Tagged in: Nick Dinsmore

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.

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?

Mitch Johnson is The Man

12717269_10205815297969136_714870595142457369_nMitch Johnson is one of the quietest guys in the locker room before a show. He’s well-dressed, he shakes hands with everyone, but if you saw him before the doors opened, you would never guess this seemingly shy individual will be the most hated man in the building before the evening ends.

When Johnson steps through the curtain, microphone in hand, Dr. Jeckyll transforms into Mr. Hyde. He’s loud, arrogant, and brash. He has the fans booing and screaming even before he eviscerates them and their hometown. Johnson talks the talk with the very best, and when the talking is done, he backs it up in the ring.

Mitch Johnson is a proud native of Detroit, Michigan who grew up idolizing Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Sting, Ric Flair, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart, and Chris Benoit. He trained initially with the legendary Rip Rogers, but just as he had many heroes, he credits many mentors with his success. “I’ve learned a lot from guys like Ron Conway, Al Snow, Nick Dinsmore, Jim Cornette, Danny Davis and Mike Mondo.”

Johnson has wrestled in 42 states, sharing the ring Rob Conway, Jerry Lynn, Necro Butcher, Rhyno, Eugene, Cliff Compton, Brad Maddox, and Tommy Dreamer. “I’ve also worked for WWE a few times and wrestled dark matches with guys like Fit Finley, Justin Gabriel, and Dolph Ziggler.”

“Mitch Johnson seems arrogant,” says his friend and former boss, Rick Brady of D1W. “He appears whiny, disrespectful, and at times lazy. But that is the furthest thing from the truth. When Christian Mascagni brought him to D1W, I thought he would be done in four shows. Over three years later, he has become one of the most professional, dependable and loyal people that you can count on.

Perhaps the best testament to Johnson’s success is his collection of title belts. Johnson has forced his way into the title picture for nearly every promotion he’s worked for, and he says he’s lost count how many he has won and lost. At the start of 2016 he was holding five belts. “The CPU heavyweight title, the undisputed title, HPW inter-gender tag team titles, the NWA Illinois state champion, and NWA Missouri State championship.

Johnson has been without a home promotion since D1W went on hiatus in early 2015, but Brady continues to sing Johnson’s praises. “I personally managed him and watched as his career took off firsthand. Fans hate him. Workers hate him. But that guy is living the dream, and earning every step. Promoters love him and there is a reason for that. As long as I run shows, he and Amanda will always have a spot.”

If Brady’s recommendation isn’t enough to potential promoters, then here’s one from me. Mitch is a must-see if he’s on the card in my area. He’s unflappable on the microphone, and he can hang with anyone in the ring. He’s a heat magnet with fans, an old school heel who can kick off a show with a bang or close it with a fury.

To paraphrase his preferred entrance music: he’s the man.

Mitch Johnson can be followed on Twitter @Johnsonera