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.
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.”
Today is May the 4th, which has come to be known as Star Wars Day. Those who know me well know that Star Wars has been an obsession of mine longer than pro wrestling. It got me to thinking, how would I re-cast Star Wars with some of the people I have written about in pro wrestling?
Hurricane JJ Maguire as… Max Rebo
Sure, I could have gone with Figrin D’an, but I suspect the Hurricane would have found himself taking the more upscale booking at Jabba’s versus the cantina at Mos Eisley. Plus I want to hear JJ say, “Yes, Miss Snootles, we can take it from the top again.”
Princess Victoria as… Princess Leia
A bit obvious? Yes, and she’ll be disappointed that once again, she’s cast as the babyface. But like Cinderella, the space slipper fits. Nobody tells Princess Leia what to do, just as nobody tells Princess Victoria what to do!
Tracy Smother as… Yoda
A man who poured himself into many young pro wrestlers over the last few decades could easily be cast as Obi Wan, but Obi Wan only had two pupils. Yoda trained countless Jedi, and the Smothers family is now legion across pro wrestling.
Scott Romer as… Han Solo
With that camera strap always over his shoulder, one could draw a direct comparison to Chewbacca, but let’s be honest. Romer was a survivor, a hustler, and a ladies man. Plus think of all the great Romer pics of him posing with Lando, Jabba, and the glitterati of the galaxy.
Mad Man Pondo as… Boba Fett
As we all learned to our great delight in The Mandalorian, Boba survived the ultimate death match against the Sarlacc Pit. Can’t you see Pondo vs. Terry Funk fighting it out on a skiff in a no rope, loser falls in the Sarlaac Pit match? It would be the biggest draw on Tatooine since Anakin vs. Sebulba.
Chris Candido as… Luke Skywalker
Chris Candido was a natural heel, just as Victoria was, but I have to go wth Luke. Why? Well, people said Chris was a little short for a WWF Superstar, and we all know Luke was a little short for a Stormtrooper.
Dr. D David Schultz as… Darth Vader
“Oh you think the Dark Side is fake, do ya?” John Stossel better be glad Dr. D wasn’t a Sith. He’d have never left MSG alive that night in 1984! Chris Candido would have gotten a kick out of being booked opposite one of his heroes, and just think how awesome those Dr. D promos would sound in James Earl Jones’s voice.
Brutal Bob Evans continues to show why he is the Yoda of today’s independent wrestlers. Here are some thoughts he shared on Facebook today:
“There are those that think WWE is waging a war on the wrestling world.
That’s a mindset that will cripple you forever if you let it.
WWE is not evil. WWE is just WWE. You can survive and thrive outside of the worldwide company.
How? Do what they can’t do.
They can’t go to every small town in America. They can’t shake every hand, hug every fan, touch every life.
They try, but they can’t. Because they can’t be everywhere at once.
Collectively we can. We can compete doing what they can’t do and doing it better than ever.
We can reach out and be a part of our communities. We can bring in quality people. We can use good-hearted athletes with tons of potential.
Or we can just wrestle, suck the town dry, and move on. The carny lifestyle.
I prefer to learn from the mistakes of the past. We can be a viable, resilient, middle-class wrestling society that creates and evolves.
Or we can wait for WWE and the other national companies to tell us what to do. To dictate to us.
We can buy into reality any way we choose. I choose the reality of caring and fellowship.
Hard work? Necessary.
But a spirit of fellowship is NEEDED.
Realize you CAN do this business well.
Don’t let anyone intimidate you.
You got this.
WE got this.
I love you.”
One thing I’ve learned about the wrestling promoters of the past is that they were community minded. They were active in their communities not simply as wrestling promoters but as part of the neighborhood. Louisville promoter Francis McDonogh and his wife Betty were very active in the city they loved. They ran multiple charity shows and hosted orphans, newspaper boys, and local sports teams. They reached out heavily to female fans and often drew more ladies than men. They participated in charity drives and civic events outside wrestling. They hosted parties and events in their home. They were at the Derby, concerts, and other sporting events. Wrestling wasn’t just business; it was family. It was community.
The WWE cannot be community the way you can. You can connect with the fans in ways they can’t. You can learn their names. You can be a part of their charities and their causes. You can make a difference.
In days long gone, the promoters ran the wrestling business. The centralized NWA divided North America into territories, and promoters would move and share talent across boundaries as they were needed. Wrestlers knew when they were sent into a territory that they were guaranteed work and pay. The wrestlers had to arrange their own travel, but the promoters did all the scheduling and marketing.
In today’s wrestling scene, there is no NWA. The territories are much smaller, and most promoters run one show in one location, once a week or once a month. There are no more traveling circuits designed to give wrestlers a place to make a living, and many promoters are too busy fighting with their neighbors to ever make such a circuit happen.
In spite of these changes, wrestlers today can still make a good living. But in order to make that happen, today’s wrestlers have to become their own promoters.
Wrestlers have always had to be their own promoters to an extent, but the need to self-promote has never been greater. Instead of relying on promoters to create territories for them, wrestlers today build their own territories. They network with the promoters to build a steady weekly and/or monthly schedule that will allow them to stay on the road making money.
Wrestlers also have to be their own marketers. They have to manage their social media accounts, build their own websites, promote the shows where they will be appearing, design (and in some cases make) their own ring apparel. They design their own merchandise, from T-shirts to photos to stickers to wristbands to whatever their imagination can conceive.
And yes, wrestlers are still their own travel agents, arranging their own transportation and lodging everywhere they go.
Aspiring wrestlers can no longer depend on the promoters to give them a place to make a steady living. They have to forge their own. Anyone who wants to live the dream would do well to read as much as they can on marketing, money management, and promotion as they can. Guys like Brutal Bob Evans have really helped a lot of younger talent see the importance of being business men and women as well as wrestlers. More and more wrestlers, up and down the card, are becoming full-time wrestlers because they are also becoming their own full-time promoters. They aren’t getting rich, but they are supporting their families and living their dream.
Fans can do their part to help their favorite wrestlers as well. Re-post and re-Tweet the show fliers your favorite wrestlers share. Attend all the shows you can, and always, ALWAYS bring cash for the merch tables.
The wrestling business has changed, and wrestlers are starting to find their way. It’s an exciting time to be a fan. And a wrestler.