Five Matches

Someone on Facebook recently posed an interesting question: if you had a wrestling time machine and could go back to see any wrestling match, what would you go back to see?

I didn’t have to think about my answer. As a hug fan of the Black Panther, I’d want to go back to the night he is most famous for: the night he and Gorgeous George incited a riot at the Olympic Auditorium. Then I got to thinking, what other matches would I want to see if I could return to any night in wrestling history?

Here are my top five, in order:

August 24, 1949, Los Angeles. Gorgeous George vs. The Black Panther Jim Mitchell at the Olympic. George was one of the biggest heels of his day, and the Panther was a beloved star. On a hot summer night, George went too far. He tossed Mitchell from the ring and refused to let him back in. One fan jumped in the ring to give George some payback, and George leveled him. In an instant the entire crowd was on its feet, and a riot raged on for hours. Mitchell and George escaped to the back, but several people had to be hospitalized. One woman even sued George and Mitchell for her injuries. I have the program from that night and a letter summoning Mitchell to answer for his part in the riot that evening. They are the prizes of my wrestling memorabilia collection.

February 1, 1944, Louisville. Mildred Burke vs. Elvira Snodgrass at the Columbia Gym. If Mitchell is my all time favorite grappler, Elvira is a close second. I’d love to see the greatest women’s champion of all time against the toughest, meanest, scrappiest heel she ever faced in front of a hot Louisville crowd. This wasn’t the only time they faced one another in Louisville or the biggest crowd in Louisville to see them do battle, but it was the night they were the main event attraction. How incredible would it be to see Heywood Allen chomping on his cigar, overseeing the action in the Columbia Gym?

Jerry Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman in Memphis. The Kaufman/Lawler feud is one of the most fascinating stories in wrestling history, both for the in-ring action and the behind the scenes machinations. It’s the greatest work of the modern era and a blueprint for how to do kayfabe in an era when kayfabe is supposedly dead. Some how, some way, I’d have to have a ringside seat so I could see the back and forth after the match with Danny Davis telling Jerry that Andy will pay for the ambulance.

The Road Warriors vs. The Midnight Express, Night of the Skywalkers. Cornette has been a friend and a great asset in my research of Louisville wrestling history. The scaffold match was far from the best work either of these legendary tag teams did, but just to see it all unfold and watch poor Jimmy slip through the arms of Big Bubba (RIP) would be priceless.

When Hero Met Punk, IWA Mid-South, Clarksville, Indiana 2003. Before Punk made it to WWE or even Ring of Honor, he had some of the greatest battles in the modern indy era with Chris Hero, now NXT’s Kassius Ohno, in front of one of the most passionate crowds in wrestling today. Matches like these are the reason CM Punk said his ideal place for Wrestlemania would be the old warehouse in Charlestown, Indiana, where many of their brawls took place. This particular match went almost 93 minutes, and for the last 15-20 minutes, the entire crowd was on their feet. Watch this, their Tables and Ladders duel, or their 60 minute brawl, and join me in hoping that when Kassius Ohio reaches the main roster, WWE will make amends with CM Punk and give these two one last battle – at Wrestlemania.

Honorable Mention: The 1951 Derby Eve Show, Jefferson County Armory, Louisville. I’m going to cheat here, but this has to be one of the greatest cards ever presented in Louisville. Francis McDonogh, who took over the Allen Club from Heywood Allen in 1947, made the annual Derby Eve Show and the Police Benefit Show that took its place a monster even every year. Have a look at the card and tell me you wouldn’t want to be one of the 8000 in attendance that night:

Wild Bill Longson vs. Dutch Heffner
Bill Longson, Fred Davis (of the Chicago Bears), and Freddie Blassie vs. Ivan Rasputin, Stu Gibson, and Dutch Heffner
Mildred Burke vs. Mae Young
Lou Thesz vs. Green Dragon

 

The Jim Cornette Experience

If you’re a fan of wrestling history, be sure to catch today’s episode of the Jim Cornette Experience. I’m on the show today talking about a few of my favorite things: The Allen Athletic Club, Elvira Snodgrass, and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell.

If you’ve already listened to today’s show, you can follow the links below to read more about the books and stories I’ve been working on.

The Black Panther Jim Mitchell

Elvira Snodgrass Part 1 and Part 2

Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville

Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club

Herb Welch’s How to Become a Champion

“Dr. D” David Schultz (autobiography coming soon!)

Letters to the Black Panther

If you heard the Jim Cornette Experience released on Thursday, November 2, you heard him make mention of two letters he picked up from me: one from Morris Siegel and one from Sam Muchnick. Both letters are posted below for those who want to take a peek.

Mitchell was on the tail end of his amazing career. He was ready to step away but hoping to help launch the career of his protege Ricky Waldo. Waldo never took off like he hoped, most likely due to the fact that everyone wanted to book someone else in his place: Bobo Brazil.

There are still a few letters like this available, along with wrestling boots, licenses from across the US and Canada, and a number of photos and programs, mostly from the West Coast. The pipe collection is also for sale. If you’re interested in any of these items, please email me!

Coming Together for Matt Cappotelli

Wrestlers give so much of themselves for the business the love and the fans who follow them. In less than two weeks, OVW fans will have a chance to give back to one of the greatest stars in the promotion’s history.

If you don’t know Matt Cappotelli’s story, it’s both inspiring and heart-breaking. Matt was on the verge of realizing his dream and becoming a WWE Superstar when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He fought the disease and beat it, but earlier this year, cancer returned for a re-match.

OVW is hosting a benefit show on Saturday, September 23, to help Matt pay his medical expenses as he fights cancer a second time. A number of current and former OVW stars will be on hand that night not to collect a pay check, but to support their friend as all proceeds will go to Matt’s medical fund. Jim Cornette has already announced he will be there, signing anything you bring for any donation you want to give. More announcements are on the way.

Indy wrestling isn’t about sports entertainment. It’s about family. If you’re in the area, please be at the Davis Arena Saturday night, September 23. This is a show you can’t miss.

Break Bread with Bolin and Cornette This Weekend

If you missed Breakfast with Bolin, you missed one of the funniest, most entertaining live wrestling chats ever held in Louisville. Even with a bad case of, well, whatever it was that was ailing the Starmaker that day, some amazing stories and timeless memories were made the day a packed room of fans gathered to hear Kenny and his best friend Jim Cornette share stories.

Bolin and Cornette are giving fans a second chance to get in on the fun, and it happens this weekend. A few seats are still available, but they will go fast. Do not miss out on this twice in a lifetime opportunity to not only spend two meals straight at the Golden Corral buffet, but to hear Kenny Bolin and Jim Cornette banter like an old time Vaudeville act.

Contact Kenny Bolin on Facebook to reserve your seat. And hurry. It will be a sell out!

Breakfast with Bolin Returns

If you missed Breakfast with Bolin the first time around, your second chance has finally arrived.

After being “ribbed” by Kenny and forced to carry the first Breakfast on his own when the King fell ill the night before, Jim Cornette has agreed to join Kenny and forty of his closest (i.e. paying) friends for Breakfast with Bolin 2. This time the Breakfast even will not only benefit Golden Corral’s charity Camp Corral, it will benefit the King himself, who has some serious medical bills coming due.

Breakfast with Bolin 2 will take place on Saturday April 29 from 3-6 PM at Golden Corral on Taylorsville Road in Louisville. Tickets for this twice in a lifetime event are $39.95. That includes the discussion between Kenny and Jim as well as the all-you-can-eat Golden Corral dinner buffet! There are only 75 seats available, and they are going fast.

Contact Kenny Bolin on Facebook to order your seats today.

Art work by Travis Heckel.

Long Time OVW Wrestler Thrilled to Give Back

Randy Royal came up in the same class at OVW as Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar. He was there when the WWE was promoting students from Louisville to RAW on a weekly basis. Royal never got a shot at the next level like his classmates, but Royal is grateful for everything he has – including his life.

Royal grew up a wrestling fan, and when the opportunity to train with Danny Davis presented itself, he jumped at the chance. “I’d been been enamored with wrestling since I can remember, so I don’t think my parents were TOO surprised. I’m sure at first they figured that I wouldn’t stick with it. Seventeen years later, I guess I proved that theory wrong.”

Royal started at OVW right around the same time the WWE came to down, anointing OVW as its developmental territory. “I was in same training class as Randy Orton, Dave Batista, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin. Jim Cornette was in charge of producing our television at the time. I was lucky to sit under that ‘learning tree’ as he would explain the psychology behind the matches.”

Royal remained in Louisville working with OVW even after the WWE left town. He kept on wrestling, never suspecting he had a ticking time bomb inside him that would threaten his life.

“I was born with Wolfe-Parkinsons-White Syndrome. I had no idea. Then in 2012  I went into V-fib. They had to medically stop my heart and try to shock me back to life. The doctor said that they all agreed that after trying numerous times that they’d give it one final shock before they’d have to officially pronounce me deceased. I’m glad they did! I had to have a little surgery to correct that and hear I am.”

Royal jokes that his favorite match is any match he doesn’t get hurt, but in seriousness, he remembers his return to the ring after heart surgery with great fondness. “The amount of love and support from fans that I never dreamed would even know anything about ‘Randy Royal’ was overwhelming. I didn’t think returning to the ring was even possible, so when I stepped through those ropes, I’ll admit that I reared up a little.”

Royal says he’s the same man inside the ring that he was before his heart troubles came to light. “The only difference in that ‘Randy’ and this ‘Randy’ is that I see things a lot differently and make the most out of life.”

To that end, Royal’s number one goal for 2017 is to give back, sharing his knowledge with the next generation. “Wrestling is going to move on with or without me, and it doesn’t owe any of us a thing; we owe it. It’s allowed me to travel to places that a “poor kid from Georgia who moved to Kentucky and had to pay for his ticket to see Jerry Lawler wrestle in nickels and dimes” never thought he’d see. So if I can help someone else to even achieve that, I feel like I’m giving back in a sense.”

Royal is working twice a week now with OVW, on Wednesday TV tapings and Saturday spot shows. He is also taking bookings outside OVW, “just to work with different people who have different styles.”

You can find Randy Royal online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Be sure to watch all his social media profiles to discover another of Randy’s talents: he’s an artist, and a darn good one.

Add ‘Rasslin to your Roku Channels Now!

A month or so back, I was surfing the Channel Store on Roku and came across a new wrestling channel simply called ‘Rasslin. Featuring a Rob Van Dam caricature on its channel graphic, ‘Rasslin promised to be a free channel boasting lots of old school wrestling. I decided to give it a try.

Simply put: ‘Rasslin is a free Roku channel with content you would gladly pay for.

The first video I watched on ‘Rasslin was an episode of WCCW from the old Sportatorium featuring the Von Erichs and the Freebirds in the main event. As if that wasn’t enough to keep me watching, the episode itself had a recently filmed introduction hosted by Kevin Von Erich and Michael Hayes. I was immediately taken back to my middle school days, when I used to watch WCCW on ESPN every afternoon after school on my Mom and Dad’s bedroom TV.

I let ‘Rasslin run for a few hours and I was treated to surprise after surprise. I saw Dick the Bruiser, Mean Gene Okerland, Dusty Rhodes, Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin, Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express, the Fabulous Kangaroos, Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper, Dr. D David Schultz, Sgt. Slaughter. I saw matches and even full TV episodes from the AWA, Memphis Wrestling, Crockett Promotions, and more. Almost every new video brought a new surprise.

‘Rasslin has a seemingly endless supply of wrestling content, but unlike most Roku channels, they do not have a searchable menu. When you open ‘Rasslin, a live stream begins, feeding you one video after another, interrupted by the occasional commercial.

There are some more recent independent wrestling videos on ‘Rasslin, as well as some hotel room women’s wrestling and other strange matches, but ‘Rasslin does allow you to skip any video by hitting the fast forward button on your remote.

‘Rasslin is a must-have for fans of old school wrestling. It’s the perfect compliment to paid wrestling channels, full if binge worthy matches, promos, and memories. It’s a channel you can put on and leave on that feeds surprise after surprise with every new video.

A Louisville Wrestling Hall of Fame

No, don’t get your hopes up. There’s no Hall of Fame in the works by me, or anyone else I know of. Just a little hypothetical question:

If there were a Louisville Wrestling Hall of Fame, who would you want to see in it?

I have a long list of suggestions. In no particular order, they are:

Ed “Strangler” Lewis – A first ballot entry for sure, the Strangler got his famous name in Louisville after showing up two weeks late for a booking under his real name.

Heywood Allen – A referee turned promoter who was involved in the Louisville wrestling scene from the early 1900s until 1947.

Francis S. McDonogh – Allen’s successor, who took the Allen Athletic Club into its hey day in the 1950s, pioneering wrestling on Louisville television and drawing record crowds at the Armory.

Betty McDonogh – Wife of Francis and the business manager for Allen and her husband. She gets credit for helping to popularize wrestling with a female audience in the 1940s, when the promotion drew more ladies every week for a time than men.

Wild Bill Longson – The only man to win a world championship in Louisville. Longson was a fixture for the Allen Athletic Club throughout the 40s and 50s and even worked as a booker for the promotion.

“The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell – A true pioneer, Mitchell was an African American wrestler before, during, and after the “color barrier” was put in place. He was also a mentor to the legendary Bobo Brazil.

Col. Stu Gibson – A New Albany native and former football hero who became a huge heel in Louisville and San Antonio.

Wee Willie Davis – A wrestler and movie star who moved to Louisville and ran a few promotions during the late 50s and 60s.

Jerry Jarrett – Wrestler and promoter who brought Louisville into the Memphis territory in 1970.

Jerry Lawler – The King of Memphis could lay equal claim to royalty in Louisville with all the legendary nights he had at the Gardens.

Jim Cornette – Arguably the most famous Louisville native in the pro wrestling business. Considered one of the greatest managers of all time. With the Rock N Roll Express going into the WWE Hall of Fame, one can only hope Jim and the Midnight Express will be next.

Danny Davis – Wrestler and manager during the Memphis era who moved to Louisville and founded OVW.

Ian Rotten – Former ECW wrestler who founded IWA Mid-South, a promotion that has lasted just as many years as the more mainstream OVW.

Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin – Louisville native and life-long nemesis of Cornette, Bolin helped launch the WWE careers of more than 4 dozen wrestlers who once belonged to Bolin Services.

John Cena – OVW’s most famous son.

CM Punk – IWA Mid-South’s most famous son.

The “OVW Four” aka Rob Conway, Nick Dinsmore, The Damaja, and Doug Basham – Four Southern Indiana natives, two (Conway and Dinsmore) from right across the river, who made it to the WWE after starting in the OVW beginner class. Basham and Damaja were a tag team in the E. Dinsmore became the surprisingly popular U-Gene. Conway is the only Louisville native to win the WWE Tag Title and went on to become a two-time NWA World Champion.

Dean Hill – Current “owner” of OVW, Hill was a ring announcer at the Louisville Gardens before becoming the voice of Louisville wrestling as OVW’s TV announcer.

Okay, Louisville fans, let’s hear it. Who would you put in a Louisville Wrestling Hall of Fame?

Countdown to 900: OVW Classic Match

Time was when the Louisville wrestling fans could go and see John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Shelton Benjamin, and dozens more future stars for free every Wednesday night. OVW re-posted this classic on Facebook last night, and I thought it was worth sharing here.