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MADISON, Ind. – Matt Bickers may not be a large man, but he’s becoming a powerful force in the world of professional wrestling.
A teacher by day, Bickers is the new owner of the once-defunct Supreme Championship Wrestling in Madison, Ind.
As a boy, he fell in love with the sport during the “WrestleMania” years, watching such television wrestling stars as Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura (before his stint as Minnesota’s governor) beat their competition in the ring.
When he was 11, Bickers knew that professional wrestling was his future. “I always said that was what I wanted to do,” he said Monday night, sitting on the edge of the arena at SCW’s West Main Street location. But his dream didn’t get much support. “I was told I was too small, that I can’t do it.”
He set out to prove them wrong. After graduating from Southwestern High School in his native Hanover, Ind., Bickers packed up and moved to Tampa, Fla., where he took a job at a training facility for World Championship Wrestling.
“I worked from the bottom to the top,” in all aspects of operating the facility, “doing all the grunt work,” he said. After two years there, he sent his resume to a Memphis, Tenn., promoter and ended up working for Bert Prentice, who at the time was starting his Music City Championship Wrestling company in Nashville, Tenn. Bickers later was hired away from MCCW by New South Championship Wrestling, also in Nashville.
At NSCW, Bickers was named head promoter and became a member of the creative team, helping to create wrestling characters and writing story lines for the shows.
“I made a lot of friends in New South,” Bickers said, many were professional wrestlers from Jeffersonville, Ind., who traveled to Nashville to compete in the ring.
Soon, though, Bickers started feeling the call to return home to Southern Indiana. Because of his association with wrestlers from Jeffersonville, he decided to move back to help start Kentuckiana Championship Wrestling. “It was closer to home,” he said, adding that, at the time, his grandmother was in poor health and he wanted to be nearby.
“It may not have been the greatest career move,” he admitted, butsaid, in the end, it worked out well for him.
One day, Bickers was asked to put together a wrestling event as a fund-raiser for Shawe Memorial High School, Madison’s Catholic high school. The money raised was to help students pay for a trip to France. It was very successful, he said.
“At that point, I determined that I had all the tools to work for myself,” he said, so he started NWF Wrestling and ran shows in Madison for about seven years. “We were very successful, doing at least one show a month at Jefferson County Fairgrounds.”
But then, he reached a turning point when he found out his wife, Suzie, was pregnant.
He loved promoting, but knew that, financially, it wouldn’t support their growing family. The couple now has three children, two sons, Chandler, 11, and Cash [named for Johnny Cash], 3, and a daughter, 2-year-old Megyn.
He quit wrestling. “I put myself through school and became a teacher.”
This year, he was hired to fill a fourth-grade teaching position mid-year at Cartmell Elementary School and is looking forward to teaching second grade at Kathryn Winn Primary School.
He thought he’d put wrestling behind him. “I always said no to people calling me to get me back into wrestling. I always knew if I did, the itch would be there to get back into it.”
But the “itch” was never really gone, and this spring he and his partner, long-time Louisville wrestling referee Billy Smith, rekindled Madison’s Supreme Championship Wrestling.
Bickers has big plans for the SCW and his venue, which is owned by fellow wrestling promoter Bill Gordon of Milton, Ky., a.k.a. Sweet William Valentine. Gordon operates the Commonwealth Wrestling Association, and the two are pitting their wrestling rosters against each other in a show during the Trimble County Fair later this month.
Bickers said SCW is headed for television – local cable channels to start out with. “Down the road, once we’re bigger and develop the show and fans,” he said he wants to expand “at least to the Louisville and Cincinnati markets.”
For now, though, his primary goal is to “re-image” the SCW into a true family-oriented venue. In addition to hosting matches at the West Main Street arena – 7 p.m. every Saturday night – Bickers is ready to take his wrestlers out into the community for more fund-raisers and other events.
So far, the SCW helped kick off the New Washington Fire Department’s Crusade for Children campaign this year and is planning another Crusade event in July.
Bickers is proud of his 30-man roster. “I’ve never seen a group of guys willing to donate their time and deliver for the fans and the community.”
In turn, he makes sure his wrestlers enjoy working for him. Egos are checked at the door; everything they do is for the fans, he said.
“We always start wrestling night with a pep talk in the back,” he said, adding that he wants the wrestlers to understand his vision and help him make it happen. It’s a different tactic from most other promoters, he said.
“You have to earn their respect and give them respect,” he said. “I gave them the big picture, and gave them the trust to deliver” his vision. “I tell my students and my guys, there’s no ‘i’ in ‘team.’ We’re either going to sink together or rise together.”
And, indeed, wrestling night is a family affair. Bickers’ 11-year-old son Chandler helps Suzie with concessions. Smith and his wife take tickets, and Smith’s brothers also are involved – one wrestles and the other provides security.
“The biggest drive to do this has been my son,” Bickers said. Like his dad, Chandler has fallen in love with wrestling, too. And though the jury is still out as to whether the boy will be big enough someday to be a professional, Bickers refuses to be a naysayer to his son’s dreams.
“If, at his age, I’d had this opportunity, my life would be completely different,” Bickers said. “I want to offer him the opportunity to explore his dreams.”
Bickers’ dedication to the sport earned him a place in SCW’s Hall of Fame. He was inducted on May 21 in a pre-match ceremony attended by his children and his wife, her parents and dozens of students and parents from Cartmell Elementary School.
He was reluctant to accept the honor, and insisted that if he did, the SCW would have to donate tickets so his students could see the show. The group donated 40 tickets, which were given away to students through a drawing, along with 27 tickets for each of the children in his fourth-grade class.
“We had an excellent night. It was an honor,” he said.
And as usual, Bickers put his heart and soul into the show, donning his wrestling outfit and, during a tag-team match, diving 20 feet into the ring onto two other wrestlers.
“I don’t like the spotlight on me, unless I have to push something to the next level,” he said. “I was never a ‘high flyer,’ but I knew somebody had to come off that [wall] to wow the fans and talent. It had to be me to fly. … [My students] were shocked, they were in awe.”
After all, it’s all about the fans.
For more information about Supreme Champship Wrestling, visit SCW-Wrestling.com.