WALLINGTON, N.J.– ACE4Life is not just a hashtag or promotional tool – it's a rallying cry for a Wallington-based professional wrestling company.
"That was the last thing my son Mike Viruet, Jr. communicated to me," said American Championship Entertainment owner Mike Viruet, who goes by the ring name Mike Morgan. "It's a way to honor him."
In the fall of 2014, the company was in the middle of a story pitting father against son for "control" of the company.
Viruet, Jr., aka Mike Morgan, Jr., had spent three years as an executive producer, cameraman and video editor but wanted his one opportunity to duke it out in the squared circle.
"I only felt comfortable having a match against him," Viruet said. "It was a six-man tag match. He got to live that dream in front of 400 people. He also slipped and punched me."
Before the program could be resolved, Viruet, Jr., was struck by a car on Nov. 14, 2014 – a date his father said he'll never forget.
The son was walking on the sidewalk of Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen with his siblings when a car jumped the curb.
Viruet, Jr. pushed his younger brother, Adrian, out of the way and took the blow. It left him with multiple injuries including a leg split at the knee. The driver took off.
From his hospital bed at Jersey City Medical Center, he scribbled a note to his dad that said "ACE 4 Life." The 20-year-old died less than a month later.
Viruet, Jr. was attending Hudson Community College and intended to transfer to Ramapo College to study education.
Despite dreams of becoming a special education teacher, he wanted to continue working with ACE.
"Now it's personal, now it's more a goal to keep his love for this business, the love of the family business alive," the father said.
The promotion officially moved into the Wallington Knights of Columbus building in 2015. Viruet began renting there in December of 2011.
"This is Mikey's house," his father said of the unofficial "Mike Morgan, Jr. Arena."
ACE held two tribute shows for the son a week before his birthday – Valentine's Day. – and Viruet plans to make it an annual tradition.
"The company feels more like a family," its owner said. "I'm like a father figure to some. Michael became the little brother. The wrestlers used to protect him. Twenty-something of them took turns visiting him in the hospital."
Viruet, Jr.'s legacy continues to live on. He sketched out the entrance ramp, which he helped his father build.
There were also plans for a pro-wrestling themed food truck. That didn't come to fruition, but the building's concession stand is built around Viruet, Jr.'s ideas.
On the gymnasium wall, there's a banner donated by wrestler Adam Payne (real name: Adam Kerr).
And when everyone walks into the building, they're greeted with a glass portrait of Viruet, Jr.
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