Fans of Ohio Valley Wrestling will tell you that Davis Arena isn’t that far from the Louisville Gardens. I don’t mean geographically. I mean the atmosphere. Sure, it’s smaller and more intimate, but you still have the smell of popcorn in the air coupled with the slow burn of long-term storytelling in the ring.
And for some inexplicable reason, both Danny Davis and Al Snow refused to ban smarmy, no good, weaselly hangers-on from joining the heels at ringside.
Fans of old school OVW still remember that dastardly Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin with his slick, Atlantic City vests and his briefcase appropriately emblazoned with the letters “BS.” They’ll also tell you about that witchy woman Synn, who summoned the Leviathan in a dark ceremony down by the Ohio River.
Viewers of Wrestlers on Netflix met Shannon the Dude, a Kentucky radio personality who hitched his wagon to the likes of Jessie Godderz, EC3, Joe Mack, and Luke Kurtis.
And now, we have PJ Jones.
If there’s any form of life lower than a hanger-on using a professional wrestler to make a name for himself, it’s a hanger-on using a professional wrestler to make a name for himself who also happens to be an ambulance-chasing attorney. PJ Jones initially tried to hitch his wagon to “The Veteran” Jack Vaughn, the mustachioed master of the Thigh Slap who keeps the boo birds in season year-round at OVW. But when Vaughn no longer required PJ’s services, the sleazy lawyer set his sights on another “wronged” superstar: the recently dethroned OVW Women’s Champion Shaloncé Royal.
The songstress of OVW took exception to the way she lost her title and took legal action against OVW. The fans already had ill feelings for Shaloncé, but with PJ at her side, she became insufferable.
But not to every one. Only a few weeks into their partnership, PJ and Shaloncé were surprised to see a fan in the crowd proudly holding up a sign that said, “PJ Got Me Off!”
The slime-ball, no good shyster lawyer was over!
Talk about a thrill for a guy who grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. Born and raised in the Louisville area, Patrick Passafiume loved wrestling and dreamed of becoming a wrestler himself.
“I entered a speech competition, and my whole talk was about how I was going to be a wrestler. I ended it like The Rock, saying, “If you smell what Patrick is cooking!’ Of course, I didn’t win that competition because it’s very tough to win that when my speech was about how I wanted to be a professional wrestler and everyone else talked about families dealing with cancer.”
Thankfully, Passafiume found another love in comedy. He idolized the cast members he watched on Saturday Night Live, and at the age of 17, he started sneaking into the local comedy clubs to hang out before finally give stand-up a shot. After some success and plenty of failure, he started traveling to clubs across the country before making his way to Chicago to train at the legendary Second City comedy school.
Passafiume became friends with former SNL cast member and writer Jay Pharaoh, who helped him to submit a packet of skits to SNL. “He told me they liked my stuff and I came very close to being a writer. I don’t know how true that was, but it was still pretty cool.”
As a stand-up, Passafiume worked his way up from opening to being the middle act and evening headlining in some clubs. His talent in caught the eye of Bryan Kennison, another member of the Louisville comedy scene who later made his way to OVW.
“I was always a big fan,” says Kennison, who first met Passafiume more than a decade ago. “He was always so comfortable on stage and always seems to be two thoughts ahead of every other performer. When Patrick was on a show that stepped up the quality of the program immediately.”
Passafiume’s first brush with professional wrestling took place in a comedy club more than a decade ago when he met one of OVW”s original students. “He walked up after my set and said, ‘Hey, you’re really funny,’ and I replied, ‘Oh, my goodness, you’re Nick Dinsmore!’” The two hit it off and stayed in touch after the show.
Several years later, Passafiume got the call to open for another WWE veteran (who is currently part of OVW’s weekly programming) Mick Foley. “I thought it’d be funny to make a video where the premise is if he can do stand-up, then I can be a professional wrestler, right? So I called Nick Dinsmore and said, ‘Hey, I have this idea, can you just beat me up? And we’ll film it.’”
Dinsmore loved the idea and invited Passafiume to attend a training class at Davis Arena for a few days. “That was my first introduction into OVW.”
Passasfiume owes his current opportunity to Bryan Kennison, who is now OVW’s lead TV announcer. It was Kennison who called and told Passafiume they needed a lawyer character for their weekly television program.
“He didn’t even have a name at first,” says Passafiume of his on-screen alter ego, who appeared only a handful of times in segments with Jessie Godderz, Shannon the Dude, Jack Vaughn, and Ryan Von Rockit. “Then one day, Bryan called and asked if I could do the character with Shaloncé.”
Shaloncé Royal was already one of the most reviled wrestlers on the OVW roster. The trained opera singer (who sang the national anthem at 2018’s ALL IN in Chicago) uses her gift for music to generate heat, singing to fans and opponents as she pummels each one into submission. PJ Jones, who finally had a name thanks to Bryan Kennison, entered the picture as Shaloncé’s legal representative.
“Al Snow gave me the run down of what he wanted,” says Passafiume. “He’s so good at doing promos, and he’s just rattling off all these legal phrases, I could not remember any of what he said, so I just went back to what I was good at. I wrote a bunch of jokes and went in the ring. I was like, if this doesn’t work, at least I gave a promo in the ring and I’ve done it. I’ve won, you know?”
The fans bought it. They HATED PJ Jones. But everyone backstage loved him, and the lawyer started coming back week after week. That’s when the signs began to appear. “PJ got me off.” “PJ owes me five bucks.” And more.
Neither Passafiume nor his new client expected the lawyer gag to last more than a night. “I was under the impression it would be temporary,” says Royal, “I didn’t really get too close to him because I thought he would be gone soon. Well, now we can clearly see it was not a temporary pairing, and we are still together till this day. I couldn’t be more happier about Al’s decision to put us together and KEEP us together.”
“She’s the best,” says Passafiume of Royal. “She’s been just great. I’ve been a fan my whole life, but being a fan and being in there, they’re two completely different things. There’s so much that I have to learn, and she’s been so patient. I’ve missed a spot here and there, and I still do, but she’s always very patient with me and just fun to work with.”
“Patrick and Shalonce have so much chemistry they could make a Breaking Bad spinoff,” says Bryan Kennison. “But part of it is raw talent and that willingness to goad an audience that’s right in front of you and the ability to make it work.”
The working relationship between Passafiume and Royal spawned a genuine friendship outside Davis Arena. “It’s no secret that Shaloncé depends on PJ more than she depends on the crowd to understand her talents or the OVW sound crew to keep her mic unmuted,” says Royal. “However, our partnership has blossomed into a friendship I value outside the ring. One day, I was have a very rough mental health day and though Patrick didn’t know the extent of it, he told me he was at a show with Jay Pharoah. I fan-girled a little bit and Patrick told me that he would FaceTime me with Jay when Jay was done with his set.
“Patrick kept that promise and when I answered the FaceTime, IT WAS JAY!!!!!!!! And that made my night. My week! I’m still actually excited about that! I didn’t know he cared enough to do that. And anyone who knows how it feels to be at a mental low understands the impact it makes when someone makes a promise and keeps the promises, especially of that magnitude. In that moment, someone cared and I needed that.”
PJ Jones never got on camera when Greg Whiteley and his crew were in town filming the Netflix series Wrestlers, but Passafiume had a front row seat for the amazing transformation at OVW in the wake of the show’s release. Like most everyone else backstage, he lives in constant wonder that he’s in the right place at the right time. He’s exceptionally proud of his two long-time pals, announcers Bryan Kennison and Steven Johnson.
“It’s crazy,” he says. “Steven and Brian are good friends of mine. I’m so proud to see them on Netflix. It’s also very wild. I’m like, those are my buddies. Like, I’m seeing them on Netflix now. But every time they get any shine, I’m very proud of them. I talk to them, and I’m like, ‘This is our lives right now!’ To even be in the mix at all, I’m eternally grateful.”
Kennison is not at all surprised by the success of PJ Jones. “Patrick took to wrestling so quickly it’s insane. There’s a reason he went from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance with Godderz and Shannon to working with Vaughn then managing Shaloncé. That doesn’t just happen. I knew he would to well, I’ve seen him do roasts and characters and knew he had that in him, but he’s even blown my expectations away.”
Through PJ Jones, Passafiume is living out a childhood dream. He’s constantly interfering on behalf of Shaloncé, and he’s even had one match. He attends training classes, not in the pursuit of a full-time wrestling role but to learn ring psychology and enough technique to keep from getting too hurt.
“I’m not a fan of duck walks,” he says. “Those are evil.”
Bryan Kennison has nothing but praise for his friend. “What I love about Pat is he’s very quick to admit where he needs to work improve himself or what he needs to work on, and he’s honest about being a flawed human in a world of folks that fake it, but he’s just as quick to tell you why you’re amazing and what you do well. And he’s got that gift to make you feel like a million bucks.”
The hard work seems to be paying off. Adding PJ to the mix has only enhanced any segment with Shaloncé, who was already one of the top heels in the company. Her exit from the recent Women’s Nightmare Rumble brought one of the loudest pops of the night, proving the duo’s incendiary heat with the crowd.
Yes, the fans hate them, but they also can’t take their eyes off of them. You never know what she’s going to do, or what he’s going to say.
“Working with Patrick is fun!” says Royal. “Many laughs occur even when I don’t want to laugh. I think we both are a ball of nerves, but when we go through the curtain, we are STARS, and the magic begins! I think our entertainment backgrounds help us a lot and helps us understand each other: him coming from comedy, and me coming from theatre and music. I love that we get soooo much heat with the audience when we are together, I love it. They love to hate us, but no one can deny that we are THEE best duo at OVW. Whatever we are supposed to do, We get the job done and will continue to do so!”
Passafiume still does some stand-up but not as often. He’s a devoted husband and father and a data scientist by day. “I have fans come up to me sometimes after shows and actually ask for legal advice,” he laughs. “I’m like, whoa, I’m not really a lawyer. Don’t ask me!”
Ohio Valley Wrestling gives Passafiume a creative outlet right in his own backyard. Instead of a cheap road motel, he’s home every night with his family, but he’s still entertaining the masses. And those boos are as glorious to the comics ears as laughter.
“If it ended today, which I hope it doesn’t, but if it ended today I’d be completely satisfied. I’ve somehow made this childhood dream come true and it should never have. But I imagine everything’s kind of taken off. It’s getting bigger and bigger, there’s more eyes on the product. Hopefully Shaloncé and I can have a big year, but even if I’m not around, she’s she’s gonna keep going, she’s gonna be successful.”
As much as Patrick Passafiume believes in Shaloncé Royal, she believes in him. “Patrick is so talented, and I know he will go far if he truly wants to. I believe in him and support him 1000 percent! He seems to be a great father, a great husband, and I for sure think he is a great friend!
“It’s true that this business can foster legit friendships. I really hope he is someone who remains in my life for a long time.”
And follow Shaloncé Royal as well. You know you want to.
Featured image courtesy of Lloyd Thomas Photography.