actionwrestling

The Wrestling Promoter Whose Piledrivers Are for a Good Cause

Actually, a number of good causes, as he donates all the revenue from his company, ACTION Wrestling, to different charities

Back in February, various parties, including the town of Tyrone, Georgia, independent wrestling promotion ACTION Wrestling and Make-A-Wish Georgia came together for a special occasion. Tyler Anderson, a 19-year-old who was born with DiGeorge syndrome, which is the deletion of part of chromosome 22, had expressed that his wish was to be a professional wrestler. “We’ve told him that before you can be a wrestler you have to learn all the basics such as announcing, managing etc.,” ACTION promoter Matt Griffin explained to the Fayette County News. “At the end, he will get his shot at wrestling. Even his parents don’t know that’s going to happen.” 

And so, on the afternoon of a regular card that would take place hours later, an invite-only event was held for Anderson’s friends and family as well as select regular ACTION ringsiders. In the ostensible main event for the World International Super Heavyweight (WISH) Championship, dastardly heel Kevin Blue used underhanded tactics to defeat his opponent. The only person, of course, who could make things right was Anderson, who was called into the ring and bestowed the nomme de wrestling “Super Nova.”

The match was obviously carefully constructed, with Anderson contorting Blue into a few basic holds, like a wrist lock and arm-wringer, before hitting a few careful clotheslines. But with Blue down, “Super Nova” applied his own trademark hold — more or less Perry Saturn’s “Rings of Saturn” — to elicit a dramatic submission, scoring the win and the title. Everyone in the crowd lost their minds, exploding in cheers for his title win.

The faux fisticuffs notwithstanding, it perfectly encapsulated ACTION’s mission — to help others. 

I’ve known Griffin for almost two decades, but it wasn’t until two years ago that, in the middle of the night at a Chattanooga, Tennessee diner, that he first told me about the concept he was developing that would ultimately become ACTION Wrestling. A retired independent wrestler, he’d been slowly getting back involved with the business, including working on the team that produced the Scenic City Invitational, a benefit for local high school sports (and my reason for being in Tennessee). As we indulged in our late-night snacks, Griffin explained to me how he had a plan in mind to start running his own shows, all of which would be benefits. But unlike the usual wrestling fundraiser model — i.e., one-offs for specific schools or charities — every event his promotion put on would benefit a different charity. Soon thereafter, he launched ACTION, now a fixture in Tyrone, the Atlanta suburb where he resides.

ACTION is entirely a passion project for Griffin, an insurance salesman by day, who spent the early part of his adult life moonlighting as independent wrestler “Mr. Delicious” Jacey North while working 9-to-5 in PR for the Marine Corps. When he decided to break into wrestling, his trainer, Cueball Carmichael, didn’t have a ring, much less a school where he could teach aspiring wrestlers. So Griffin would join him on the road each weekend, getting a crash course in indie wrestling on top of in-ring training before shows. After coming up through the Virginia scene, “Jacey North” would become a regular in Georgia’s NWA Wildside, which had a relatively wide syndicated television footprint and was, for a short time, a developmental circuit for Turner Broadcasting’s World Championship Wrestling. 

It was a totally respectable independent career, but Griffin would wind it down in 2005, only to return to the wrestling scene a decade later to help out sometimes wrestling manager Allan “Al Getz” Barrie with video production, leading to Griffin’s involvement with Scenic City, which, other than the first one, have all been benefits for the high school in which a given show is held.

“I’ve got a bit of a background running benefit events,” Griffin tells me. “In 2014, I began running an annual comedy show to benefit a domestic violence shelter. We had a lot of success and were able to make over $40,000 to donate.” He’d also started volunteering with Make-A-Wish Georgia and began thinking about running a benefit show for them. “I’d wanted to run and book wrestling for years,” he says. “I’d spoken with my wife about it, but we never could find the proper spot. A venue is so important, and can make or break everything.” 

That venue eventually presented itself in Tyrone’s Roger Spencer Community Center, which treats ACTION’s shows like one of its own events and charges Griffin a sweetheart rental rate. Griffin’s first show there, in April 2018, established the in-ring balance that ACTION would strike: Cards that mix traditional, family-friendly, walk-and-talk Southern wrestling with the athletic, harder-hitting style that hardcore fans will travel to shows for. (Such a mix helps ACTION draw a reliable crowd of regulars to the 256-person capacity community center.)

“The actual atmosphere was crazy,” recalls Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player turned indie wrestler Dominic Garrini, who headlined the first ACTION show. “Pockets of kids would be so vocal toward the babyfaces that it was unreal.” For Iowa’s “Cornbelt Cowboy” Steve Manders, a student of WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins who debuted on the last ACTION card, it meant even more. “It’s super cool to be a part of ACTION, seeing that your wrestling is helping out people,” he explains.

Garrini agrees: “Besides the chance to main event a show in a state I hadn’t wrestled in, the fact that the show was a complete fundraiser — with all of the proceeds going to Make-A-Wish Georgia — made it a no-brainer.” 

To date, the shows have raised more than $20,000 for Make-A-Wish Georgia; Advo-Kids CASA (advocates for abused and neglected children); Armed Forces Mission (emergency intervention services for veterans and others showing suicidal ideations); Bloom (shelter and support for traumatized children); and Southside Toys for Tots (in December, of course). Pretty much every dollar that comes in goes out to these organizations. Meanwhile, to keep costs low, most of the show expenses (e.g., the ring and most of the wrestler booking fees) come at a discount or Griffin pays for them himself (e.g., the promotion’s title belt).

None of which bothers him in the least. “I consider a life of service almost a duty,” he explains. “I’ve been very fortunate in life, and I enjoy passing that on. Not to mention, doing good for others can almost be intoxicating.”