All posts by eatsleepwrestle

The First First Lady of Louisville Wrestling

Louisville, Kentucky is unique among wrestling cities because it is one of the few cities to have a female promoter. Teeny Jarrett never served as the booker for Memphis Wrestling, but there was no doubt she was the boss. She kept the fans happy, the wrestlers in line, and the Kentucky Athletic Commissioner at bay for more than two decades. She even gave breaks to a few of Louisville’s most famous wrestling faces, including a Louisville police officer named Dean Hill and a a young teenage photographer named Jim Cornette.

It’s unusual for a city to have one woman serving such a powerful role in a wrestling promotion, but Jarrett wasn’t the first woman to do so. Thirty five years before Teeny’s son Jerry began running at the Louisville Gardens, a pretty young Kindergarten teacher signed her name on the dotted line, becoming a partner and owner of a professional wrestling promotion.

When Heywood Allen went into business for himself, forming the Allen Athletic Club in 1935, a Betty McDonogh made a pretty big leap of her own. The newlywed bride of Allen’s press secretary, former Louisville Sports writer Francis “Mac” McDonogh, left her chosen vocation to become the ticket office manager for the new wrestling promotion. It was a huge risk for her and her husband, but it was a risk that paid dividends for the McDonoghs and the Allen Athletic Club.

Miss Betty, as she was known by the fans, was a remarkable woman with a keen nose for business and marketing. Over the years Betty created and maintained a massive card file of the regular wrestling patrons. She not only had names, addresses, and telephone numbers, she knew where they preferred to sit, what type of matches they enjoyed most, and other details that helped her sell more tickets and keep everyone happy.

Betty kept a relentless schedule, managing a family at home as well as running the business of the promotion. In the late 1940s she gave an interview to the Courier-Journal and outlined a typical day:

7:15 AM – Prepare breakfast.

8:30 – Drop her son Allen at school, return home for house cleaning.

9:15 – Leave home and head to the ticket office.

11:40 – Pick up Allen at school and take him home for lunch. After lunch, drop Allen with his grandmother and return to the office.

1:30 – Back in the office.

5:30 – Leave the office and head home to prepare dinner, unless it’s a show night.

On show nights, Betty was there before the fans to run the ticket table. She greeted everyone personally, many by name, and after the last patron was admitted, it was her job to count the gate. Betty usually stayed until 12:30 or 1 AM to finish up Club business before returning to the McDonogh apartment in Shawnee Park, only to get up at 7 AM the next day and start again.

Betty loved her job, and even as business grew, she refused to cede her responsibilities to anyone – save for a brief hiatus in 1942, when she became a mother to Allen, who was named after Heywood. Betty rarely got to see any of the matches, but she met everyone who worked for the Club and enjoyed their company, describing them as “always very courteous and intelligent nowadays since most are college graduates.”

Fans were often surprised to learn that it was Betty, not Mac, whose name was listed as one of the owners of the Allen Club. From the very beginning, the McDonoghs held a stake in the promotion, and Mac made sure their ownership was in Betty’s name. Betty more than earned her keep as a valued member of the team, especially in the late 1930s.

When business took a dive in 1938, it was Betty, along with Allen’s wife Mabel, who pointed out the lack of females in the crowd. Betty and Mabel believed that the Club could do more to attract female patrons to the matches, and with Mr. Allen’s blessing, they went to work.

Betty suggested giveaways for the ladies including flowers, candy, and other free gifts. They also instituted a “Ladies Night,” when women were admitted free. They also convinced Allen to begin tossing out the rowdier fans who made female patrons uncomfortable. Allen admitted that he often felt the shows were no place for a lady, especially when the fans got out of hand, and he consented to policing the crowd and removing offenders.

Betty’s efforts began to pay off slowly but surely. Beginning in 1939 and continuing through the war (when many of the male patrons were overseas fighting), attendance began to rise. By the mid 1940s the Allen Club was drawing 55% women on Tuesday nights. Louisville was one of the hottest towns in the country, drawing 4000 to 6000 fans for special events at the Armory. Betty was exceedingly proud of her accomplishments.

In 1947 Betty and her husband took another risk, buying out Heywood Allen when he chose to retire from the fight game. It was a calculated risk for Mac because he knew he had a solid business partner by his side. While Mac remained the public face of the Allen Club, Betty continued to manage the box office and handle the money on show nights. The McDonoghs were active in the Louisville community, supporting numerous local charities and events. They frequently hosted wrestlers in their home, and top stars like Baron Leone were their guests at the Kentucky Derby.

Betty took time away only twice: to give birth to their son Gary, and to care for her ailing husband when Mac was diagnosed with cancer in 1946. When Mac passed away in May of 1947, Betty sold the Allen Athletic Club to former Louisville baseball player Al LeCompte. The combination of the ownership change and a forced change of venue brought the promotion to a swift end.

Surprisingly, Betty almost went back into the business a year later. Wee Willie Davis, a wrestler/ movie star/ famous game show winner moved to down and decided to open up a promotion of his own to fill the void. Betty agreed to partner with Davis on his first promotion, and the two applied for a license for what became known as the name Golden Rod Club.

Golden Rod ran for only a few years. When the business closed, Davis went on to open another promotion in conjunction with Dick the Bruiser in Indianapolis. Betty quit the business and went back to teaching, but she remained a member of the ticket sellers union. Gary recalls traveling all over town with her while she sold tickets for this show and that.

Betty made sure her boys got a great education, and both of them made her proud. Dr. Gary McDonogh is a professor of anthropology at Bryn Mawr College, and Dr. Allen McDonogh is a retired professor of political science. Allen and his ex-wife Dr. Karen O’Connor, herself a professor of Political Science at American University, have a daughter named Meghan O’Connor McDonogh who earned her doctorate in Sports Management at the University of Louisville and is now the Associate Athletic Director at the Catholic University of America.

Meghan made her own impact on Louisville’s sports scene as a graduate student at U of L. After founding a club program for women’s lacrosse at the University of Georgia, she began a similar program when she arrived at U of L. Women’s Lacrosse has since become part of the school’s growing Division I athletics program and is growing in popularity among Louisville area high schools.

“I recall a time when my daughter was growing up and she and her friends were caught up with the mega-wrestling,” Allen McDonogh told me. “All were stunned to find I knew anything about wrestling.”

Sadly, neither Karen nor Meghan ever had the opportunity to know Miss Betty. Betty McDonogh passed away in 1971, before Allen and Karen met. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Louisville next to her beloved husband.

No doubt Betty McDonogh’s proudest legacy is her family, but the legacy of the Allen Athletic Club owes as much to her as to Allen and Mac. Betty was there from day one as an owner and a partner. She knew the Louisville audience better than anyone, and her tireless efforts kept the Columbia Gym full in good times and bad. If there were a Hall of Fame for Pro Wrestling in Kentucky, Betty would deserve a place of honor alongside her husband and the Allen Club’s namesake. She is, without a doubt, the First First Lady of Louisville Wrestling.

Read more about Francis and Betty McDonogh in Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club.

Two for one on Kick Out at Two this weekend

Kick Out at Two Podcast brings you not one but two guests this weekend. Returning guest Tripp Cassidy makes an appearance to talk about the upcoming Dynamite Cup. The gang also talks to women’s wrestling star Angelus Layne at Punk Pro’s Get In the Pit.

Having seen both of these wrestlers in person, this is an episode I’m looking forward to. Great people, amazing stories. Discover what you’re missing by not visiting your local independent wrestling promotion.

Download the Kick Out at Two Podcast every weekend on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.

Talkin’ the Business and Rasslin’ Memories

Whether you’re a fan of wrestling past or wrestling present, there are some amazing podcasts out there to please every wrestling fan. In the last few weeks, I had the privilege of visiting two of them.

Rasslin’ Memories was the first podcast that hosted me when I released Bluegrass Brawlers. Glen Braget and George Schire do a fantastic job chronicling the golden age of wrestling, and it as a pleasure to visit with Glen to talk about Louisville’s Greatest Show. Rasslin’ Memories has had a terrific run as of late, featuring guests like Pretty Boy Doug Sommers and Bob Backlund as well as authors Richard Vicek (Dick the Bruiser‘s biographer) and Dan Murphy (Sisterhood of the Squared Circle).

You can download Rasslin’ Memories from their website on Pioneer 90.1 Radio.

On the other end of the spectrum is Talkin’ the Business with KC and Dave, a podcast that thrives on telling the stories of today’s independent wrestlers. Kevin and Dave begin each show with some solid commentary on WWE, and they have had some terrific guests as of late including two of my favorites, Mr. Grim and Mickie Knuckles. This week Kevin and I talk a little recent Louisville history discussing the 20+ year legacy of OVW and IWA Mid-South. You can also get to know a young Ohio-based wrestler named Alex Daniels on this week’s show. Also known as “The Real Ben Affleck,” Daniels is a rising star with a bright future.

Talkin’ the Business can be downloaded on iTunes and PodBean.

Another Great Review!

Wrestle Book Review recently gave Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club. Guess what? They loved it!

If you haven’t taken a look at Louisville’s Greatest Show, you’re missing out on the true golden age of wrestling in the River City. Decades before OVW, IWA Mid-South, and even Memphis lit the city on fire, the Allen Athletic Club was a Tuesday night tradition, feeding wrestling fans a steady diet of world champions, tag teams, ladies matches, midgets, bears, and more.

This is the era of Lou Thesz, Wild Bill Longson, Mildred Burke, Johnny Valentine. and Gorgeous George. It’s also the story of many long-forgotten Louisville heroes including Stu Gibson, “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell, Sgt. Buck Moore of the LPD, and Mel Meiners.

You can read the review by clicking here.

Louisville’s Greatest Show is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

Six Inconvenient Truths About WWE and Indy Wrestling

I don’t like to editorialize about the WWE, and I don’t like to go negative in this space. That said, after hearing the air get sucked out of the building at the end of the Money in the Bank match, it’s time we face some inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient Truth #1: The WWE doesn’t want to push your favorite indy stars. Over the last several years they WWE has snatched up a dream roster of independent wrestling stars, but it’s becoming clear none of these signees are ever going to be “the guy.” Styles, Owens, and Rollins have done well carrying the top belts for long periods of time, but when push comes to shove, the WWE will always favor their own.

Inconvenient Truth #2: The WWE wants the next top guy(s) to be their guys. Never mind that independent wrestlers bring not only an established fan base but experience and ring saavy to the table. The WWE still believes it can manufacture stars from scratch at its Performance Center and push them over the independents. Get used to seeing Sami Zayn staring up in frustration at the latest home grown wrestler on top of the Money in the Bank ladder. This is your new reality in the WWE.

So why does the WWE continue to mine the independents?

Inconvenient Truth #3: The WWE is spending money on independent wrestlers to bleed the indies dry of their top stars. It’s not about enhancing the roster. It’s about hurting the competition by taking away their marquee stars and using those highly paid signees to put over their chosen elect.

So what does all this mean?

Inconvenient Truth #4: Any independent star who has a WWE contract needs to consider more than just the money. That’s a hard, hard thing to do when you’re looking at going from $25 a night to the top of the business, but is the WWE really going to give you your dream shot? The roster is overcrowded. Guys who were on top all around the world are forced to job to pre-fabbed stars. Dalton Castle, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks have made the right call, staying where they are instead of taking the money for a one way ticket to obscurity. (Remember how excited we all were when Anderson and Gallows got signed?)

Of course it’s easy for the guys who are being paid well to stay put, but what about the guys struggling to make it?

Here comes the most inconvenient truth of all.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Fans who are sick of it need to seriously consider where they spend their money. If you keep paying for a product you hate and refuse to spend a dime on ROH, NJPW, High Spots, CHIKARA, CZW, or any number of alternatives. Am I suggesting you cancel your Network subscription? Not necessarily. I am saying you should stop spending all that fat cash on T-shirts and Pops and Booty-O’s Cereal and spend a little more on a wrestling product you can care about!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: one ticket to a WWE show costs the same amount as six tickets to an independent show; or two tickets and two T-shirts; or a six month subscription to the alternative wrestling network of your choice. The money you spend there goes into the pockets of real men and women who need and appreciate it far more than a faceless corporation that long ago decided it knows better than you what you want to see.

Inconvenient Truth #6: The WWE is not about to change its ways any time soon. Indy stars will continue to take the WWE money, and Inconvenient Truths 1-3 will continue to play out.

Knowing this to be true, you have a choice. You can continue watching a product you hate and griping about it online, or you can make a choice to spend your time and hard-earned money on a wrestling show you do love.

Life’s too short to spend on these Internet rants. I’m going to find something I enjoy.

Righteous Jesse lives!

It is with great joy and relief I can report to you that Righteous Jesse survived his deathmatch with Tank last weekend at Southern Underground Pro Wrestling in Nashville. It looks like SUP is starting to develop quite a following. Not only are they energizing indy fans by bringing something fresh to Nashville’s wrestling scene, they are winning new fans who have never seen a wrestling show before. Kudos to the entire Southern Underground Pro, and much continued success!

This week, Jesse is back to work on the Kick Out at Two Podcast alongside the Wilkman and Bonnaroo Brittany. Their guest this week is Ray Waddell, who just made his debut at SUP on the show last weekend.

Download the Kick Out at Two Podcast every Friday in iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud!

RISE: It All Begins Here

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting the first class of students to go through the Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy at The ArenA in Jeffersonville. This Saturday, the initial class invites you to come see their pro wrestling debut as Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy presents… RISE!

Trainers 2 Tuff Tony and Rudy Switchblade have poured their decades of knowledge and experience into the first class at Grindhouse. Now fans can get their first glimpse of the Buffet Brothers when they take on the Armada. They’ll also see Freddie Hudson vs. Toney Gunn, and a student versus trainer match when ZDP – Zach Dayton Pittman faces Rudy Switchblade himself!

Will this be the start of something new? Could the next ROH, NJPW, or WWE superstar be on the card Saturday? The students at Grindhouse are eager to convince you that anything is possible.

Show information is available on Facebook. For tickets, contact one of the students. Better hurry. They’ve hit the streets hard, and seats are going fast.

Evolution Pro Wrestling Returns

Three years ago when I released Bluegrass Brawlers, Evolution Pro Wrestling was one of the first independent promotions to welcome me and allow me to promote my book at their show. Not only did they set me up with a table, they put me right next to Ricky Morton, who put me and the book over to everyone who came to visit him.

Three years later, it’s my pleasure to share the exciting news. Evolution is back!

Evolution Pro was one of the most exciting shows in town during their day, and if the card for their return show is any indication, it’s going to be just as exciting in 2017. Three stellar matches top the card, including a 3-way battle between young stars Corey Storm, Ace Perry, and Mickie Midas; a women’s battle between Brooke Valentine and the always devious Amazing Maria; and a stellar main event featuring Dale Patricks and long-time Louisville favorite, Jamin Olivencia in a first time ever match up!

Other announced matches include Casey Reeves vs Deonta Davis; Amazing Pooky vs Van Martigan; Matt Atreya vs Jay Matthews; and a three way tag bout pitting Nathen Edwards & Aaron Von Baron vs TJ Flexx & Ram Jam vs Lennox Norris & Omega.

Promoter Christian Skyfire used to say, “You never know who will show up at Evolution,” and he’s vowed that motto will ring true when they return to action at the ArenA in Jeffersonville. For show information, visit the official Facebook page.

Pizza King of the Ring Recap

If you missed Terry Harper Presents Pizza King of the Ring Tuesday night in Jeffersonville, here’s a quick recap of some of the things you missed:

Enter Sandman! When you see a legend of the ring, there are certain things you expect to see. If it’s Mick Foley, you want Mr. Socko. If it’s Stone Cold Steve Austin, you want a Stunner. If it’s the Sandman, you simply want to see him make an entrance. Sandman milked the full duration of his entrance music, sharing beers with fans around the ArenA. By the time he reached the ring, the ECW faithful had their money’s worth. The kendo stick beat down of Nick Depp was just an added bonus.

Speaking of Nick Depp… The reigning Prince of the Deathmatches cut the promo of his life on Sandman. Depp held the crowd in the palm of his hand while he tried to convince the Sandman he had an alcohol problem. Sandman let him speak his peace. Then, as mentioned above, he broke his kendo stick over Depp’s back.

Maria is AmazingAmazing Maria continues to prove she’s one of the best heels in independent wrestling. She had an entertaining match against the dark but charismatic Sage Sin, who was led to the ring by a fire eater and two casket-bearing ghouls. Sage walked out of the ArenA the winner. Maria was carried out in the casket.

Sudden Death Tables Match. Kevin Cordell of the Talking the Business Podcast told me to keep an eye on Jake Garvin. Kevin thinks he’s a rising star. I have to agree. He and Calvin Tankman broke four tables in their match. These guys are young, big, and athletic, and they’re only going to get better. The only thing more entertaining was watching them pick splinters out of their arms while they looked over the menu at Spinellis later in the evening.

Mama Bates to the Rescue! The intergender match took a very unexpected turn when Mama Bates, Leva Bates’ mother, leapt to her feet and tried to stop Tracy Smothers’ second Kyle Maverick from choking her daughter on the ropes. Yes, some things in wrestling are staged, but it was very clear Mama Bates was not in on any storyline; she was out to protect her daughter, who came out the winner. Side note: Leva remains one of the friendliest and most down to Earth wrestlers outside the ring.

Lio Rush is the Man. I’ve heard a great deal about Lio Rush in the last year. He exceeds the hype. Rush and Super Crazy capped the night off with a stellar bout that had everything from mat wrestling to high flying to steel chairs. Rush is a mega-star on the rise, and a class act out of the ring as well.

Bottom line: Terry Harper doesn’t promoter wrestling shows very frequently, but he has a formula that works. Harper books people he wants to see in match ups he wants to see. He pairs legends of the past with stars of today in a way that allows casual fans who only came to see guys like Sandman to discover rising stars like Lio Rush and PWF’s Tri-State Champion Tyler Matrix. A Terry Harper show is the perfect opportunity to bring your WWE-loving friends along to see names that they know and introduce them to independent wrestling at the same time. It was standing room only in the ArenA tonight, just as it was for Terry’s last show in November 2016. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Louisville’s Greatest Show on Rasslin’ Memories

A few years ago when I release Bluegrass Brawlers, the first podcast to invite me on and talk about the book was Rasslin’ Memories, hosted by Glen Braget and George Schire. It was my great pleasure to catch up with Glen a few weeks ago and record a new episode of the program, this time in support of Louisville’s Greatest Show!

You can download the latest episode of Rasslin’ Memories and hear more about the new book on Soundcloud. Click here to download now!

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