Professional wrestler, Jonny Xross in on a mission to change the way people view Black wrestlers.
The New Jersey native, who has spent about 20 years in Washington, DC, worked hard for an entire year to put together a wrestling tournament to showcase Black wrestlers. The winner of the tournament will be crown the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Champion, now known as The People’s Champion.
In a DDT Divas exclusive, Sade chats with Jonny Xross to learn more about the tournament and the title.
Q: What is the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship and tournament?
A: The Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship, also known as The People’s Championship, is an attempt to break stigmas. I’ve noticed that not just in the Black Community, but also in the Wrestling Community there are several negative attitudes towards Black wrestlers and Wrestlers of Color, in general.
For some reason, wrestling is seen as a White man thing. I don’t agree with that. There are too many Black and Brown people who are some of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But seeing that the main fanbase are not People of Color, I guess it’s seen that way. I noticed that and I didn’t like it. Also, in the Black community, if you are a wrestler or if you like wrestling, in many cases, you’re seen as a weirdo. I saw all of these stigmas and I didn’t like them.
Q: Why did you decide to create the championship and the tournament?
A: In Maryland, there are a lot of wrestling tournaments. EWA has the “Sweet 16”, MCW has the Shane Shamrock Cup, ACW has the King of Maryland. Maryland has all these tournaments, and I know people who’ve participated in them. I was talking about these tournaments with one of my friends, Lateef Reid. I was telling him that I wanted to get on one. But he was like, ‘you know what would cold if we made our own tournament?’ It took off from there. I was like ‘we should do that. We should bring it to Washington, D.C.’ Washington, D.C. is void of wrestling. The only time you get wrestling in D.C. is when WWE comes around every six months. At that point, there were no other wrestling in D.C.
Q: When is the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship tournament and where will it be held?
A: The tournament starts Sunday, August 25 and will be held at the Athletic Republic, 6417 Marlboro Pike, District Heights, Maryland 20747.
Q: I noticed that the championship has an Afrocentric design. How did you come up with the design?
A: We are trying to build a platform for Black wrestlers and Wrestlers of Color, and my friend Lateef is the person who designed the belt. I paid for him to design the title. I sent the title off to Belts By Dan, and it took about six months to have it made. We got the title and we have been pushing from there.
Q: What would you say to the people who say a championship for Black wrestlers is racist or unnecessary?
A: I would say to them to go and look at different companies around the country, different independent promotions. Look. You seldom see a lot of Black wrestlers, especially in middle America.
But honestly, I’m building a platform. If you with it, you with it. If you not, you not. If you think it’s racist, I don’t have to do anything to prove that it’s not. You’ll just have to come and watch the wrestling to see whether it’s racist or not. We have done nothing that is racist. That’s the way I feel.
Q: Has anyone made comments like that to you thus far?
A: They have, and I typically ignore them because I know what my plan is. I’m the booker for my title. I know what the plan is. To insinuate this is racist is like anything Black people do. ‘BET that’s racist! ‘ I don’t have an answer for that, and I don’t pay attention to it because there is no point.
“The Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling is an attempt to break stigmas. I’ve noticed that not just in the Black Community, but also in the Wrestling Community there are several negative attitudes towards Black wrestlers. “Jonny Xross
Q: How much personal time did you put into the tournament?
A: I’ve brought myself to mental exhaustion.
I was trying to do this for an entire year. I was trying to find a venue in D.C. Everything in D.C. is overly expensive now. Even venues that were not up to snuff are overly expensive. It was hard to find somebody to hold a wrestling show. On several occasions, I went to gymnasiums, schools, and talked to principals. I said ‘look, I’m trying to hold this wrestling tournament.’ They looked at me like I’m crazy, ‘NO! We are not doing that!’ I did that for a year. So, it brought me so much mental strife.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced and the challenges you overcame?
A: The challenges I faced were mainly funding and finding a venue. I have a lot of friends who wanted to help, they had a wrestling ring or sound equipment. The biggest challenge was the venue. Actually, I would say the venue and getting the word out. It was very hard.
I would tag people all-day, WWE guys, ROH guys, AEW guys. It largely got ignored for six months. But people have started to notice and picking it up. We’ve overcome essentially getting the word out. I got contacted by Cheeseburger from ROH. The funny thing is two of the guys, Soldiers of Savagery from ROH, I trained with them at MCW. Maddox he’s been a big supporter of it. He’s been pushing stuff out for me too. Also finding a venue [we overcame that].
Q: Did you ever think about giving up?
A: At times, I wanted to give up and be like ‘I made this title so, I’m going to carry this title around. I’m going to pretend like I’m the greatest Black wrestler. I can just work from there. But I decided no, I don’t want to do that. A lot of times, wrestlers who create titles, will reward themselves that title, That doesn’t feel natural. I decided that in order for this thing to work, I have to go all the way. I have to make the title, an annual thing. Every year we come together and do a tournament.
Q: Can you talk about your crowdfunding efforts?
A: Originally, we did crowdfunding. We had two indiegogo accounts. The first one drew $627. The second one didn’t draw anything. So we received $627, and originally we asked for $3,000 because I knew that getting a venue in Washington, D.C. was going to be expensive. I only received a portion of that, so it made things a little harder. We tried really hard, but we decided to cut it off. We decided to just play it by ear and hope that we sell enough tickets to make up the portion of the money. I know that most of that money is lost, and that’s ok.
I’m not doing this for money, I’m doing it for the culture. The very first video we did, we used #fortheculture. This is for the culture, I don’t care about the money. I just want Black wrestlers to be appreciated, accepted and to break those stigmas.
Q: How much of your own money did you put into the tournament?
A: I put so much money into this tournament. I was a soldier in the United States Army, and I have a little bit of money saved away. I was going to take a little bit of the money I have saved away and invest it into the company, the belt, and the tournament. I’m taking some of that to pay the wrestlers. I realized that a lot of promotions cheat wrestlers. It’s a little joke called ‘a hotdog and a handshake.’ You have guys driving 80, 100, 300 miles and all you give them is $20 and a handshake. ‘Thank you for coming out!’ I don’t want to be that guy. I want to make sure that I’m paying these guys, so I’m using my own savings.
Q: Did you put any money into advertising the tournament?
A; I advertised the crowdfunding and the tournament on both Youtube and Facebook. Every time I did a video or put out content, I put a little money behind it to try to reach people.
“It’s a little joke called ‘a hotdog and a handshake.’ You have guys driving 80, 100, 300 miles and all you give them is $20 and a handshake. I want to make sure that I’m paying these guys, so I’m using my own savings. ”Jonny Xross
Q: Were you able to get any help putting the tournament together?
A: I have a whole team. I call us Team Bruh. I go to them when I need help and they deliver.
Q: Who are some of the people on Team Bruh?
- My designer: Lateef Reid
- My media officer: Chris Kazama
- My general manager for the title (kayfabe): JA
- My tag team partners: Trish Adora and Ray Rumble
Q: Who are some of your favorite Black and Brown wrestlers?
My very top right now are :
- Eddie Guerrero
- Booker T
- Kofi Kingston (He just jumped onto the list by winning the WWE Championship)
- Ron Simons
- Butch Reed
- Junkyard Dog (I still watch Junkyard Dog matches. I really want to bring his flavor to my style, You don’t see that flavor anymore. I want to add that to my flavor.
- Juventud Guerrera (I really loved Juventud growing up.)
- Rey Mysterio
- The Rock
- Jazz (People forget how great Jazz was. We talk about how great Lita and Trish were and what they did for women’s wrestling. But I feel like Jazz was in that mix. Jazz and Jacqueline were freaking great, but obviously, because they weren’t White women, they got overlooked. It’s kind of how Naomi gets overlooked now. Ember Moon could be so much greater.)
- Sasha Banks
For more information on the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship visit its official Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Youtube channel. Tickets for the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship can be purchased at https://www.c3wrestling.com/