One of the wrestlers I interviewed for Eat Sleep Wrestle is a Southern Indiana native who works under the name Hy Zaya. Hy was still feeling the effects of injuries sustained in a recent match when we met up at Texas Roadhouse. We talked a lot about injuries, about prayer, and how every night, he and his opponents go out with one goal in mind: to return to the back as injury free as they went out.
Every wrestler knows and understands that there’s risk involved every time they step in the ring. The history of pro wrestling is filled with career ending injuries and tragic deaths. As much as these men and women try to protect one another, no one is perfect. When something goes wrong everyone, from the superstars at the top to the road warriors working roller rinks and warehouses feels the pain of those who suffer.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Hijo del Perro Aguayo as well as Rey Mysterio, Jr. I can’t imagine what any of them are going through at this time, but my prayers are with them.
Be safe out there, ladies and gents. And fans, please heed the words you hear at the beginning of each WWE show. Leave the wrestling to the professionals.
Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin had hoped to have his autobiography ready to release today, his birthday. It’s still in the works, and no, it’s not because he’s struggled to find people to say nice things about him. Here’s a sampling of what some folks have said about the Starmaker
“Although I had more of a national presence, Kenny got to work consistently more than I ever did, managed far better talent than I ever did, and was allowed to be the lovable con artist he is without any obvious outside ‘producing’ and ‘writing’ to spoil his unique personality. To steal a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, he is ‘one of God’s own prototypes.'” – The Sinister Minister, James Mitchell
“I got an email inviting me to call in and participate in a Roast of Kenny Bolin on Blogtalkradio. I know people wanted to hear me roast Kenny for all the things he did to me back in OVW, but I couldn’t do it. My years at OVW were golden, and King B was the biggest part of that, figuratively and literally. Kenny made me a star, and he made me the biggest heel at OVW. I owe everything I achieved at OVW and later the WWE to Kenny Bolin. I was very blessed to do the things I did, and I am thankful to say that Kenny Bolin is still my friend.” – Rico Costantino
“Kenny is truly a star maker. If only he would burn the videos he has of me and Cena way, way back when we were both in the rise. But then if it weren’t for Kenny, no one would care about those videos. Congrats, Kenny.” – Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks
One evening, I received a voice mail from Kenny. He had dialed my number by mistake, and he thought he was leaving a message for one of his many Beets by Bolin customers. The voice mail gave me a rare insight into the real Kenny Bolin as he spoke about a young fan, a girl with autism, who would be his dinner guest along with his family. He was treating all four of them to dinner and hooking the young lady up with a pair of Beets, and autographed photo, and a copy of a John Cena video. It’s entirely possible that once this young girl got to the restaurant, Kenny charged her for her stuff just the same as he did his own daughter-in-law the night he met her, but I prefer to think that there actually is a heart underneath all that bravado. As Jim Cornette likes to say, you just have to dig through too many layers to get to it.
Happy birthday, Kenny Bolin. I’m happy to call you a friend.
Cancer sucks. While there are many wrestling fans (myself included) who can appreciate and cheer for a great heel, Cancer is one heel that will never, ever get cheers. Ever.
Tim Donst is a great guy and a heck of a wrestler. My heart goes out to him and the struggle he faces ahead. Tim is strong, and I know the whole indy wrestling community, fans and workers, are behind him. Click here for an article about Tim on poconorecord.com to bring you up to speed on his story. Huge props to him for making the best of the situation and doing what he can to brighten the lives of younger cancer patients.
Here’s hoping Tim’s story has a positive outcome like that of another indy wrestler, Matt Cappotelli. Cappotelli was days away from a WWE shot when he got his diagnosis. The Southeast Outlook has a story on him this week. Click here to read about Matt.
All the best to Tim Donst for a speedy treatment and recovery. Would love to see both of these men get back in the ring one day.
When 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.
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.”
A 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.