Professional wrestling: athletics, spectacles, body slams, and…altruism?
Beyond the colorful costumes, the more colorful personalities, and the big, bold athletic moves, pro wrestling is a force that brings people together, and, as Michael “Maddness” Saunders—“MM” in the ring—has learned, it can be a force that brings people together for good.
After twelve years of wrestling for the Alaska Wrestling Alliance (AWA) and becoming the first person to win the Alaska Champion, USA Champion, and World Champion titles, in 2010 Saunders founded Alaska Pro Wrestling, a group dedicated to raising money for charities through the medium of pro wrestling exhibitions. Currently, he works with notable organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Wounded Warriors project, and is always open to working with new groups looking to raise money for worthy causes.
His primary mission is to “provide good fun family entertainment.” He realized that he had “always seen bake sales and car washes and wanted to use pro wrestling as a way to raise money for charities in the area.” As it turns out, pro wrestling fundraisers were a hit with his Alaskan audience.
Saunders’s path to pro wrestling was a sad and unexpected one, but also an all American-story of transforming tragedy into triumph. He remembers that, after “a fun and exciting five years racing mud trucks with my brother Jeff, he was involved in a freak snow machine accident and passed away. I had a hard time wanting anything to do with the truck. One night I saw a commercial about living my dreams and being a pro wrestler. I called the local number and had the bug.”
Today, he continues to live the dream. With a diverse fan base from the very young to the very old, he’s able to continue to wrestle on a regular basis, while encouraging others who share his dream to join the organization.
Recently, Saunders won $500 of free printing in Eventgroove’s 15th birthday giveaway. Every month until the end of 2012, the company will award one lucky Facebook fan with this prize, good for printing tickets, posters, stickers, and more. For the last two years, Saunders has only the company’s products to print event tickets, but now he’s excited about the possibility of printing bumper stickers, banners, and other large format publicity for APW.
In addition to this upcoming print publicity and newspaper advertising, APW uses Facebook and Twitter to connect with fans, although Saunders still directs people back to alaskaprowrestling.com for up-to-date information on show schedules. In addition, he and his crew “will do appearances on some of the local radio stations and give away tickets to our events.” While he hasn’t yet had a lot of luck with online ticket sales, he is trying out a Living Social deal, which he’s hopeful will work out.
APW also welcomes sponsors, which currently include GCI and Alaska Spring and Performance. Sponsors receive a banner on the side of the ring, a shout-out in the event programs, and ad space on the APW website.
Through everything, Saunders’s love of his work shines through and keeps him on his feet. Despite what some may think about professional wrestling, he doesn’t always know what’s going to come next. “Every event is a crazy event,” he says. “One time I was picked up to be suplexed, but the old timer couldn’t lift me and dropped me on my head. A pain shot down my back. I pulled myself up and tagged out. My partner MK2 came in, got body slammed, and got pinned.”
His favorite part of his events? “After the show,” when he’s, “talking to the fans signing pictures. At that time I know another show is done and time to start planning the next one.”
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