. I gave money back. It was ridiculous." Lentz claims that as a result he ended up losing money at the event, nearly $3,000 in lost ticket sales.

As for Rage in the Cage, Roland Sarria, who advertised midgets on the cage fight card well after he knew they wouldn't be appearing, told New Times 10 days before the fight that he had decided to cancel the midget wrestling because some of his fighters felt it would detract from the legitimacy of extreme cage fighting.

Pitbull Patterson, who lives in Tucson, says the last-minute cancellations are just part of the business, especially in this state.

"Arizona is the only state that I've ever had problems wrestling in," he says. "The promoters are threatened with not being able to have fights. As far as I know, they think that we're not as professional or we'd take the show away. . . . We are professional," he affirms, "professional entertainers. Midget wrestling is as much of a freak show as whenever two men get in the ring and beat the shit out of each other."

Patterson says midget wrestling is growing in popularity around the country, and between bookings in Louisiana and Florida, he has his own all-midget event planned for Tucson in July. Patterson also says he is in negotiation with Rage in the Cage promoter Sarria for a Phoenix midget card this summer.

Lentz, too, is eager to bring midgets to Phoenix and dreams of an "all-midget event with dwarves, guaranteed blood, the works," he says. "The money would all go to ASU boxing."

Patterson says he'd like nothing better. "We're not poking fun at being short. We train, we pay our dues, it's a legitimate profession. I love wrestling, it's in my blood. We always say that if Vince McMahon would get his shit together we'd do it full-time."

As for the canceled fights in Phoenix this month, Pitbull agrees with Nasty that the decisions were discriminatory in nature. "After all, this is America, and if people are willing to pay for it, you should be able to do what you want!"

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Susy Buchanan