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IWA Mid-South: A remarkable anniversary

 

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It’s not easy to run an independent promotion in the WWE era. Most promotions only last a few months at best, struggling to draw an audience and attract talent the fans want to see. Very few have been able to sustain any long term success. Louisville, Kentucky is truly unique because not one but two such promotions have thrived and survived since the mid 1990s.

Much has already been written about Ohio Valley Wrestling, the brainchild of Danny Davis that became (for a time) the developmental center for the WWE. But when Danny Davis was opening his doors at the Quadrangle in Jeffersonville, Ian Rotten was already building a cult-like following at IWA Mid-South.

In 1996 former ECW star Ian Rotten brought the hardcore style to Louisville, filling a void left in the hearts of fans when Memphis closed its doors. IWA Mid-South has always been known for violence and bloodshed, but over time, the promotion also developed a reputation for showcasing some of the brightest young stars in the business. The list of talent who worked for Ian reads like a Who’s Who of today’s indy and hardcore scene, as well as the current WWE roster. Even the current champion, Seth Rollins, once worked for IWA Mid-South.

When Ian ran into trouble with the Kentucky Athletic Commission, he had to move across the river to Indiana.  Changing buildings or cities is usually enough to put an end to a wrestling promotion, but the IWA Mid-South fans followed their favorite show across the river. IWA Mid-South has been in at least six different buildings since the printing of Bluegrass Brawlers, and no matter where they go, the fans followed.

I asked a few members of the IWA Mid-South family, what is it that makes IWA Mid-South so special? How in the world is a promotion that has faced so much adversity about to celebrate its 19th anniversary? Here, in their own words, are your answers.

Vic Filpot, Indy Power Rankings: Building a cult like following and having a boss that believes in his product as much as his fans do.

Aidan Blackhart, Wrestler: IWA is going strong in my opinion due to the hard work put out by its talent alongside a family mentality shared both in the locker room and the fans themselves.

Misty Duncan, Ticket Sales: I believe it has been around so long because of the mind of Ian Rotten. His eye for talent and ability to create his own stars is second to none. Over the years he has put together a lot of matches that no one else would ever have the eye to book. Let’s not forget that the revolving door of stars that this company has seen on it’s regular roster is incredible, and the friends Ian has made over the years has allowed him to bring in a lot of names that other Indies, especially in this area, just don’t have the power to do.

Shane Mercer, current IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion: Passion. If you come to a IWA show regardless if there is 10 ppl or 500. You always know the talent there puts it all on the line to be the best. One of those vibes that’s different you get than most locker rooms. Makes you wanna push that much harder.

If any word sums up the IWA Mid-South “universe,” it is the word passion. Ian Rotten is a passionate leader with an outstanding eye for talent and an instinct for giving the fans what they want. The fans of IWA Mid-South are passionate about wrestling and rabid about their favorite promotion. It doesn’t matter if it’s indoors, outdoors, down the street or hours away, they will be there to see their favorite show. That passion fuels the wrestlers who put their bodies on the line every night for their leader and their fans. They are all at IWA Mid-South in hopes that they too might one day follow in the footsteps of Seth Rollins, Chris Hero, and CM Punk.

Congratulations to Ian Rotten and the IWA Mid-South faithful as you celebrate 19 years of keeping independent wrestling alive.

Click here for details on the 19th anniversary show.

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Who is Dean Hill?

“Is it for real? Or is it a work?” That’s the question that’s been on every OVW fan’s mind all week. Ever since it was announced that founder Danny Davis had sold his majority ownership, fans have been speculating on whether this is really the end or just another wrestling storyline.

Any time you can make the fans believe, it’s a good thing, especially in the reality era. Kayfabe or no, this week’s announcement is a great excuse to tell you a little bit about the man they call “The Voice of Louisville Wrestling.”

Dean Hill has been a part of OVW from the very beginning as part of the television announcing team. In fact for many fans, Hill is probably more synonymous with OVW than Davis, who earned the nickname “The Wizard of Oz” for his propensity to remain behind the curtains at Davis Arena.

Dean Hill is one of many Louisville personalities I had the honor to interview and feature in Bluegrass Brawlers. He plays drums for a few local bands including T.J. and the Cheaters, he’s a motorcycle enthusiast, and he is a retired Louisville Police officer. When he started on the force in the early 1970s he learned hand to hand combat from Buck Moore, who wrestled on the Police benefit shows for promoter Francis McDonough in the 1950s.

Hill came into wrestling not as part of any promotion, but a necessary evil. He was part of the detachment assigned to escort the heels to and from the ring for Memphis Wrestling on Tuesdays at Louisville Gardens. He caught the eye and ear of promoter Teeny Jarrett, and one night when the regular ring announcer was a no-show, Hill agreed to fill in. He was surprised when Jarrett paid him at the end of the night, but he was even more surprised when he was asked to take over the job permanently.

Hill moved up from ring announcer to television announcer before Memphis closed shop in the mid 90s. Having spent several years announcing the names of luminaries like Jerry Lawler, Dutch Mantell, Bill Dundee, and even Andre the Giant (he maintains a full list of people he has announced to this day!), he settled back into life without wrestling.

One day Hill spotted Danny Davis scouting a warehouse up for sale. He pulled over to talk to the former Memphis tag star and learned that Davis was looking to open a wrestling school. Davis wanted to do more than just teach wrestling. He intended to teach ever facet of the business, including television. Davis asked Hill to be part of the announce team, and Hill accepted.

Many men have passed through the OVW announcer’s booth over the years, including Kenny Bolin, Jim Cornette, Dutch Mantell, Al Snow, and Gilbert Corsey. Through it all, Hill has been the anchor of OVW television. He was there in the beginning, when local boys like Rob Conway and Nick Dinsmore began making a name for themselves. He called the action for future stars like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and CM Punk. He became a teacher himself, mentoring the young announcers who came through the school as well as the future stars inside the ring. Ask Hill to tell you the story how he taught Lesnar to stop swearing under his breath in the ring.

Hill also took what has been called the worst bump in the history of professional wrestling. It didn’t happen in the ring, but near the backstage area. Sadly only four people were witness to the bump, including Hill himself and the man who fell on top of him, Kenny Bolin. You can read the rest of that story in Kenny’s book.

If Hill is truly the new owner at OVW (and it’s on the Internet so it has to be true, right??), there’s no one who knows OVW better. He was there for the glory days with the WWE, and he knows the challenge that lies ahead filling Danny Davis’s shoes. With Hill at the helm, I’m sure it will be smooth sailing. What could possibly go wrong?

This is professional wrestling. If you want to know the answer to that question, tune in next week!

To read more of Dean’s story and the story of wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky, get your copy of Bluegrass Brawlers on Amazon.com.

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Mitchell Huff has more views than you

chosen one moYes, jabroni, Mitchell Huff has more views than you. As a matter of fact at last count, he’s crushing you.

Mitchell Huff is an OVW-trained talent, taught by the likes of Danny Davis and Rip Rogers.

Huff is no rookie. He started training years ago. He took several years off from the business, and it’s a credit to his talent that as soon as he stepped back in, he became a sought after main event level player across the Midwest.

Huff is no beer bellied slouch either. Go see him in person. He’s ripped, and he’s worked hard to get there.

Mitchell’s also become an in-demand trainer here in Southern Indiana. I’m sure he’d welcome you into his class, if you were man enough to try. I’m sure you wouldn’t last.

Mitchell thought your video was funny. So did his friends. They know there’s a reason why Mitchell is called the Chosen One.

Hope you got a lot of hits riding on Mitchell’s coat tails. That’s all you wanted, I’m sure, because you definitely don’t belong in a ring with Mitchell Huff. He is the Chosen One, and you… well, you’re just trying to get famous off someone else’s hard work.

No, I will not repost your video here. But I will share Mitchell’s. He is Tough Enough.

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OVW HD – A new Indiegogo Campaign!

The first time I saw Ryan Howe was the night after Wrestlemania XXVII. He was the first of the new round of Tough Enough contestants to introduce himself to a Raw crowd that chanted for Stone Cold Steve Austin to “Stun them all!”

I saw him again almost two years later at OVW, the night I started work on Bluegrass Brawlers. He didn’t wrestle that night, but I saw him a few times over the next couple of years. He had a great look, and he showed potential, but he was always in the mid-card, working underneath guys like Rob Terry and Jamin Olivencia. He was better each time I saw him, but he was always outshined by the main event players.

Wednesday night, I saw him again. He worked the main event against OVW champion Mohamed Ali Vaez. This was a completely different Ryan Howe than I had ever seen before. Same look, same gimmick, but there was a confidence and a swagger about him I hadn’t seen before. Howe looked like he belonged in that main event. He looked ready for the next step. If history is any indication at OVW, he’ll probably get it sooner rather than later.

That’s the legacy of OVW. OVW has set the standard for wrestling schools for nearly 20 years. Cena, Orton, Lesnar, Batista, Punk, Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Miz, Mizdow, Henry, Big Show, Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Dinsmore, Conway, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Lisa Marie Varon, Jamin Olivencia, Rockstar Spud. Over 100 students have gone on from OVW to work for WWE or TNA.

OVW just launched an Indiegogo campaign to upgrade their television equipment. OVW is the longest running wrestling television program in America outside of WWE (over 800 episodes!), and they’re ready to step it up and go HD. This campaign will allow them to upgrade their studio, their cameras, and their editing equipment so they can continue to produce a top quality program while providing the best training for the business, from inside the ring to the editing room.

OVW television airs locally in Louisville, but it’s also available to view online. OVW alums have shared with me how fans have come up to them in airports and venues around the country, fans who know them only from watching online. Most recently, OVW announcer Dean Hill told me he was approached by a fan in Seattle, Washington who watched OVW on TV!

Independent wrestling is growing in popularity once more, and OVW is positioning itself to take advantage of the changing tides. Check out the campaign on Indiegogo and the perks that are available – including and opportunity to train at the school. And by all means go to www.ovwrestling.com to check out their show for yourself!