The atmosphere of the Stocks n Bonds event center in Omaha was lively as an evening of professional wrestling took place in front of a passionate crowd. With each passing match, the chants grew louder, the action in the ring intensified and energy filled the room for the duration of the show.
However, just as the Magnum Pro supporters were ready to go home following the evening’s final match, a deafening silence fell over the room following an unexpected announcement.
“We have been going nonstop for 11 years. It was just a necessary evil to let everybody reset and breathe,” said Magnum Pro owner, Jaysin Strife.
The day began with the Omaha Out of the Darkness Walk at Stinson Park in Aksarben. The sun was shining down on attendees with near-perfect weather for a mid-September Saturday morning. Hundreds of people gathered near the amphitheater to pay tribute to those lost to suicide and raise awareness for suicide prevention.
Magnum Pro’s representatives participated in the walk and later that evening would have its first “People Are Strange” fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, organized by owner and wrestler Nathan Blodgett, who goes by the ring name, Jaysin Strife.
“It was pretty successful,” Strife said. “It was a really good show, and I don’t say that often because I’m my harshest critic. It was booked really strong even with a lot of last-minute changes. $1,567 for one night, just a couple of hours, not too shabby.”
The show raised $1,567 for AFSP Nebraska. By the end of the evening, mental health intersected with the show in a way that not many in the crowd could have predicted. Following the final match, Strife announced that Magnum Pro would be taking an indefinite break, citing a non-stop schedule and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had been going strong even aside from the couple of months COVID had us down,” Strife said.
During the show, a video of wrestler Jim Lamorre, who goes by the ring name, Con Artiest, detailed his own battles with mental health. In the video, Artiest announced that he is a survivor of two suicide attempts. When he heard the cause that Magnum Pro would be fundraising for, it sparked his idea for the video.
“It was something that was actually important to me to do, mainly because it needed to be heard, but the undertone of it was, I want to help someone,” Artiest said. “You never know who needs to hear it.”
Artiest was happy to hear positive feedback from his candid few minutes discussing mental health. In fact, it came with a few surprises he was not expecting.
“Ironically, a couple of the guys in the locker room came to me after seeing my promo and hugged me and said, ‘Man, I battle that every day, I thought it was just me,’” Artiest said. “Here are guys who I didn’t even realize look up to me who are sitting there telling me they struggle with mental health and suicide awareness. They struggle with this on the daily, and you’d never know because they have a smile on their face.”
Once Strife made the announcement that Magnum would be temporarily suspending operations, most of the talent heard the news for the first time. Artiest was in that group, and he was not sure how to handle the initial shock.
“It caught a lot of us off guard,” Artiest said. “It slows a lot of us down because that’s our main thing.”
Some of that concern is heightened by the fact Artiest is one-half of the Magnum Pro Tag Team Champions, The Culture. Artiest and his partner, Jon West, have been a team for the better part of four years and have found great success as a duo.
“Not only am I a first-ever tag champion, but me and Jon West, we’re the first Black tag team champions in the state of Nebraska. That’s history,” Artiest said. “We love representing Magnum. We love going in there and duking it out in the ring, and then it’s like, ‘Hey, you know, it’s not going to happen for a little bit.’”
Garret Hamilton, another wrestler for Magnum Pro who goes by the ring name, Nino Hatchet, also took part in the fundraiser. Like many of the wrestlers, Hatchet works with other promotions on the independent scene. However, he has found a home with Magnum Pro and said he, too, was taken aback by the news.
“I guess the fact that he [Strife] announced it at that show is kind of serendipitous, just for the fact that the show was to bring more light to mental health awareness,” Hatchet said. “I just feel like the whole event kind of reminded him that he should value his mental health.”
The announcement gave Hatchet a chance to reflect on his time in Magnum Pro. It also gave him a chance to look back on his wrestling journey to this point and what Strife has meant to him personally.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for him. Every day that I step into the ring, I always remember that it’s because of Jaysin Strife,” Hatchet said. “He has made an impact locally. So, I’m just hoping he’s in a better place. I’m hoping that everyone can find some sort of peace and get that spark brought back.”
Hatchet, like many of his fellow wrestlers, came out of the fundraiser with a different outlook on the profession and the road ahead. He will keep himself busy wrestling the independent scene the next few months and recognizes the helpful reminders that this announcement has given him.
“It kind of just brings that reassurance that we are all individual humans and being individual humans means we all have individual feelings,” Hatchet said. “A lot of people go out here and they think solely for themselves. I just want everyone to be more empathetic and realize that we are all in this together.”
Artiest said he will be ready when his name his called, and he has plenty to keep himself busy. With his other professions as a DJ and member of the Scary Acres haunted house team, there is much Artiest is looking forward to. Whether his next time in the ring comes sooner with another promotion or later with Magnum Pro’s return, he and partner West will be ready to represent The Culture in front of a passionate audience.
The announcement on September 18 is not lost on Artiest, who was reminded of his own mental health struggles growing up.
“Never be afraid to speak up. Never be afraid to send your message. Never be afraid to say you need help,” Artiest said. “Never be judgmental. Their story is true because it’s true to them, and you cannot ever negate anyone’s reality from what they see in their own eyes.”
As for the return of Magnum Pro, Strife has that all planned out with big plans for the future of his promotion, ranging from new equipment to a potential rebranding.
“My date is set. I’m just letting everything sit and marinate, just going dark on social media and letting things be for the time being,” Strife said. “We have a whole relaunch plan. We have plenty of time.”
Strife is excited at the future when it comes to fundraisers. While the promotion has had success in the past for giving back to the community, Strife is hoping that some ideas he has in his back pocket will pay off when they return.
“Omaha has allowed us to grow at the rate we’ve grown. They’ve let us grow, and I’m proud of how much we’ve been able to give back,” Strife said. “Since 2014, we’ve probably given back $20,000 or more to the area. I’d like to stay on track doing that.”
Something Strife has been stressing to Magnum Pro supporters is the role they play in the eventual return to action. Without pre-sale tickets, it becomes difficult for smaller promotions to turn a profit. Strife is hopeful that this time off will bring with it more momentum and revitalized energy from in-ring performers and fans. Time will tell what the new Magnum Pro will look like, but the man in charge has a plan.
“We’ll be back. It’s not if, it’s when. Just be ready,” Strife said. “The initial support for when we come back is going to be the biggest thing.”