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Midnight Girl Fight Returns Thanksgiving Eve

As soon as Halloween is over, I’m ready for Christmas. I was jamming to “Christmas in Hollis” right after I dropped my kids at a friend’s house to go trick or treating last Thursday night. I’ll have Christmas decorations sorted next weekend, my outside lights hung (but not yet lit) the following weekend, and five full sized Christmas lit and decked the weekend after that. And yes, I’m already rolling with purchasing Christmas presents.

That’s not to say I am overlooking the last week of November. No way! I’ll be up at 9 am Thanksgiving morning, watching the Macy’s Parade and preparing the creamed corn, the sweet potatoes, and the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s house. But before that happens I’ll be staying up late Wednesday night to catch this year’s edition of Midnight Girl Fight.

“Pick Your Poison” is the theme for the second ever Thanksgiving Midnight Girl Fight, and the eight ladies competing on Wednesday November 27 beginning at 11:59 pm have all chosen a male tag team partner for the occasion. Eight intergender teams will compete in a winner take all tournament, and the lineup is stellar.

The Bomb Shelter will be in the house, with Randi West bringing husband Joseph Schwartz as her partner. Charlie Kruel has teamed up with Akira, and Girl Fight’s current number one contender Ella will be teamed up with Titan. Teen sweetheart Billie Starkz has chosen her IFHY stablemate Jonathan Wolf as her partner, and Wolf’s regular partner Shawn Kemp will be tagging with Allie Kat.

The newly crowned Shimmer champion Kimber Lee will be making her long-awaited return to Girl Fight for Pick Your Poison. In her corner is current Impact star and a member of the Rascalz, Zachary Wentz. Joseline Navarro has to be considered a heavy favorite given that her partner is none other than the powerful heavyweight Calvin Tankman, but it’s the final pairing announced today that will no doubt get the most attention. Girl Fight founder and Deathmatch Hall of Famer Mad Man Pondo has teamed up with a true Girl Fight legend. Making her long awaited return to the ring, after a year’s absence, it’s former Girl Fight champion Mickie Knuckles!

It’s anybody’s guess which poison paring will claim victory, but it’s a sure bet you will miss all the action if you wait until after the turkey is done to show up at the Arena. Midnight Girl Fight begins Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, at 11:59 pm. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Mad Man Pondo on Facebook. Click here to visit his page and send him a message now!

 

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New Book Announcement: Grappling by Gaslight

It’s fitting that I am packing up a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers just purchased from my website tonight. Fitting because the first wrestling book I ever wrote has been the gift that keeps on giving. Not only did Bluegrass Brawlers lead to opportunities to work with Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, “Dr. D” David Schultz, Mad Man PondoHurricane JJ Maguire, and Tracy Smothers, it inspired three more books on its own.

By the time I finished Bluegrass Brawlers, I knew I wanted to write at last three more books: one on Heywood Allen, one on Jim Mitchell, and one about the wrestlers of the 1880s. I wrote a thorough history of Heywood Allen’s promotion in the book Louisville’s Greatest Show, and I released Jim Mitchell’s biography The Original Black Panther earlier this year. Now, finally, there’s a book about the circus wrestlers and barnstormers of the 19th century on the way.

Grappling by Gaslight is not a history, but historical fiction based on the real life stories from the time. It’s a collection of five short stories inspired by the exploits of Ida Alb and her sister Mademoiselle Marcia; former slave Viro Small; strongman Robert Pennell and his rival Charles Flynn; and many more. I wanted to capture the spirit of the times, allowing readers to see these legendary wrestlers through the eyes of the fans, and early reviews have been very positive.

Grappling by Gaslight will be available by Christmas through this website and Amazon. It’s a short book, less than 110 pages of actual story, but it’s laced with romance, humor, and even a dash of murder. It’s going to be a treat for anyone who loves a good rasslin’ tale.

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Hall of Fame Induction Sheds New Light on Stu Gibson

I just got back from the my alma mater, New Albany High School. I was in attendance at a banquet with Stu Gibson’s sisters Mary Lou Heinz and Linda Berger and my wife Jessica to induct Stu into the Hall of Fame. In my speech I told a story I have told many times before about a boy from nearby Jeffersonville and Stu’s car. You can click the link to read the full story, but here’s the paraphrase from my speech, as I was discussing Stu’s run in Louisville as a heel:

“While fans in New Albany and Louisville felt betrayed by Stu, hating Stu Gibson came easily to the fans of the Jeffersonville Red Devils. One night in 1952 when Stu wrestled at the Fieldhouse in Jeffersonville, a Jeff High freshman named Billy Tanner climb on top of the marquee sign in front of the gym and jumped onto the roof of Stu’s convertible, collapsing the top. Billy ran and hid with his friends to watch and laugh when Stu came out and saw the damage to his car.

“Three decades later, Billy told the story about Stu’s car to a work colleague, never suspecting that the work colleague was Stu’s brother-in-law. The next time Stu came into town, another lunch was arranged. When Tanner walked into the restaurant, Stu’s brother-in-law gave a signal. Stu caught Tanner in a headlock and said, ‘Do you know who I am? I’ve been looking for you for thirty years!'”

About fifteen minutes later a man named James Morris got up for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Mr. Morris was a staff member at New Albany for eight years, but he was a graduate of Jeffersonville High School.

“If you were to have told high school me I would one day be inducted into the New Albany High School Hall of Fame, I’d have said you were crazy. New Albany and jeffersonville hated each other back then. In fact we weren’t allowed to play each other in sports, except in state tournaments, because there had been so many riots.”

Then Morris added. “I remember Stu Gibson’s car. I disavow any role in the incident, but I saw the car!”

After the ceremony, Mary Lou and I made our way over to Mr. Morris, who reasserted he had nothing to do with the car but told us what he remembered. “I’ll tell you how they did it, though. We had a guy named Tiny Hall, who was probably 6’9″ huge guy. Stu had parked his Studebaker right by the sign. Tiny was the guy who lifted Billy up on the sign, and then Billy jumped down on the roof.”

Talk about serendipity.

Much congratulations to Mary Lou, Linda, and the entire Gibson family on Stu’s induction. Congrats to the innocent bystander Mr. Morris as well, and all the 2019 Hall of Fame class. What a great afternoon.

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Stu Gibson Is Now a Hall of Famer!

Three months ago, I traveled to Las Vegas to present Dr. D David Schultz with an award from the Cauliflower Alley Club. This fall, I will be at the Hall of Fame banquet for my alma mater New Albany High School to see Stu Gibson inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I’ve told parts of Stu’s story here on Eat Sleep Wrestle and in two books, Louisville’s Greatest Show and Bluegrass Brawlers. A native of New Albany 1943 graduate of NAHS, Stu served his country during World War II before becoming a star football player at nearby University of Louisville. He was a stellar athlete and could easily have gone pro in multiple sports, but he chose professional wrestling.

Under the tutelage of Wild Bill Longson, Stu became a top heel in Louisville and San Antonio, where he settled and raised his family. He was a colorful personality outside the ring as well as in, a beloved family man who loved make others smile.

Much thanks goes to WNAS station director Brian Sullivan for championing Stu’s nomination with the selection committee. Congratulations and thanks also goes to Stu’s family, especially his baby sister Mary Lou Heinz, who shared many memories and photos with me while we campaigned for Stu’s induction.

You can click here to read my favorite Stu story. Also, press play on the video below to see Stu in action from the early 70s. You might recognize a certain French giant in the home movie as well.

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New Albany, Indiana: Wrestling in My Hometown

Since my hometown is all over the dirt sheets this weekend, I thought it might be a good time to share a little of our professional wrestling history. New Albany, Indiana has had a long history with professional wrestling, due in no small part to its proximity to Louisville, Kentucky. In fact I almost dedicated an entire chapter of Bluegrass Brawlers to the city of New Albany’s unique wrestling story.

Promotions in New Albany

New Albany has played host to a number of independent promotions in the last couple of decades including (but not limited to) IWA Mid-South, Destination One Wrestling, XCW, and the name everyone now knows, Pro Wrestling Trainwreck. It’s worth noting, however, that so-called “outlaw” promotions are nothing new here. Back in 1941, while the Allen Athletic Club was still on the rise as THE promotion in Louisville, a group of sports lovers founded the Hoosier Fistic Club, a joint boxing and wrestling promotion intended to bring both sports to New Albany. It was an audacious endeavor spearheaded by president Seymour Hull and matchmaker Johnny Lovell. It was also short lived, as the club faced an uphill battle to draw fans away from Heywood Allen’s wrestlers and the many boxing promotions already active across the river.

Col. Stu Gibson

While wrestling in New Albany failed to take off, the Allen Club often featured Hoosier starts including a number of New Albany natives. Far and away the most famous of these was Stu Gibson, a New Albany High School graduate who was a stand out athlete in multiple sports. After serving his country during World War II, Gibson became a football star at the University of Louisville and was named a Kentucky Colonel after setting the school record for scoring. Gibson was a Golden Glove boxer but chose to pursue wrestling instead, becoming one of the most hated heels in Louisville and later San Antonio.

Lord Humongous

In the 1980s another New Albany native rose to frame as the masked Lord Humongous, a character based on the villain from the movie The Road Warrior. Like Stu Gibson before him, Jeff Van Camp played football at U of L and took a job as a security guard at Louisville Gardens after an injury ended his playing career. Jerry Lawler invited Van Camp to train with him in Memphis. Lord Humongous became a WWA Tag Team Champion with Dick the Bruiser. After relocating to Florida, he became the NWA Southeast Continental Heavyweight Champion and a three time NWA Alabama Heavyweight Championship.

Leviathan

Another monstrous wrestler “born” in New Albany is Leviathan. In the early 2000s, when WWE was sending its developmental prospects to Ohio Valley Wrestling for seasoning with Danny Davis and Rip Rogers, there were two infamous wrestling managers dominating the scene: Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, and Synn. Versed in the dark arts, Synn made a trek down to the Ohio River in New Albany one evening and summoned forth the demon Leviathan to join her faction. Leviathan rose out of the waters ad became a member of the Disciples of Synn, wreaking havoc on countless foes at the Davis Arena in Jeffersonville.

Okay, okay, so Leviathan isn’t actually a demon, and he’s not actually a native of New Albany. Leviathan was the first persona adopted by Dave Bautista, a character he dropped before he ever appeared on WWE. That said, the video of Leviathan’s “creation” was filmed on the banks of the Ohio River, with Bautista gamely wading out into the less-than-crystal-clear waters to rise up from the deep. It was a humble beginning that led to great things for the man who has become a true movie star.

“Crybaby” Chris Alexander

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my old friend Jason Lindsey, who worked as “Crybaby” Chris Alexander during the WWE developmental days at OVW and was behind the camera the night Leviathan was “born.” Jason and I were both members of the marching band during our days at New Albany High School. We were friends then, but I honestly had no idea he was a wrestling fan until the day someone told me he was training to be a wrestler. Jason shared a locker room with all the big names who came to town including John Cena, Batista, and Mark Henry, and he wrestled them all. His biggest claim to fame is one he won’t claim for himself. During a show at St. Therese’s Gym in Louisville, Jim Cornette made all the WWE signees go out and watch Alexander make his entrance to “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” Cornette loved the way Alexander took his time getting to the ring and playing to the crowd, and he held him up as an example of how it’s done to a group of future superstars.

“Iron Man” Rob Conway

Without question, the most decorated wrestler to come out of New Albany is Rob Conway. A star basketball player in a town that LOVES its high school basketball (Romeo Langford, anyone?), Conway was part of OVW’s first class of students, the men Danny Davis trained to train all the students who came after them. He is one of the few wrestlers who came into OVW as a beginning student and earned a WWE contract. Conway won multiple heavyweight championships and tag team championships at OVW before being called up to the WWE, where he won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Sylvan Grenier three times. After leaving OVW, Conway traveled the world working the independents and won even more gold, becoming a four time NWA Tag Team Champion and two time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He is part of an elite club of wrestlers who can say they worked both Wrestlemania and New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom show.

Time will soon tell what the fallout will be from last week’s Pro Wrestling Trainwreck show. The facts of the story are still coming out, and time will tell what repercussions, fair or unfair, this story will have on wrestling in New Albany. The bottom line is professional wrestling is in the blood of New Albany sports fans as much as it is anywhere. We are living in a boom time for professional wrestling, and the history of the sport in this town is far from over.

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Update: It IS Here!

The Black Panther Jim Mitchell’s is now available in paperback.

I just received the final draft of the foreword from WWE Hall of Fame Mark Henry earlier this week, and the book is now available for purchase.

If you are interested in a signed copy, they are $15 plus $3 for shipping in the US. (International orders, please inquire for shipping.)

As a special offer, now through March 8, you can add Bluegrass Brawlers or Louisville’s Greatest Show for only $7. That’s $25 for the Jim Mitchell book and the Louisville wrestling book of your choice, while supplies last.

Email me to order, or send PayPal to johncosper@yahoo.com.

This has been a long time coming. I am very proud of this book and happy to have joined forces with Mark in presenting it to the wrestling world. I can’t wait for all of you to read it.

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Louisville’s Own Stu Gibson in Action

Several months ago I was able to sit down with Stu Gibson’s youngest sister Mary Lou Heinz to hear more about Stu, his family, and his life in and out of wrestling. One of the things Mary Lou gave me was a DVD of old family videos, and the first thing on that DVD was about 3 minutes of silent footage of Stu wrestling.

As best as I have determined, the footage was shot in 1974 or 1975 in Stu’s adopted hometown of San Antonio. There’s a singles match, followed by a battle royal. You will very quickly recognize a certain French giant in the mix during this second match.

To learn more about Stu Gibson, you can read the bio I wrote for the Pro Wrestling Historical Society. Or better yet, order a copy of my book Louisville’s Greatest Show. Stu is the airborne wrestler flying over Gorgeous George on the front cover.

My thanks to Mary Lou for allowing me to share this!

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Support My Friend Kenny Bolin

Many people think Kenny Bolin is nothing but a con. He is a bit of a con, and he is definitely all-carnie, but he’s also a one of a kind personality who has entertained many people over the last 30 years in professional wrestling. He’s also a human being facing some scary medical issues and a friend of mine, so here’s my plug.

If you’ve ever been entertained by Kenny Bolin, through wrestling, through his podcast, through his many guest appearances on other podcasts, or through his best-selling memoir, please consider giving a few bucks to help him with his upcoming medical procedures.

Though I won’t break kayfabe and tell you how I know this, believe me when I tell you there’s a good heart behind that Jack Benny/ carnival barker persona. Praying and wishing nothing but the best for the ol’ Starmaker.

Click here to visit Kenny’s fundraiser page.

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New Acquisition: A Louisville Wrestling Program from 1952

One of the first things I acquired when working on the book Bluegrass Brawlers was a copy of the 1953 Police Benefit Show program. In the 1950s, the Police Benefit Show was THE biggest wrestling event of the year in Louisville, the night they brought in the biggest stars for the biggest card. It was Louisville’s Wrestlemania.

Just a few weeks ago, the 1952 program popped up on eBay. It’s now in my collection. Here are a few images from that program.

All of the Police Benefit Shows are chronicled in the book Louisville’s Greatest Show. Fingers crossed, one of these days I hope to lay my hands on the 1954 program featuring Jim Mitchell.

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Coming in 2020: The Story of a Not-So Wee Little Man

I said when I hit 500 followers on Facebook, I would announce a new book project. We shot past that benchmark last night, so here it is.

I am happy to announce I am not in the early stages of research on a book about the life of Wee Willie Davis!

Davis was a notorious heel in his time, a 6’6″ monster who appeared all over the United States from the 1930s through the 1950s. In the 1940s, he followed his buddy Mike Mazurki into the film industry and appeared in more than two dozen films including Mighty Joe Young, The Asphalt Jungle, Son of Paleface, Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, and Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. He also made a splash on television as a contestant on The $64,000 Question, and he was the co-inventor of an early form of “heads up display” technology called the Glowmeter.

Davis has a unique connection to the Louisville, Kentucky wrestling scene as well. Not only did he work for Francis McDonogh and the Allen Athletic Club, he is the missing link between the Allen Club and Memphis Wrestling. He partnered with McDonogh’s widow Betty to open his own wrestling promotion in 1958 and later became the local point man when Dick the Bruiser took over the territory in the 1960s.

It took me almost five years to compile enough information to finally tell Jim Mitchell’s story, and while I don’t expect Davis to take quite as long, I do plan to take my time and do it right. My current goal is to release his story in late 2020, but that’s subject to change. The good news is you’re going to see at least 3-4 books from me between now than then, including to very exciting autobiographies that I’ll be announcing in the coming months.

Wee Willie Davis was a colorful personality and a man of many talents. He’s become a fascination of mine, and I am looking forward to sharing his story with a generation that’s never heard of him.