Crazy is not her only Super Power

A. J. Mendez-Brooks, formerly known as A. J. Lee, may not seem to be the most likely candidate to write a memoir. Only 29 years of age when she completed it, hardly the age one associates with such a book. She had a memorable run as WWE Diva’s Champion, and she was involved in main event storylines involving Daniel Bryan, John Cena, CM Punk, and Kane. But still… a memoir? What story could she have to tell.

It turns out A. J. has quite the story to tell, a story that not only can fill a book for demands to be told. Crazy Is My Superpower is more than just a memoir of her time in the WWE. Its the story of a remarkable life and a young woman who overcame some major challenges to achieve her dream.

A. J. Mendez-Brooks grew up in poverty, the child of “cool parents” who never truly grew up. It’s a heart breaking story of a family that was constantly on the move, always hungry, and always paying for the missteps of her parents.

It’s also a story of mental illness and bi-polar disorder, an affliction A. J. inherited   from her mother. A. J. holds nothing back as she talks about her mother’s struggle to come to grips with the disease as well as her own battles. Mental illness is an uncomfortable subject most people would rather avoid, but Mendez-Brooks strives to remove the stigma of the disease in hopes that others can discuss it more freely and, if necessary, get the help they need.

Yes, A. J. delves into her wrestling career, including a heart-warming look at the man she once called “Grandpa” and now calls her husband, CM Punk, but fans hoping for some inside dirt and stories from the road may be disappointed. Mendez-Brooks takes the high road when discussing people who stood in her way, and the focus of the story throughout remains on the impoverished young woman who rose to become a record-setting WWE champion.

That’s not to say the book is disappointing; not in the slightest. A. J. Mendez-Brooks is a wonderful writer. She will make you belly laugh one minute and tug at your heart in the next. Crazy Is My Superpower succeeds at not only being an entertaining read, but an inspirational one. It’s about girl power, it’s about pursuing your dream, it’s about breaking the stigma of mental illness, and it’s about empowering those who need help to seek it out, just as she did.

Crazy Is My Superpower is a story wrestling fans and non-fans need to read. It’s more than just the memoir of a wrestling career. It’s an incredible story of overcoming all odds to achieve a dream.

Bravo, A. J. I hope this is only the first of many books we get from this superpowered writer.

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.

OVW Celebrates 900 Episodes

ovw_logoTuesday night, the WWE will mark the 900th episode of Smackdown. Wednesday, Ohio Valley Wrestling will equal that mark with their 900th episode – the first ever broadcast in HD.

OVW has come a long way. Founded by Danny Davis as the Nightmare Wrestling Academy in Jeffersonville, OVW broke into the national wrestling consciousness when they were made the official training school for the WWE. When the fabled first class of OVW made its way to the main roster, wrestlers across the country began flocking to Louisville, knowing that OVW represented their best chance to make it to the big time.

The WWE banners are long gone, and the brief stint with TNA is now ancient history as well. Yet OVW today is as strong as ever, with a new generation taking the reigns in the ring as well as backstage.

It’s one thing for a multi-million dollar promotion to make it to 900 shows. It’s quite another for an independent promotion to reach the same milestone. It’s a tribute to the talent of the teachers, the quality of the program’s graduates, and the devotion of the OVW fans.

Congratulations goes to Danny Davis, Rip Rogers, Gilbert Corsey, Adam Revolver, Dean Hill, and everyone at OVW keeping the proud tradition alive. OVW is still one of the best places to learn your craft from master teachers. Their commitment to new technology is a signal that this small town promotion has hundreds more television programs in its future.

Breaking News: Cena to make shocking return at Mania!

It’s two days until the biggest event of the year in sports entertainment, and a well-placed source in the WWE has just confirmed, John Cena will return at Wrestlemania!

That’s right, Cenation, Superman is back, and he’s coming to make himself a hero to those dreading the inevitable rise of the Roman Empire.

Or is he?

Cena will be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Triple H and Roman Reigns, but he will not be doing so as a babyface! The long-awaited heel turn will happen Sunday night, and after Shane McMahon expels Triple H from Monday Night Raw, Cena will be the guy paired with the man Vince McMahon still hopes to make into the next Cena!

But wait, how in the world will the WWE get the fans to cheer Reigns over Cena, especially heel Cena? Cena was the most hated man in Louisville when he was at OVW. He was exceptionally good at working the mic when he was a heel, and it’s not too far-fetched to think that a “smark” Wrestlemania and post-Mania Raw audience will fall in love with heel Cena. To make sure that the fans boo Cena like never before, the WWE has paired Cena up with an advocate, a blast from the past, an ace in the hole sure to make him the biggest heel since the Iron Sheik!

bolin1

You are not dreaming, wrestling fans. John Cena will be paired up with his former manager, the man who helped launch him to superstardom, Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin. Under Bolin’s tutelage, Cena became hands down the most hated man in Louisville when he was at OVW. Now that he has reunited with his old protege, Bolin will not only turn fans pro-Reigns and anti-Cena, he will make Cena the top heel for years to come, extending his career in a way not seen since Hulk Hogan became “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.

Doubt me if you will, wrestling fans, but some Sunday night, April 3, in front of the largest audience ever assembled for a live wrestling event, John Cena will steal the spotlight and the title from Roman Reigns, and Bolin Services will finally begin its long overdue WWE run at the Showcase of the Immortals!

Kenny will still be at The Nerdy Planet on Saturday from 3-5 PM, selling books and signing autographs with me and Little Jimmy LeBeaux. We had originally planned on an evening event, starting around 6 PM, but just before we announced the event on Facebook, Kenny called and asked me to move it up earlier in the day. If you’re not buying it, join us Saturday and ask Kenny for yourself. He’ll be happy to neither confirm nor deny what’s about to go down at Wrestlemania 32.

WWE Returns to Louisville

A few random thoughts about last night’s visit from WWE to Louisville, Kentucky.

First and foremost: the Yum Center staff is amazing and accessibility for the disabled is great. I take a friend along who is in a wheelchair, and we had a much more pleasant experience here than at Freedom Hall. Wish the doors to the pedway from the parking garage had automatic door openers, but the Yum Center staff was so helpful I can overlook that.

WWE Shop Express was not available and that was disappointing. Made getting shirts super easy last time. We went out during an early match and got a shirt with no waiting but I liked shop express better.

AJ Styles and Tyler Breeze had a great opener. Breeze held his own with AJ and made his trainer Lance Storm proud. He also had more heat than anyone other than Sheamus and Kevin Owens with the fans. They were on him from the moment his music hit. Wish WWE would give him the push he deserves on the main roster.

Nice surprise to see Baron Corbin. He looks ready.

Goldust put on the make up for a house show run in. Another fun surprise.

If Alberto Del Rio is on a card, he will give you his money worth. Does everyone realize how good he is?

Kalisto is super over with the kids. Adults too.

Nice to see Summer Rae getting to actually wrestle as Sasha Banks’s tag partner. If you’ve only seen her on WWE you don’t know how good she is.

Sasha is a superstar on the rise.

Heel Sheamus has a lot of fans. Lots of cheers for him – until he got on the mic and riffed on Kentucky.

Louisville still loves OVW alum Mark Henry.

And your main event for WWE Louisville is… Jon Moxley vs. Kevin Steen. Who would have ever dreamed back 5 years ago this would be your main event at a WWE show?? Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens did not disappoint. They tore the house down, and they proved they are ready to be the top guys in the business. Owens got the most heat from the crowd, and Ambrose gets the biggest pop from the crowd. Matter of fact, he gets a bigger pop than anyone I’ve seen in Louisville except that one guy…

This is the first time in ages John Cena did not make an appearance in Louisville. Feels a little strange, because in all honesty, this is Cena’s town. There’s no split chanting for him here because of his legacy at OVW. No doubt he’ll be back and he’ll get the pop of the night when he returns.

Could Roman Reigns have been a Bolin guy?

bolin1A decade ago a Louisville, Kentucky institution was churning out WWE Superstars left and right. The institution went by the name Bolin Services, and in the course of a decade, BS sent more than sixty men and women to the WWE main roster, including the most recent face of the company, John Cena.

Given the struggles Roman Reigns is having becoming the new face of the company, I got in touch with Kenny Bolin and son Chris to ask if Bolin Services might have been able to do anything for him.

“He would not have been the main guy,” says Chris Bolin. “He would never have been in Cena, Rico, or Carlito’s spot. He would have been one of the background guys like Sean O’Haire. Except O’Haire could cut a decent promo.”

Truth be told, no one was pushed as the main guy or the face of the company because in Bolin Services, Kenny Bolin was the face. Everyone had a role, and everyone worked together. “Sometimes I had the spotlight,” says Kenny. “Sometimes it was Cena. Sometimes it was Rico or someone else. There was no ego because everyone understood their role.”

Even the great John Cena had no trouble filling a supporting role when asked. “He was a team player. He was always on, but he never upstaged anyone. He understood when one of us looks good, we all look good.”

Bolin’s system was forged out of necessity caused by the WWE developmental machine. There was no way of telling when someone would get called up to the main roster, and you never knew who was next to go. Kenny remained front and center as the guys around him, one by one, left for the big time. “Guys would leave, new guys would come in. It didn’t matter who they gave me, they all got called up. That’s why they called me the Starmaker.”

Truth be told, neither Kenny nor Chris see Reigns as a fit for Bolin Services. Had Roman Reigns been sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, Chris Bolin believes that he would have been one of the Disciples of Synn, a rival faction led by Jim Cornette’s now wife Stacy. “He would have fit in better there, like Batista when he was Leviathan. Bolin Services liked guys who could banter with my Dad. Rico, Cena, these guys could hold their own. Reigns just isn’t a BS guy. He doesn’t have the personality for it.”

That’s not necessarily bad news for Roman Reigns. Batista went on to become a four time World Heavyweight Champion and a two time WWE Champion.

But Batista was never the face of the company.

For more on Kenny Bolin, Bolin Services, and the WWE developmental era at OVW, read Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville and I Probably Screwed You Too: The Mostly True Stories of Kenny “Starker” Bolin. 

Why You Better Not Skip Survivor Series

Sunday is a can’t miss pay-per-view for many reasons.

For one, you’re going to see a new champion crowned. Someone who has never held the belt will walk out of Survivor series as world champion. It could be Kevin Owens. It could be Dean Ambrose. It could be Roman Reigns.

Reigns is the odds on favorite, but if he’s not your man, that’s no reason to skip this Sunday! The same people booing Roman are the ones who have been chanting, “Anyone but Cena,” for years. If those fans don’t turn up this Sunday, you know what to expect come Royal Rumble time.

The WWE will be watching the numbers very carefully this weekend. If the numbers are good, you will see more of Reigns, but you will also see more of Owens, Ambrose, Cesaro, Neville, the Wyatts, the New Day, and the rising stars of the WWE.

And if you’re one of those who have been chanting, “We want Sasha,” show up early for the pre-show and watch her. WWE watches those numbers too.

History will be made this weekend. Tune in and show you’re ready for what comes next.

The Door Opens a Little Wider

https://youtu.be/qB-qEKI37eY

Seth Rollins is out 6-9 months.

The WWE title is vacant.

Rollins will be back in less than a year, and when he returns, he’ll likely get a huge babyface pop. He will be bigger than ever.

Question is, who will step up and take the top spot?

Orton is out for months, also injured.

Cena’s gone until late December.

Brock will be back in January.

Vince is about to push Roman Reigns to the moon… but who will garner the fans’ support?

Cesaro? Owens? Ambrose? Ziggler? Ryback?

Dare I say it… Sasha Banks?

Pick your favorite and tune in. A star is going to be born out of this.

Anybody but Cena? Prove it!

John Cena is out for two months. Every time he’s out, the ratings drop. This in spite of all the “Cena sucks” and “Anybody but Cena” mantras of the Internet wrestling fans.

If you’re ready to “move on” from John Cena, it’s time to prove it.

Do not miss Raw and Smackdown. Watch them again on Hulu and DVR.

Do not miss the pay-per-views that air while he is gone.

Above all, show support for your next guy. You don’t like Roman Reigns? Fine. Buy a shirt to support KO, Ambrose, Ryback, Cesaro, Rollins, Ziggler. Whomever your guy is, put your money where your mouth is. That’s really how the WWE pays attention to whom they need to push.

Reality is, Cena’s a once in a generation star. There are some very talented guys waiting in the wings to take his spot right now, but I’m not sure there’s any one guy yet ready to fill his shoes. The time is coming he won’t want to lace them up as often, but if the ratings plunge like normal, you can expect another major Cena push all the way through Wrestlemania!