Another reason to love Titus O’Neil

Here’s something to chase the blues away while we mourn the loss of a legend. There’s a lot of reasons to like Titus O’Neil in the ring, and he keeps on giving us even bigger reasons to like him outside the ring.

I won’t rehash the story here, but I’ll direct you to read it here and see Titus’s Instagram video.

Do good for someone today. Thanks for the reminder, Titus.

In Memory of Rowdy Roddy Piper

Kayfabenews.com said it best tonight: the greatest pay-per-view in the history of Heaven is happening tonight.

Just a few weeks after we lost Dusty Rhodes, Rowdy Roddy Piper is gone. My Facebook page is flooded with posts from wrestling fans, horror movie fans, and people who are neither remembering a true original. No one was a quick as Roddy on the mic. No one was better at playing the heel and getting heat. And by every account I’ve ever heard, he was the nicest and classiest guy in the locker room with the boys (and ladies) and out in public with the fans.

My first thought for this post was to share one video: the Piper’s Pit interview with the legendary (only because Piper made him a legend) Frank Williams. But you can’t narrow Roddy down to just one clip. Here’s a bunch of Roddy pulled from my Facebook wall.

Before the weekend’s over, I’ll be watching They Live, Welcome to Frogtown, and a whole lot of Piper’s Pit. RIP, Hot Rod. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends left behind.

The Outlaw Returns

Outlaw Ben Wood was not a native of Louisville, but like many pro wrestling hopefuls in the last two decades, he relocated to the River City to train at OVW in hopes of being noticed by WWE. Wood came in with Mike “Nova” Bucci and a few other East Coast wrestlers and stayed quite a while. He caught the eye of the WWE and even got a tryout offer, but injuries caught up to the promising talent and he eventually had to hang up the boots.

It was my privilege to meet Ben when he was still wrestling, and as a (f0rmer) aspiring filmmaker, I was one of the first people to cast him in a movie, The Last Temptation of Fluffy. Ben found his second calling with film and has since gone on to appear in numbers features and television programs including Escape Plan, The internship, Hot pursuit, NCIS Nola, The Zoo, and Into the Badlands.

Now living in Louisiana, Wood had the good fortune to cross paths with indy wrestling icon Luke Hawx. Hawx told Wood about Wildkat Sports, a wrestling school with an impressive resume that has already produced several WWE developmental stars. The two got to know each other working in numerous films as actors and stuntmen, and during a recent shoot, the conversation turned to wrestling.

“There was a pro wrestling match on the TV show we were filming,” says Wood. “One thing lead to another and some how fate intervened. I said how I missed it wish I could still be a part of the business. Luke told me he had an opening on commentary, and he offered me a tryout. I went and did the best job I could and shortly after became part of the family.”

Wood is thrilled to be back in the business, and he sees bright things on the horizon for Wildcat. “This is a training school first, but they run the biggest shows around. I honestly believe by 2016 some form of weekly event should be in store. The talent is top notch with a strong fan support and world wide talent base. Top stars and big promotions are working with us. Every show is sold out and worth the price of admission.”

Wood is eager to contribute in any way he can to Wildcat’s growth. “I do anything to help them grow, be that commentary, training advice, promotional work, even writing. I have a passion for it all. I love this industry. It restructured my life, and I would take even the worst moments again if I could still relive the best. 

If you want to give Wildkat Sports a look, you can find them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter.

Ben Wood can be found online at his website, IMDB page, and Facebook.

No Excuses

esw coverLast week I turned off Raw twenty minutes in. I know. I missed the brawl between Brock and the Undertaker. I watch the 90 minute replay on Hulu (because I don’t have cable), and the way WWE chose to edit the program last week, the portion I saw was all promos and no wrestling. Just after Steph and HHH’s speech to the backstage troops, I turned it off. I went to my YouTube app on Roku and I watched wrestling.

Time was if you didn’t like what WWE had to offer, you didn’t have a choice. There’s no excuse today. If you have cable, TNA and Ring of Honor are on Destination America (for now), and even if they go away, the far superior Lucha Underground is on the El Rey Network.

Don’t have those stations? Or cable? You have YouTube. You can watch classic matches, if that’s your preference, but I strongly recommend giving one of the new indies a try. IWA Mid-South’s channel is packed with recent classics featuring CM Punk, Chris Hero, and Colt Cabana. It’s also a great place to meet their newer stars like Reed Bentley, Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, John Wayne Murdoch, and rising star Kongo Kong.

Rockstar Pro in Dayton, Ohio is another option on YouTube with their weekly program Amped. (Yes, they had the name before Jeff Jarrett decided to make use of it!) In fact that’s the show I turned on after turning off Raw. RPW’s locker room is packed with rising stars like Ron Mathis, Aaron Williams, Jake and Dave Crist, and Kyle Maverick to name a few.

And let’s not forget the second longest running weekly wrestling program, Ohio Valley Wrestling. The former WWE developmental territory is still going strong and releases new episodes weekly on the OVW website.

If you have Roku, you need to add the Indy Wrestling Channel. This app includes dozens of promotions from across the country, and they’re all free.

No more settling when the big E doesn’t give you more than a few minutes of wrestling on Monday nights. There’s great wrestling to be had online – not to mention in your own neighborhood.

No more excuses.

The Internet and the Indy Wrestling Revival

esw coverListening to Jeff Jarrett on this week’s Talk is Jericho and he brings up an interesting point about the uptick in quality in independent wrestling.

In the old territory days, the young guys were made to watch every single match. Dutch Mantell forced a young Steve Austin to sit in a chair, watch every match on the card every night, and learn. He did, and look where it got him.

In the heyday of IWA Mid-South, when the old territories were just a memory, CM Punk, Chris Hero, Colt Cabana, and Dave Prazak would stay up all night raiding Ian Rotten’s video tape collection and watching wrestling from around the world. Prazak founded Shimmer. Cabana and Hero are two of the few making big bucks outside the WWE. Punk became a legend.

Today’s young stars grew up with Internet and YouTube. They have access to wrestling from every era, every federation, every continent, and every style. It’s Ian Rotten’s old video library times a million.

I am not excusing those who never get in the ring to train and call themselves “professional wrestlers.” There’s no excuse for not learning all you can, inside the ring and out, from veterans who know the business. There are some things you can’t learn from video, but there’s a whole lot you can learn just by watching.

There’s a reason why Stone Cold became Stone Cold. It’s the same reason Punk became Punk. It’s one of the reasons today’s indies are a far cry from the indies of fifteen years ago.

Just one of many reasons we are seeing a revival in independent wrestling.

It all happened in Louisville

BluegrassBrawlers-coverWhat era of Louisville wrestling do you remember best? Are you one who remembers the good ol’ days with Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Handsome Jimmy Valiant, and the rest of the Memphis crew? Were you one of the few but proud who supported the Poffos back in the early 80s? Or are you one of those already missing the good ol’ days of OVW with Cena, Lesnar, Orton, and Batista?

Louisville’s wrestling goes much deeper and further back than OVW and Memphis. Louisville is the place where:

A female circus wrestler issued an open challenge and took on a local man to prove wrestling was not fake – in 1880!

A Zulu prince wrestled a bull on New Year’s Day in 1909.

Ed “Strangler” Lewis was given his famous moniker when he showed up two weeks late for a booking in 1913.

Orville Brown lost his world title to a surprise masked man in 1941, the only major title change to ever take place in Louisville.

A man wrestled an alligator and got married in the same ring, all in one night back in 1947.

Teenage Bobby Heenan made his in-ring debut and was burned by a fan’s cigar, all for a $5 pay off.

Jeff Jarrett and Dutch Mantell battled in a ring set up inside Whitney Hall at Kentucky Center for the Arts in front of a classical music crowd.

And lest we forget, just a few miles north of Louisville, CM Punk battled for 93 minutes against Chris Hero. This after having a 41 minute tables and ladders match that brought the house down.

Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville, tells these stories and so many more. It’s a must for fans of wrestling history and proud Louisville natives who enjoy hearing some great tales of their city’s history.

Order now on Amazon.com.

A new Hoosier promotion EMERGEs

11778164_545071125644092_819899590_nPromoters and wrestlers in the state of Kentucky refer to Indiana as the “wild, wild west.” You see in Kentucky, professional wrestling is heavily regulated by the state athletic commission, where in Indiana (thanks to Dick the Bruiser), pro wrestling is considered entertainment. Consequently, while you have only a handful of state-sanctioned promotions on one side of the Ohio River, you can find wrestling just about everywhere in the Hoosier state.

Columbus, Indiana is known for its world famous architecture, while nearby Seymour, Indiana is best known as the home to the world’s first train robbers, the Reno Gang. Now, Dave Dynasty is hoping to put the area on the map in the growing independent wrestling scene.

EMERGE Wrestling opened its doors on January 10, 2015 in Seymour, Indiana with EMERGE1 where a tournament was held and “The Mastodon” JD Mariani was crowned the first ever EMERGE champion. Successive shows were been held monthly in Columbus, Indiana as well as Seymour, and most of those shows have been sell-outs, averaging 350-400 fans.

“EMERGE Wrestling is unique because we strive to be fresh and cutting edge,” said promoter Dave Dynasty. “We promote a highly athletic and entertaining product with high production value and presentation. We strongly utilize social media and an online presence to promote our product and stay in constant contact with our fans.

The core roster includes the current EMERGE champion “The Main Attraction” Donny Idol, the current EMERGE Outbreak champion “Warfare” Jeremy Hadley, Ricky Ruckus, “The Mastodon” JD Mariani, Khris Kaliber, “Diamond Cut” Ace Perry, Joe Pittman, and “The Next Level of Entertainment” Owen Travers. “We also feature tag team regulars including the current EMERGE tag team champions B.A.D. and the 8bit Punks,” adds Dynasty.

EMERGE is also attracting guest performers from across the Midwest, including “Poison” Appollo Starr, “Beautiful” Bret Havoc, and the tag team Team IOU. This September they’re bringing in their biggest attraction yet when Donny Idol will defend his EMERGE championship against “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels.

“Our goals for the future include containing to promote high quality events and increase our attendance,” says Dynasty. He adds that EMERGE will soon enter the DVD and video on demand market and hopes to offer iPPV’s and webshow in the future.

True to their mission, EMERGE is easy to find on the web on all social media platforms. And if you’re in Seymour/Columbus area, about half way between Indianapolis, and Louisville, Kentucky, they’d love to have you stop in for a visit.

WEBSITE: www.emergewrestling.com

FACEBOOK: /emergeprowrestling

TWITTER: @emergewrestling

INSTAGRAM: /emergeprowrestling

YOUTUBE: /emergeprowrestling

Return of the Baddest Man Alive

I took a friend of mine to his first indy show back in December. After the intermission, the song “Baddest Man Alive” began to play. My friend snorted, “Baddest Man Alive! Is this guy really the baddest man alive?”

Considering what he’s been through the last year, yeah, he just might be.

Aaron Williams is one of the most athletic and exciting wrestlers in the Midwest. The Cincinnati native was one of the featured wrestlers on the cover of Eat Sleep Wrestle. He is a regular at Rockstar Pro in Dayton and recently participated in CZW’s Best of the Best 14, one of the premiere tournaments for rising indy stars. But from October, 2014 until April of this year, he was working injured.

“I was attempting to execute a moonsault off the top rope,” recalls Williams. “My target moved, but not quite far enough. I ended up hyper extending my knee. I couldn’t hear it due to the noise from the crowd. But I was later told it sounded like a gun went off when it happened.”

Despite the seriousness of the injury, Williams continued to work another seven months before having surgery. Wrestling isn’t a second job for Williams; he’s one of the few proudly doing it full time, which made taking time off very difficult.

“Surprisingly I experienced a lot of emotional ups and downs during my down time. Didn’t expect it but it was a rough time that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”

Williams took advantage of the time as best as he could. “I learned more then I can say really. Months of sitting and watching match after match, promo after promo you kinda can’t help but learn something.”

So can fans expect any changes from Williams when he returns? “I think it’s safe to say that I have changed. I think people will see a new me to some extent. Some of it may surprise people but at the end of the day I still be the Baddest Man Alive.”

Williams’ return will be a welcome one for the fans, if not his opponents. He’s rested, restless, and ready to resume his career. “My biggest goal is to do everything I can to get past this set back. I feel like I was on the rise before I couldn’t put off the surgery anymore. Now I have to get the road under me and back to moving forward again.”

Welcome back, brother.

https://youtu.be/Ygikpp9Ra6s

A few Bluegrass Brawler reviews

BluegrassBrawlers-coverThe Humble Book Giant recently posted a very nice review of Bluegrass Brawlers on his blog. The Giant is a Louisville area native and a wrestling fan, and while he normally doesn’t do sports books, he had some nice things to say about the book.

Read the Humble Book Giant’s review here.

The Pro Wrestling Historical Society reviewed the book as well. They were more critical than most and took exception to the version of the Gotch-Hackenschmidt II match I presented in the book, but they still liked it enough to give it four stars.

Read the review from PWHS here.

My favorite review, though, was one that came up on Terry Garvin’s World Domination podcast recently. Handsome Jimmy Valiant himself praised the book as a great read. I emailed him to thank him for the kind words and he sent back a few more. “I enjoyed your book. A lot of good knowledge in it. You hit it all on the nose. John, you didn’t miss anything, my man.
Congratulations and good luck in the future. Godpseed to all.”

Mercy!

Who is Dean Hill?

“Is it for real? Or is it a work?” That’s the question that’s been on every OVW fan’s mind all week. Ever since it was announced that founder Danny Davis had sold his majority ownership, fans have been speculating on whether this is really the end or just another wrestling storyline.

Any time you can make the fans believe, it’s a good thing, especially in the reality era. Kayfabe or no, this week’s announcement is a great excuse to tell you a little bit about the man they call “The Voice of Louisville Wrestling.”

Dean Hill has been a part of OVW from the very beginning as part of the television announcing team. In fact for many fans, Hill is probably more synonymous with OVW than Davis, who earned the nickname “The Wizard of Oz” for his propensity to remain behind the curtains at Davis Arena.

Dean Hill is one of many Louisville personalities I had the honor to interview and feature in Bluegrass Brawlers. He plays drums for a few local bands including T.J. and the Cheaters, he’s a motorcycle enthusiast, and he is a retired Louisville Police officer. When he started on the force in the early 1970s he learned hand to hand combat from Buck Moore, who wrestled on the Police benefit shows for promoter Francis McDonough in the 1950s.

Hill came into wrestling not as part of any promotion, but a necessary evil. He was part of the detachment assigned to escort the heels to and from the ring for Memphis Wrestling on Tuesdays at Louisville Gardens. He caught the eye and ear of promoter Teeny Jarrett, and one night when the regular ring announcer was a no-show, Hill agreed to fill in. He was surprised when Jarrett paid him at the end of the night, but he was even more surprised when he was asked to take over the job permanently.

Hill moved up from ring announcer to television announcer before Memphis closed shop in the mid 90s. Having spent several years announcing the names of luminaries like Jerry Lawler, Dutch Mantell, Bill Dundee, and even Andre the Giant (he maintains a full list of people he has announced to this day!), he settled back into life without wrestling.

One day Hill spotted Danny Davis scouting a warehouse up for sale. He pulled over to talk to the former Memphis tag star and learned that Davis was looking to open a wrestling school. Davis wanted to do more than just teach wrestling. He intended to teach ever facet of the business, including television. Davis asked Hill to be part of the announce team, and Hill accepted.

Many men have passed through the OVW announcer’s booth over the years, including Kenny Bolin, Jim Cornette, Dutch Mantell, Al Snow, and Gilbert Corsey. Through it all, Hill has been the anchor of OVW television. He was there in the beginning, when local boys like Rob Conway and Nick Dinsmore began making a name for themselves. He called the action for future stars like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and CM Punk. He became a teacher himself, mentoring the young announcers who came through the school as well as the future stars inside the ring. Ask Hill to tell you the story how he taught Lesnar to stop swearing under his breath in the ring.

Hill also took what has been called the worst bump in the history of professional wrestling. It didn’t happen in the ring, but near the backstage area. Sadly only four people were witness to the bump, including Hill himself and the man who fell on top of him, Kenny Bolin. You can read the rest of that story in Kenny’s book.

If Hill is truly the new owner at OVW (and it’s on the Internet so it has to be true, right??), there’s no one who knows OVW better. He was there for the glory days with the WWE, and he knows the challenge that lies ahead filling Danny Davis’s shoes. With Hill at the helm, I’m sure it will be smooth sailing. What could possibly go wrong?

This is professional wrestling. If you want to know the answer to that question, tune in next week!

To read more of Dean’s story and the story of wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky, get your copy of Bluegrass Brawlers on Amazon.com.