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About this Diva Revolution

1797971_699268903502709_2186941647616043393_nI write about wrestling. I do not aspire to write for a wrestling show or promotion or work for one in any way. I do not pretend to know how to book things better than the people who are booking for any promotion, big or small, national or local.

That said, I think it’s obvious to just about everyone watching that something is not right with this Diva’s Revolution.

The WWE held three shows in a row in the same building. On Saturday night, Sasha Banks and Bayley stole the show. They tore the house down, they held the crowd in the palm of their hands, they put on the match of the night.

Before that even happened, 15,000 plus chanted for a young woman named Blue Pants. When Big Cass’s voice started singing “The Price is Right” theme over the sound system, the fans blew the roof off the building for a woman who isn’t even signed to the company!

And then, Monday night happened. Same building. A lot of the same fans. Completely different reaction.

Something is wrong.

No, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, I do not believe it’s because no one wants to see women wrestle.

I’m not going to offer suggestions and fixes. Again, I write about wrestling, and I’m not going to pretend I know how to fix it. I am going to say that if the WWE blows this, that doesn’t mean women’s wrestling is dead. I’ve seen first hand that it’s alive and well. Women are main eventing with each other, competing one on one with men, and selling out arenas even when no men are on the card.

Women even have whole promotions and shows dedicated to them. Shimmer. Shine. WSU. Femme Fatale. Girl Fight. That’s just for starters.

Let’s hope someone at WWE who knows how to book wrestling gives the women on the main roster the booking they have EARNED and deserve. Meantime, don’t wait for Vince and Co. to get it right. Go see an indy show and see for yourself how things should be.

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Everybody loves Blue Pants!

The best things in professional wrestling are often the things that happen organically. They are not the result of a promoter’s careful planning and execution, but the sum of a dozen or more happy accidents that all fall together. Such is the story of Blue Pants, a woman brought in as enhancement talent at the last minute, who suddenly became a bona fide NXT Superstar.

Like many pro wrestlers, Leva Bates grew up watching wrestling. The daughter of a single mom, she spent a lot of time with the neighbor next door, whose son was a wrestling fan. “We watched it on TV all the time, and we’d occasionally go out to see the matches.” Bates doesn’t recall anyone specific (though her sisters quick to point out one of the highlights was seeing Bill Dundee vs. Jerry Lawler), but she credits those early years will giving her a passion for the sport.

After graduating college with a degree in radio/tv as well as acting, she enrolled at FXC in Florida, where she trained with D-Von Dudley, A.J. Gallant, and Matt Bentley. When D-Von left to start the Team 3D Academy with his tag partner Bubba Ray, Leva followed him. “They both were very hands on and taught everything, but D-Von did a lot of the mat training while Bubba Ray specialized more in match psychology, characters, and mic work.” Bates is a 3-D graduate but still returns to work on things with a personal trainer Dan Carr, who once worked with the American Gladiators.

After leaving school and beginning her wrestling career, Bates did what many wrestlers do: she filled out the application on the WWE’s recruitment page. She got the chance to work a few Raw and Smackdown shows as an extra. Then one day, she got the call that she was going to be on NXT. “It was the day of the show,” she remembers.

Leva showed up in a McChris T-shirt and a pair of blue pants. Prior to the TV taping, they were working out the flow of the show. Enzo and Cass were to come to the ring with Carmella, one of the newest NXT Divas, and when a match with Enzo’s rival Sylvester Lefort didn’t pan out, Enzo would turn to Carmella and ask her if she wanted to wrestle.

“Most of the time, the enhancement workers don’t get an entrance or even their name called. They just appear in the ring after a commercial break, but because of the way this story line was playing out, they had to have a way to bring me out. Triple H was at ringside working with Enzo and Cass. I was backstage with Sara Amato (former indy star Sara Del Ray). Enzo and Cass kept ad libbing different ways of introducing me. I heard Cass say, ‘Hey, you back there with the blue pants! Blue pants, come on down!’ I looked at Sara, and we both laughed. We knew that was it.”

What they did not know was how the fans would respond. “The fans started chanting my name. They started singing the ‘Price is Right’ theme for me. I went along with it and played it up. I was like, ‘Yeah! I wear blue pants! I love my blue pants!’ The fans ate it up, and that was how it took off.”

Blue Pants has become a beloved regular at NXT, facing off with Sasha Banks, Emma, and Dana Brooke. She even got her own theme music – the “Price is Right” theme sung a cappella by Big Cass – and her own Titantron video.

“I was amazed how involved Triple H was, even with that. He was working with the video guy to get just the right image. ‘No, make the pants bigger. No, a little smaller.’ He’s very hands on about everything.”

Being backstage at NXT has been a huge learning and growth experience for Bates. “It’s a completely different level. As a radio/TV grad, it’s really cool seeing the directors and agents and crew who make the show work backstage.”

Bates found the staff at NXT to be especially helpful. She took advantage of every visit to learn from Sara Amato, Albert, Triple H, Michael Hayes, Robby Brookside, and the late Dusty Rhodes.

“The third of fourth time I was there, I was peppering Dusty with questions. I was going on and on, and all of a sudden, Dusty turns and yells, “Shut up, Blue Pants!’ I was like, ‘Dusty??’ He put his arm around me and he said, ‘It’s alright, Blue Pants. It’ll be alright.’”

Bates found a lot in common with Rhodes. “He got yellow polka dots over. I got over with Blue Pants. I don’t know if he ever made the connection, but I did. It was really special.”

Bates is more than just enhancement talent. On the independent scene she is a seasoned veteran and an accomplished main event talent. When I asked her what matches fans should look up to see who Leva Bates is, she pointed to her recent appearance at Resistance Pro Wrestling. “I was against Crazy Mary Dobson, and we were the main event. It was a really great match.”

Bates also talked about her match against Mia Yim during the Shine Women’s Championship. “That was her best,” says her very proud mother.

Bates loves to have fun and has a great sense of humor. That love of fun was especially evident in a match for Shimmer when she faced Marty Bell. Bates is known for cosplay, dressing up as characters from comic books and movies, and on this occasion, she dressed as Pee Wee Herman.

“Before the match, I told the crowd the secret words was Three. Every time the ref would start counting, ‘One, two, three,’ the fans would scream. Marty would twist my arm, the ref would count, and on three, the fans would scream. The coolest thing was the secret word lasted the rest of the night. Any time a ref counted three, the fans screamed!”

Outside the ring, Bates is just as fun-loving and approachable as her in-ring character suggests. After the Girl Fight show in Jeffersonville, Indiana, she was the last of the wrestlers to be at the gimmick tables – no longer selling, but just talking to fans. She only packed up after promoter Madman Pondo fussed at her – three times – to wrap things up. Even then, she delayed Pondo from getting to his post show dinner as she paused to talk and take pictures with fans on her way to the locker room.

As we finished our interview, which took place at a downtown pizza place in Louisville after a show, Crazy Mary Dobson brought a young man over to the table where I was sitting with Bates, her mom, her sister, and nieces. He was an NXT fan, and when he learned who was sitting at the table, he began shouting to the whole restaurant. “It’s Blue Pants! Blue Pants is here! Blue Pants!”

The cheers of Blue Pants led to an “NXT!” chant. Leva blushed at first but began pumping her arms in the air, enjoying the moment just like her alter ego. Yes, she’s an unlikely superstar, but that’s what makes her so darn likable. She’s quirky, she’s fun, and when she hits the ring at NXT, Shimmer, or anywhere else, you’re going to have a good time.

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RIP American Dream

There’s a story in Eat Sleep Wrestle about Dusty Rhodes from Ian Rotten. Ian was in his early twenties when he booked one of his great heroes for IWA Mid-South, Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes proved to be a gracious guest, who called Ian a week later to thank him for the booking and the beer in his hotel fridge. But it was when they were planning their tag match that Rhodes made the deepest impression on the young promoter. “He said, ‘How about when it’s time for the finish, I throw you the elbow pad, and you do the Atomic Elbow?’ When he said that, it was like I could hear angels singing from Heaven!”

Dusty was always doing things to encourage the future stars in the business. Kenny Bolin share with me how open and accessible Dusty was for the students at OVW. “The sad thing was, these kids had all access to Dusty any time they wanted him, and none of them knew who he was.”

Dusty left a huge mark on the WWE stars of today. Very few of the new stars coming out of the Performance Center have not been touched or coached by the American Dream. His spirit, his passion, and his wisdom will be sorely missed.

There was no one like Dusty Rhodes before him, and there never will be again. He is irreplaceable. He will never be forgotten.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends and all who are grieving today.

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Are they Tough Enough?

I decided to compile a list of Tough Enough hopefuls who have worked the Louisville area for those who want to keep tabs and support them. In no particular order, here they are:

Shane Mercer

LuFisto

Mitchell Huff

Michael Hayes

Victoria Webb

Dylan Bostic

Lou Crank

Tim Donst is not a local, and only made his area debut last December, but I’ve been following his fight with cancer and have to include him here.

And even though he retired from the ring to pursue movies, I have to give a shout out to my old friend the Prophet – or is it the Shepherd – Ben Wood.

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The Women’s Wrestling Revolution Continues

10535641_385023985019013_4645483892159298916_oLast week, it was the women – not the men – stole the show on a live NXT special broadcast on the WWE Network. It wasn’t the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Insider reports say that Triple H and Stephanie are pleased with how the women have been presented on NXT and want to change how they are presented on the main WWE product, but Vince McMahon refuses to allow change to happen.

Meanwhile, in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Mad Man Pondo remains a few steps ahead of all three of them.

Following a sensational debut with the May Girl Fight show, Pondo’s Strictly Nsane Wrestling has announced a second show on July 7. Pondo’s bringing back some of the women who made this a can’t miss event including Crazy Mary Dobson, The Lovely Lylah, and Mary Elizabeth Monroe, and he’s added two more stars to the lineup: indie darling and grassroots Tough Enough hopeful LuFisto; and the most popular woman on WWE programming without a WWE contract, “Blue Pants” Leva Bates.

Decades ago, women like Mildred Burke were powerful and popular enough to actually headline a wrestling card. Women’s wrestling has been treated as a side show attraction for a long time, but indie fans are finally recognizing that the women of the squared circle are not filler. They are wrestlers to the core, and on any given night they can steal the show.

July 7 at the ArenA in Jeffersonville, they are the show!

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Meet Crazy Mary Dobson

1797971_699268903502709_2186941647616043393_nWe are two days from Girl Fight at the ArenA in Jeffersonville, and today’s introduction features the hometown girl who has taken the wrestling world by storm.

Some kids get into wrestling because of their Dad. Crazy Mary Dobson got into wrestling because of her Grandma.

Growing up, Crazy Mary was surrounded by boys, so she mostly did what the boys did: play video games and wrestle. She started watching wrestling on TV with her grandmother and in 2011, she went to her first Juggalo Championship Wrestling show. That’s where she saw Mad Man Pondo for the first time.

Shortly after the JCW, Mary decided that wrestling was for her. She reached out to Pondo on MySpace and asked him how she could get her start. “He told me that Mickie Knuckles could train me, if I could get to Charlestown, Indiana. I wrote him back and told him, ‘I live in Charlestown, Indiana!’”

Mary has since traveled the world, wrestling and training any place that would have her. She’s been to Japan, England, and Germany. She’s been in barbed wire death matches and mixed gender tag matches. She’s even attracted the attention of the WWE, where she’s been a Rosebud, Miz’s makeup girl, Kane’s boss, and most recently… Becky Lynch’s opponent on NXT, Sarah Dobson.

Crazy Mary is a high flier, an energetic performer who loves getting dropped on her head as much as she loves leaping from the top rope. “Lufisto told me she loved me because I like getting dropped on my head as much as she does!”

She has a pin fall victory over Amazing Kong, and she’s the co-owner of the JCW Tag Team Championship with Mad Man Pondo. At Girl Fight, she goes head to head with the daughter of a legend: Tessa Blanchard.

If you’re in the Louisville area, this is a can’t miss opportunity.

Nothing’s for sure in the world of wrestling, but Crazy Mary may very well be on her way to the top of the industry. We’ve been spoiled rotten in this area the last few years, watching her grow and mature into one of the must see attractions in independent wrestling. This could be your last chance to be able to say, “I saw her before she became a legend!”

You can follow Crazy Mary on Twitter @crazymarydobson. You can also read more of her story in Eat Sleep Wrestle.

Keep your eyes open; you’ll likely see her on WWE television again very soon.

(Photo credit: Ichiban Drunk.)

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One step closer…

11150237_998391110194268_8290898454189391646_nMad Man Pondo posted a few photos on Facebook tonight, and I had to pass one along. That’s Becky Lynch on the right, who just became the number one contender for the NXT Women’s Championship last night. On the right is one of the featured stars from Eat Sleep Wrestle, Crazy Mary Dobson, whom they billed as Sarah Dobson.

The WWE has shown a lot of interest in the Southern Indiana native, and this has to make her fans around the world very excited. Fingers crossed the WWE brass saw what indy fans have known for some time: Sarah is awesome.

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Catch up with Drake Younger

WWE published a great interview with Drake Wuertz on their website. Fans of IWA Mid-South, CZW, and PWG will remember Wuertz as Drake Younger, an outstanding indy wrestler with a brutal hardcore past. Wuertz signed with WWE in early 2014 and turned up on NXT in the unlikely role of a referee. While his indy fans may still be a bit disappointed, it’s clear Wuertz is happy and enjoying his role. He’s also doing a great job.

Click here to read about Drake on WWE.com