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Meet the Artist: James Duncan

James Duncan is a busy guy. I know, because I’m one of the people who keeps him busy. Over the last several years, he’s become my go-to for photo book covers: Chris Candido, Princess Victoria, Charlie Kruel, Ella, Wahoo McDaniel, and most recently, Mars Bennett. Every time I send him a new challenge, he amazes me. The work just keeps getting better.

I really appreciate James and all the work he does, so I wanted to tell you more about him. First off, he doesn’t just do wrestling book covers. He’s done covers for non-wrestling books too. And he’s a wizard at creating wrestling fliers. He works for a number of indy promotions in this regard, and his work stands out.

James is also one of the founding owners of Paradigm Pro Wrestling, a Southern Indiana group featured in the new edition of Bluegrass Brawlers. Paradigm is really building a fan base not just locally but around the world through their live streaming. It was where I first saw a few people who are now working with national companies, including Swerve Scott and Ace Austin. James works on the production side, and he’s responsible for everything from logos and graphics to lighting and sound.

When he’s not designing graphics, or preparing for the next PPW show, he’s probably in the editing room. He edits video for Paradigm Pro and a number of other indies including PWF, IWA Mid South, Girl Fight, New Wave Pro, Big Time Wrestling, and KEPW.

James is a talented artist, great to work with, and on top of everything else… he loves wrestling. If you’re looking for any sort of graphics work in the wrestling space or beyond, I urge you to give him a try.

Here’s where you can find James on social media:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

And here are the many covers he’s created for me:


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Bluegrass Brawlers Returns

It’s back, and better than ever.

The second edition of Bluegrass Brawlers is now available on Amazon, and for all you signed book lovers, it’s available to pre-order here as well. Revisiting my first wrestling book has been on my agenda for years. There were a few facts that needed to be corrected (like the demise of the Columbia Gym), and there were far too many stories left out of the original. The omissions weren’t intentional; the information just wasn’t as accessible as it is today.

Bluegrass Brawlers now includes almost 50% more text: filling in time gaps, expanding on stories that were all too brief, and covering the many changes that happened since 2014.

Just to give you a preview, here are some of the new stories included:

Steve Callaway, a long forgotten African American wrestling hero from the turn of the 20th century.

Promoter Abe Finberg, who booked wrestling at the Gayety Theater and later created a heavyweight wrestling promotion.

Promoter C.B. Blake and the Savoy Theater.

The feud between Blake, booker Heywood Allen, and the Kentucky State Board of Athletic Control, the first state institution that attempted to regulate wrestling.

Louisville fan favorite Jack Reynolds.

Gorgeous George comes to Louisville – and to dinner.

Wahoo McDaniel in Louisville in the early 1960s.

Phil Golden’s All Star Wrestling.

New Albany native Jeff Van Camp, better known in the ring as Lord Humongous.

A hilarious fan story about Flex Kavana, aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, courtesy of Michael Ewing from The Seated Senton.

Tales of the first class at Ohio Valley Wrestling.

The sale of OVW to Al Snow.

The rise of the Legacy of Brutality.

The growth of the indie scene in Southern Indiana.

Crazy Mary Dobson becomes Sarah Logan in the WWE.

The rise of women’s wrestling in Louisville and beyond.

I also conducted a number of interviews for the new edition, including “Lord Humongous” Jeff Van Camp, Al Snow, Billie Starkz, Bryan Kennison, Charlene McAnally, Hy Zaya, Cash Flo, Josh Ashcraft, Judi-Rae Hendrix, Rebecca Ann Bridget, Maria James, Haley J, Ryan Howe, Sierra, Doug Basham, Flash Flanagan, Sarah (Logan) Rowe, and Rico Costantino.

The book is also jammed with more photos, from Matty Matsuda to Billie Starkz, who you may notice is also on the cover.

Fans who can’t wait to grab a copy can click here to order on Amazon.

And fans who want to get a signed copy can click here to pre-order.

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Mike Rodgers on Mike Rodgers

I met Mike Rodgers three years ago in Las Vegas when he was given the James Melby Award at the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion. Mike has been chronicling wrestling history far longer than I have, and it’s been an honor to act as his publisher. 

Today, I hand the floor over to Mike to introduce himself and his work. His latest book Katie Bar the Door! History of Portland Wrestling is now available on Amazon. 

John asked me to write a little bit on his blog and I thought that would be fun. I will introduce myself and talk a little about my projects.

I started a bulletin in 1983 called Ring Around The Northwest. It was 3 pages, 50 cents and I sent it out to about 50 people, and a few of them even paid.

Jump ahead a few years and computers came into being and I increased the bulletin to 10 pages and started doing interviews. I was fortunate to have a number of interviews with people who had wrestled in the Northwest including Lou Thesz, Don Leo Jonathan, Bryan Danielson, Mad Dog Vachon, John Tolos, Rick Martel and a number of others.

The bulletin continued for 30 years until 2013, upon which time increased costs and the internet pretty much put print bulletins out of their misery.

At times several people had visited with me about producing a book, both on these interviews and a history of Portland Wrestling. Lack of time forced these people to back off any involvement.

When I discovered Portland Wrestling at the age of 8, I also discovered that the lineups and results were in the Portland papers. At age 8 my family moved out of the Northwest. I made my grandma save the sports sections so when I returned I could look at the wrestling results and catch up on the entire year that I had missed.

When I became aware of wrestling, I always felt like I had walked in halfway thru a movie. I wanted to know what had happened before.

When I returned to the NW in 1972 and started watching wrestling, I started recording everything that happened in a notebook. I recorded the matches, any special moves, the finishes. What each wrestler talked about on their interviews. Every aspect of Portland Wrestling. That notebook proved to be so valuable as I wrote Katie Bar The Door.

When I was in college I discovered the library had microfilm of the Portland papers. I spent hours going thru roll and roll of microfilm recording wrestling results from years prior.

Now we are up to this past summer (2021). I was having lunch with Frank Culbertson and he revisited the book idea. He said, “You should write a book.” I laughed and agreed. Then he said, YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK and I can help.

So we started rounding up these interviews and we started gathering up photos and doing the preparations to get it ready. Finally we had a title, a cover and the layout and we had edited it. We sent it to John. I had no idea what the timeline might be at that point. I figured a month or so until the first book hit the light of day. The next morning I noticed our book is available on Amazon. That was the moment I became a BIG John Cosper fan.

The second volume of Excitement in the Air. We had a interview with Buddy Wayne who has passed and we got an update from his son Nick. Nick is 16 but traveling every weekend and working all over the country. We grabbed a photo of a match Nick had on a Saturday night. The following Wednesday the book was ready and available on Amazon. I find that turnaround amazing.

The latest book that has just come out this week is a culmination of a lifetime passion. There are over 500 photos that have come from my collection, photos I have taken and 2 photographers will really help make this book special. There are many photos by Ken Hamblin who has been my friend for over 40 years. Also Lloyd Phillips has some amazing photos from the early 70’s. His photos are in black and white and are so clear and sharp. I told Lloyd years ago that if a Portland Wrestling book ever came to be, it had to have his photos included!

Whenever the action really got going, the TV announcer would always shout Katie Bar the Door. That meant that the the wrestling was going to be fantastic.

I hope this book can bring the flavor of what a tradition that Portland Wrestling was.

Click here to order Katie Bar the Door! on Amazon.

You can order Excitement in the Air Volume 1 and Volume 2 here. 

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The Education of Reese Ramone

I thought I knew what busy was. Then I met Reese Ramone.

Reese and I shook hands for the first time last weekend in Ashland, Kentucky. She’s an avid fan of history. Not just pro wrestling, but history in general, and she checked out all the books on my table. She’s minoring in history at Marshall University in addition to majoring in electrical and computer engineering. She’s also a majorette who performs with the university’s marching band.

Oh yeah, on top of all that? She’s a professional wrestler.

Reese’s journey to lacing up her boots began when she discovered wrestling on television. “I was just flipping through channels and found Smackdown. I saw Cameron dressed in a pretty school girl’s outfit, and it caught my eye. I always did dance, and I loved pretty outfits, and I thought it was so cool.”

Reese’s father noticed her interest and started telling her about the wrestling he grew up watching. Right from the start, she knew she wanted to try it. She just didn’t know how! “I didn’t know about wrestling schools, and it seemed unattainable. I decided it was something I could just enjoy on TV.”

When Reese arrived on campus in Huntington, West Virginia, she heard about the Art of Grappling wrestling school in nearby Ironton, Ohio. She met with owner Joe Pace, who also runs FTC Wrestling in Ashland, Kentucky. Pace told her he was planning to build out a women’s division at FTC, and with his encouragement,  she decided sign up.

“I didn’t tell my parents at first,” she says. “I had a show the day before my birthday, so they finally found out. They were scared of me getting hurt, but they were pretty supportive.”

Reese had her first few lessons with former WWE Diva Jillian Hall. “I took my first bumps in front of her, and she taught me a lot about working the women’s style: hair pulling and cat fighting.”

Her second of third week, Jillian was joined by another trainer: Bobby Blaze. Hall and Blaze worked together for a while, and Reese learned a great deal from them both. When the two decided to split, Reese stayed with Bobby.

“He’s been so good to me. He’s invested a lot of time and wisdom in me. He helped me build my social media presence. He introduced me to the guy who did my entrance music. He’s a world class trainer.”

Reese has learned a lot by doing. “I was told on my first night I had to cut a promo! I thought, there’s no way! It wasn’t bad, but I was so nervous.”

It helped to have a lifeline available. “Bobby called me that night. He talked to me for like an hour, giving me confidence and talking me through everything. He’s been so good to me.”

Reese is juggling a lot with school, wrestling, and marching band, but she’s found a way to balance everything while looking to the future. She’s considering a number of career and post-secondary options, but she also hopes to wrestle for the WWE one day.

“Being a majorette helps so much with my conditioning,” she says. “People have no idea how physically demanding marching is. It helps a lot with my cardio.”

Reese can also talk history, and as a history nut myself, it was difficult to stick to wrestling when we spoke. Suffice to say next time I see her at a show, it’s just as likely I’ll strike up a conversation about the new Netflix movie Operation: Mincemeat with her as talk shop about wrestling.

Reese has the drive to succeed in pro wrestling. She’s also got a trainer who has her back and has laid a solid foundation for her. I’m glad our paths crossed last week, and I’m excited to see where she goes in the years to come.

You can follow Reese on Twitter and Instagram!

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The Saga of the 1941 Derby Eve Show

Derby Eve belonged to the wrestlers. At least it did in the beginning. The first Derby Eve wrestling show at the Armory (now Louisville Gardens) took place more than a hundred years ago. It became a huge attraction for local fans and out-of-towners in for the Derby. Naturally, the success of the event caught the attention of other promoters, and by the 1930s, the Kentucky Athletic Commission made it an annual bidding war between the wrestling promotions and the boxing promotions.

Heywood Allen had fought for the Derby Eve slot many times. He’d won some and lost some, and in 1941, he was sure he had a winner. The Derby Eve show was supposed to go to the promoter who presented the best card, and Allen’s main event was Everett Marshall versus Lou Thesz.

Of course as you’ve probably guessed, he didn’t get it. Mattingly granted the show to novice boxing promoter named Harry Wolffe. Allen was furious. He went around Mattingly to schedule the Armory for Thursday and Friday, May 1 and 2, offering to let the boxers run the show on the 2nd if he could run his wrestling show on the 1st. He nearly got his way, too, but then on April 15, he got on the microphone at the weekly Allen Club wrestling show and cut a promo on Mattingly. The newspapers didn’t record what Allen said, but it was bad enough that Mattingly revoked Allen’s license to promote.

Allen had shot himself in the foot, and after relinquishing the Armory on May 1-2, he was given his license back. Allen would run shows on Tuesday April 29 and a “Derby Dessert” show on Tuesday May 6, both at his home base in the Columbia Gym.

As for Harry Wolff and the boxing show… well, let’s just say he would have been better letting Allen have his way. He only had a week to sell tickets, and sales were so low, he didn’t even make half of the money he had guaranteed to the boxers! Wolff had tried to back out of the show a few days before, but Mattingly pushed him to go ahead. What’s worse, Mattingly assured boxing managers on Friday afternoon, May 2, that Wolff would pay their full guarantees regardless of the box office.

Harry Wolff was in trouble. He told the boxers he couldn’t pay them what he’d promised and they’d have to take a cut or else. The managers said they’d take or else… as in legal action, if he didn’t pay up!

Allen only drew 2000 fans when he brought Thesz and Marshall in on May 22, but it was just a bump in the road for him. He’d continue on as Louisville’s wrestling impresario for another six years, while Mattingly would eventually leave the commissioner’s office and leave Allen alone.

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Support Indie, Buy Books Here

You may have noticed a few changes to the book shop on this website. Not too long ago, I added several new titles that have nothing to do with wrestling. These are my fiction books. They include some sci-fi, horror, noir fairy tales, and even a kiddie book about an evil snowman. I put them here to bring all my books under one virtual roof. Why? Because I want you to buy them. From me.

That’s not the only change. A number of titles I haven’t stocked on a regular basis are now back in the store. What’s more, the links I used to have to Amazon are gone. You can still find my books on Amazon if you like, but I hope you’ll consider buying direct instead.

When you buy direct, you do more to help the independent authors and publishers. That doesn’t just go for me. That goes for guys like Scott Teal over at Crowbar Press and Kenny Casanova at WOHW. It also goes for fiction authors like the incredible Lydia Sherrer, who, I should add, inspired this move. Simply put: we make more money selling direct than we do on Amazon.

The added benefit of buying here is the books are signed. All of them written by me are signed by me, but you will also find signatures from many of my co-authors and publishing clients: Karen McDaniel, Jonny Candido, Princess, Victoria, Mad Man Pondo, Mike Rodgers, and more.

Please give the shop a look, and as a special thanks, use the coupon code “indie” to take 15% off your order.

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Girl Fight Gets Royal Approval

It’s been an exciting week for me. I finally had the chance to meet my long time friend and colleague Tamaya Greenlee, and I got to spend time in person with Princess Victoria, Vicki Otis. The two of us wrote her book solely by remote, and Tuesday night’s Girl Fight show in Jeffersonville, Indiana, gave us the chance to finally hang out in person.

Girl Fight made its long-anticipated return to home base with a bang. The seven match card delivered plenty of action from start to finish, and it was great seeing some of my long-time favorites including Charlie Kruel, Ella, and Big Mama. It was also wickedly fun to see long-time fan fave and current champion Billie Starkz play a little heel in her victory over Rachel Armstrong.

Some new faces proved to be show stealers, and Sawyer Wreck was right at the top of that list. The tall Florida girl made an impression simply by the way she took the ring. Her bout with Big Boss Anika was largely played for comedy,  but everything about her work made her look like a future mega star.

Props have to go to Anika as well. The pair looked like a mismatch with Wreck dwarfing the Russian big mouth, but Anika played her role to perfection. I really look forward to seeing more from both ladies.

Mickie Knuckles and Masha Slamovich delivered a No DQ match that was everything you wanted it to be – at least in the Arena, where blood is a no-no. I’ve often said of The Rejects (John Wayne Murdoch and Reed Bentley) that their work looks more like a fight than sports entertainment, and that’s a great way to describe Mickie vs. Masha. The slaps, the strikes, and the hits were very real. Masha’s constant ranting in Russian paired nicely with Mickie’s “I don’t know what the —- you’re saying!” banter.

Mickie even brought Princess Victoria into the action, attempting to slingshot Masha into the Princess’s extended foot. Masha reversed the move, and Mickie ate the foot, taking out my sales banner in the process.

“She really hit me!” The Princess said over her shoulder. “I like her!”

Yes, happy to say, the Princess was enchanted by the entire Girl Fight crew. She happened to come on a night the promotion had long dreamed about; the wrestlers, referees, ring announcer, and commentary team were all ladies for the first time ever. The Princess loved it, and she loved each and every one of the girls.

The majority of the ladies took full advantage of her being there, asking for an receiving critique. The Princess praised the uniqueness of every gimmick (“No two of them are the same!”) and their gimmicks (“Is she selling koozies?”)  What’s more, she was thrilled to see how the promotion and its founder, Mad Man Pondo, truly cared for the girls. She was impressed enough, she’s decided to make an effort to come back June 14 for their next Jeffersonville show.

Girl Fight has a long legacy of giving rising stars a platform. It’s amazing to see that opportunity spread from the locker room to the announce table, and the current roster is as good as it’s ever been. If you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss the next edition in June. And you might just get a second chance to meet Princess Victoria for yourself. 

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More Romer Than Ever

Scott Romer was thrilled to release his autobiography two years ago, but there was so much more story to tell. Earlier this year, he decided to go back and update his book, with more stories and more photos. In short, he wanted to give readers more Romer!

When It Was tells the story of a boy who turned a side hustle into a life-long adventure. It’s the story of a young man who became Dick the Bruiser’s son-in-law and the nefarious manager Saul Creatchman. It’s the story of the most unlikely “heavyweight” fighter in Midwest boxing history. It’s the story of the man who exposed the infamous Onita Stabbing Angle and had a scary run-in with Israeli intelligence. It’s the story of a gifted photographer who has rubbed shoulders with Presidents, heads of state, U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Hall of Fame athletes, movie stars, and mobsters.

The book combines Scott Romer’s own narrative with hundreds of photos from his remarkable life. You’ll also read first hand stories told by long time friends including MMA Hall of Famer Monte Cox, wrestlers like Andrew Anderson and Dr. Jerry Graham, Jr., boxing promoter Fred Berns, international boxing star Johar Abu Lashin, legendary wrestler and trainer Rip Rogers, wrestling magazine legend Bill Apter, and GLOW/WOW creator David McLane, all of whom can validate Scott’s remarkable adventures.

The new edition is now available on Amazon in paperback and hardcover! You’ll read new stories in this edition, including the tale of a cranky boxing office cat and Romer’s Vegas adventure from the 2021 Cauliflower Alley Club. And you’ll see many more photos, including a gallery of images that truly showcase his eye for the camera.

This is a story for anyone who had a dream about making a living doing what you love. This is the True Story of Scott Romer, world renowned photographer, and his life on both sides of the camera.

Click the book cover above to order now.

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Princess Victoria Visits Girl Fight

When Girl Fight returns home to the Jeffersonville Arena on April 12, they’ll be joined by a WWF legend.

Princess Victoria began wrestling in the Pacific Northwest in 1980. With her training partner Velvet McIntyre, she soon made her way across the country and around the world. She was one of the first two ladies to hold the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship. In her brief career, she wrestled Moolah, Velvet, Wendi Richter, Leilani Kai, and many, many more.

And boy, does she have some stories to tell.

Fans can meet Princess Victoria at Girl Fight April 12 at The Arena in Jeffersonville. Tickets can be purchased in advance (see flier below) or at the door. Princess Victoria will be available for photo ops and autographs, and she’ll also be selling copies of her book and her hand made dreamcatchers.

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Save 20% This Weekend Only With Coupon Code “mania”

Whatever your feelings are on this promotion and that, this weekend is Super Bowl weekend for pro wrestling. So hey, let’s celebrate!

Right now, you can get 20% off your entire order using the coupon code “mania” at checkout. And right now the store is loaded down with copies of Wahoo, Princess Victoria, Chris Candido, Tracy Smothers, Mike Rodgers, Chris Michaels, Hurricane JJ Maguire, The Black Panther Jim Mitchell, and more.

Click here to start shopping, and don’t forget the coupon code: mania.