ST. LOUIS – One of the St. Louis area’s biggest WWE fans was surprised with free tickets to WrestleMania in Dallas for the weekend of April 2 and April 3. Derek Baker celebrated his 25th birthday the following Friday on April 8, and he said that his mind was blown when he received the tickets.
Baker and his family have become TikTok sensations with their account @bakerbanter. Their nearly 3 million followers watch Derek, who has Down syndrome, obsess over wrestling. His family appears with him in many of the videos and they are all supportive of his passion.
“As long as we can be who we are and just share joy and positivity and just celebrate people who have challenges and disabilities and allow other people to say ‘hey, I should be more inviting to somebody who is different than me because they might be just as cool as Derek.’ I’m all in for it,” Valerie Baker, Derek’s mom, said.
The family launched @bakerbanter on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, 2020 just as the pandemic began. One week later, Derek’s older sister, Jenna, lost her job. Then she and the youngest Baker sibling, Katy, along with mom, Valerie, and dad, Eric, began posting content consistently.
“Derek has always wanted his own YouTube channel. He’s always wanted to be famous, and I’ve said for years that I would make him one eventually and I just needed to have time to be able to do it, and all of a sudden we had this time,” Jenna Baker, Derek’s older sister, said.
Thanks to the free tickets from Cricket Wireless, Derek saw his favorite wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin who hadn’t wrestled in 19 years.
“I love Stone Cold. He is the best in WWE history,” Derek said.
But it wasn’t all happy for Derek at WrestleMania. He swears Charlotte Flair cheated.
“I saw the tap out! One, two, three. I saw it with my two eyes. Ronda Rousey was the new SmackDown World Champion. Reverse that decision please,” Derek said.
Derek got to Dallas a few days ahead of the event, and he was able to meet a lot of WWE Superstars including The Miz who he had some words for.
“He is a fool, and he never earned any respect from me,” Derek said.
A lot of @bakerbanter’s followers are also wrestling fans, and Derek was getting recognized all week.
“When we’re at these wrestling events, we’re kind of congregated with a much higher percentage of people who might know us and then next thing you know, it’s just like person after person,” Jenna said.
Derek loved the attention from his fans.
“Acknowledge me because I am Baker Banter. I am the head of the table. I am the tribal chief. This is my island of relevancy,” Derek said. For those who don’t know, part of this phrase comes from WWE wrestler Roman Reigns.
Valerie said she loves that the account is a family effort, and she has seen it positively impact Derek. It has also been a positive medium for other families that look like the Bakers. Derek’s friend Dillon and Dillon’s mom met up with the Bakers at WrestleMania, and they had a blast.
“Dillon’s mom, Darla, she said to me afterward, she was like, ‘it was so much fun to be here with you guys because I think it is so incredibly cool that Derek gets recognized as much as he does because you never see people with Down syndrome getting treated like that. Nobody stops to talk to somebody with Down syndrome, but that’s not the case anymore and Derek’s making that change,'” Jenna said.
Now Derek is looking forward to SummerSlam, and his family says they will keep riding this social media ride for as long as it’s fun.