published Monday, February 17th, 2014

Learning the ropes

Doug Strickland
Jaden Newman
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    Jaden Newman
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
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Most 15-year-olds dream of getting their learner’s permit, but Jaden Newman just wants to fly — off the top rope.

That is why his grandfather, Bud Higdon, opened Total Wrestling Experience, or TWE, in Red Bank last August.

“He’s loved wrestling ever since he was a little bitty feller,” says Higdon, so when Jaden started begging his grandfather for professional training, he just couldn’t say no.

Since Jaden was so young, his grandfather had him trained for two years in dance until he was 14. Then he started lessons with a trainer in Ringgold, Ga., and spent a year of rigorous work learning the proper and safe techniques of professional wrestlers.

After the training was finished, Higdon knew that most professional wrestling groups in the area would never let a 15-year-old wrestle, so he did the only logical thing: He rented a building and started a weekly pro wrestling show.

Every Saturday night, Jaden, who wrestles as “The Party Starter,” enters the ring in his purple and teal fluffy boots to wrestle with pros who have years of experience under their giant leather belts.

“Whenever I come out, the crowd is pumped and they are going crazy,” says Jaden, which is part of what appeals to him about wrestling. “I believe if you’re not interacting with the crowd, then what’s the point of being a wrestler?

The results of this philosophy are clear.

Children wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his face cheer for him, high-five him, ask for his autograph. Some tell him that he is their hero, and that, Jaden says, is what makes him want to do this.

In the ring, Jaden goes head to head in matches just like any other wrestler in the venue. He takes a backbreaker from one opponent only to respond with a clothesline, dropping his nemesis to the mat to a resounding cheer from the audience.

As his tag-team match ends, he falls from the ring to the venue floor and is helped to the locker room by his fellow wrestlers.

He took a rough hit to his jaw from his opponent, J.D. Rollins, during the match, but that’s all part of the sport for Jaden. It takes daily dedication, and a lot of hard work.

“You’ve got to work in there and you’ve got to learn how to do it perfectly,” he says.

His grandfather couldn’t be prouder of him for that hard work

“When he comes out to his music, I just swell up like a big toad frog. I feel like I’m gonna bust sometimes,” says Higdon.

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