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.
For ticket information visit www.ovwrestling.com. Be prepared to buy early in advance.