Larger than life micro wrestling comes to Illinois


Jonathan Rosenblum

Ivar the Micro sings rock classics as he opens Tuesday’s Micro Wrestling performance.

Derec Pemberton, better known as his stage name “Syko,” says his name holds a special wrestling warning to all his opponents. 

“The way psycho is spelled didn’t make sense to me,” he said. “So I changed the last two letters to K.O. because I’m going to knock all my opponents out.”

Pemberton has been wrestling with the Micro Wrestling Federation for almost two years, and was the Federation’s champion until fellow wrestler Baby Jesus defeated him during Tuesday’s show in Aurora.

Pemberton originally started his own little person MMA (mixed martial arts) organization with his brother, who is also a little person, seven years ago. 

“Sports commissioner of Kansas came in and shut us down,” Pemberton said. 

The sports commissioner told Pemberton that if he wished to professionally wrestle legally, the Micro Wrestling Federation was who he had to call. 

Pemberton, who has over 672,000 followers on TikTok, enjoys putting on a show more than anything. 

“I like the look that comes across peoples faces as I wrestle,” he said. “I really like to make people second guess their reality.” 

Pemberton, whose character of Syko has recently escaped a mental institution and comes out on stage in a straitjacket that will be forcibly removed, feels at home being on stage. 

“Man, that’s life right there,” he said. “Forreal, it brings happiness to me, it’s really my passion. And I’m one of the lucky few who got to follow their passion.” 

Pemberton is married to fellow Micro wrestler Pinky Shortcake. 

“I’m really lucky to have my wife wrestling because not many wrestlers have their wives on the road with them so they’re always wanting to go back home,” Pemberton said. “But my girl is already here so I got everything I need.” 

The husband and wife duo, who recently finished up their wrestling storyline in which they fought each other, welcomed a baby girl last year. Shortcake came back to the ring less than a year after giving birth. 

Pemberton announced before his match with Baby Jesus that if given the opportunity to be not a little person, he would not take it, exclaiming that “Normal people are f*king boring!”

This past week, the Micro Wrestling Federation, an organization in which all wrestlers and most of the staff are little people, came to Illinois with three shows. The Federation did not come to Chicago, but Aurora, Darien, and Princeton. 

At the show in Aurora, wrestlers Baby Jesus, Pinky Shortcake, Disco Dom, Lil Chola, Micro Tiger, and the infamous Syko were present. Zach Presley had his turn at the show to be the on-stage referee. 

Previous to Skyo v. Baby Jesus, Micro Tiger went head-to-head and came out victorious against Disco Dom, while Lil Chola triumphed over Pinky Shortcake. 

Disco Dom, whose real name is Dominic Feldi, impersonates John Travolta on stage and, similar to Syko, is a villain character. Feldi shares a similar sentiment to Syko when it comes to performing. 

“Let me tell you, it is an absolute adrenaline rush,” Feldi said. “I love performing in front of people. I love entertaining people.” 

Feldi, who hails from Pennsylvania, is a longtime wrestling fan. 

“Me and my grandfather, always Mondays and Fridays, we would watch wrestling together,” Feldi said. “My grandfather said, ‘man I could see you doing this.’ And I’ve always wanted to do this. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to do this and it’s a dream come true.”

Feldi just began his third year professionally wrestling and is thankful for the opportunity given to him. 

“It’s been my biggest blessing and I’ve never looked back,” he said. “I’ve never wrestled with other little people before so this is my first time. This is actually my first time being around other little people.” 

This is a common theme among the wrestlers and staff at Micro Wrestling.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have any other [dwarfs] around me,” Pemberton said. “And so I was always struggling in athletic areas. Now that I’m around other dwarfs that are doing the same stuff I’m doing, for the first time in my life I feel like I can actually complete and be athletic.” 

Along with two matches, a championship match, and finally a royal rumble, the Micro Wrestling experience comes with an opening rock show, put on by Ivar the Micro, who is also announced during events. Ivar, who worked in logistics and at Target prior to Micro Wrestling, had been in a wheelchair all his life on account of a brittle bone disease, making him break over 100 bones. Before being employed by the Federation, Ivar unsuccessfully attempted to get his band, Three and a Half Men, to perform at a Micro Wrestling show.

Thankfully, Ivar still attended the show. 

“My buddy told me he had VIP tickets and I ended up going,” he said. “I met everybody. Three months later, I hated my job and I called Micro.” 

Ivar then made the big step of moving from his native St. Louis to Pigeon Forge, TN, where Micro Wrestling’s headquarters, the Microtorium, is located. 

“In my life, I’ve never met anybody my height, so it was kind of cool but it was scary because you had to take a big opportunity and a big change to leave your family,” Ivar said. 

To be able to put on his spectacle, Ivar worked out feverishly during the beginning days of his employment with Micro Wrestling, dropping twenty pounds and gaining the ability to walk. At the end of his performance in Aurora, he shouted to the crowd, “One day this bone disease will bring me back down, but until then I will rock out for you every f___ night.”

Tickets to a Micro show cost $20, with ringside tickets being $40. Ringside lets the crowd get face to face with the wrestlers, who often fall into spectators laps and talk trash about fellow wrestlers. Rene and Kevin, who both held ringside seats, enjoyed the quality display for wrestling. 

“I liked how in the championship match, you thought it was over, but then it became a royal rumble,” Rene said. 

Both Rene and Kevin are longtime wrestling fans, and came to see Micro Wrestling to support their wrestling community. 

“I think it’s just a passion for great wrestling, “ Rene said, while reflecting on why he came to the Aurora show. 

“The wrestling community is very tight-knit. “It’s just another great show that I’ve been to,” Kevin said.

Although some may see Micro Wrestling as exploitative and an opportunity to poke fun at those different from the majority, the Federation, and its wrestlers, pride themselves on the empowerment the organization gives them, and in their ability to spread a positive and inclusive message. 

“The message is do not stop chasing your dreams,” Feldi said. “I’m telling you, whatever dream you have, do not stop. And I’m telling you it will pay off at the end.”

“It doesn’t matter how small you are,” Pemberton said. “You can be just as athletic as anybody else. We can do everything  anybody else can do.”