Tagged in: rip rogers

The Power of Freight Train

Like many fans packed into the Jeffersonville ArenA last November for Terry Harper’s first wrestling show at the Southern Indiana venue, I was a little taken aback when I got my first look at Freight Train. He didn’t move like other wrestlers. He didn’t fight like other wrestlers. A couple of casual fans standing near me turned their noses up and left the building to smoke a cigarette until the match was over. It’s a shame they did, because the longer I watched Freight Train do what he does best, the more intrigued I became.

If you’re not familiar with the name, Freight Train is one of the stars of Five Dollar Wrestling. He’s a native of Charlotte, North Carolina who has achieved a level of success most can only dream of. He’s overcome the odds that stack up against every wannabe wrestler and then some. He’s the subject of the inspirational documentary, “The Power of Freight Train.”

I mentioned Freight Train didn’t move like other wrestlers. Freight Train has mild autism spectrum disorder known as Aspergers Syndrome. One of the hallmarks of Aspergers is a singular focus on one or more key interests. For Charles Stevenson, the boy who grew up to become Freight Train, there were two things that drew his interest more than any other: trains and wrestling.

Rather than hinder Stevenson’s dream of becoming a wrestler, his condition actually helped him to achieve his dream. Stevenson refused to take no for an answer when men told him he couldn’t train. He refused to take no for an answer when people wouldn’t book him. He ignored the people who laughed at him. He was persistent; he never gave up. And when 5 Dollar Wrestling opened a door, he made that dream come true.

Packed with interviews with friends and fans like like Colt Cabana, Mad Man Pondo, Crazy Mary Dobson, and even the notoriously old school Rip Rogers, “The Power of Freight Train” is a beautiful story not only of Charles Stevenson, but all the people whose lives have been touched along the way, especially Freight Train’s good friend and mentor “Manscout” Jake Manning. It was Manning who gave Freight Train a chance with 5 Dollar Wrestling, and Manning, more than anyone else, has been inspired and transformed by his friendship with the gentle giant.

“The Power of Freight Train” is a story even non-wrestling fans can enjoy. It’s an inspirational tale of a man who refused to give up on a dream and the hearts he changed along the way.

“The Power of Freight Train” is available only on High Spots.

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.

The Miz Is That Awesome

Last night my Facebook feed blew up with people proclaiming the Miz’s promo on Talking Smack as the promo of his life. I beg to differ. As great as last night was (and I defy to you tell me it wasnt great), the promo of his life took place a few years ago. There was no musical introduction. He didn’t come down the ramp. He walked around the side of the ramp into the arena, shooting about the road he took to get to the WWE and fulfill his dream.

I don’t recall anything specific he said that night, but I recall how it made me feel. It was the first time I truly believed in the Miz.

The Miz has worked for everything he has been given. His reality TV show fame did not translate to a free pass at OVW; Danny Davis and Rip Rogers would never allow it. He learned from old school guys how to make it in the business, and he learned his lessons well.

The Miz also seized the moment every chance he had. Roni Jonah tells a story about a time she was supposed to work a program as Seth Skyfire’s girlfriend at OVW. Paul Heyman was disappointed with the kiss Seth laid on Roni during a TV taping, and he let his feelings be known to the locker room. “You expect me to believe she’s your girlfriend with a kiss like that?”

The Miz spoke up: “She could be my girlfriend.” Within a few weeks, Roni left Seth on OVW TV for the Miz.

As opportunistic as he can be, the Miz also knows how to put people over when it’s his turn. Did you hear him on Talk is Jericho with Damien Mizdow? At first listen, it sounded like the Miz was there to put himself over Mizdow. Listen again; the Miz puts his tag partner over huge, and then quietly steps away. It was masterful.

Crazy Mary Dobson also experienced the generous side of the Miz in her first appearance on Raw. According to her, the Miz did everything he could to give her as much face time as possible, telling here where to stand so the camera would pick her up.

Crazy Mary’s story runs counter to the general perception most fans have of the Miz: he’s a big mouth hack, a talentless loser, an opportunist who is only out for himself. People who see the Miz that way are seeing exactly what the Miz wants them to see. They don’t see a guy who grew up loving wrestling playing a character on TV because they can’t distinguish the real man from his character.

In an age when kayfabe is supposedly dead and buried, the Miz has done the impossible. He has made himself a true heel in the eyes of the fans. He’s not getting booed because the fans understand that he’s playing a heel and that’s the story being told. He’s not being booed because he’s the heel people “love to hate.” He’s being booed because people truly hate the Miz.

The Miz is a rare talent that could easily has worked in a long-gone era. He’s the kind of guy who makes the fans forget they’re watching a show and boo from the bottom of their hearts. He’s a true student of the game who learned his lessons well, and he’s only getting better.

I don’t expect my thoughts to persuade many Miz haters to see him differently, and that’s okay. The Miz wouldn’t want you turning into a fan of his anyway. The more you hate the Miz, the more you’ll demand – and pay – to see him get his butt kicked

That, friends, is what makes the Miz AWESOME.

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

Rasslin’ lives at KDW

12227188_929057513815398_5586358663676153198_nThere’s something very unique about the way Kentuckiana Diehard Wrestling does their business. There’s nothing new about their brand of wrestling at all, but what they do is so old school, it’s a refreshing change for fans who have grown weary of “sports entertainment.”

KDW is a promotion run by men who grew up on rasslin’. Booker Vito Andretti grew up watching Memphis wrestling at Louisville Gardens in the late 70s, and he was trained by Danny Davis and Rip Rogers at OVW. “Many of the guys here were at OVW before WWE got there,” he says. “We came up with Dinsmore, Conway, Damaja, and (Doug) Basham. When Jim (Cornette) came in, he would make tapes of old matches with 5 pages of notes and hand them out to the WWE guys. They’d sniff at them and throw them in the trash, but we snatched them up and learned from them.”

The old school approach to wrestling means you won’t see young guys working hard to get all their spots into a match with reckless abandon. You’ll see Chris Alexander on the ring apron doing his best Robert Gibson impression, hyping up the crowd and pleading with the ref to stop the cheating while as his tag partner Dynamite Derrick takes a Ricky Morton-like beating in the ring. You’ll see Ravishing Rick Roberts go to work on Simon Sezz’s arm, taking advantage of an injury to weaken his opponent and beat him into submission. These are men who know how to structure a match, know how to engage the crowd, and know how to tell a story with their action. They have cowardly heels, prancing heels, and monster heels. They have scheming managers and fearless midgets. KDW is such a throwback, they even have a Moondog.

Many of the veterans at KDW are faces that old OVW fans will recognize. They were at OVW at the same time as Cena, Lesnar, and Orton. They still live by the lessons taught to them at OVW, and they are determined to pass them on to the next generation. Andretti teaches his proteges to go slower and work smarter, to pay attention to an audience, and to take care of their bodies. It’s wisdom he received from Danny Davis and Rip Rogers, wisdom they received from the generation before them.

KDW opened their doors in April of 2014. They started appropriately enough at the flea market in Memphis, Indiana before moving to the Arena in Jeffersonville this fall. They’ve been taping TV for months and are already on Roku’s Indie Wrestling Channel. Andretti recruited several former OVW students for their television production experience as well as their wrestling acumen, hoping to refine a show that is very much a work in progress. They just announced a permanent television announce team this week, and they have plans for more expansion in 2016.

KDW runs weekly in Jeffersonville at the Arena. Bell time is 5 pm, and tickets are only five dollars. You can also find them on the Indie Wrestling Channel, available free on Roku. If you’ve avoided indy wrestling, thinking it’s nothing but spot monkeys and young guys with no clue how to put a match together, KDW is a promotion that will not disappoint. It’s a veteran roster determined to keep the tradition of the past alive, now and in the future.

The Man of Tomorrow

11898628_943554585710617_1993227650622410364_nFans of Kenny Bolin know that Kenny is largely down on today’s wrestling and wrestlers. So when Kenny Bolin offers praise to one of the young independent wrestlers of today, he does not do so lightly. Such was the case when Kenny got back from the Lawler-Funk show in Tennessee, where Kenny got a look at The Man of Tomorrow, Daniel Eads. “Best new talent on the show,” says Kenny. “Me and Chris (the Prince, who is equally stingy with praise for today’s talent) liked him a lot.”

I first met Daniel Eads almost a year ago in New Albany. He’s a big guy with a good physique, and he stands out even among the biggest and fittest wrestlers. His fellow wrestlers suggested the nickname “Man of Tomorrow” because he bears a resemblance to Superman, but Eads will be the first to tell you he wasn’t born that way.

Eads grew up in a rough family situation. “I was a bit of an outcast. I was quiet and nerdy, and didnt have a back bone. I grew up with an abusive alcoholic stepdad, and dad that abandoned me. I was sexually abused, fought depression for half my life, and I didn’t have a great support system.”

Eads had some friends in school who were wrestling fans. This was the era of Goldberg, RVD, and Evolution in the WWE, and Eads began watching so he would have something to talk about with friends. Much as he enjoyed it, becoming a wrestler was never even a consideration for him. “I was a scrawny little kid that competed in cross country, track, and swimming. I weighed a whopping 125lbs. I had no muscle, no spine and no voice. Then I went to college started working out and next thing you know my soon to be best friend Ian Lowe is telling me to give it a shot. I thought I’d have a couple decent matches here and there, but it wasn’t until my match with Chase Stevens that even Ian finally said ‘Dude….You got it.'”

Eads began training with IWAU in Olney IL, under Josh Totten and Steven Davis and worked briefly with Tony Kozina with Rip Rogers at OVW in Louisville. Like the wisest of the young generation, Eads values the input of wrestling veterans, and he takes the opportunity to pick their brains any chance he gets, including Tracy Smothers, Chase Stevens, Jerry Lawler, Jim Cornette, and Bob Orton.

“He came to me to review his match,” says Kenny Bolin. “I was shocked he even knew who I was, but he seemed to know a lot.”

Wrestling has given Eads the support system he never had as a kid. “The fans were the first people to truly believe in me, and many of my friends in the business said that I was going to be the one to break out and become someone. So many have gone out of their way for me, not because I asked or begged, but because they see something and notice my work ethic. That’s what keeps me going every day, working to become bigger, stronger, faster.”

Like many young stars, Eads has his eyes set on the WWE, and he wants to achieve that dream for his supporters as much as for himself. “I’ve never been more convinced in my heart that I’m meant to do something like I am with wrestling. I’d sacrifice anything to achieve this opportunity and make this far fetched dream a reality.”

While Eads is not a Superman fan himself (he prefers Marvel over DC), he discovered he had much more in common with the Man of Steel than his looks. “Feeling like an outcast, never truly fitting in, yet feeling like I’m meant for big things. I love the gimmick because I can be a beacon of hope for people with my story and the things I can do inside and outside the gym. I want to ‘live the gimmick’ and be big, strong, fast, and agile like Superman is. And when I see kids get on the edge of their seats, there’s on better feeling.”

Currently, Daniel Eads can be seen working for Bert Prentice and USA Championship Wrestling in Tennessee and Southern Illinois. Given his deep respect for the past and his drive to succeed, Eads is headed for even greater things in the future. Take a good look at the Man of Tomorrow, folks. He may well be the Superstar of Tomorrow as well.

Mitchell Huff has more views than you

chosen one moYes, jabroni, Mitchell Huff has more views than you. As a matter of fact at last count, he’s crushing you.

Mitchell Huff is an OVW-trained talent, taught by the likes of Danny Davis and Rip Rogers.

Huff is no rookie. He started training years ago. He took several years off from the business, and it’s a credit to his talent that as soon as he stepped back in, he became a sought after main event level player across the Midwest.

Huff is no beer bellied slouch either. Go see him in person. He’s ripped, and he’s worked hard to get there.

Mitchell’s also become an in-demand trainer here in Southern Indiana. I’m sure he’d welcome you into his class, if you were man enough to try. I’m sure you wouldn’t last.

Mitchell thought your video was funny. So did his friends. They know there’s a reason why Mitchell is called the Chosen One.

Hope you got a lot of hits riding on Mitchell’s coat tails. That’s all you wanted, I’m sure, because you definitely don’t belong in a ring with Mitchell Huff. He is the Chosen One, and you… well, you’re just trying to get famous off someone else’s hard work.

No, I will not repost your video here. But I will share Mitchell’s. He is Tough Enough.

OVW HD – A new Indiegogo Campaign!

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!