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Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Teens end wrestling that included chairs, tacks

April 19, 2007

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— Just 16 but already showbiz-savvy, Joshua Stewart knew it took more than headlocks and half nelsons to entertain a crowd. So he and his friends threw a few extra moves into their monthly backyard wrestling matches.

They body-slammed opponents onto a pile of thumbtacks, bashed each other with metal chairs and whaled away at each other with fluorescent light tubes - and posted the tapes on YouTube.

But their latest match was likely their last.

Following an anonymous tip, Wichita police went to Joshua's home Sunday and found a match under way. Officers planned to confer with prosecutors to determine whether any parents of the teenagers involved could face child endangerment charges.

Joshua said he felt obliged to shut down the events after hearing his mother might face criminal charges.

"We've already taken down the ring," he said. "I didn't want my mom to get in trouble."

Joshua's mother, Barbara Stewart, said she was sorry she didn't put her foot down sooner and put an end to the matches. She said she felt fortunate none of the contestants was seriously injured.

"I wish I said no and stuck to it," she said. "It's very humbling when you realize exactly what could have happened. But thank God it didn't happen."

Joshua said he and his friends began wrestling several years ago and eventually taught themselves some professional wrestling moves.

He said about a dozen wrestlers regularly took part in what eventually became monthly wrestling contests. A typical event drew about 25 fans, he said.

"We just love to wrestle," he said. "When we all grow up, we're going to be professional wrestlers. Basically we have our own little fantasy federation."

The majority of matches involved traditional wrestling fare - headlocks, half nelsons and body slams.

But Stewart said once during each show, there was a "hard core" match that involved an extra measure of violence.

"You get more of a fan base when you elevate it a little bit," he said.

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