Underground Wrestling TV

Eddie Allen had a feel for the wrestling business long before he stuck his nose in it. Several years ago he was the lead singer of what he refers to as a “heel” band.

“My lead guitar player would go out during sound checks and play all this classic rock stuff. He’d play one riff and then another to get the crowd excited to hear some real rock and roll. Then I come out and what did we sing? Air Supply. Milli Vanilli. The crowd would boo us, and I loved it.”

As with many heel acts, the crowds slowly developed an appreciation for Allen’s unique band. “It got to the point people knew what to expect and were ready for it. Once the crowd decided to like us, it wasn’t fun any more.”

After walking away from rock and roll, Allen decided to get involved in the wrestling business. The Clarksville, Indiana native ended up down the road in Madison, where he began learning the business from Eric Draven. After helping Draven get his promotion established on Youtube, he made the jump to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville to learn more about producing wrestling for TV.

“It was the most intense training I ever had,” he says. “You learn all about timing matches, working to the camera, how to tell a story. You realize that you can’t just take any independent wrestling show, film it, and put it on TV. Television wrestling is its own unique style, and that’s what I wanted to produce.”

Allen went looking for an indy federation that was willing to work with him and create a product suited for television. After a few false starts, he hooked up with Underground Wrestling Alliance, one of several groups running across the river from Louisville. UWA was filled with young, green talent who were willing to learn anything that might advance their careers. It was a perfect match, but Allen knew he needed something more.

“I went out and recruited some veterans, former OVW guys, others who had worked TV. I needed them to help me teach these kids how to wrestle for television.”

It took some time, but the investment in both time and talent paid off. In September of 2014, UWA went on the air in Louisville. “They put us on right after OVW’s TV show, and our ratings have grown ever since we went on the air.”

Television proved to be a big boost for UWA. The young wrestlers benefited greatly from the veteran leadership and the new direction, and attendance is up at the live events, both taped and untaped. Allen played to the fans early on at TV tapings, knowing that they were key to the show being a success.

“When fans come dressed up, trying to get on camera, I make sure it happens,” he says. “They’re going to go home, tell their friends to tune in and see them on TV, and our ratings are going to go up. And maybe someone who tunes in will see what we do and come to our next show.”

UWA currently airs on Time Warner Cable in Louisville three times a week: 11 PM Mondays (after Monday Night Raw), 10 AM Saturday morning, and 2:30 AM Friday night/ Saturday morning. You can also catch them for free on the Independent Wrestling Channel app available on Roku as well as their Youtube channel. You can learn more about UWA and their upcoming events on their Facebook page.

Allen is currently developing his own Roku channel and plans to use UWA as the flagship for that station. “It’s a whole new way of doing television. I’m really excited about it.”

Girl Fight is almost here

11429961_1026994024000643_853440570292726079_oWomen are headlining in Chicago. They have headlined and stolen the show on NXT. Tomorrow night, they are the whole show.

Girl Fight returns to The Arena in Jeffersonville, Indiana with a stacked card featuring NXT star “Blue Pants” Leva Bates, Darcy Dixon, Lufisto, Crazy Mary Dobson, Mary Elizabeth Monroe, Samantha Heights, Heather Owens, Haley Shadows, The Real Lady Delilah Reignz, Kaela, and Miss DissLexia.

Tickets are only $4, a steal for a packed night of wrestling entertainment. Click on the flier above for more information.

The “Legendary” Larry Mercer

Every year students from across the country head to the Tish School for Fine Arts at New York University in hopes of making the leap from the college stage to the Broadway stage. For Ring of Honor’s Larry Mercer, NYU led him to a completely different kind of stage. Larry grew up watching wrestling, but it was while he was at NYU that he realized it was not Broadway, but professional wrestling calling his name.

“It was the Attitude Era,” he says, “Stone Cold, Mankind. I was drawn to that kind of acting. I didn’t want to be a wrestler, but I wanted to do something in wrestling.”

Larry learned about a wrestling school in his hometown of Baltimore from a commercial that aired during Monday Night Raw, Maryland Championship Wrestling’s Bonebreakers Training Center. He went to the school and met trainers Corporal Punishment and Mark “The Shark” Shrader.

“I started out as sort of an intern. I did administrative work. I helped to get fliers out for the show. Whatever I could do to help out while learning the business. I had to pay, but they only charged me the rate they gave to students who want to be refs.”

The opportunity to use his dramatic talents came when the ring announcer for MCW quit. As often happens in wrestling, he was in the right place at the right time. That’s when Larry Legend was born.

If you have never had the privilege of hearing Larry Legend in the ring, go to Youtube and look him up. Larry is not your typical indy wrestling ring announcer. He does his job with flair, physically and vocally. He dresses for the occasion with impeccable style, setting the stage just as the wrestlers do with his appearance. His dramatic training is evident in his mic, and he brings a big fight feel to every single match.

“I wanted the crowd to feel like it was a big fight,” he says, “but I also wanted the wrestlers to get that feeling as well.”

As Larry Legend, Larry worked for a number of independents along the East Coast including Combat Zone Wrestling, Dragongate USA, Evolve, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, Jersey All Pro, Jersey Championship Wrestling, Impact Championship Wrestling, Beautiful Ladies of Wresting, Valkyrie Pro Wrestling, and Fighting Spirit Wrestling. He has also worked numerous events for kickboxing, boxing, and MMA fighting groups.

Larry recently did what he calls his farewell show as Larry Legend, the CZW 16th Anniversary Show. “That was a very special show for me,” he says. “It was in the building where I did my first CZW show. CZW got kicked out of that building, and it was their first show back.”

One of the highlights of that event was the Tag Team Championship Match between The Young Bucks and Ohio is 4 Killers, Jake and Dave Crist. “I was with CZW when Jake and Dave first came in, so it was cool to be a part of that for them. I was also excited to get to announce for the Young Bucks.”

Although Larry admits you never say never in the wrestling business, for now Larry Legend is retired. Larry Mercer, however, is just beginning to make a name for himself with Ring of Honor. The booming, dramatic in-ring announcer may be gone, but the young man who bypassed the New York stage to work in dim-lit arenas remains as passionate about the business as ever.

CZW’s 16th Anniversary Show is available as a video download or on DVD. I strongly recommend watching it if you love independent wrestling, or if you’re just curious to give it a try. The tag match mentioned here is worth the price of admission alone, as The Young Bucks and OI4K are a stellar matchup. But if you’re like me, you’ll put off watching the match for just a moment or two so you can hear Larry Legend set the stage with one of the best big fight voices you’ll ever hear inside a ring.

Meet the new owner of HWA

Heartland Wrestling Association holds a special place in the hearts of Ohio wrestling fans. HWA was a developmental territory for the WWE at the same time as OVW in Louisville. Founded by the legendary Les Thatcher in 1998, HWA alumni include superstars like D’Lo Brown, Jamie Noble, Dean Ambrose, BJ Whitmer, Matt Stryker, Lance Cade, Cody Hawk, Chad Collyer, Shark Boy, Solomon Crowe, and Nigel McGuinness.

“It has a place in wrestling and has impacted the lives of the people in pro wrestling so much,” says new owner Philip Stamper. “For some, it was the first independent wrestling company many came to know.”

HWA was almost an impulse by for the veteran promoter, who has been in the wrestling business since 1996. “It was a very sudden purchase. When I saw the announcement about it selling, it triggered a lot of thoughts – Les Thatcher was one of the first promoters I ever talked with and the legacy of Heartland Wrestling Association. I saw a chance to play a role in the next stage of HWA.”

Stamper was very pleased to see an immediate response from fans after announcing his purchase on Sunday, June 28. “Our Facebook likes jumped 14%, and we had nearly the same spike on Twitter. We’ve had a few thousand views on YouTube this week. I think it shows there is still an interest whether you live in the area or are a fan of its impact to wrestling.”

Stamper plans to keep HWA in Cincinnati, but while he knows the fans are ready to welcome them back, he asks for patience as he prepares to re-open the promotion. “I’m not going to blindly run into holding an event for the sake of holding an event. There is a lot of ground work that needs to happen before then.” Stamper also hopes to get the HWA video library organized in the months ahead.

Stamper urges fans to subscribe and follow HWA on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Fans can also order HWA videos through their store on Smart Mark Video.

The new boss has his work cut out for him, but he has plenty of reason. “A lot of people want there to be an event tomorrow. It does inspire me to move quickly.”

More Louisville wrestling history on the way

BluegrassBrawlers-coverHaving just launched the Kenny Bolin autobiography, I’m happy to announce I have a few new projects in the works. Two are biographies, and the third is a more in depth look at once of the most fascinating and overlooked eras in Louisville wrestling.

In 1935 Heywood Allen founded the Allen Athletic Club, a promotion that would bring the biggest stars in the business to town for the next 22 years, including Orville Brown, Bill Longson, Lou Thesz, Mildred Burke, and Buddy Rogers. But Louisville also had a number of local legends with their own unique stories. Here are a few quick hits I’ve uncovered:

Heywood Allen was a circus wrecker before getting into the wrestling business. In addition to being the Allen Club’s founder, he was president of the Midwest Wrestling Association. He took a job selling tickets at Churchill Downs when business was poor in the 1920s and kept it even after the Allen Club took off in the 40s.

Stu Gibson was a home-grown wrestling star. Before wrestling, he was a standout football player at New Albany High School and the University of Louisville. I posted a brief bio on Stu just last week that you can read here. ****

Mel Meiners was a towering Louisville native from the Germantown neighborhood who was nicknamed the Schnitzelburg Giant. He is also the father of WHAS radio personality Terry Meiners.

Francis McDonough worked in the office for Allen before buying him out in 1947. He made national newspapers after someone broke into his car to steal the Allen Club’s ticket money. The thief got 500 unsold tickets and four dollars, and McDonough laughed off the incident.

Blacksmith Pedigo worked as a wrestler and referee for Allen. In 1919 he was arrested at the age of 18 for fraud after taking money from patriotic citizens who believed he was a wounded World War I vet.

Fans of Kenny Bolin will be interested to know that while there has yet to be a confirmed genealogical link, Bolin has already taken to calling Pedigo his long lost cousin.

I’m posting this teaser/update to both share the new project and hopefully stir up some memories of people who may remember a few of these names. If you have information on Allen or anyone who worked Louisville in the 40s and 50s please email me at johncosper@yahoo.com

The Allen Club story is told in part in Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville. More to come in 2016!

The Bolin Bio Is Here!

11416754_1440107446310822_276061912_oOne of the most enjoyable interviews I did for Bluegrass Brawlers was with Kenny Bolin. You may not have heard the name if you’re not familiar with Louisville wrestling, but you have Kenny to thank for launching the careers of many of today’s biggest WWE Superstars. He managed dozens of WWE hopefuls in the decade when the WWE used Ohio Valley Wrestling as its training ground, and all of them went on to get a shot at the WWE – not the least of which was John Cena!

Kenny’s story is one of those wrestling tales that has to be heard to believed, and even after you hear it, you won’t believe it. I can tell you with absolute confidence this book is mostly true, but good luck sorting what’s what. The stories that are 100% true are easily the least believable in the book.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know Kenny as a friend and help him bring his story to life. You’ll hear Kenny’s story in his own words along with the words of Jim Cornette, Dutch Mantell, Jerry Lawler, Jerry Jarrett, JBL, Nova, Mark Henry, Damien Sandow, Dean Hill, and many more who crossed paths with the Louisville legend.

His book is available on Amazon.com, but why buy from them when you can order from the man himself and get it signed? Contact Kenny on his Facebook page to order your copy in one of three collectible covers today.

Cora and Buddy

We seem to lose wrestling stars in waves. What began two weeks ago with Dusty Rhodes has sadly taken two more from us.

Cora Combs is not as well known to today’s wrestling fans, but the ladies who work the squared circle today owe her as much a debt as Mildred Burke and the Fabulous Moolah. Combs entered the business in 1949 after Nick Gulas introduced her to Burke’s husband, manager, and trainer, Billy Wolfe. When Wolfe and Burke split, Combs went with Burke and saw her career take off. She had notable feuds with Burke, Moolah, Mae Young, June Byers, Nell Stewart, Ida May Martinez, and Gladys Gillman among others and was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Combs died at age 92.

“Nature Boy” Buddy Landel was only 53 years old. The Knoxville, Tennessee native had runs with WCW and Mid-Atlantic but is best known for his time with Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling. Landel was an outspoken figure in there locker room, never one to hide his feelings or mince words. Colt Cabana did a wonderful interview with him a few months back on the Art of Wrestling Podcast.