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A Life Lesson from the Miz

02Roni Jonah, who is now hosting Eat Sleep Wrestle: The Golden Age on the INC Channel, used to be a wrestler herself. In fact, when she was at Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville, she was the Miz’s valet/ girlfriend. Want to know how that happened? She shared the story with me for Bluegrass Brawlers. It’s a fun story involving Miz and Heyman, and whether you like him or not, we can all learn a little something about seizing the day from the Miz.

Roni was in the amateur class at OVW when Paul Heyman arrived, and one of her best friends was Seth Skyfire, a former OVW main eventer whose star had fallen in recent months.

“Seth was no longer getting time on the show because he wasn’t under contract with WWE,” says Jonah. “When Paul came down to OVW, he wanted to showcase those guys and give them a chance.”

Roni wanted to make sure Seth got noticed by the new boss. She sat with her friends dead center in the audience and held signs calling out for Seth. Heyman noticed, and when he put Skyfire back on TV, he was impressed with what he saw. Heyman was equally impressed by the determined young woman in the crowd. “One night, he told Seth to go out to the ring and kiss ‘his girlfriend’ in the audience,” says Jonah. “Seth said, ‘But, she isn’t my girlfriend.’ Paul said, ‘She is now.'”

Seth did as he was told, but the kiss was weaker than Heyman wanted. When Heyman called him out on the weak kiss, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin chimed in: “She can be my girlfriend.”

Shortly after the backstage incident, Roni “left” Seth Skyfire for the Miz on OVW television. The angle elevated the both of them to top heel status in OVW, and the Miz was one step closer to his his WWE dream.

Read more OVW stories and discover over 130 years of wrestling history in Louisville in Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville.

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One year later… top ten posts

It’s been a year since I started this blog experiment, and it’s been exciting to see it grow. Here are the top ten posts from the past year:

The Black Panther Jim Mitchell1. The Black Panther Jim Mitchell – Still working on this book, though it’s taking longer than anticipated. Other opportunities and the difficulty of finding solid info on this forgotten trail blazer have made it difficult, but it’s still in the works. Happy to see this was the top post from year one.

2. Help Kenny Bolin Tell His Story – The story is now out and available from Amazon.com, with some help from fans who responded.

3. Everybody Loves Blue Pants – Interview with NXT’s most electric unsigned star. Thanks again to Mad Man Pondo for the hook up.

4. Who is Dean Hill? – Profile on OVW’s legendary announcer.

5. Khloe Belle Turns Hero – “Sista don’t care” in the ring, but outside the ring is another matter.

6. The Outlaw Returns – Profile on wrestler turned actor Ben Wood.

7. Is Shane Goode Enough? – Shane Mercer’s had a tough month, but he got some well deserved attention during the lead up to Tough Enough.

8. Meet the New Owner of HWA – A second life for a beloved promotion in Ohio promotion.

9. A New Hoosier Promotion EMERGEs – Profile on central Indiana’s EMERGE wrestling, available to watch on Roku’s Indie Wrestling Channel.

10. Meet Mary Elizabeth Monroe – She’s now going by Kelly Klein in Ring of Honor, and she’s one to watch in 2016.

Given that independent wrestling dominates the top ten, you can expect more of the same in 2016 from this blog. I also have several book projects in the works in addition to the Black Panther. I’ve been working with the daughter of Lord Leslie Carlton on his biography. I just started a book on women’s wrestling. And research continues on a new Louisville book focused on the Allen Athletic Club of the 1930s-1950s.

Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday Night at the Gardens

If you’re a fan of Bluegrass Brawlers, you’re going to love this.

Jim Cornette has been working for two and a half years on a book about the Memphis era in Louisville. Today, that book is now available for purchase on Amazon.com and Jim’s website.

Tuesday Night at the Gardens is an in depth look at Louisville wrestling from 1970-1975. The book features complete results and more than 500 illustrations chronicling the rise of Memphis wrestling at Louisville Gardens. It’s a tremendous collectible for fans who remember the Memphis era and anyone interested in wrestling history.

If you order through Jim’s website right now, you will also get a two hour DVD featuring matches from that same era, absolutely free. If you’ve never seen the video compilations Cornette has put together (like his incredible Mid Atlantic films collection), you are in for a real treat.

Click here to visit JimCornette.com and pick up the new book and the free DVD. And if you haven’t already picked it up, be sure to get my book on Louisville history from 1880 to the present, Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville from Amazon.com.

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Bluegrass Brawlers on tour – September 24

BluegrassBrawlers-coverI’m very happy to announce I’ll be giving my first live presentation based on Bluegrass Brawlers later this month in Owensboro, Kentucky.

The talk will be held at the Daviess County Library in Owensboro, KY on September 24 at 6 PM Eastern. I had the privilege of visiting the same library a year or so ago for a screening of a short film I wrote called The Telemarketer. It’s a gorgeous place, and they’ve got a full calendar with all sorts of special events and speakers. They even had an acclaimed independent horror film made inside that building.

I’ll be sharing stories about Ida Alb, William Muldoon, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Heywood Allen, Jerry Lawler, Jim Cornette, Kenny Bolin, and John Cena. Over 130 years of wrestling history in Louisville.

The event is free, and I will have copies of the book available to purchase. If you’re a wrestling fan and in the area, I hope to see you there!

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Special offer for Kenny Bolin fans!

BluegrassBrawlers-coverDid you get screwed by Kenny Bolin? Did you pay a king’s ransom to get his new biography signed by Ma Bolin? If so, I have a deal for you.

Now through August 16, just for Kenny’s fans, I have a special deal on my own wrestling books. You can get a signed copy of Bluegrass Brawlers and Eat Sleep Wrestle for only $24, including shipping. That’s more than $20 savings when you figure in shipping from Amazon.com.

Here’s all you have to do:

1. Post a photo of your copy of Kenny’s book on Facebook and tag both me and the King.

2. Send me a message on Facebook. I’ll message you back with my Paypal address to send payment.

3. Send in your Paypal payment and wait for your books to arrive. I’ll email you to let you know when they go out.

Bluegrass Brawlers covers more than 130 years of professional wrestling in Louisville, including Kenny’s reign as the Starmaker. And Eat Sleep Wrestle is the perfect introduction to today’s indy wrestling scene. If you enjoyed Kenny’s book, here’s a chance to get two more by Kenny’s co-author to add to your wrestling library.

UPDATE: If you’d rather have the e-book version of the books, you can get both Bluegrass Brawlers and Eat Sleep Wrestle for only $12, half the price of the paperbacks. Follow the same steps as above but let me know you prefer the electronic versions instead.

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It all happened in Louisville

BluegrassBrawlers-coverWhat era of Louisville wrestling do you remember best? Are you one who remembers the good ol’ days with Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Handsome Jimmy Valiant, and the rest of the Memphis crew? Were you one of the few but proud who supported the Poffos back in the early 80s? Or are you one of those already missing the good ol’ days of OVW with Cena, Lesnar, Orton, and Batista?

Louisville’s wrestling goes much deeper and further back than OVW and Memphis. Louisville is the place where:

A female circus wrestler issued an open challenge and took on a local man to prove wrestling was not fake – in 1880!

A Zulu prince wrestled a bull on New Year’s Day in 1909.

Ed “Strangler” Lewis was given his famous moniker when he showed up two weeks late for a booking in 1913.

Orville Brown lost his world title to a surprise masked man in 1941, the only major title change to ever take place in Louisville.

A man wrestled an alligator and got married in the same ring, all in one night back in 1947.

Teenage Bobby Heenan made his in-ring debut and was burned by a fan’s cigar, all for a $5 pay off.

Jeff Jarrett and Dutch Mantell battled in a ring set up inside Whitney Hall at Kentucky Center for the Arts in front of a classical music crowd.

And lest we forget, just a few miles north of Louisville, CM Punk battled for 93 minutes against Chris Hero. This after having a 41 minute tables and ladders match that brought the house down.

Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville, tells these stories and so many more. It’s a must for fans of wrestling history and proud Louisville natives who enjoy hearing some great tales of their city’s history.

Order now on Amazon.com.

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A few Bluegrass Brawler reviews

BluegrassBrawlers-coverThe Humble Book Giant recently posted a very nice review of Bluegrass Brawlers on his blog. The Giant is a Louisville area native and a wrestling fan, and while he normally doesn’t do sports books, he had some nice things to say about the book.

Read the Humble Book Giant’s review here.

The Pro Wrestling Historical Society reviewed the book as well. They were more critical than most and took exception to the version of the Gotch-Hackenschmidt II match I presented in the book, but they still liked it enough to give it four stars.

Read the review from PWHS here.

My favorite review, though, was one that came up on Terry Garvin’s World Domination podcast recently. Handsome Jimmy Valiant himself praised the book as a great read. I emailed him to thank him for the kind words and he sent back a few more. “I enjoyed your book. A lot of good knowledge in it. You hit it all on the nose. John, you didn’t miss anything, my man.
Congratulations and good luck in the future. Godpseed to all.”

Mercy!

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More Louisville wrestling history on the way

BluegrassBrawlers-coverHaving just launched the Kenny Bolin autobiography, I’m happy to announce I have a few new projects in the works. Two are biographies, and the third is a more in depth look at once of the most fascinating and overlooked eras in Louisville wrestling.

In 1935 Heywood Allen founded the Allen Athletic Club, a promotion that would bring the biggest stars in the business to town for the next 22 years, including Orville Brown, Bill Longson, Lou Thesz, Mildred Burke, and Buddy Rogers. But Louisville also had a number of local legends with their own unique stories. Here are a few quick hits I’ve uncovered:

Heywood Allen was a circus wrecker before getting into the wrestling business. In addition to being the Allen Club’s founder, he was president of the Midwest Wrestling Association. He took a job selling tickets at Churchill Downs when business was poor in the 1920s and kept it even after the Allen Club took off in the 40s.

Stu Gibson was a home-grown wrestling star. Before wrestling, he was a standout football player at New Albany High School and the University of Louisville. I posted a brief bio on Stu just last week that you can read here. ****

Mel Meiners was a towering Louisville native from the Germantown neighborhood who was nicknamed the Schnitzelburg Giant. He is also the father of WHAS radio personality Terry Meiners.

Francis McDonough worked in the office for Allen before buying him out in 1947. He made national newspapers after someone broke into his car to steal the Allen Club’s ticket money. The thief got 500 unsold tickets and four dollars, and McDonough laughed off the incident.

Blacksmith Pedigo worked as a wrestler and referee for Allen. In 1919 he was arrested at the age of 18 for fraud after taking money from patriotic citizens who believed he was a wounded World War I vet.

Fans of Kenny Bolin will be interested to know that while there has yet to be a confirmed genealogical link, Bolin has already taken to calling Pedigo his long lost cousin.

I’m posting this teaser/update to both share the new project and hopefully stir up some memories of people who may remember a few of these names. If you have information on Allen or anyone who worked Louisville in the 40s and 50s please email me at johncosper@yahoo.com

The Allen Club story is told in part in Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville. More to come in 2016!

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Terry Garvin Wants to Rule the World!

One of the guys I enjoyed meeting while writing was Bluegrass Brawlers was Terry “Garvin” Simms. I first learned of Terry through my wife, an avid Reddit reader, who found an AMA (that’s ask me anything, for those of you like me who never go to Reddit) that he did one night. I got in touch with Terry through Facebook and then via phone. Simply put, he’s the most outstanding wrestling storyteller you’ve never heard of. He has a fascinating story of his own, and he has plenty to go around about the men he worked with. Still waiting for the right time and place to share one he shared with me about the Freebirds.

Thankfully for those like me who love good stories, Terry has joined the ranks of podcasters with his show World Domination with Terry “Garvin” Simms. It turns out Terry’s not only good sharing his stories but getting stories from some of wrestling’s biggest legends including Lance Russell, Handsome Jimmy Valiant, Doug Gilbert, Axl Rotten, Jeanie Clarke, Bull Pain, and Robert Fuller.

If you’re a fan of old time rasslin’, this is a fun, positive look back at the people and stories that made wrestling great without the usual lamentations about how the business “ain’t what it used to be.”

I’d like to send an extra special thank you to Terry’s recent guest Jimmy Valiant, who put Bluegrass Brawlers over not once, but twice on the show. I had the opportunity to meet Jimmy a few months back in Evansville and give him a copy of the book. I’m so glad he liked it and honored he’d give it such a great endorsement.

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February 18, 1947: Heywood Allen Says Goodbye

1941 thesz allen1941 thesz allen1941 thesz allenSixty-eight years ago this week, Heywood Allen promoted his last show in Louisville, Kentucky.

On February 9, 1947, The Courier-Journal reported that Allen had sold his interest in the Allen Athletic Club to co-owner Francis A. McDonough, Jr., and a farewell show was scheduled for February 18.

A crowd of 5000 people packed the Armory for Allen’s last show. World champion Bill Longson was on hand, defeating Felix Miquet (whose brother Francois would become famous as Corsica Joe) in two out of three falls. Babe Sharkey and Ed Meske won victories over Miguel Torres and Ralph Garibaldi, respectively, and Mickey Gold drew with Joe Millich.

Governor Simeon S. Willis received an invitation for the special event, along with a group of men referred to in the paper as the “Ole Gang of Allen’s.” The gang included McDonough, Charley Schullman, George Lewis, Paul Neal, Pat Murphy, Clarence Brenzel, Kid Scotty Williams, Ray McDonough, and Billy Love. Other regional promoters and NWA dignitaries also came to pay tribute to Allen.

McDonough sent word out to the community hoping to find Allen’s oldest living fan. The honor went to a man named Robert T. Brown, who recalled one of Allen’s first matches as a bout between William Demetral and Jack Stone during Demetral’s first trip to town in 1912.

Allen worked matches in Louisville for 42 years. He bore witness to the birth of Ed “Strangler” Lewis, held court over the first golden age with Stecker, Caddock, and Zbyszko, weathered two world wars, the National Wrestling Association, the birth of the National Wrestling Alliance, and the rise of perhaps the greatest champ of all, Lou Thesz. The fire Allen ignited in Louisville sports fans would far outlive his career and his life, and the fruits of his labor can be seen today.

Read more about Heywood Allen and Louisville’s wrestling history in Bluegrass Brawlers.