Luke Hadley at 16. Backyard wrestling is a loose term used to describe the controversial practice of professional wrestling as performed by untrained fans in an unsanctioned, non-professional environment. Backyard wrestling is a title applied to home filmed and produced professional wrestling shows, videos, or events carried out by untrained athletes, mostly comprised of American males between the ages of 16 and 30. In the years since its formation, Backyard wrestling has developed into an underground scene, where federations often produce, trade and distribute their videos via Internet, and other wrestling publications. Though backyard wrestling was not unheard of prior to the 1990s, the modern backyard wrestling "craze" lasted from roughly 1996 to 2001, during a time when televised professional wrestling was enjoying a period of unparalleled popularity. Many of those who practice it embrace a style that emphasizes risky high spots (which can involve diving or taking bumps from rooftops or ladders) and the liberal use of weapons in matches. These may include thumbtacks, barbed wire, tables, plywood, fire, glass, and fluorescent lamps. Even among participants who shy away from this, there still is a considerable level of inherent risk involved. Many professional wrestling holds require extensive training to perform correctly and safely, which few backyard wrestlers have received. These and other concerns are at the heart of the controversy surrounding the practice.
Backyard wrestling is so-called because it is often literally performed in yards, though most any location can host a backyard wrestling match, including parks, garages, playgrounds, vacant lots, warehouses, barns, and school gyms. It is common for backyard professional wrestling promotions, or "feds," to construct their own homemade wrestling rings. Wrestling on trampolines is also common, which allows for visually impressive moves to be performed with a minimal risk of injury. Others opt to simply perform matches on the bare ground which, in most cases, is more dangerous than performing in home-made rings. Backyard wrestling promotions can be highly organized, and many tape their shows and maintain websites where media is available for download. The internet proved instrumental in popularizing backyard wrestling during its initial boom period. Backyard wrestling is modeled almost entirely after professional wrestling, and many backyarders are dedicated fans of the sport. Backyard matches are usually "worked" in the same way professional matches are, with finishes booked in advance and participants going over high spots beforehand. Like in professional wrestling, backyard wrestlers can be seen communicating with each other during bouts. However, while hardcore wrestling matches are often criticized for lack of direction, the same may be said for much of backyard wrestling, especially considering the aforementioned lack of training. This can result in poor communication and, thus, a high risk of injury.
Backyard wrestlers often create story lines and gimmicks in their wrestling events, creating persona and styles of their own. These characters are usually modeled closely after inspirations in their favorite professional wrestling promotions. Connoisseurs to the sport often criticize backyard wrestling as more sloppy and not as well thought-out as professional wrestling, especially because of the tendency of backyard wrestlers to use more absurd gimmicks and story lines. Creativity and organization are also important issues in creating successful wrestling events, of which the majority of backyard wrestling inherently lacks. In its history, backyard wrestling has changed significantly in terms of its professionalism, safety provisions, popularity, and hardcore style. Backyard wrestling tends to follow the trends of professional wrestling and changes in accordance with what are the fads and trends in the major promotions such as World Wrestling Entertainment or Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
Although backyard wrestling has been often associated with a Mick Foley home video in which Foley jumps off the roof of a house onto his opponent who is lying on a pile of mattresses, backyard wrestling most likely began in the 1950s emulating such stars as Gorgeous George, and later Bruno Sammartino, and Superstar Billy Graham . The earliest listed "official" backyarder is Shawn "Crusher" Crossen who wrestled from March 1984 until early 1990 in his own promotion known as NWF Kids Pro Wrestling.Twin Cities based promoter and trainer Eddie Sharkey actually co-promoted a sold-out wrestling event that featured matches from both Pro Wrestling America (PWA) and NWF Kids Pro Wrestling at the American Legion Hall in Champlin, MN back on November 1986.