One of the things I spent extra time on at this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos was the wrestling element. I have covered it in the past (I really enjoyed doing behind the scenes at Bloodymania 6) but it’s never been a main focus of my coverage. This year was a bit different because one of the guys covering the Gathering for the LA Weekly (Art Tavana) is a huge wrestling fan and that seemed like a good angle for me because mainstream press hasn’t really covered it and there are infinite wrestling fans out there.
One night we headed down to “Strangle Mania” which was the all hardcore Juggalo Championship Wrestling event. That means lots of barbed wire, thumbtacks and a lot of real blood. I didn’t stay all night and I didn’t really have an appropriate lens to cover wrestling but I got a few decent shots both back stage and in the ring.
The second night was our main focus. Former WWE legend Jeff Hardy was going to be part of the main event at “Bloodymainia” Which is like the Wrestlemania of the JCW. This is the big event of the year. Jeff is not only a pretty big star in wrestling but also happens to be kinda an eccentric guy who wears make up while he wrestles and also just happened to have made this amazing viral video called Final Deletion that was the talk of the wrestling world. He seemed like the perfect person to profile for this juggalo wrestling story.
Jeff is apparently a bit reclusive and doesn’t do a ton of interviews but fortunately for us I met Jeff’s sister in law Reby Hardy at the Gathering of the Juggalos a few years ago. The Gathering is a seriously bonding event and Reby and I have become pretty good Twitter friends. Her husband Matt Hardy is one half of the Hardy Boyz with Jeff and all three of them made Final Deletion. For those of you who care about wrestling all of this is probably super obvious but for everyone else it’s probably mildly confusing. Long story short, Reby hooked us up with Jeff and we got the interview.
Art and I drove out to the Columbus airport to interview Jeff (and his wife Beth) in their hotel room. They were super nice and it was actually a really fun interview. Listening to Jeff talk about wrestling made me kinda miss watching it. I was a pretty big fan in high school right around the time Jeff was huge and the Hardy Boyz were involved in one of my favorite matches of all time. It was great to talk about all that stuff and to find out that Jeff was only a couple years older than me when he was doing it.
Anyway, from there we all drove down to the Gathering. I took my rental car and they all drove in the car that JCW provided. We got there at pretty much the same time and Kevin Gill who runs the wrestling picked us up in a golf cart on the way in. Juggalos were freaking out about Jeff and he posed for picture after picture and signed autographs. I got to take photos of him trying out the ropes and working things out with a wrestler named Hero who was a huge fan of Jeff growing up. He told us later went back stage and cried he was so overwhelmed.
I got to shoot back stage at Bloodymania and of course I shot some of the matches. The event actually had some pretty amazing moments. My long time Gathering buddy Colt Cabana played his cop heel character and started yelling about Blue Lives Matter until a midget (he wanted to be called midget) named Swoggle who we had met earlier kicked the shit out of him which was great. There was also a pretty bloody hardcore match that ended with kinda an emotional passing the torch moment where JCW legend Pondo made everyone in the crowd chant for the other two wrestlers involved in the match.
But the real highlight of Bloodmania was actually a low light. Violent J’s best friend The Rude Boy is a JCW legend himself and was apparently diagnosed with dementia. He was inducted into the JCW Hall Of Fame and both he and Violent J gave speeches that had the entire crowd crying including myself. It was such a weird thing to be crying at a juggalo wrestling match. I was not expecting that. Rudy announced his retirement and the crowd went crazy for him and he finally made it back stage after several walks around the ring thanking fans.
Right before the final match Violent J came back out an announced that he was going to be wrestling for the first time in 8 years. He had been in WWE back in the day and was a wrestler in JCW before he gained a ton of weight and quit. He ended up losing something like 200 lbs in the last year and somehow not only wrestled, but wrestled well. It was impressive. But not only did he wrestle but he brought out 2 Tuff Tony and the Rude Boy for Rudy’s final match before retiring. The crowd went crazy again. The match ended with Rudy winning it but after it was all over Violent J did a moonsault which is essentially a black flip off the top rope. It was pretty fucking insane and I missed the shot because I thought the match was over.
The whole thing ended with the big three way JCW Championship match between Jeff Hardy, Kongo Kong and Willie Mack. The match was a bit of a mess because so many juggalos had thrown beers and Faygo at the ring and the ropes were wet. Jeff slipped on them and then moments later took a serious hit to the head from Willie Mack’s ass. Seriously. Apparently Jeff really hurt his neck in the process and I am fairly certain he was concussed as well because after the match was over he stayed after and just started breaking shit. I think he wanted to give the juggalos a show since he didn’t perform to his standards but it was a little weird and juggalos were reporting he was on drugs or something . Honestly he seemed fine after the match was over but I am sure he was really dazed after that hit. He told us his neck was killing him but otherwise he was good.
Anyway the day was a pretty cool experience for me because even though I don’t watch wrestling now I was really into it as a kid. I loved WWF Superstars when I was little and then again I got into it in the late 90s when the WCW/NWO storyline was warring with the Rock and Stone Cold and Degeneration X. It was a pretty awesome time for wrestling and the Hardy Boyz were the best tag team in the sport.
Now, if you made it this far it’s time to look at stuff.
Go read Art Tavana’s profile of Jeff Hard in the LA Weekly.
And then check out my photos from Juggalo Championship Wrestling at the Gathering of the Juggalos.
And finally click here to check out my photos of Jeff Hardy.