June Byers started her wrestling career in a Houston ring during the 1940s. After becoming one of the most hated and feared heels in the ring, she became a two-time Women’s Tag Team Champion with Millie Stafford and Mary Jane Mull. Byers won a tournament in 1953 for the Women’s World Championship, a victory tainted by the absence of the reigning champion at the time, Mildred Burke. A year later, Byers and Burke faced off in what’s been called the last real shoot wrestling match in history, a match that ended with Byers staking her claim to the crown. Despite numerous claims and stories to the controversy, Byers never relinquished her title and retired unconquered on January 1, 1964.
Byers has often been portrayed as a real life villain, especially within the story of Mildred Burke, but The Great and Inimitable June Byers proves there are always two sides to every story. True, Byers was ambitious, and she could be extremely stiff in the ring. She was also a savvy businesswoman, a beloved mentor and friend, a true Southern lady who smelled like orange blossoms, abhorred swearing, and insisted on being called Grandmother.
Author John Cosper is no stranger to the era of June Byers, having previously penned biographies on Elvira Snodgrass, Mars Bennett, and “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell. The Great and Inimitable June Byers includes interviews with the grandchildren of both June Byers family and women’s wrestling impresario Billy Wolfe; insights from other noted wrestling historians; and never-before-published photos of the great Women’s Champion.
I started writing about independent wrestling nine years ago. One thing I learned early on: never do a write up about a wrestler who says they are retiring. Especially one known for their time on the independents. It’s very clear wrestlers do not retire. Not completely. Like writers, musicians, actors, and other such artists, it’s too much in their blood.
Case in point: Jake Crist. I wrote about his retirement seven, maybe eight years ago when he announced it on social media. I saw him in Ironton, Ohio a few months ago, and last night, November 4, 2023, he make local boy Jackie Thad look like a true threat to steal his Wrestling Revolver Heavyweight Championship in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
Jake’s appearance in this small Kentucky town took place at the request of Generation Next Pro Wrestling promoter, and long-time fan favorite, Legendary Larry D. The occasion: Larry D’s Last Stand. Yes, Larry D, a stalwart of IWA Mid-South who also worked for the NWA and Impact Wrestling, announced months ago his plan to retire after 22 years of wrestling, and a whole lot of family, friends, and rivals showed up to mark the occasion.
I know. I just said I don’t write about retiring wrestlers. But this is not a blog about a retiring wrestler. It’s about a show that celebrated a man, his career, his family (blood and otherwise), and above all else: pro wrestling.
“The Franchise” Shane Douglas made sure to drive that final point home after his match with Gen Next star Nate Gnarly. As Nate stood by, a steel chair in hand, Shane got on the mic and showed he still has it when it comes to cutting a promo. In a fiery sermon-like performance, he denounced all things sports entertainment while praising professional wrestling. He then put Generation Next over as a place where professional wrestling lives and Larry D as a man whose work kept it alive and well.
Douglas was one of the bigger names in the house to celebrate Larry D. Alex Zayne took on Gen Next’s Kellin Craven. Crazzy Steve defeated Gaston LaRue. “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart was in the house, greeting fans and signing autographs. And the five woman scramble included Netflix Wrestlers star Amazing Maria as well as Larry’s wife and fellow grappler, Paige Jones.
Everyone who took part in the event had been touched by Larry D in one way or another. Some, like Crazzy Steve and “Unsigned, Don’t Care” Aaron Williams, were colleagues, fellow road warriors, locker room mates. Some, like Maria and referee Aaron Grider (also of Wrestlers on Netflix) were students. Many work for Larry today as part of the growing, thriving independent dubbed Generation Next.
You can judge a man by the number of people who call him a friend, a mentor, and inspiration. By that measure, Larry D stood tall on Saturday night.
Multi-man (and woman) matches abounded on a card jam packed with talent. The six-man Hoss Scramble that kicked off the evening’s second half was a tremendous highlight, featuring super heavyweights Xoziac, Derek Neal, Drew Dillinger, Brandon Taggart, and the Monster, Kongo Kong. The smallest man in the ring was, pound for pound, arguably the strongest man on the show: Shane Mercer. The behemoths hit hard, took to the air, and defied gravity in numerous ways. Shane Mercer hit his improbably backflip off the second rope while carrying Drew Dillinger, and Kongo Kong actually joined in the diving action.
Jake Crist and Jackie Thad followed the Hoss Scramble, setting the stage for the main event. Larry D chose a man he worked with at Impact to be his final opponent, Moose.
Can I just say, what a thrill it was to actually see Moose wrestle? As an off and on Impact subscriber, Moose was always one of my favorites. He’s bigger in real life than he appears on TV, and after babyfacing the crowd briefly, he set himself up to be the heel, telling everyone how excited he was to put an end to Larry’s career.
The Legend had been in and out of the arena all night. This was his show, and he not only made sure things ran smoothly, he made time to take photos and sign autographs himself. Everyone wanted to shake his hand, to say thank you, and share the moment. I haven’t known Larry very long, and I still can’t say I know him well. I can tell you he’s a kind and generous man, a true Kentucky gentleman who has given far more to pro wrestling than he has taken away.
I won’t spoil this match any more than I have the others. The show is available on pay-per-view, and I’d encourage lovers of Larry D and good, grassroots professional wrestling to watch. I will say that Larry D went out in the most traditional, emotional fashion you could imagine. Moose switched back to babyface, expressed his love for Larry, and stepped aside as Larry’s family joined him in the ring.
Tears flowed all over the building as Larry took a seat and Paige unlaced his boots and removed them. She took Larry’s pads as well, laying them on top of the boots. Shane Douglas’s words rang true: this is professional wrestling. This is as traditional a finale as any professional wrestler ever had.
Larry took to the mic and thanked the crowd. he thanked his family, assuring them he was at peace with his decision, a decision he’d made for them. Wrestling take a man or a woman many miles all over the country, all over the world. As much as wrestlers sacrifice for the business they love, their families often sacrifice more. Larry made it clear, this choice was about his family. They hugged. They cried. They celebrated.
Then Larry assured the fans that while part of his story had come to a close, a new one was beginning. The best is yet to come for Generation Next, and anyone who wanted to be a pro wrestler was welcome to sign up and train at Legends Pro Wrestling Academy in Cynthiana.
It was especially fun watching the event alongside a former high school classmate who lives in nearby Georgetown. Lisa’s not what you’d call a wrestling “fan”, more a spectator who got into watching thanks to her teenage son and her friendship with me. We were both near the top of our class in high school, and she went on to graduate from a Big Ten university and become a highly decorated school teacher.
Outside of those circumstances, she’s one of the last people I’d ever expect to see walking into such a place. But she cheered and gasped and applauded and laughed as hard as anyone in the building, proving that there’s something about the drama of pro wrestling that connects with everyone.
I’ve witnessed some huge wrestling events in person: Wrestlemania 27; the Survivor Series debut of The Shield; ALL IN in 2018. As exciting as those shows were, some of my favorite memories took place in smaller towns on smaller shows. I love all my friends and family at FTC in Ashland, Kentucky. I enjoyed the night I spent in Somerset with two dearly departed friends: Tracy Smothers and Hurricane JJ Maguire.
You can add Cynthiana to that list. Generation Next has something special going on. The fans were packed shoulder to shoulder all the way to the rafters Saturday night, and they were more energized start to finish than the AEW crowd I saw in Louisville just three days prior. The wrestling was enjoyable. Every match had something special, and the big name guests were more than willing to put the young stars of Gen Next over.
More than anything, Gen Next has Larry D. He may never set foot in a ring to wrestle another match, but he has a new mission. The loving family man and ridiculously busy entrepreneur (How many businesses are you running, Larry?) pledged to continue pouring his experience and wisdom into a promising roster of kids down in Cynthiana. Larry certainly belongs on the short list of great pro wrestling teachers in Kentucky, a list that includes Al Snow and Bobby Blaze.
Sami Callihan is a rare breed, and as I said on Twitter, I am glad to be living in a time I get to see him work. His Wrestling Revolver promotion is the most fan-friendly and wrestler-friendly group I’ve seen in action. And Sami himself is always memorable. I’m still talking about the night he went Tommy Lasorda on two small kids in Fort Wayne, Indiana, screaming back in their faces, turning his ball cap around, and pretending to kick dust on them.
Sami made those kids’ night. I’m certain they still remember it as vividly.
What’s cool is seeing a Hollywood talent like Jason Segal playing along, making the moment even greater and giving Sami a viral moment – one he’ll no doubt be sharing forever. I always liked Jason Segal, and I love him more after this.
And Sami? Well, I can’t wait to see what the guy does next.
Cool to wake up this morning and see OVW and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell mentioned in the weekly email newsletter from the Frazier History Museum.
A few years ago, I donated some items from my personal Jim Mitchell collection to the Frazier. They’ve got programs, photos, posters, and even a pair of Mitchell’s boots, as shown in the video below.
Brian West, a teaching artist at the Frazier, does a wonderful job recapping the history of wrestling in Louisville before delving into the Netflix series, Wrestlers. If you haven’t watched it already, The seven-part doc us available to watch on Netflix, and if ratings are high enough, a second season is a distinct possibility.
Wrestlers has made Haley J, Cash Flo, Amazing Maria, Mahabali Shera, and more bigger stars in the wrestling world and the reality TV world. It’s exciting to see so many long-time friends getting screen time, seen by millions of Netflix subscribers around the world.
The Frazier History Museum is a wonderful place to visit if you love history. Some highlights of their collection include a pair of pistols that belonged to General Custer and Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick” hunting rifle. Visit Frazier’s website for more information.
You can read Brian West’s write up in the newsletter by clicking here.
Two things I learned early on after I started writing about pro wrestling:
No one ever retires, so don’t bother writing about it when someone says they are retiring.
People you love are going to die young, and unexpectedly.
It’s an unfortunate fact about pro wrestling: many wrestlers die long before their time. Sometimes it’s the abuse they put on their bodies, physically and chemically. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted. Sometimes it’s just plain and simple misfortune.
Not a day goes by I don’t think about two men I knew well who have passed: Tracy Smothers and JJ Maguire. Tracy and JJ both kept in regular contact with me. I’d get a call from JJ every few weeks, just to catch up. Tracy texted and called all the time, and Tracy was never hesitant to say, “I love you.”
For some time now, I’ve been wanting to write about a man who has been gone since 1955. He’s not a name most if you will know, but he was known to “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell.
John Madison LaRue was born in Venus, Texas on August 25, 1906. He started wrestling professionally in the early 1930s, and WrestlingData.com records his last match taking place in 1947.
LaRue was in Tucson, Arizona during the summer of 1955 when Jim Mitchell and his protege Ricky Waldo were working the desert circuit. While passing through Tucson, the news of a recent incident reached Mitchell, who recorded the following in his ledger book:
As Tracy Smothers used to put it, “Tell a friend, telephone, tell a wrestler.”
LaRue’s troubles started a few days before Mitchell and Waldo hit Tucson on the 26th. On Saturday the 23rd, police were called to the scene of a man on a roof creating a disturbance. LaRue had been drinking and destroyed a mirror and some telephone wires in his rented apartment. LaRue told police that “Everything is wired,” as they carted him off to the hospital.
An hour later, police received a second call about a disturbance. It was LaRue again, tearing up street signs, ordering drinks in a bar without paying for them, and harassing guests at a local motel. LaRue earned a trip to jail this time, and the following morning, he was placed in a straight jacket after tearing up his cell.
Mitchell’s written account indicates there was more to the story, or at least a second version of events that didn’t make it into the papers.
LaRue had previously been treated for mental illness at a veteran’s hospital in Texas. After ten days in Arizona, LaRue boarded a train with two hospital attendants, bound for a facility in Texas.
LaRue would never make it to the hospital. He was found dead on the train on Thursday, August 4, 1955, just a few miles from his destination.
Authorities delivered John LaRue’s body to a Fort Worth, Texas funeral home. A local coroner examined the body and confirmed the death was by natural causes. LaRue was three weeks short of his 49th birthday when he passed away.
Reading between the lines, we can make some educated guesses as to what took the life of John LaRue. Perhaps his mental health issues stemmed from his time in the service. He might have suffered head trauma during his years in the ring. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Regardless of what issues John LaRue had, he gave his time and his talents to entertain wrestling fans. He died at a young age under mysterious circumstances like many wrestlers before and after him. He had a story. A tragic tale, yes, but one all his own.
Not every story is a big one. Not every story is worthy of a book or even a blog post. But every life matters to someone, be it family, friends, or fans.
Wrestlers feel every loss, no matter how big or small the name. Mitchell felt the loss of LaRue the same way Jimmy Hart felt the passing of JJ Maguire. You never know when someone’s time is up, and often, you never know the underlying issues that might lead to their passing.
Cherish the moments you have, as fans and as wrestlers. As Tracy always said, “Love each other.” And as my friend Aaron Grider and many others say, “Take the damn pictures.”
I have an oddball story about a wrestler who worked with The Black Panther Jim Mitchell that I was planning to share today. Instead, I’m going to share some documents found in Mitchell’s home long after he passed away: his 1952 tax return.
Jim Mitchell lived in Toledo at the time he and his wife Julia filed the following documents with the IRS. It appears the couple declared income from both his wrestling career and some rental property they owned at the time.
The street address, 948 Pinewood Ave, is not the address of the Lincoln Street home where these documents were found, but it is relatively close to Dorr Street, where Mitchell would open and operate a liquor store for many years.
I’ve been teasing this all week. It’s time for a reveal. My next historical biography tells the story of June Byers.
She was born and raised in Texas and earned the nickname The Texas Tornado, decades before Kerry Von Erich’s run in WWF. She’s one of the key players in the upcoming Mildred Burke biopic, portrayed by former NWA Women’s World Champion Kamille.
A remarkable athlete, June worked out relentlessly. It was said she drank so much orange juice, she smelled like orange blossoms. She was known for her roughhouse style, a vicious chest lick, and a unique finisher she says she created by accident: the Byers Bridge.
June Byers won the title of Women’s World Champion after winning a tournament in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953. A year later, she solidified her status as champion (in controversial fashion) when she scored a pin fall against Mildred Burke in a match that was called early.
Less than a year after that victory, June’s “successor” began spreading stories she had defeated the new champ. Despite numerous claims to the contrary, Moolah never faced June for the title, and no one ever dethroned June Byers. She retired as champion on January 1, 1964.
Many fans and historians view June as a villain in real life as well as the ring. Her role in the Mildred Burke story, along with rumors of her relationship with Billy Wolfe, cast a dark shadow over her life and career. But there’s so much more to the story than being in the right place at the right time to succeed Mildred Burke. June was a true Southern lady who abhorred swearing. She loved cooking, horseback riding, making music, and raising her pups. And she loved her kids and her grandchildren.
I’m grateful not only to the many pro wrestling historians who aided with this project (including Chris Bergstrom, Tamaya Greenlee, Jeff Lean, Greg Oliver, Jason Presley, Pat LaPrade Tom Burke, and Vance Nevada), but the family members who generously shared their time, stories, and photos. I speak not only of June’s granddaughters Kay Parker and Debra Nowaski but Billy Wolfe’s granddaughters Betsy Wolfe and Mickie-Mae Johnson, daughters of June’s ex-husband G. Bill Wolfe and her friend and protege Betsy Ross.
A tip of the hat to Mars Bennett’s niece Marcella Robinette. Just as my work on Elvira Snodgrass led me to Mars, Mars Bennett’s vacation photos with June and Billy Boy convinced me to tell June’s story.
A huge thank you to Kamille, who not only plays June in Queen of the Ring but generously took time to write the foreword for the book.
Look for June’s biography on this website and Amazon in early November.
If you want to get the feel for what OVW was like in the WWE Developmental hey day, you better get over there now. If you can get tickets.
Somewhere around 2001-2002, right after the first class of OVW (Cena, Lesnar, yada yada) left for the main roster, OVW was electric every week. Fans lined up early and packed the house because you literally never knew who you might see. Kurt Angle in the main event. Or Bradshaw and Ron Simmons. Or the Big Show. Maybe Shelton Benjamin might come back for a one off match, or Batista. Or maybe Eddie Guererro would put in an appearance.
It was the unannounced drop-ins, even more than the WWE prospects Superstars, that made it so exciting. Jim Ross might show up. Molly Holly might make a surprise appearance. Anything could happen at OVW. In Louisville. In tiny Davis Arena.
Let me be clear: OVW, the company, was really no different tonight than the OVW I’ve been attending regularly for 14 months now. They advanced their storylines, slowly, deliberately. Old School. They put on terrific matches. The Outrunners energized the crowd. Luke Kurtis bumped like a maniac in a killer opening match with Tony Gunn. Shaloncè Royal was, as usual, totally unappreciated for her musical genius. Will Austin pulled off another move that made even his biggest haters gasp. And yes, Joe Mack and Gracie called each other babies.
What was different was the crowd. Netflix has made superstars of the men and women, veterans and young kids, who just happened to be at the right place and the right time in 2022. People who forgot OVW was here, and people who never heard of OVW, are clamoring for tickets. Tonight, during a commercial break, Eric Cornish asked if anyone had come from beyond Indiana and Kentucky. There were two from Michigan. A half dozen from North Carolina. And a pair from Los Angeles.
Tonight’s show sold out on Sunday, and the people who filled the seats came to have fun. They cheered. They booed. They roared with an intensity I have not seen or heard since the Developmental days. Every man and woman who set foot in the ring tonight felt it and fed off it.
The Outrunners were more jazzed and energized than usual, which is really saying something. Luke Kurtis had an extra bounce in his bumps. Cash Flo grinned ear to ear cutting his promo, introducing his tag team partner for the Nightmare Cup on the October 21 PPV – which, incidentally is sold out.
And then came Shera.
Cash Flo, Al Snow, and Haley J have received the biggest pops since Wrestlers debuted on Netflix a month ago, but the fans have been dying to full-on cheer Mahabali Shera. When he came out on the 14th, the night after the Netflix premiere, they cheered him. He was still a heel. He had Shannon the Dude at ringside. But everyone wanted a high five, a fist bump. Shera couldn’t help smiling.
Shera did not appear on the 21st, the night of the first sell out. A week later, on the 28th, they teased a babyface turn. Last week, October 5, they confirmed that turn.
Tonight, the crowd chanted “Shera! Shera! Shera!” even before Cash Flo could introduce him. When he burst through the curtain, the roof blew off the metal building at 4400 Old Shep. It felt like the old days.
But this is a new day. These are not hand-picked WWE prospects with cameos from main roster Superstars. These are long time indie veterans who refused to give up on the dream. These are new, unknown, rising stars whose progress you can literally watch happen week to week. I said it before, I saw it with Luke Kurtis. I’m seeing it with Tony Evans and his boo-inducing “HUSH!” gimmick. I’m seeing it with Will Austin.
The night ended with a test of this new alliance: Cash Flo and Mahabali Shera vs. Dysfunction. Poor Brandon Espinoza got the worst of it. He’s not a small guy, but the two super heavyweights still threw him around like a rag doll. He took it like a champ, and in his own way, he helped send the crowd home happy.
If you come to Davis Arena, you’ll see the famous faces who put OVW on the map. A gallery of beautiful black and white prints by fan and artist Joe Slack line the entryway, paying homage to the past.
Once you get past the ticket window, you’ll be in a new OVW. This is the Netflix era, the era of Cash Flo, Mr. PEC-Tacular, Haley J, Tiffany Nieves, Mahabali Shera, EC3 and the OverMen, Freya the Slaya, Leila Grey, and dozens more dreamers hoping to become your new, favorite wrestler.
No one is happier to see the fans back in full voice than they are.
Welcome back, OVW fans. Whatever happens from here, enjoy the ride.
On September 28 in Davis Arena, four tag teams locked up this week in a Four Corners match. Luke Kurtis and Joe Mack of the OVERmen, the current tag team champions, came out to the commentary desk. Luke put on a headset, while the 6’7″ Joe stood tall behind him looking tough.
Along came Gracie.
If you haven’t seen Wrestlers on Netflix, Gracie is the pint-sized girl leaning out the window of a car telling Joe, “You’re a baby!” Every fan, wrestler, and OVW staff member knows and loves Gracie. She’s one of many kids who love to get high fives from the babyfaces and tell the heels they suck.
My daughter Lydia and I were in the second row behind the announcers this week. To be honest, we didn’t see much of the tag match because we were watching the unsanctioned match happening a few feet in front of us.
“You’re a baby!”
“No, you’re a baby!”
“You’re a baby!”
“You’re a baby!”
The action in this epic war of words began during a commercial break, when Luke, Joe, and the first few tag teams made their entrance. By the time we were back to live action, Gracie had back up. Six kids in total joined in the shouting match, watching signs and thumbs down at Joe.
You could see on his face Joe was struggling to keep it together. He loves this as much as the kids. He was also a bit concerned about not being on his mark, doing what he had come out to do. Still in character, he tried pleading with the kids to go back to their seats, even whining to them at one point like a toddler, “You’re gonna get me in trouble.”
Before it was over, Joe had challenged Gracie to a hair vs. hair match and vowed not to give any of the kids candy if they came to his house on Halloween.
Joe Mack is a stud. He’s got the look. He’s got the size. He’s going to be a star, and he’s going to be a world champion. But when the story of his career is written down one day, the first – and perhaps greatest – rival in his career will certainly be Gracie.
Referee Aaron Grider proposed a slogan: Gracie 3:16 says, “You’re a Baby.”
Here are a few other notes from this past week:
Everybody Hates Tony.
The boo birds came out for the usual suspects all night, but man, “Superior” Tony Evans is not a popular guy. He’s hit on something big with his “HUSH!” gimmick, and his feud with Crixus is far from over.
OVW is definitely not your father’s (or mother’s) OVW, but Tony, Luke Curtis, Will Austin, Joe Mack, and others are proof this company is not done developing talent.
Everybody Loves Cash and Haley J.
Without a doubt, the two most over people in the building now are Cash Flo and Haley J. Cash has delivered two solid, thrilling matches in a row. Haley hasn’t wrestled the past two weeks, but any time she makes a run in to confront the Bad Girls Club, the fans go nuts.
Jack vs. Jessie Was a Classic.
Introductions for the main event started before 8:30 pm. It didn’t last ’til the end of TV time, but Mr. Pec-Tacular Jessie Godderz and The Veteran Jack Vaughn went more than 20 minutes. Either one of these guys could hang with the best in the industry, and it’ll be interesting to see which of the main event talents gets picked off in the coming months.
My money’s on Shera. No spoilers here, but he’s not going to be with the OVERmen for much longer. He’s too popular after Wrestlers on Netflix to keep him as a heel.
I Miss Shaloncè Royal.
No elaboration here. I’m just putting it out there. I miss Shaloncè. She hasn’t been on the show for a bit, nor has her surprisingly over attorney, PJ. I think the world of her as a wrestler and as a human being.
If you missed my interview with her on Slam last year, you can read it here. We talked for over an hour, and less than half of the call was about wrestling. We talked a lot of opera. I really want to see her succeed in the ring, almost as much as I want to hear her sing “Musetta’s Waltz.”
Babyface Turn Masterclass.
If you want to see how you turn the most hated man in the company into a hero, go back and watch the last several weeks of OVW, starting with the August pay-per-view, The Big One. Actually, go back further. To the beginning of summer. Watch how they slowly sow the seeds of trouble between Jessie Godderz and EC3. Watch how things accelerate after EC3 wins the NWA World Championship.
The fans booed, but timidly, the night The Faction turned on Jessie and became the OVERmen.
A few timidly cheered Jessie the next week.
A few more the next.
They exploded when Jessie jumped Jack last night.
Shannon the Dude helped seal the deal Thursday – the same night Jessie showed up at the gimmick tables selling merch.
OVW preaches old school storytelling and psychology. They practice what they preach. The next time Jessie starts up with, “As I was saying…” I expect the fans to say it with him.
For the second week in a row, OVW was a sell out on September 29. Tickets for the next TV taping on October 5 are selling fast, as are seats for the Oct 21 “No Rest for the Wicked” PPV. (Tip: if you subscribe to FITE, the PPV is included with your subscription!”)
Long story short, if you want to see Ohio Valley Wrestling, you better buy seats in advance. This Netflix bump is not ending soon!
For the last year, I’ve watched very little wrestling on TV.
I used to hit the gym every Wednesday and Friday night, partly to catch AEW. It’s not a priority any more. I go when it fits my schedule, and if wrestling’s on I’ll watch it… sometimes.
I watched the Royal Rumble in January. I’ll never miss that. And I think I watched Wrestlemania. The “I think” in that statement shows how memorable it was.
And I watched Forbidden Door this summer, thought more to see the New Japan stars than anything. Daniel Bryan’s got some paybacks coming from Okada…
It wasn’t until recently I realized why I watch so little TV wrestling. I’ve been getting my fix almost weekly at Davis Arena. I’ve been a regular over a year now, and my daughter’s been coming with me for almost ten months. I get two solid hours of live wrestling every week, action that’s good enough, I don’t need another fix.
Wrestling is subjective, and not every promotion is for everyone. The WWE-only Marks and the AEW-only Marks are proof of that. So I get it, OVW is not going to be for everyone either.
But I’m willing to bet it’s exactly what many of you have been looking for.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is not your father’s OVW. This is not a school of wrestling. It’s not developmental. It’s a professional wrestling territory based in Louisville, Kentucky with a worldwide fan base. They’re on lesser-known networks than the big two, but they’re also on more TV channels in more time slots every week than either WWE or AEW.
The roster is not green by any stretch. They have some brilliant young talent for sure, but they’re mixing it up every week with long-time veterans. Cash Flo, Jessie Godderz, Hy Zaya, Mahabali Shera, Tony Gunn, Adam Revolver, Omar Amir, Truth Magnum, Turbo Floyd, Jack Vaughn, Big Zo. Any one of the above could step into the ring and hold their own against the best in the world.
They’re also more committed to women’s wrestling than any major promotion outside Impact. Netflix star Maria James has assembled a tremendous women’s locker room, and there’s huge potential for the future in girls like Haley J, Freya the Slaya, Shalonce Royal, Tiffany Nieves, Jada Stone, Arie Alexander, and Leila Gray.
There are so many more names I could drop, names I want you to look up or better yet, come see in person: Eric Darkstorm, Deget Bundlez, Luscious Lawrence, Crixus, Tony Evans, Luke Kurtis, Joe Mack Gnarls Garvin, Ryan Von Rockit, and my daughters favorite, Kal Herro. I want you to hear the joy in Eric Cornish and Linda Kay’s voices as they introduce each wrestler. I want you to feel the energy at the announcer’s desk radiating from Brian Kennison, Steven Johnson, and Josh Ashcraft.
I want you to come see OVW live.
If you haven’t watched the documentary on Netflix yet, by all means, check it out. It’s a great watch, and a love letter to professional wrestling. You’ll come away with a deeper appreciation for the hard work that goes into running a wrestling territory, especially in modern times.
And I’m betting many of you will want to come see for yourself what Al Snow is cooking down here in Louisville.
If you know any OVW talent, slide into their DMs and see if they have a discount code for your ticket.
Come early, and as I mentioned on Slam, go grab a Cuban sandwich at Mi Sueno on Bardstown Road.
Davis Arena is located at 4400 Old Shepherdsville Road in Louisville. It’s easy to drive past because it’s set back from the road in an industrial area surrounded by similar-looking metal buildings. There’s usually a sign out by the road, but your best bet is to plug it into your Map app and trust Siri when she says, “Turn right into the parking lot.”
Get there by 6:30 so you don’t miss the dark matches. And so you can get a decent parking spot.
Bring money for concessions and merch. You can actually pick up a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers from Miss Becky!
And if you have one, bring a seat cushion. Those metal chairs are pretty stiff.
In the words of OVW legend Dean Hill, “See you at ringside.”