I had never head of East Carondelet, Illinois until a few months ago. When Dr. D David Schultz texted me and told me we were headed there for a wrestling show, I incorrectly entered it on my iPhone schedule as East Carbondale. My bad!
East Carondelet is a small town just east of the Mississippi from Saint Louis. It’s a very rural, with no sign of big city life to be found, and the Community Center where we attended the wrestling show was way out in the middle of farm land. As remote as it felt to a city boy like me, the 300+ fans who packed into the building had no trouble finding the place Saturday night. They know where East Carondelet is, and they know how to find the community center. They know, because promoter Herb Simmons still knows how to produce an old fashioned RASSLIN’ show.
Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling held one of their biggest shows of the year this past weekend marking the 59th anniversary of Wrestling at the Chase in St Louis along with the annual Bruiser Brody Memorial Battle Royal. Doctor D and I were invited as special guests alongside Bruiser’s widow Barbara Goodish, who could not have been more delightful or gracious. A handful of VIP guests arrived early to meet Doctor D and Barbara along with the other wrestlers who came early to sign autographs. OVW original Flash Flanigan was one of them, and he took a moment to come over and meet one of his biggest heroes during the meet and greet.
“You were one of the guys who really scared me as a kid,” Flash told Doctor D as the two shook hands.
Shortly before 6 PM, Herb’s crew went into action, clearing away most of the merch tables and setting up as many chairs as the room would allow. It was not enough. Fans packed into the room like sardines, shoulder to shoulder in the aisle ways and every nook and cranny of the building. You don’t draw a crowd like that unless you’re doing something right.
Herb runs the show out front, but the man behind the curtain who assists with booking is none other than Larry Matysik, the long time voice of St. Louis wrestling and co-author (with Barbara Goodish) of Bruiser Brody’s biography. Although he has been in poor physical health for some time, Larry’s mind is as sharp as ever. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling in the St. Louis area, and he still has a great passion for the business.
As for the show itself, SICW delivered some great action from the beginning to end with babyfaces who are loved and heels who were truly hated. Curtis Wylde, who won the battle royal and then leapt out of the ring when he nearly came to blows with Doctor D, was a stand out on the heel side while local 18-year old Savannah Stone lived up to her hype as a fan favorite. Stone has already caught the eye of the WWE and made an appearance on NXT. Herb Simmons believes it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a major star, and seeing her in action, I believe it will happen.
The night ended with two steel cage matches, capped off by a title vs. career match between Marc Houston and Flash Flanigan. Having watched Flash terrorize fans and babyfaces in Louisville and Southern Indiana for so long, it was odd but refreshing to see Flash as a fan favorite. Flanigan won the title in a bloody match that sent the fans home happy.
It’s very clear how Herb Simmons has kept SICW going for so long. He has a great mind for the business and knows how to give the fans a great show. Doctor D, a man who does not give trust and praise easily, also had high marks for Herb as a promoter. “No lies, straight shooter. A great guy.”
Speaking for myself, Herb is an incredibly generous host, and his crew was incredibly hospitable. They even treated us to Imo’s “St Louis style” pizza, a pizza that features a one-of-a-kind cheese only found in St Louis. The cheese was very good, but for me personally, the cheese was upstaged by the incredible flavor of the pepperoni, the full strips of bacon on the pizza, and the fried ravioli that came on the side. Great stuff.
SICW runs monthly in East Carondelet, Illinois. Their next show is Father’s Day weekend on June 16, and their July 21st show will feature none other than Kevin Sullivan as a special guest. You can follow Herb Simmons and SICW on Facebook for more information.