Wrestling: Jon West looks to change the game with Black Wrestlers Matter

Wrestling (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)
Wrestling (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images) /

Ten-year veteran, Jon West, sat down for an exclusive interview with Daily DDT to talk about his upcoming event, Black Wrestlers Matter.

Black wrestlers are currently in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. There are more Black performers in the industry than ever before. With that said, Black people are still marginalized in wrestling. As such, Jon West hopes to change the perception of what an independent wrestling show can look like with Black Wrestlers Matter.

The upcoming event, which is billed as “A Celebration Of Black Professional Wrestling,” features a collection of exceptional Black wrestlers. The emergence of F1ght Club Pro Wrestling and what could’ve been with GCW’s For the Culture certainly proved there is a need and demand for such shows. “American Fury” Jon West hopes to inspire change and raise money for a good cause.

West established the “Black Wrestlers Matter” movement in 2015, so this event has been in the makings for about five years.

“So, it started in about 2015,” he said. “I noticed like a long time ago that there has never really been that many prominent Black wrestlers on shows, especially the indies. Like I live in Iowa, so I’m usually the only Black person on the entire show. Even when I go to places like Omaha, stuff like that, like, I’m the only one that’s around. So, I figured stuff like that shouldn’t be happening. In the other sport, you see Black people are represented everywhere. Wrestling is the only sport that you don’t really have Black people all over the place. That’s when I figured Black Wrestlers Matter is the thing because we shouldn’t just be like stereotypes, we should be able to do different characters in wrestling.”

Although the movement officially began before 2020, current events like the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests made the message even louder. West explained that the current socio-political climate over the last two months added a sense of urgency.

“I feel like that’s the reason why the show has to happen because everything that’s going on like with COVID. COVID kinda forced the world to slow down a little bit. Then, the whole George Floyd thing happened, and it kind of like opened people’s eyes like to see what we go through on a daily basis. That’s just in the world. In wrestling, It’s like, it always feels like wrestling is kinda like an escape from the world. Like with everything going on in the world today, wrestling is kind of one of those things you can watch wrestling to see, ok, like or whatever, right? It’s kind of hard to ignore everything that’s going on especially with the world being on pause. Even in wrestling, nowadays, like a lot of Black wrestlers are being featured on shows now, but I feel like a lot of that’s because like the whole Black Lives [Matter] thing. All these companies want to feel like they’re contributing in any way they can so they try to feature their Black wrestlers a lot more now.”

The mission statement is to highlight African American wrestlers but Black Wrestlers Matters also seeks to raise money for the underprivileged students of Des Moines Public Schools. So, all proceeds from the show will go to Knowledge Is Power. The foundation is organized by Bill Weathers, a local musician who goes by B. Well.

“The goal is to provide supplies for underprivileged children in the local community,” West said. “One of the biggest problems we have, especially in the Black community, is that lot of kids don’t have a lot of help, either their parents can’t afford to get them supplies or the school doesn’t want to provide it because the school can afford it. So, this charity is pretty much a way to give back to the community, to help these kids, get them the tools they need to further their education, or further themselves in life.”

At the event, “American Fury” will face Mike Outlaw in a first-time match-up. West sees this as an opportunity to put someone like Outlaw in front of a potentially new audience, as well as a personal challenge.

“Well, there was a lot of changes going on, but like, I’m not the kind of guy, like, if anybody knows me in wrestling, I’m the kinda guy that’s like, I’ve always tried to put everybody else ahead of me. Like, everybody else, give them an opportunity before I get my own opportunity. When we were announcing the talent I was like, oh I was like, Mike. I’ve never wrestled Mike Outlaw before. A lot of people say he is the best wrestler in St Louis. I mean, I think I’m a pretty decent wrestler myself. I feel like if I want to prove that I’m good, I have to go against somebody who is considered the best. The match was kind of a perfect fit.”

West has a star-studded card in store for fans including standouts like AEW’s Sonny Kiss, Air Wolf, Jah-C, JDX, ACH, Faye Jackson, and Devon Monroe.

“Oh, I know for a fact that Air Wolf and Jah-C is going to tear the house down,” he said. “So, I feel like there’s no weak match on our card at all. Like, we got JDX vs. ACH. And ACH was kind of not wrestling for a while and he just happened to kinda fall into our lap, and I was like, ‘Oh, I got to take advantage of this.’ I feel like that’s probably going to be one of the matches of the year right there. Those two dudes can go.”

Speaking of ACH, West explained why it was important to get someone like him involved. Of course, the man who briefly went by Jordan Myles had a public struggle with racism that resulted in his exit from WWE.

“Oh, I feel like if anybody was perfect for this show, he’s the perfect person for this show because he knows exactly what black wrestlers have to go through in like big companies like WWE or anything like that. I feel like getting him was the nail we needed to let people know that, Hey, we’re serious about this. It’s not just a regular indie show. This show is going to be kind of bigger than that. Right now, like, I feel like a lot of people still think this only just an indie show, it just a gimmick show, but it’s not. This show is very important. It needs to happen. It supports a lot of people. It’s support for the culture. It’s gotta happen. ACH the perfect person to represent that.”

The For the Culture Rumble will be one of the highlights of Black Wrestlers Matter. West has surprised lined so you’ll have to tune in to see enters the fray but he also wanted to make sure everyone is safe.

“It’s different because in a battle royale that’s like everyone’s in at the same time,” he said. It’s called a rumble but because of the whole situation with COVID we’re going limit it to four guys at a time. So, once someone gets eliminated and another person who comes out. It’s a little different, it’s traditional, but, we’re trying to keep everyone safe. So, that’s the best way we’re going to be able to do it. So, no more than four guys in a ring at a time.”

Devon Monroe is someone who has been making a name for himself out in Minnesota. Jon West talked about what was the thought process behind adding him to the card.

“Devon was one of those guys that I had my eye for a while, especially from the Minnesota scene because the show says representation matters and what better way to represent than have a gay black man on our show. I mean, that’s not how Devon was booked. Devon can go. Devon can move. Debbie can go. So, it just happens that he happens to be gay. That’s not why we booked him. That’s just the situation. Like Devon and Faye are going to tear the house down. Those two are going to have a lot of fun out there.”

Independent wrestling is slowly returning. Many small promotions went on a hiatus because of COVID-19 with no timeline for when they would be able to start running shows again. West believes that Black Wrestlers Matter will stand out in comparison to other events scheduled for this fall.

“Well, I mean the show stands out the most because it’s just a different show,” he said. “There are shows that have Black wrestlers. There are shows that have white wrestlers. People think the title ‘Black Wrestlers Matter’ means it’s like strictly Black wrestlers. Like, no, Black wrestlers are on the show, but this show all-inclusive. Like anybody could come watch. Anybody can come enjoy it. I’m trying to try to utilize Black wrestling personalities, ring announcers, referees, timekeepers, like camera people, like all that stuff like that. I’m trying to give people the opportunity to show what they can do. Like for the longest time, a lot of African Americans in wrestling are kind of like afterthoughts. So, I hoping after this show that won’t be the case anymore.”

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Black Wrestlers Matter will take place on Saturday, Aug. 22. at Franklin Jr High Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa. The event will stream live on blackwrestlermatter.com.