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The End of IWA Mid-South?

15219367_10211256468433234_1316175058918177984_nWrestling has not been this hot in Louisville in decades.

While OVW rides a wave of enthusiasm fueled by their increasingly talented roster and their 900th TV taping, turmoil has erupted across the river.

Two years ago when I released Bluegrass Brawlers, I highlighted two Indiana promotions that, at the time, were running regular shows: the venerable IWA Mid-South, and Destination One Wrestling. Running monthly under former Ian Rotten student Rick Brady, D1W brought in some terrific talent including OI4K, Crazy Mary Dobson, the Indy Card Mafia, and Tracy Smothers. A series of unfortunate events forced D1W to go on permanent hiatus in 2015, and the promotion hasn’t been seen since.

That changed the night of the 20th anniversary show for IWA Mid-South, when Tracy Smothers faced IWA-MS Champion JJ Garrett with the title on the line. Smothers was on the ropes against the younger champ, but just when it seemed like Garrett had the match won, the lights went out and a man wearing a mask appeared on the apron. Garrett grabbed the guy and removed the mask to reveal “The Rick” Rick Brady!  The Rick’s sudden appearance gave Smothers the distraction he needed to hit Garrett with his stick and pin him. Once out of the ring, Tracy announced that the IWA title will now be known as the D1W title.

Over the next few weeks, The Rick promised that D1W was taking over and baited Ian Rotten into putting 50% of his company up vs. the chance to finally get his hands on The Rick for 5 minutes alone. Rotten took the bait and a six-man dog collar match was booked to settle the matter. Rotten selected Nick Depp, John Wayne Murdoch and JC Rotten to represent team IWA while  The Rick chose Mitch Ryder, Legendary Larry D and Derek Neal to represent team D1W.

The six men brawled all over the building on Thanksgiving night. During the closing minutes JC Rotten went down and grabbed his knee in pain. He fought his way back into the ring and was caught by Mitch Ryder and put into a figure four leglock. He immediately tapped. JC’s valet Tori entered the ring to check JC and was grabbed by Larry D. The fans were horrified, fearing for Tori’s safety, when Larry grabbed the girl in a huge hug! JC popped to his feet, revealing his knee injury to be a lie. He wasn’t hurt and he had just betrayed his father. The IWA locker room emptied out, but the D1W contingent beat them down in the ring.

Ian Rotten himself came off to chase away the D1W crew, but it was too late. The Rick now owns half of IWA Mid-South, and Ian and The Rick are now 50/50 partners.

I realize some of you Smarks reading this are rolling your eyes right now. “It’s all a work! You know Ian would never put up ownership in IWA!” That attitude is everything that is wrong with the IWC. Folks, this is old school. This is what packed gyms and arenas for decades before the WWE conquered the wrestling world, and guess what? It still works!

Right now, D1W/IWA Mid-South is as hot as they’ve ever been. They’re running twice a week on Thursdays in Clarksville, Indiana at Jammerz Rollerdrome and Saturdays in Memphis, Indiana at the Flea Market. Their fans are energized, and so too are the D1W fans who have missed their favorite promotion. The Rick is steamrolling IWA fans left and right on Facebook, and Tracy Smothers is proving (as he has over and over) that he’s one of the most underrated heels of any generation.

Will D1W take over, or will Ian save his beloved IWA Mid-South? Whatever happens next, the real winners are the fans enjoying a true old-fashioned blood feud!

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Countdown to 900: OVW Classic Match

Time was when the Louisville wrestling fans could go and see John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Shelton Benjamin, and dozens more future stars for free every Wednesday night. OVW re-posted this classic on Facebook last night, and I thought it was worth sharing here.

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OVW Celebrates 900 Episodes

ovw_logoTuesday night, the WWE will mark the 900th episode of Smackdown. Wednesday, Ohio Valley Wrestling will equal that mark with their 900th episode – the first ever broadcast in HD.

OVW has come a long way. Founded by Danny Davis as the Nightmare Wrestling Academy in Jeffersonville, OVW broke into the national wrestling consciousness when they were made the official training school for the WWE. When the fabled first class of OVW made its way to the main roster, wrestlers across the country began flocking to Louisville, knowing that OVW represented their best chance to make it to the big time.

The WWE banners are long gone, and the brief stint with TNA is now ancient history as well. Yet OVW today is as strong as ever, with a new generation taking the reigns in the ring as well as backstage.

It’s one thing for a multi-million dollar promotion to make it to 900 shows. It’s quite another for an independent promotion to reach the same milestone. It’s a tribute to the talent of the teachers, the quality of the program’s graduates, and the devotion of the OVW fans.

Congratulations goes to Danny Davis, Rip Rogers, Gilbert Corsey, Adam Revolver, Dean Hill, and everyone at OVW keeping the proud tradition alive. OVW is still one of the best places to learn your craft from master teachers. Their commitment to new technology is a signal that this small town promotion has hundreds more television programs in its future.

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Primus Primer: The Iron Demon

14199677_1157799777631907_5163760381507081028_nI did a quick Q&A to catch up with “The Iron Demon” Shane Mercer last week for Primus. He’s had a very busy summer, wrestling for PWF, Funkafied Wrestling Federation, Rockstar Pro, Smash Mouth Pro, CZW, and Strong Style Wrestling. He had his first match with Chase Owens, going 30 minutes with the Bullet Club member and getting raves from there fans. He also participated in a War Games, teaming with Suge D and Billy Gunn. “Was loving it for the little kid in me,” he says. “Who’d thought I would come out to DX music with a DX member one day.”

I had originally intended to share these stories, and this blog, last week, but it’s fortuitous that I delayed. Last night, Shane added another memorable night to his already impressive career. He had his debut match for OVW in Louisville at the Saturday Night Special.

Let me amend that: he had his debut match at OVW at the Saturday Night Special on the night Road Warrior Animal and Mick Foley were in attendance.

OVW official describes Mercer as a guy who is just waiting for the right person to spot him and elevate him. He is, pound for pound, one of the most powerful guys in the indies. He’s charismatic and explosive, and it may not be too long before someone does see him and give him a much bigger shot.

Mercer, meanwhile, is focused on Friday night and his opponent, Adrian Armour. “I have never locked up with Adrian Armour but have seen great work from him. Most of the first round matchups are pretty big but I feel like people are not thinking much into ours. Time to change that come the tournament.”

Mercer was a part of of the first PWF Primus tournament years ago, and he considers that experience to he his advantage. He fully intends to leave fans breathless, just as he did at Davis Arena last night. “I want this to be a night people will be bringing up years down the line. The championship is decided on this night, so it’s up to us to set the bar for what this championship means.”

PWF: The Primus takes place Friday night, September 9, at the Arena in Jeffersonville. Visit the event page on Facebook for information and tickets.

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Primus Primer: Hy Zaya

Over the next two weeks, Eat Sleep Wrestle will be spotlighting the competitors for Pro Wrestling Freedom’s upcoming show, The Primus. We begin today with Local fan favorite, Hy Zaya. 

There may not be a more independent wrestler in the country than Hy Zaya. At the end of 2015, Hy Zaya and his travel partner Shane Mercer had build a mini-territory for themselves, with three strong promotions booking them weekly. By the end of January, all three promotions were shut down.

Hy Zaya didn’t quit. He branched out. He made new contacts, connected to new promoters, and committed himself to learning a few new things, not the least of which is television.

Hy Zaya has become a break out star on the newly revamped OVW. He’s working heel in a few places after 18 solid years as a babyface. He’s imparting his own wisdom on the students at OVW, and he is still learning everything he can.

“One of the strangest things was learning not to post about the show after TV tapings,” he said. “I have to wait until Saturday to see how the show airs before I can say anything. The cool thing, though, is that on Saturday mornings, my Ninja Babies can wake up and see me on TV!”

In spite of his success at OVW, Hy Zaya considers himself a true free agent, freer than he’s ever been in the business. With no home promotion to tie him down, he’s able to go and work any place he wants. Everywhere he’s been, he’s left the fans begging for more.

Hy Zaya is one of twelve men vying for the new PWF championship at Pro Wrestling Freedom: Primus on Friday, September 9 in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He’s a strong favorite, given that PWF is in his backyard, but he knows he has his work cut out for him with his first round opponent, Jimmy Rave.

“I’m going to be watching a lot of Jimmy Rave video the next two weeks,” he says.

For event and ticket information, visit the PWF: The Primus page on Facebook.

Hy Zaya’s story can also be found in the book Eat Sleep Wrestle, available in paperback and on Kindle and Smashwords.

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Can One Man Make a Difference to a Promotion?

I’ve never watched TNA.

I’ve never watched a single episode or pay-per-view. Matter of fact, I’m not sure I’ve even watched a full match on TNA. Even on the Internet.

I didn’t watch when Jeff Jarrett was the top guy. I didn’t watch when they got Kurt Angle. I didn’t tune in for A.J. Styles or Samoa Joe.

Even after the recent buzz surrounding Matt Hardy and his Final Deletion (which I would like to see but have yet to watch), I wasn’t interested.

Why am I telling you all this? Because Aron Rex makes me want to watch TNA.

Whether he was Damien Sandow, or Damien Mizdow, or Davy Crockett, he was can’t-miss, must-see every time he showed up on WWE television. He’s a rare force who connects with the audience no matter what stupid gimmick he’s handed. He’s the super-rare performer who can make my wife look up and laugh when he’s on TV.

Aron Rex makes me want to watch TNA. That’s the difference one man – the right man – can make. Let’s hope the famously bad powers that be at TNA don’t botch this one up!

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Why I’m not going to NXT

I am an NXT fan. I have been since the second day I had the Network, the first time I saw the show. I rarely miss NXT. When I do, I watch it the next day, or later that evening. So why am I not going to see them when they come to Louisville?

Let’s do the math.

Floor seats for NXT are $79. “Cheap” seats are $44. “Cheap” seats at the older Broadbent Arena are more expensive for NXT than they were at the Yum! Center for WWE.

NXT is the hot ticket in wrestling these days, and with good reason. But do you know what that $44 will buy me? I do.

Three tickets to IWA Mid-South.

Four tickets to Pro Wrestling Freedom in Indiana.

Five tickets to UWA Throwdown or KDW.

Seven tickets to OVW’s Wednesday TV tapings.

No, it’s not apples to apples, but every one of the promotions I mentioned offers a different spin on the same product you’ll find at NXT. And for the price of one NXT ticket, you can check out all of the above and find a favorite local promotion.

I love NXT and will continue to enjoy NXT, but I also know the stars of NXT came from. Support indy wrestling wherever and whenever you can.

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Fight, Cody, Fight!

I had the pleasure of seeing Cody Runnels in his earliest days at OVW. I probably saw him more than any other WWE prospect during the last years of developmental. The young, aspiring wrestler I saw back then was a far cry from the leave-it-all-in-the-ring performer he has become.

I also saw Cody wrestle Rey Mysterio in person at Wrestlemania XXVII. It was one of the best matches of the night, and Cody brought the fans to their feet with a rare power display, holding Rey overhead in the corner.

I am happy to see Cody striking out on his own. The indy wrestling world is not what it was in his father’s hey day, but more and more of the top stars are making a better living on the indies than some of the mid- to lower card guys in WWE.

I think we can all agree that August 19 is going to be a very exciting day, when the son of the son of a plumber is finally able to start checking names off his list. Go get ’em, Cody!

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A new day for Kentucky wrestling?

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin surprised the wrestling world yesterday when he announced the creation of a new governing body dedicated to expanding fight sports in the Commonwealth. The Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority (KBWA) will oversee boxing, wrestling, MMA, and other full-contact sports. The new website for the KBWA states the group’s purpose as follows:

“Our mission is to encourage the growth of professional boxing and wrestling in the Commonwealth, while protecting participants and spectators of the sports. We strive to improve the sports by thoughtful, reasonable and fair regulation and monitoring.”

Early reaction to the announcement was largely positive. One of the stated goals of the KBWA is to attract major wrestling events – i.e. WWE – back to Kentucky. WWE has not held a Raw taping in Louisville since 2010, and the last WWE pay-per-view held in Louisville was Judgement Day in 2000.

While the possibility of attracting a major WWE show is exciting, many are wondering what impact this new commission will have on independent wrestling. It’s no secret that Kentucky is one of the most restrictive states in the nation when it comes to regulating wrestling. Kentucky is one of the few states that governs wrestling as a legitimate sport, and the red tape involved with promoting and wrestling in Kentucky is staggering.

“The hardest challenge in getting licensed in Kentucky isn’t finding a venue,” says Rick Brady, owner of D1W. “It was putting up a $5000 bond to throw a show. Since I had insurance, I was never sure why was the bond necessary. Second, I had to fill out an application and wait for them to decide to even give me a hearing to get a license. Third, I had to go to the hearing, and even if I posted the $5000 bond, I was still not guaranteed they would approve me for a license.”

The Kentucky Athletic Commission is notoriously stingy about handing out licenses to promoters. Brady contends that the Commission will not allow two promotions to run in the same territory, much like the old days of the NWA, and no one is allowed to move in and compete with the licensed promoters.

Kentucky regulations are equally cumbersome for the wrestlers, and anyone who wants to work in the business. Anyone who steps on the other side of the barrier wall from the fans – wrestlers, managers, valets, ring announcers, time keepers, and more – is required to have a license, and everyone who has a license is required to pass a physical and be subject to random drug testing.

“There’s nothing random about the drug testing,” says Brady. “[The Athletic Commission] intrude in the locker room and disrupt the show by having guys randomly pee tested. There are no restrictions on this. They can test you 2 or 3 times a week, and they are very biased on who they select. One wrestler, who I will not name, refuses to wrestle in Kentucky because of the harassment he was receiving from the Athletic Commission. After being suspended in 2013, he cleaned up his life and was drug free to my knowledge. When he returned to Kentucky in 2015, he went through the application process and was granted a license. Then at every show he wrestled, he was forced to take a drug test. After doing this five weeks in a row, and passing every time, he never returned to Kentucky.”

If you’re curious why WWE, TNA, and other promotions generally give Kentucky a pass, it’s because these regulations and more (including one that states a match must stop immediately if there’s any blood) apply to every wrestling show in Kentucky.

“I think Louisville and Lexington are gonna push for relaxed rules on wrestling to get bigger events,” says PWF’s Jimmy Feltcher. “At the end of the day, money talks, and so will it be in this case.”

The new KBWA will likely cut away some of the red tape in order to incentivize the WWE to bring a major event to Louisville or Lexington, but the question remains: will the independent wrestlers and promoters see any relief? Wrestlers I’ve spoken to are largely optimistic, but the promoters remain skeptical.

“I’m curious to see committee treats the little guys because it seems like a play to bring WWE back to the city,” says UWA’s Eddie Allen. “WWE and TNA both left OVW as a development area. Plus Louisville Gardens becomes instantly attractive to a bigger fish group of people if red tape on events is cleared.”

“If Bevin wants to change it, change it,” says Brady. “Gut the current commission and let the new guys have a fresh opportunity to revitalize wrestling.”

It’s worth noting that the promoters I spoke with all run or have run promotions in Southern Indiana, immediately across the river from Louisville. At the present time, there are more than half a dozen promotions running in the Louisville area north of the river, including PWF, UWA, KDW, and one time Kentucky promotion IWA Mid-South. Odds are one or more of these groups would happily move South into Kentucky. We might even see wrestling return to the Gardens, if the stars align for the right investor and the right promoter.

It all depends on how the KBWA does it’s job. At the very least we may soon see some major WWE events come to town, bringing the money and visitors the governor hopes to attract. At best the KBWA has the opportunity to bring Kentucky into the 21st century, positioning wrestlers in the Commonwealth to join the independent wrestling revolution already sweeping the country.

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Bolin needs a theme song!

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The Breakfast with Bolin event and DVD taping is only 11 days away. We’ve got a camera crew all set to capture the event, but do you know what we’re missing? A theme song!

I’m calling on all Kenny Bolin fans with a lick of musical talent to put that gift to work. We need a theme song to put on this DVD, and we want you to compose it. It doesn’t matter whether you play the guitar, the banjo, the accordion, or the lute; if you come up with the best tune that captures the essence of Kenny Bolin, we will use it.

Submit your entries to johncosper@yahoo.com

The best entry will be used on the DVD, and the winner will receive credit and a the thanks of a grateful Kenny Starmaker Bolin.