Eat Sleep Wrestle – Four months later

cropped-esw-cover.jpgWhen I was writing Eat Sleep Wrestle, I knew I was creating a time capsule. What’s written in the pages of that book is a moment of time, now past, depicting the lives of a number of modern day independent wrestlers. No sooner was the book released, the lives and careers of the men and women profiled inside began to change. Since Eat Sleep Wrestle was printed:

Evolution Pro Wrestling closed its doors.

Destination One Wrestling changed its name to Premiere Destination Wrestling.

Jamin Olivencia left OVW.

Michael Hayes left OVW and seems to have retired.

Marc Hauss was laid up after surgery. (Get well, sir!)

Colt Cabana blew up the internet and got sued along with his pal CM Punk.

LuFisto’s Yoda-like wisdom on hardcore wrestling went viral.

Madman Pondo and Crazy Mary Dobson became the Juggalo Championship Wrestling tag team champions, the first intergender champions in the promotion’s history.

Ron Mathis managed to accumulate four title belts at once.

Mitchell Huff became Cage Mitchell.

Crazy Mary Dobson got a speaking role on Raw. “You are chips!”

Mad Man Pondo finally appeared on Raw as a Rosebud. Arriba!

Crazy Mary, Lylah Lodge, and Cage Mitchell also appeared as Rosebuds. Crazy Mary’s become a regular, in fact.

At least four wrestlers – Crazy Mary, Lylah, Aaron Williams, and LuFisto – applied for the next season of WWE’s Tough Enough.

The Crist brothers co-headlined CZW’s anniversary show with the Young Bucks.

CHIKARA crowned Heidi Lovelace winner of the Young Lions Cup, the first woman to achieve that honor.

If you’re scratching your head wondering who these people are, grab a copy of Eat Sleep Wrestle to get up to speed. Then get out to an independent wrestling show to see what you’re missing.

 

Hoosier Hero Stu Gibson

stugibson-sheik When I my family moved to Indiana in 1988, we immersed ourselves in Indiana’s proudest tradition, becoming fans of New Albany High School basketball. One of the players we saw every week during the 88-89 season was a young man who would go on to be a three time WWE tag team champion and two time NWA world champion, Rob Conway.

Rob Conway’s not the only NAHS alum to become a big time professional wrestler. Crybaby Chris Alexander (who was in marching band with me at NAHS) learned to run the ropes at the same as Conway. But long before either man set foot in Ohio Valley Wrestling, there was Stu Gibson.

Stu Gibson was an All-Indiana football player at New Albany High School, graduating in 1943. He played college ball at the University of Louisville. He was even made a Kentucky Colonel after leading the team in scoring in 1947.

Gibson was also a Golden Glove boxer, but after graduating from U of L, he chose to pursue professional wrestling, working first for Francis McDonough and the Allen Athletic Club. Gibson would work mostly as a babyface during his years in Louisville, but he was equally successful as a babyface and a heel, especially down in Texas.

Wrestling historian J. Michael Kenyon recorded one of Gibson’s most memorable stunts from the early 60s. “It was a small card at Victoria TX, where Gibson and Danny McShain hooked up in double count-out. It ended back in the corner of the building, on top of the concession stand, with Gibson spooning mustard into the semi-conscious form of McShain, amid veritable pandemonium.

“Okay, so what — but the kicker was cute: They came back a week later, in a rematch, with McShain refusing to wrestle until ‘all mustard was barred from the building.’ And that turned out to be the actual stip, with the fans forced to eat ‘dry’ hot dogs for a night.”

Gibson passed away in 1988. His story is told in my latest book, Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club.

gibsonstugibson1stugibson2

Why are you doing that spot?

lufistoA few days ago a video went viral showing wrestler Chris Dickinson tossing female wrestler Kimber Lee around the ring like a rag doll. I’m not going to post it here; you can Google it if you haven’t seen it. While a close look at the video shows you that the moves were delivered in a safe manner to protect Lee, it is a brutal and violent video.

I was very happy to see LuFisto’s response to this video go viral as well. LuFisto didn’t judge, but as a long time veteran who has taken her share of violent, inter-gender bumps, she asks some very important questions that all indy wrestlers – male and female – need to ask themselves.

You can read LuFisto’s comments here, and if you are an aspiring wrestler, I strongly suggest you not only read them, but really think about what she has to say.

While I’m at it, let me add to the chorus of those responding to LuFisto’s lament about never making it to the WWE. LuFisto is everything that is right about today’s indy wrestling. She is a class act who loves her fans and never disappoints in the ring. She makes those she works with better, and no matter who’s on the card above or below her, she is always one of the most memorable matches of the night.

I’ve seen LuFisto live twice in the last year. She tore the house down against Crazy Mary Dobson and Lylah Lodge. There were at least five or six other matches on the cards both nights, but I’d be doing well to tell you who was in more than one or two of those other matches.

Success can be defined in many ways. Making it to the WWE is one definition, but can you really call it success when you go from stealing the show in the indies to being in an eight-diva tag match that lasts three minutes? The brawls LuFisto, Crazy Mary, and Lylah put on here in Southern Indiana over the last year were far better than any televised “Diva” match in the last five. (NXT excluded.)

When LuFisto hangs her boots up for the last time, no one who truly love pro wrestling will look at her career as a failure. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her in the ring and out, and it was my honor to feature her in Eat Sleep Wrestle. She’s created an incredible legacy for herself and despite all her self-doubts, pains, and frustrations, she’s showing no sign of giving up just yet. That’s a win for her and for everyone who enjoys real wrestling.

Shane Helms put it best when he responded to her earlier this week. “Someone find LuFisto and tell her that’s she’s absolutely wrong about one thing. She’s not a failure. She’s a f’n badass!” High praise, and well deserved.

A New Beginning

IMG_0902

The back wall of my man cave is not prepped and ready for battle.

Right now, there are 50 cards with 50 stories to find and write. They are stories about promoter Louisville wrestling Heywood Allen; wrestling venues like the Columbia Gym and the outdoor Sports Arena; big names like Lou Thesz, Orville Brown, and June Byars; and local names like Stu Gibson, Mel Meiners, Kid Scotty Williams, and Blacksmith Pedigo.

The goal: to tell the full story of Heywood Allen and the Allen Athletic Club, Louisville’s wrestling source from 1935-1957.

I’ll be posting updates and stories here as the book progresses. Meantime, you can get a glimpse of the story – and the rest of Louisville’s wrestling history – with my first book, Bluegrass Brawlers.

Very excited to tell the story of Louisville’s forgotten wrestling promotion.

OVW HD – A new Indiegogo Campaign!

The first time I saw Ryan Howe was the night after Wrestlemania XXVII. He was the first of the new round of Tough Enough contestants to introduce himself to a Raw crowd that chanted for Stone Cold Steve Austin to “Stun them all!”

I saw him again almost two years later at OVW, the night I started work on Bluegrass Brawlers. He didn’t wrestle that night, but I saw him a few times over the next couple of years. He had a great look, and he showed potential, but he was always in the mid-card, working underneath guys like Rob Terry and Jamin Olivencia. He was better each time I saw him, but he was always outshined by the main event players.

Wednesday night, I saw him again. He worked the main event against OVW champion Mohamed Ali Vaez. This was a completely different Ryan Howe than I had ever seen before. Same look, same gimmick, but there was a confidence and a swagger about him I hadn’t seen before. Howe looked like he belonged in that main event. He looked ready for the next step. If history is any indication at OVW, he’ll probably get it sooner rather than later.

That’s the legacy of OVW. OVW has set the standard for wrestling schools for nearly 20 years. Cena, Orton, Lesnar, Batista, Punk, Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Miz, Mizdow, Henry, Big Show, Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Dinsmore, Conway, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Lisa Marie Varon, Jamin Olivencia, Rockstar Spud. Over 100 students have gone on from OVW to work for WWE or TNA.

OVW just launched an Indiegogo campaign to upgrade their television equipment. OVW is the longest running wrestling television program in America outside of WWE (over 800 episodes!), and they’re ready to step it up and go HD. This campaign will allow them to upgrade their studio, their cameras, and their editing equipment so they can continue to produce a top quality program while providing the best training for the business, from inside the ring to the editing room.

OVW television airs locally in Louisville, but it’s also available to view online. OVW alums have shared with me how fans have come up to them in airports and venues around the country, fans who know them only from watching online. Most recently, OVW announcer Dean Hill told me he was approached by a fan in Seattle, Washington who watched OVW on TV!

Independent wrestling is growing in popularity once more, and OVW is positioning itself to take advantage of the changing tides. Check out the campaign on Indiegogo and the perks that are available – including and opportunity to train at the school. And by all means go to www.ovwrestling.com to check out their show for yourself!

The Black Panther – Ads from the Courier-Journal

It’s been a few days since I posted. Been a busy week with other writing projects besides wrestling. Hoping to resume my normal writing schedule by end of the week.

I did get to take in the OVW TV taping tonight. Strong showing by Ryan Howe and Mohamad Ali Vaez in the main event, and it was great seeing Jim Cornette and Jeff Jarrett (yes, Jeff Jarrett!!) in the ring. Prior to that had dinner with Cornette, Kenny Bolin, and legendary OVW announcer Dean Hill. Some great stories were shared that will pop up in future blogs and book projects.

Prior to that, I went to the library to do a little more digging on both The Black Panther Jim Mitchell and promoter Heywood Allen. Here are a couple of ads I found today featuring Mitchell, one from 1941 and the other from 1954.

panther 1941

1954 police show

 

1954 police show

panther 1941 1954 police show

CZW Anniversary Show Saturday night!

I cannot tell you how badly I want to see this.

Specifically, one match.

Jake and Dave Crist, aka Ohio Is 4 Killers (OI4K) are amazing. They are the best tag team you’ve never heard of. They are aerial daredevils and and incredibly creative performers. And oh yeah, those CZW tag belts? That’s not the only tag team gold they currently hold. Not even close.

As for the Young Bucks… well, if you’re not an indy fan, I can forgive you’re not having heard of them. They are the masters of the Super Kick. They are two guys, brothers, making a darn good living in professional wrestling with no help whatsoever from Stamford, CT, thank you.

This match will be worth the price of the iPPV alone.

No, this is not a paid endorsement. This is me telling you that if you want to see some really great tag team action, you need to watch this match.

Click on the poster or go to www.streamczw.com to pre-order the show. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be in the Philly area, get to the ECW arena Saturday night.

February 18, 1947: Heywood Allen Says Goodbye

1941 thesz allen1941 thesz allen1941 thesz allenSixty-eight years ago this week, Heywood Allen promoted his last show in Louisville, Kentucky.

On February 9, 1947, The Courier-Journal reported that Allen had sold his interest in the Allen Athletic Club to co-owner Francis A. McDonough, Jr., and a farewell show was scheduled for February 18.

A crowd of 5000 people packed the Armory for Allen’s last show. World champion Bill Longson was on hand, defeating Felix Miquet (whose brother Francois would become famous as Corsica Joe) in two out of three falls. Babe Sharkey and Ed Meske won victories over Miguel Torres and Ralph Garibaldi, respectively, and Mickey Gold drew with Joe Millich.

Governor Simeon S. Willis received an invitation for the special event, along with a group of men referred to in the paper as the “Ole Gang of Allen’s.” The gang included McDonough, Charley Schullman, George Lewis, Paul Neal, Pat Murphy, Clarence Brenzel, Kid Scotty Williams, Ray McDonough, and Billy Love. Other regional promoters and NWA dignitaries also came to pay tribute to Allen.

McDonough sent word out to the community hoping to find Allen’s oldest living fan. The honor went to a man named Robert T. Brown, who recalled one of Allen’s first matches as a bout between William Demetral and Jack Stone during Demetral’s first trip to town in 1912.

Allen worked matches in Louisville for 42 years. He bore witness to the birth of Ed “Strangler” Lewis, held court over the first golden age with Stecker, Caddock, and Zbyszko, weathered two world wars, the National Wrestling Association, the birth of the National Wrestling Alliance, and the rise of perhaps the greatest champ of all, Lou Thesz. The fire Allen ignited in Louisville sports fans would far outlive his career and his life, and the fruits of his labor can be seen today.

Read more about Heywood Allen and Louisville’s wrestling history in Bluegrass Brawlers.

Louisville’s Greatest Matches: Nova vs. John Cena

Crybaby Chris Alexander told me about this match when I was working on Bluegrass Brawlers. I honestly am not sure why this story did not make it into the book, other than I simply forgot about it.

Cena was “The Prototype,” an unstoppable monster heel who had run over every challenger in OVW. Nova was the new guy, a veteran of ECW looking for a new start with OVW and the WWE. His first night at OVW, he got a shot at the champion.

Alexander was backstage that. Danny Davis walked over to him, wearing a big smile. “Hey Chris,” he said, “Do you want to know how to put a new guy over in one night? Just watch.”

Catch up with Drake Younger

WWE published a great interview with Drake Wuertz on their website. Fans of IWA Mid-South, CZW, and PWG will remember Wuertz as Drake Younger, an outstanding indy wrestler with a brutal hardcore past. Wuertz signed with WWE in early 2014 and turned up on NXT in the unlikely role of a referee. While his indy fans may still be a bit disappointed, it’s clear Wuertz is happy and enjoying his role. He’s also doing a great job.

Click here to read about Drake on WWE.com