It is 7:07 p.m. on a Saturday night in July at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. The ring is empty. The 75-person crowd is getting impatient. The North West Pro Wrestling ninth anniversary show was supposed to start at 7 p.m.
The music finally hits. Christian Wyld, a rockstar-type wrestler from Frisco, Texas, comes out from behind the stage curtain first. He’s the good guy — the “babyface” as it’s known in professional wrestling — but you wouldn’t know it from the silence in the crowd, typical for someone from outside the territory. His music stops, there’s a pause, and then a loud, recognizable song starts playing. This time the crowd immediately reacts with boos and some choice words. Here comes local wrestler J.D. Mason. The bad guy, the “heel.” The NWP faithful have either loved him or hated him for nearly a decade.
His job, though disguised through such dastardly antics like shaming his opponent, belting off-key Backstreet Boys songs, or rubbing his bare belly, is to warm up the crowd. In a business where jeers are just as valuable as cheers, Mason is good at his job. It takes about 12 minutes, but he finally pins Wyld after using his signature “brainbuster” finisher, kicking-off two hours of action.
Most wrestlers get to move on with their day after their matches. Wyld nurses an injury. Kid Isaac, a young wrestler flown in from Las Vegas, sells his T-shirts near the entryway. Da Shade, another Las Vegas product, talks with kids and tries to make new fans. The Ultimate Guy, NWP’s Washington state champion and fresh off a victory, sits on the bench outside the front door of the KPCC playing with his family — still in his wrestling tights.
Not Mason. He has to immediately switch gears from independent professional wrestler to independent professional wrestling promoter. As the NWP owner, his duties on show days include everything from dealing with last-minute changes, to playing the wrestlers’ music, to setting up, taking down and loading the 20-by-20 foot wrestling ring.
That pretty much sums up independent professional wrestling.
“I’m surprised it lasted nine years,” said Mason, who launched NWP in 2013. “With rising gas prices, paying for flights, getting good talent out to the shows — it’s not an easy business.” Not to mention a global pandemic that kept NWP from performing for five months in 2020.
Mason, 34, is not in the business to get rich. Professional wrestling has been a passion for most of his life, so it makes sense that running his own wrestling promotion is a passion-project.
As a child he lived in the South, a hotbed for pro wrestling, where he came to idolize pro wrestlers like “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Sting. It wasn’t until he moved to the Key Peninsula that he discovered independent wrestling and started watching the Tacoma-based Pacific Wrestling Federation. He joined Pinnacle Wrestling in Auburn when he was 17 years old, while attending Henderson Bay High School in Gig Harbor, and honed his craft for seven years before he founded NWP.
He needed a home for NWP and early on Mason formed a partnership with the KPCC because he felt a connection to it.
“I used to go to skate night there as a kid and I remember thinking in fifth grade how cool it would be if there was wrestling there,” he said.
He started NWP small: a few shows per year and asking for donations as entrance fees. It wasn’t uncommon for them to have 20 fans at a show that wound up losing $3,000. Now they do monthly family-friendly shows at the KPCC, and some in South Hill, with ticket prices starting at $10.
The crowd sizes have grown over the years. Before the pandemic an NWP event could attract 200 people to some events. There’s even a section in the KPCC where the diehard, repeat fans sit. He knows it’s weird to “invite family and friends to come to your work and boo you,” but Mason wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a social experiment. If you see a decent-sized alpha-male bullying someone, it’s going to pull emotions. It’s not uncommon for fans to throw something at me or want to fight me for real.”
The bigger the crowds, the bigger paydays for the wrestlers. Mason generally pays travel expenses for wrestlers to come from out of town — he had wrestlers from Texas, Nevada and California at the anniversary show. Most paydays for wrestlers won’t even cover a hotel room, so Mason says as long as they like dogs any wrestler is welcome to stay at his Lake Holiday home when they’re in town. He’ll even cook for them.
“As much as I’m a jerk in the ring, I’m actually a pretty chill guy.”
His passion for wrestling continues at his home. Mason has a full-size ring in his backyard for him and his NWP “opponents” to train. He offers classes for professional wrestling, referees, and even does commentary. When Mason’s not performing in a wrestling ring, he’s likely building one. He’s currently contracted to build three of them for other wrestling promotions across the country.
But perhaps Mason’s biggest wrestling influence at home is his 5-year-old son Kasyn. The younger Mason started liking wrestling three years ago, and soon began mimicking wrestling moves. The older Mason acknowledges that professional wrestling can be dangerous if wrestlers aren’t trained properly, so he spends time every week in the ring with his son.
“He tries to wrestle with me daily. If it’s not me, it’s his sisters. If it’s not his sisters, it’s the dogs.”
Mason has been a professional wrestler for 17 years and his goal is to last another 11. That’s when Kasyn will be 16 years old and can officially start training. Mason’s promoter mentality has kicked-in and he’s already thinking about the ultimate wrestling storyline.
“Kasyn’s first match … will be my last match.”
North West Pro will be at the civic center September 17, October 15, November 19 and December 3. Doors open at 6 p.m.; shows start at 7. For more information, go to the North West Pro Facebook page.
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