It’s 3 a.m. on Saturday, July 23 and deep in the woods of Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio. While the quiet village only claims about 990 total residents on any other night, right now it’s housing thousands of spectators from all over the world, many of them in painted faces, celebrating ten years of one of the most violent spectacles on the planet: Bloodymania X, live from rap duo Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos. The Gathering—the annual multi-day festival celebrating the clown makeup-wearing, violence-loving, and aggressively familial “Juggalo” culture—is in it’s 17th year. Pro wrestling is part of Juggalo culture the same way graffiti art is part of hip-hop culture, and with some of the most famous wrestling talent in the world in attendance, it’s easily the biggest night in Juggalo Championship Wrestling history.
But what proceeded as a lively event featuring home-grown talent in intergender matches, former WWE stars playing heel cops (“Juggalos lives don’t matter!”), and genuinely emotional retirement speeches ended with what one attendee called “a trainwreck of a moment.” It happened after JCW champion Kongo Kong defended his title against Lucha Underground wrestler “The Chocolate Juggalo Sensation” Willie Mack and the show’s headliner Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy. Much was written online about the aftermath where, after Kong retained the title, a lone Hardy stayed in the ring to erratically destroy tables and ladders by himself before allegedly taking a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger up a ladder and pointing to the sky in tribute, as if the former California governor had died.
As Jeff Hardy tells Complex, that’s not the way it happened.
‘That’s Tommy fucking Dreamer man, he don’t give a fuck! That’s Jeff Hardy, he don’t give two fucks!'
“I finished the match with a [frustrated] breakdown where I’m trying to break a ladder, break tables…” Hardy says. “Many people hadn’t seen that, so naturally people are wondering ‘what the Hell is wrong with Jeff Hardy? Oh my God, he’s off the wagon!’ And this-and-that. It was nothing like that.” One Juggalo’s post wound up being taken as a primary news source for many pro wrestling news sites. According to Hardy, the breakdown was simply a preview for what’s next for his character on TNA.
As for the cardboard cutout of Arnold? A case of mistaken identity.
“It was a [Mexican Wrestler] El Dandy cutout and I thought it was Eddie Guerrero and I feel so stupid now,” Hardy says. “Just knowing [Guerrero] back in the day…real tight, real good friends. Plus, my eyesight’s going. Somebody said something about it being Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I thought, if that was Arnold, I need to go to the hospital right now, holy shit!”
Hardy spoke with Complex shortly after he’d been given some good news from his doctor following the scare of how he was feeling after the main event. “I had a CT scan done Tuesday and they came back normal, thank God,” he says. “I’m having a hard time turning my head, but I’m a lot better. I’m not tremoring anymore. That’s why they sent me to get a CT scan because when I tried to turn my head, I would shake, and he was worried it might be a brain issue or a concussion or something worse. Anyway, thank God the doctor called me back and said ‘Well, I hate to tell you this, but you’re pretty much normal.’”
Despite suffering from random shakes and difficulty turning his head, Jeff Hardy says he had a great time at Bloodymania, and that the show’s unique live commentary made the atmosphere extra fun. “All I’m hearing in my head is ‘That’s Tommy fucking Dreamer man, he don’t give a fuck! That’s Jeff Hardy, he don’t give two fucks!’ I was going, ‘Wow, I’m in another world with the language.’”
My husband can barely walk & can’t turn his head after his match last night. It’s straight to the doctor when we land. 😢😕😔🏥— Beth Hardy (@BethBrittHardy_) July 23, 2016
Juggalo Championship Wrestling itself, started by Insane Clown Posse duo of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, began as a passion project and wound up becoming a legit professional wrestling promotion. The rise of JCW coincided with the growth of the Gathering of the Juggalos, and in 2007 Bloodymania was born. In the decade since, JCW has seen some of the all-time biggest names in wrestling including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, X-Pac, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, and Terry Funk, who even wrote at length in his autobiography how much he enjoyed The Gathering experience. It’s also been host to some of WWE’s current biggest stars including Kevin Owens and Cesaro.
Don’t be the least bit negative to any of [the Juggalos], otherwise they’ll all turn on you.
The Clowns try and make each Gathering bigger than the last, and with it being the 10th annual Bloodymania, fans were floored by this year’s special guests. Jeff Hardy, who currently wrestles for competitor TNA Wrestling, would make his Gathering debut. Also on the bill would be longtime friend of Juggalo wrestling and perhaps the most famous non-contracted independent wrestler on the planet, Colt Cabana, as well as recently released WWE mainstay Swoggle (formerly Hornswoggle).
Fresh out of the WWE, for Dylan “Swoggle” Postl, wrestling at The Gathering was a longtime desire. “I always called it a bucket list item of mine, even with WWE,” Swoggle says. But there are some differences between a Juggalo and WWE crowd. While the early Bloodymanias, like perhaps most Gathering events, were notorious for the Juggalos in attendance throwing things at the performers, it’s now one of the festival’s most respectful crowds. “Don’t be the least bit negative to any of [the Juggalos], otherwise they’ll all turn on you,” Swoggle says. “It truly is a family. You might heel on a fan at WWE, pick one guy out and give him the business, [but] the minute you upset one [Juggalo], you’re upsetting the whole bunch of them.”
For Colt Cabana, Bloodymania X marks his sixth Gathering event, having survived the pelting-years with his JCW-only character, the crooked policeman Officer Colt Cabana. “I think the community has really gotten together and tried to calm down on ruining the show,” Cabana says. “‘Don’t throw shit,” that’s a big chant. Sometimes they start, but they police themselves. That’s the cool thing about the Juggalos…if something gets out of hand, they take care of it in their own community.”
At Bloodymania X, Cabana, in full evil-cop regalia, played to current headlines and riled up the crowd by yelling things like “Juggalos lives don’t fucking matter,” “Blue lives matter,” and “Be prepared to go to jail.”
Despite the show’s ending, both Jeff Hardy and Swoggle expressed their excitement at the prospect of returning for future Bloodymanias, as well as experiencing more of the Gathering surrounding it. Cabana can attest to the festival’s magic, having seen everyone from Vanilla Ice to Ron Jeremy at the event over the years. Cabana even made his own audio documentary of the Gathering (available now on Podcast service Howl). He looks to the future fondly, “I was 36 at my 6th Gathering of the Juggalos and it gave me a good feeling. In 10 years, hopefully I’ll be 46 and still coming to the Gathering of the Juggalos.”