In a room typically filled with pool tables, bar stools and a drink-littered dance floor towered a 400-square foot ring—a hub of activity Thursday night as participants and onlookers watched in amazement at a scene not typical for Schyde’s Drinks and Whatnot in downtown Winona.
About 300 spectators—consisting mostly of local college students—crowded around the platform to see little people performers using everything from chairs to tin trash cans to knock each other into submission.
As the first wrestlers climbed into the ring, they jumped on top of the ropes and peered down at the crowd to a roar of cheers.
Among the first wrestlers was Ricky Benjamin. Benjamin and his opponent traded blows during several minutes of body slams, fist punches and off-the-rope slams before Benjamin finally prevailed.
After three taps from the little person referee, Benjamin jumped up and waved his hands to the crowd with a smile.
“From time and a lot of practice, I went from being a newbie to one of the main guys,” said Benjamin who has been wrestling for about two years.
Benjamin, 22, is one of five wrestlers from the Micro Wrestling Federation, who traveled from the Federation’s headquarters in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to be a part of Thursday night’s event in Winona.
The five wrestlers have traveled to 28 cities in the last month and 43 states in the last two years. Even with the large amount of time spent away from their homes, Benjamin said he was content with the sport of wrestling.
“I’m moving up in the world,” said Benjamin, an Austin, Texas native.
Following Benjamin’s match was the tag-team match: two against two. Benjamin’s partner, Brandon Genescritti, rolled onto the 4-foot-tall ring and bowed his head. He was the smallest of the wrestlers, measuring less than 4-feet tall. Despite his stature, Genescritti scrambled with his opponent during a lengthy 15-minute bout.
Genescritti was struggling near the end, but the match abruptly finished after another wrestler burst into the ring and whacked the referee over the head with a folding chair. To Genescritti, it was all part of the show.
“We plan out most of it, but with a few surprises,” Genescritti, 24, said.
A Bozeman, Montana resident most of the year, Genescritti said the money is worth the trip. The wrestlers make between $250-300 per show and put on about three to five shows a week.
“It’s nice to not be short at that,” said Genescritti with a laugh regarding his paycheck.
Money was also flowing at a higher rate than typical behind the bar during the event.
“There’s easily twice as many people in here as there normally would be on a Thursday night,” Schyde’s employee DJ Steve K said. “That probably means about twice the money considering each person will buy a couple drinks along with the $5 cover.”
Regardless of how much money Schyde’s made, DJ Steve said the event was exactly what Winona, and many fellow college students, needed.
“Right now, people need to blow off a little steam, and what’s better than watching some little men wrestling while having a beer?” DJ Steve K said.