Tagged in: memphis

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

 

Christmas for Kool-Aid Drinkers

For IWA Mid-South fans, this is the biggest weekend of the year. It’s bigger than birthdays, weddings, even Christmas. It’s the high flying, anything can happen blood fest known as the King of the Deathmatch.

This year’s event has sixteen competitors vying for the title including the reigning Prince of the Deathmatch Nick Depp, John Wayne Murdoch, Reed Bentley, Aidan Blackhart, Ludark Shaitan, Masada, Bryant Woods, Brad Cash, Mance Warner, Rickey Shane Page, Dale Patricks, Marcus Crane, Eric Ryan, Devon Moore, G Raver, and Jeff King. Round one has already been announced, with four tantalizing match stipulations advertised:

Home Run Derby Light Tube Fence

The Great American BBQ Deathmatch

Fans Bring the Weapons

Log Cabins of Glass/Four Corner of Pain.

The violence takes place at the Flea Market off I-65 N, exit 16, in Memphis, Indiana. Bell time is 6:35 PM Saturday night, May 20. Front Row tickets are $30. General admission is $25. Tickets can be purchased via PayPal when you email BestMistyEver@gmail.com. Tell Misty I sent you.

 

On Sale Tomorrow!

Louisville’s Greatest show is a labor of love that is truly four years in the making. When I started digging deep into Louisville’s rich wrestling history for Bluegrass Brawlers, I had no trouble finding stories about the OVW and Memphis years, but it was the “golden age” from 1935-1957 that fascinated me most. While I barely scratched the surface when I wrote Bluegrass Brawlers, Louisville’s Greatest Show will give you a year by year account of the Allen Athletic Club – the wrestlers, the shows, and the city that hosted them both.

In addition to the year by year account of the promotion and owners Heywood Allen and Francis S. McDonogh, Louisville’s Greatest Show also features more than twenty profiles of local and national wrestling stars, including:

Indiana University wrestling coach Billy Thom

Lord Patrick Lansdowne

Blacksmith Pedigo

Hall of Fame Hydroplane racer Wild Bill Cantrell

Kid Scotty Williams

Hans Schnabel

Kentucky Athletic Commissioner Johnson S. Mattingly

The legendary Wild Bill Longson

“Cousin Alviry” Elvira Snodgrass

Fred Blassie, before he was “classy”

Promoter’s wife Betty McDonogh

Chicago Bears star Fred Davis

Sgt. Buck Moore of the Louisville Police

Colonel Stu Gibson

WHAS sports director Jimmy Finegan

Ed “Strangler” Lewis

Mel Meiners

“The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell

Louisville police detective and ref Ellis Joseph

Ring announcer George Lewis

Wee Willie Davis

Louisville’s Greatest Show is the story of a city that loved wrestling and the men and women who made wrestling a Tuesday night tradition. The book is filled with never-before-published photos and stories you won’t find anywhere else.

Louisville’s Greatest Show will be available on Amazon.com and other online retailers this weekend!

Flair vs. Lawler on Louisville Television

The Great Brian Last from the 6:05 Superpodcast just posted an episode of Memphis wrestling featuring Ric Flair vs. Jerry Lawler on YouTube. What’s cool is this is a recording of the Louisville television feed from August 14, 1982, commercials included!

Click play below to get a glimpse of Louisville TV past. And be sure to listen and subscribe to the 6:05 Superpodcast.

20 Years On, IWA Mid-South May Have Its Best Roster Ever

It had been a while since I paid a visit to Southern Indiana’s legendary wrestling promotion, IWA Mid-South. I’m not big on blood and hardcore and deathmatches, a hallmark of IWA-MS, and truth be told, I decided to go tonight for one reason: OI4K. I’m a big fan of Jake and Dave Crist and their frequent companion Aaron Williams. All three have been regulars at IWA-MS for some time, and when I saw Dave Crist was scheduled to face another favorite in Shane Mercer, I decided it was time to go.

It was a trip worth taking.

The boys from Ohio delivered as they always do, but this was hardly a three man show. Every match on the card tonight delivered, from the opening bout between Desmond Xavier and A.J. Gray to the main event with Larry D. and John Wayne Murdoch. Top to bottom, this was the best wrestling show I’ve ever seen from IWA-Mid-South and one of the best independent shows I’ve ever witnessed.

 

Corey Storm and Myron Reed were two of the younger stars of IWA-MS who impressed in the early matches. Reed is a Louisville veteran with a ton of talent and charisma, and he took an action-packed three way match from Teddy King and Brett Havoc. Storm is just fifteen years old, but he looked like a a seasoned veteran in the ring with Jake Crist. He’s getting the education of a lifetime, working with veterans like Crist, and it’s very clear he has a bright future ahead.

Aaron Williams had a hard-hitting bout with Japanese star Shigehiro Irie. Despite his alliance with the hated manager The Rick, Williams had a strong following in the crowd. Ian Rotten stunned Williams and the crowd after the match by announcing that Williams will face Jessica Havok next week.

Two more members of OI4K, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel, had a show-stopping tag match against the Player’s Club, Mance Warner and Ray Waddell. Wentz is the current heavyweight champion at Rockstar Pro Wrestling in Dayton, and he and Miguel put on a clinic with Warner and Waddell.

Dave Crist vs. Shane Mercer followed the tag match and stole the show in every way possible. Mercer and Crist are two of the best kept secrets in the Midwest. Mercer is all power; Crist is a high-flyer. The crowd was electric for the entire match, and when Crist got the win, the fans leapt to their feet with a standing ovation.

As soon as the match was over, Dave Crist grabbed a microphone and told the fans they were witness to one of the best shows he had ever been a part of. Christ praised the fans for their dedication and heaped even more praise on the young stars of IWA Mid-South. “Ian Rotten has an incredible eye for talent,” he told the fans, and he encouraged everyone to, “Tell a friend, bring a friend, and make IWA Mid-South the best promotion in the Midwest!”

It would be a bold statement to say that the current incarnation of IWA Mid-South is the best ever. This is, after all, the promotion that helped launch the careers of superstars like CM Punk, Chris Hero, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins. That said, it’s clear that something special is happening in Southern Indiana.

IWA Mid-South is in their 21st year. They are packing the Arena in Jeffersonville every Thursday night and the Memphis Flea Market (where Rotten says fans can see more of the hardcore action they are used to) every Saturday. That’s no small feat, running twice a week, and with Joey Ryan, Gary Jay, and Jessica Havok on the card for next week, it’s only getting better.

If you like great wrestling, I’d encourage you to check out IWA Mid-South Thursdays at the Arena. And if you like violence for violence’s sake, you won’t want to miss their Saturday shows (including this weekend’s King of the Crimson Mask show) in Memphis, Indiana.

Congratulations to Ian and the entire crew at IWA Mid-South. Thanks for an amazing night of wrestling.

The End of IWA Mid-South?

15219367_10211256468433234_1316175058918177984_nWrestling has not been this hot in Louisville in decades.

While OVW rides a wave of enthusiasm fueled by their increasingly talented roster and their 900th TV taping, turmoil has erupted across the river.

Two years ago when I released Bluegrass Brawlers, I highlighted two Indiana promotions that, at the time, were running regular shows: the venerable IWA Mid-South, and Destination One Wrestling. Running monthly under former Ian Rotten student Rick Brady, D1W brought in some terrific talent including OI4K, Crazy Mary Dobson, the Indy Card Mafia, and Tracy Smothers. A series of unfortunate events forced D1W to go on permanent hiatus in 2015, and the promotion hasn’t been seen since.

That changed the night of the 20th anniversary show for IWA Mid-South, when Tracy Smothers faced IWA-MS Champion JJ Garrett with the title on the line. Smothers was on the ropes against the younger champ, but just when it seemed like Garrett had the match won, the lights went out and a man wearing a mask appeared on the apron. Garrett grabbed the guy and removed the mask to reveal “The Rick” Rick Brady!  The Rick’s sudden appearance gave Smothers the distraction he needed to hit Garrett with his stick and pin him. Once out of the ring, Tracy announced that the IWA title will now be known as the D1W title.

Over the next few weeks, The Rick promised that D1W was taking over and baited Ian Rotten into putting 50% of his company up vs. the chance to finally get his hands on The Rick for 5 minutes alone. Rotten took the bait and a six-man dog collar match was booked to settle the matter. Rotten selected Nick Depp, John Wayne Murdoch and JC Rotten to represent team IWA while  The Rick chose Mitch Ryder, Legendary Larry D and Derek Neal to represent team D1W.

The six men brawled all over the building on Thanksgiving night. During the closing minutes JC Rotten went down and grabbed his knee in pain. He fought his way back into the ring and was caught by Mitch Ryder and put into a figure four leglock. He immediately tapped. JC’s valet Tori entered the ring to check JC and was grabbed by Larry D. The fans were horrified, fearing for Tori’s safety, when Larry grabbed the girl in a huge hug! JC popped to his feet, revealing his knee injury to be a lie. He wasn’t hurt and he had just betrayed his father. The IWA locker room emptied out, but the D1W contingent beat them down in the ring.

Ian Rotten himself came off to chase away the D1W crew, but it was too late. The Rick now owns half of IWA Mid-South, and Ian and The Rick are now 50/50 partners.

I realize some of you Smarks reading this are rolling your eyes right now. “It’s all a work! You know Ian would never put up ownership in IWA!” That attitude is everything that is wrong with the IWC. Folks, this is old school. This is what packed gyms and arenas for decades before the WWE conquered the wrestling world, and guess what? It still works!

Right now, D1W/IWA Mid-South is as hot as they’ve ever been. They’re running twice a week on Thursdays in Clarksville, Indiana at Jammerz Rollerdrome and Saturdays in Memphis, Indiana at the Flea Market. Their fans are energized, and so too are the D1W fans who have missed their favorite promotion. The Rick is steamrolling IWA fans left and right on Facebook, and Tracy Smothers is proving (as he has over and over) that he’s one of the most underrated heels of any generation.

Will D1W take over, or will Ian save his beloved IWA Mid-South? Whatever happens next, the real winners are the fans enjoying a true old-fashioned blood feud!

Bill Dundee On A Rampage In Louisville Gardens

Found another “deep cut” on Youtube worth sharing. This looks like it was late in the Memphis run. You can catch a glimpse of referee Frank Morrell neat the end, and I’m pretty sure the announcer you hear but never see (except for the microphone that appears in the left of the frame) during the backstage footage is none other than Dean Hill.

Art by Kamala

Kamala the Ugandan Giant is one of the great heels of the last 30 years. He’s had some health issues as of late, but is on an upswing. He also recently released his autobiography, a must read for anyone who remembers his feuds with Hogan and Lawler.

Kamala is now offering a true one of a kind collectible. He is making a limited run of signed and numbered paintings of his face paint & torso art. These are not proofs; there will only be 30 of these made, and each one will be the real deal.

Prints are priced at $125 plus shipping and handling. You can order yours now by emailing Kenny Casanova at k9casanova@aol.com or contacting Kenny on1914916_10153208265781933_7549750480229404701_n Facebook.

Tuesday Night at the Gardens

If you’re a fan of Bluegrass Brawlers, you’re going to love this.

Jim Cornette has been working for two and a half years on a book about the Memphis era in Louisville. Today, that book is now available for purchase on Amazon.com and Jim’s website.

Tuesday Night at the Gardens is an in depth look at Louisville wrestling from 1970-1975. The book features complete results and more than 500 illustrations chronicling the rise of Memphis wrestling at Louisville Gardens. It’s a tremendous collectible for fans who remember the Memphis era and anyone interested in wrestling history.

If you order through Jim’s website right now, you will also get a two hour DVD featuring matches from that same era, absolutely free. If you’ve never seen the video compilations Cornette has put together (like his incredible Mid Atlantic films collection), you are in for a real treat.

Click here to visit JimCornette.com and pick up the new book and the free DVD. And if you haven’t already picked it up, be sure to get my book on Louisville history from 1880 to the present, Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville from Amazon.com.

New Hope for Louisville Gardens?

1101130843There’s a lot of buzz about the Louisville Gardens and a “hidden treasure” I discovered when working on Bluegrass Brawlers.

The treasure is a Kilgen pipe organ installed just above the stage area inside the Gardens. The pipe organ is also a one man band, with percussion and brass instruments incorporated into its workings. It’s a priceless treasure that, until recently, was in danger of being lost forever due to neglect of the building.

This week, both the Courier-Journal and WFPL radio ran stories about the building, the organ, and an effort to save them both. Click on the hyperlinks to read what they had to say.

Originally built as the Jefferson County Armory, the Louisville Gardens began hosting pro wrestling in 1913. Ed “Strangler” Lewis was one of the very first to main event inside the building. He was followed by a host of world champions and trail blazers including Charlie Cutler, Americus, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Wladek Zbyszko, Joe Stecher, Orville Brown, Bill Longson, Lou Thesz, Mildred Burke, Buddy Rogers, The Sheik, Fritz Von Erich, and Bobo Brazil.

During the Memphis years it was home to Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Dutch Mantell, Handsome Jimmy Valiant, Jimmy Hart, Jim Cornette, and the Fabulous Ones. Louisville Gardens also hosted many of the WWE’s biggest legends before they were stars, some with Memphis and others with OVW. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, The Undertaker, Kane, Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, John Cena, Batista, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton all worked the Gardens on their way to the top.

Andre the Giant wrestled there. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had his in-ring debut in the building. Bret Hart had his last successful WWF title defense before the Montreal Screwjob in the building. That same show was also Brian Pillman’s final PPV appearance before he passed away.

And yes, believe it or not, Andy Kaufman stepped into the Memphis ring inside Louisville Gardens.

Louisville Gardens is a beautiful building with an incredible history. The building and the organ are treasures that deserve to be preserved and enjoyed for years to come. Here’s hoping the Gardens has not seen the last wrestling match inside those hallowed halls.

Click here to view some photos of the organ on the Bluegrass Brawlers Facebook page. And please give the page a like while you are there!