Brooklyn Teacher Hopes to Give Wrestling Club WrestleMania Experience

The Wrestling Club
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Victor Perry spoke to Philip Lindsey of Daily DDT about nurturing the next generation of fans with The Wrestling Club at KIPP AMP Middle School.

Everyone remembers when they discovered pro wrestling. That first match or nostalgic moment that hooked us and turned curiosity into fandom will always be special. Finding friends who share our interests is almost just as important because the niche genre is such a communal experience.

One of the great things about being a fan today is that there are so many ways for viewers to connect via the internet or other avenues. However, Victor Perry has taken it a step further by providing his students a safe space to enjoy wrestling with their peers.

The Wrestling Club at KIPP AMP Middle School initially went viral after Perry posted a clip of the kids reacting to Sasha Banks and Bayley’s Hell in a Cell match. It even caught the eye of the Legit Boss, who made a surprise appearance at the Brooklyn middle school back in May.

The after-school club came about after one of his students discovered he was a fan of the current Raw women’s champion. Their shared interest turned into an opportunity to go see a live show and a new outlet for others.

“The idea was a bit spontaneous and random, I’d like to think,” Perry said. “After taking a student to meet Bianca Belair and winning raffle tickets to a Monday Night Raw taping, I asked my students if I started a club would they join. It started very small, but then grew over the course of the school year.”

As someone who found pro wrestling as a kid, he felt it was fitting to introduce younger viewers to the sport and help them create groups of friends.

“I first discovered it through channel surfing when I was a kid, I believe I was in fourth or fifth grade,” Perry said. “I think what drew me in was the larger-than-life vibe that the wrestlers gave off, they felt like superheroes. Subconsciously this was a safe space for both myself and my twin as we would watch every week and discuss amongst ourselves and our small little group of friends at school. I believe this has always lived within me so when the time was right to create a space like this for my students it felt appropriate.”

There’s a bit of a misconception about wrestling’s core fanbase because we mostly saw white fans for so long. That has changed so much today because there are more visible and vocal viewers from all walks of life. As such, Perry felt it was vital to encourage and inspire young Black fans.

“It’s very important, might I say necessary,” Perry said. “I can’t tell you how special it is to see more people that look like me on the big screen and being celebrated for the work that they do. It helps remind me that I too am a champion in my own profession. I think it also helps position children to dare to dream; think outside of the box and be their best selves. Black culture drives the consciousness of the world, so it’s only fitting that it has its own part in the world of wrestling.”

The Wrestling Club has given the kids a chance to learn more about wrestling, but it has also improved his connection with his students. It has even had a positive effect on their grades and motivated them to work toward long-term goals.

“It’s definitely made my job as a teacher easier, that’s for sure,” Perry said. “I think my students want to know who their teachers are. We only show them one side, but to be vulnerable and show them something that you love? Yeah, that’s powerful. They feel special. They feel like they get to see a side of you that is hidden from the world. My connection with them is unbreakable. Our conversations may begin as wrestling then it leads to other things that they share with me about their own lives that I can then provide insight for. I’ve also noticed that they do work harder in class and find more meaning in the work we have them do because they want a future. That future could be in pro wrestling. It could be in other sports. It could be in medicine or education, but one thing is constant, they must continue to seek education and learn. The Wrestling Club provides that for my kids.”

On July 25, Perry took The Wrestling Club to see WWE Raw live at Madison Square Garden. Their first trip together as a group was a memorable night that will, hopefully, lead to more.

“That experience was absolutely epic,” Perry said. “To finally take the joy that we have in the classroom to the big stage, to a place like Madison Square Garden was something my students will never forget. Seeing how free they were to express their excitement for superstars like Bianca Belair, Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins, Street Profits and Asuka brought the biggest smile to my face. I knew this would be special when I heard the wonder in their voices when we made it up the escalator and then first entered the arena.”

Next spring, Perry hopes to take some of his students to their first WrestleMania. To do so, he’s going to need some help so he collaborated with three wrestling podcasts–The A Show, Black Rasslin’, and The Black Announce Table. The hosts of the shows actually came up with the idea.

“That idea was brought to me by several amazing individuals over at The A Show, Black Rasslin’, and The Black Announce Table. I’ve never been to a Wrestlemania. My students haven’t as well. So, for me, that’s always been on my list of things to attend, but also something that hasn’t seemed to be a reality. When the idea was brought to me I knew it would be something I couldn’t just pass over. My students love pro wrestling. They’re starting to branch out and discover this world and what better place to experience all this joy than at Wrestlemania? We started out small, with five kids, and it grew to around 37. We react with our emotions whether that’s complete excitement or disappointment and we share it with each other. Can you imagine what that would be like to be in a stadium with thousands of others who share those same emotions? I want my kids to feel the true power that is Wrestlemania so badly. I saw what a show at MSG could do.”

Daily DDT encourages you to donate to a great cause as The Wrestling Club’s GoFundMe grows closer to reaching its goal. In the meantime, it’s important to spread the word about The Wrestling Club at KIPP AMP Middle School. Hopefully, this will influence other organizations like it.

“Visibility is key,” Perry said. “Retweet on Twitter. Share on Facebook. Tell your friends and family what we are doing in The Wrestling Club extends beyond watching wrestling. I’m teaching my students how to express themselves; how to speak publicly, how to research, and most importantly exposing them to the many opportunities that are found not only in pro wrestling but in any field they choose to follow. I want them to know that just because their first option isn’t available doesn’t mean there aren’t others.”

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