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Masters of Pain Caps Off Great Weekend at IWA East Coast

It’s been twenty months since I took a road trip to see professional wrestling, and IWA East Coast broke the Covid-enforced moratorium with a bang this past weekend. The promotion hosted three shows from Friday through Saturday, and the entire weekend was a blast.

IWA East Coast hosted their festivities at Skateland, a roller rink set up inside an old elementary school just southeast of downtown Charleston, West Virginia. The decor along the two story walls surrounding the rink included playful graffiti, billiards tables and accessories, and high up in one corner, a life-size replica of Michael Myers, complete with butcher’s knife.

“To me, this building represents all of West Virginia,” said one local on Saturday afternoon. “You have all this fun stuff, and then, a little bit of creepiness.”

Made sense to me. Earlier that day I made the obligatory one hour trek to Point Pleasant to see the Mothman Museum and statue. Yes, it’s absolutely worth the extra time and your $4.50 admission. (You will spend more in the shop. Trust me!)

Back to the wrestling. The action began Friday night when eight men took part in the Zero G Crown Tournament, including Kincaid, Facade, Gary Jay, Aaron Williams, and Jake Crist. The first round match up between Crist and Williams alone made the trip worthwhile for me, but the entire evening was full of great action.

Third generation wrestler Malcolm Monroe III came into the building as an unknown, but by the end of the evening, everyone was chanting “Three! Three! Three!” Host Mad Man Pondo hyped the kid up in his first major event outside his home state of Michigan. Odds are he’s going to be doing a lot more traveling in the near future.

Fans dumped plenty of hate on Jake Crist, who heeled it up all night long as he sailed through the brackets. At one point the crowd split with a “Let’s go Jake Crist / Dave is better chant.” The former Impact star proved he deserves to still be on someone’s roster, and he took home a giant trophy to add to his resume.

Saturday afternoon, the ladies of Girl Fight took center stage. Fans were treated to two great opening matches featuring Girl Fight regulars Charlie Kruel, Mickie Knuckles, Nikki Victory, and Big Mama.  A lesser known competitor named Shayla Hyde put the Girl Fight fans on notice when she hit a 619 on the Black Widow Harley Fairfax. The crowd popped big, and Shayla scored a huge upset.

Another new face who impressed was young Judi-Rae Hendrix from Lexington, Kentucky. I met Judi on Friday night, when she picked up a copy of Tracy Smothers’ book and told me she was training with Bobby Blaze. Having not met her before, I was surprised to see Hendrix in the main event slot with newly crowned Girl Fight champion Billie Starkz. Hendrix quickly showed she belonged, going toe to toe with Starkz and earning a “This is awesome” chant after hitting the champ with a Canadian Destroyer.

Starkz got the win, but fans definitely took note of Hendrix and her tenacity. This is another young lady to watch in the coming years!

Saturday evening was the Masters of Pain deathmatch tournament, featuring eight of the best deathmatch artists in the world: Shlak, Shane Mercer, John Wayne Murdoch, Akira, Jimmy Lloyd, G Raver, Alex Colon, and Nolan Edwards. To be honest I am not a deathmatch guy, but I have endless respect for the men and women who do these types of matches. I also firmly believe that some of the deathmatch specialists are among the very best wrestlers in the world, period.

I’ve often said you could take John Wayne Murdoch, put him in a time machine, and drop him in Memphis or Mid-South during their hey day. A number of the guys competing with him Saturday night would do equally well in that sci-fi scenario.

The show was fun and frenetic from start to finish, but the match that had everyone buzzing in the building and online was the second round clash between Shane Mercer and Akira. Why Mercer is not signed to a major company is beyond me. His combination of power and athleticism are unmatched on the indies. Mercer and Akira dueled it out in a shower of glass shards and fluorescent lights with big flips and power moves throughout. Akira outlasted Mercer, and afterwards, Mercer took a moment on the mic to honor the student who had just bested one of his teachers.

The evening came to a grand finale when Akira and Nolan Edwards entered a ring filled with fan-made weapons to fight for the Masters of Pain trophy. The boys made use of everything from a door covered in barbed wire to a preschool baseball bat covered in glass Christmas ornaments. That said, it was the garbage can full of light tubes that stole the show. The boys began trading head shots, one after another, faster and faster, as if determined not to leave a single bulb unbroken. The flurry of popping glass had the fans on their feet, stomping and screaming for more. The night ultimately belonged to Akira, who bested his close friend and brother Nolan Edwards to win the tournament.

IWA East Coast plans to bring back Masters of Pain next year. If they do it up like these did this year, I highly recommend fans making the trip. The hospitality is warm and friendly. The local flavor is fun. And as I already mentioned, the Mothman is only an hour away… although Mad Man Pondo swears he heard the creature in his hotel room Friday night.

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Girl Fight: Billie Starkz vs. ELLA!

I can’t believe I’m a week late posting this. I’ve been waiting a long time to see Ella back in the ring. Not only is Ella back, she’s fighting Billie Starkz!

Ella was the only woman never to be pinned in Girl Fight before her hiatus. Can she keep the streak alive against Billie Starkz?

Girl Fight is presenting empty arena matches every week for its wrestling-starved fans for free. All they ask is, if you can, to send a few bucks to the ladies. Here’s where to send a little thank you to Ella and Billie:

Ella:
Venmo: @Elizabeth-Johnson-348

Billie:
Venmo: @Billie-Starkz
CashApp: $BillieStarkz
PayPal: BigStarkzBrand@gmail.com

And don’t forget, Ella also has a novel available on Amazon!

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Mickie Knuckles Triumphs at Night of the Living Girl Fight

There were sixteen ladies booked for the October 2020 edition of Girl Fight Wrestling. Five canceled due to Covid-19, and one had to bail last minute due to a family emergency. The ten ladies that remained put on one of the best shows in the promotion’s history.

I missed independent wrestling like crazy over the last nine months, but I can honestly say if I had to go another nine months without an indy show, this one would hold me over. Top to bottom, it was one of the most entertaining nights of pro wrestling I’ve ever attended.

The great action started with the very first bout when Hawlee Cromwell took on Arie Alexander. Alexander was a new face, and the girl with sunflowers all over her wrestling gear proved to be a very equal match for Cromwell. Alexander won over some fans and took the match from the Girl Fight veteran.

Next up was the much anticipated Jeffersonville debut of Heather Reckless against another diminutive grappler Valentina Loca. Loca made enemies of the crowd with her loud mouth and smart aleck comments right from the start while Reckless stole the heart of every child in attendance. The Seth Rollins trainee quickly won over the older fans as well with her wrestling and submission skills. Loca and Reckless were great from start to finish, where Reckless claimed a win over the brash girl from New Mexico.

Blair Onyx entered the ring next followed by her challenger, the masked Pizza Cat, Jr., aka fan favorite Billie Starkz. After silencing a few smart marks in the back of the room with her death stare, Onyx struck fear in the heart of poor Pizza Cat by bending backwards into a bridge and crawling like a spider toward her feline foe. It was impressive to watch the young Starkz/Pizza Cat put on a different persona in the ring, but Onyx was equally impressive with her acrobatic skills and flexibility. In the end the cat beat the spider as Pizza Cat got the pin.

The last match before intermission was a grudge match between Mickie Knuckles and Charlie Kruel. Still fuming from the last Girl Fight show when Kruel cost Knuckles a victory against Susie, Mickie took the fight to Kruel. Mickie’s humor was back in full force as well. “You’re crazier than I am, and that’s REALLY saying something,” she told Kruel early in the match. Mickie later made everyone question who the crazy one was by picking Charlie’s nose and feeding her the booger. Then after a slow count from the referee, Mickie warned the official, “You’re getting licked tonight. I don’t care if there’s Covid!” Knuckles got her revenge, winning a hard-hitting contest.

Only one match remained after intermission, and that was the Broad Brawl for the vacated Girl Fight Championship. Heather Reckless and Billie Starkz started off the Girl Fight version of the Royal Rumble, and a new competitor joined in every 30 seconds until 10 ladies total had entered. In addition to Onyx, Cromwell, Loca, Knuckles, Alexander, and Kruel, the ladies were joined by Hannah Henderson and Larry D’s wife Paige.

All ten ladies made it into the ring before the eliminations began. Heather Reckless was the first to go, followed by Valentina Loca, Arie Alexander, Blair Onyx, Hannah Henderson, and Paige. Charlie Kruel then shocked the fans by tossing Billie Starkz over the top rope, leaving Kruel and Cromwell to face the only former champion in the match, Mickie Knuckles.

Twice, Cromwell and Kruel made a run at Knuckles trying to knock her over the top rope. On the second attempt, Mickie pulled down the top rope and gave the younger ladies a nudge. The bell sounded, and Mickie Knuckles became the two time Girl Fight Champion.

I can’t say enough about how hard the ladies fought tonight. This is a must-see event when it hits streaming and DVD for anyone who loves Girl Fight or women’s wrestling in general.

Girl Fight’s next event is yet to be announced, but Mad Man Pondo teased the possibility of a Midnight Girl Fight show the night before Thanksgiving. If past years are any indicator, it will be a raucous crowd and another great night of women’s action should it come to pass.

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Susie Surprises and Terrifies at Girl Fight

I’ve seen Su Yung of Impact Wrestling in action twice before. Once on a show for Terry Harper, when she ended up in the lap of my seventeen year-old nephew, and once at Girl Fight. I was as disappointed as anyone last night when Impact Wrestling star Susie appeared for the main event go against Mickie Knuckles, but that disappointment gave way to terror as Susie took the ring and Mickie reacted to the surprise appearance.

It’s a shame Susie’s run with Impact has not played out in front of a live audience because I can tell you first hand, there’s something disturbing and ominous about her. Every time Mickie would put Susie on the ground and her face would be obscured for a time, you expected her to push the long, black hair out of her face and reveal the visage of Su Yung. That Su never appeared didn’t matter. The threat never went away, even after ref Charlene called for the bell and disqualified Mickie (thanks to some dubious intervention on Charlie Kruel’s part). Susie came in with her little girl wave and left with the same innocent wave, but she put a chill in the fans that packed the Park Place UMC gymnasium tonight.

Yes, Girl Fight Wrestling is back, and tonight’s event in a six-sided ring drew cheers from beginning to end. The evening began with Lily Lockhart defeating Bailey McRoberts and Megan DiFrancisco defeating Hannah Henderson. New comer Henderson made a big impression on the fans, many of whom crowded around her gimmick table at both intermissions to say hello. DiFrancisco made the opposite impression, angering fans with a big mouth and a bad attitude. She made you hate her in all the right ways.

The first part of the show concluded with the masked Seishin (formerly Tootie Lynn Ramsey) facing the dark Hawlee Cromwell. One of the joys of following this promotion is watching young wrestlers grow and develop. Seishin and Cromwell are part of the current “generation” growing up before our eyes, and their high energy battle could have main evented many independent shows I’ve attended. They won’t be occupying the first half of the show much longer.

The second portion of the show kicked off with another vocal heel, Nikki Victory, facing the returning Big Mama. Big Mama was even more vocal than Nikki, and while she is used to playing heel in her home promotion of NWF in Ohio, she reminded fans why they loved her before taking a break to have a baby. Nikki was a game adversary, but Big Mama powered her way to her first ever Girl Fight win.

The next match featured another of the current Girl Fight class’s signature stars, Charlie Kruel in a match against Salena Dean. Kruel’s psycho killer character has evolved from a one dimensional screamer to a personality that’s part Susie, part A.J. Lee, part Festus, and even a touch of U-Gene. She’s gleeful and wants to be friends – at least, she says she does. But the psycho killer comes out to play once the action starts, along with the piercing scream. Charlie took the win over Salena tonight and skipped away, waving to her friends in the crowd.

Next up was Skye Blue from Chicago facing the youngest and arguably the most popular star in Girl Fight, Billie Starkz. Starkz eats, sleeps, breathes, and dreams pro wrestling. It’s in her blood, and it permeates every part of her. She has an infectious smile and a playfulness that connects with the fans. She also continues to blossom on the ring, adding new weapons to her arsenal with each outing. Most fans believe they’re seeing a future mega star every time she takes the ring. Enjoy her while she’s here, folks. The tickets to see her will be much pricier in a few years.

I’ve often said that the Mickie Knuckles/ Dementia D’Rose vs. Amazing Maria/ Samantha Heights tag team match in Fort Wayne a few years back was my favorite live match of all time. I still stand by that statement, even after tonight, but for a time, Mickie Knuckles and Susie threatened to overtake that spot.

I already gushed about Susie’s character and the way she holds you in the palm of her hands, asking the question, “Will she or won’t she turn into Su Yung?” That said, I can’t overstate Mickie Knuckles’ role in the match. Mickie’s the veteran, a Chris Hero student turned locker room leader and teacher, and there’s a reason fans like me will never miss a match of hers if we can help it. Usually Mickie entertains with one liners, comedy spots, and a little – not make that a lot of referee abuse. That made her reaction to Susie all the more real. Mickie wasn’t about the jokes tonight. She was scared. She didn’t know how to handle Susie or even what to make of her. Susie acted creepy. Mickie made it feel real.

Sadly, we did not get a clean finish to what was otherwise a very entertaining main event. Charlie Kruel skipped to the ring while ref Charlene was out, found a folding chair, and gave Susie a whack on the back with it. She then laid the chair beside Mickie, just as Charlene came to. Those darn refs never believe the babyfaces when they say they’ve been framed, and Charlene disqualified Mickie in favor of Susie.

Susie kept us watching as she rose off the mat, her face obscured by her hair once more like the little girl from The Ring. But when she brushed her hair back to thank Mickie for the match, it was still creepy Susie and not Su Yung whose face we saw. Mickie demanded a match with Charlie, and Mad Man Pondo agreed to give it to her on the next show.

Mickie and Charlie will face off on October 17 at the same venue, Park Place UMC in Jeffersonville. Girl Fight will also present a battle royal-type match that will crown a new Girl Fight champion that evening. Oh yeah, and we will finally see the Girl Fight debut of Heather Reckless on the 17th. I’ve been singing her praises to Pondo and anyone else who will listen since seeing her in action at Cauliflower Alley Club in April of 2019. Fans, you’re in for a treat.

Head to www.girlfightwrestling.com to get all the info about the next show and find out how to order tickets.

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Girl Fight Returns September 26!

One of my favorite promotions is back, and I am finally going to see some live wrestling in two weeks!

Things were looking a little rough for Girl Fight Wrestling, even before the pandemic shut the wrestling world down. A monster card planned in January was canceled under somewhat suspicious circumstances. “Dad Man” Pondo was understandably discouraged, and many of the Girl Fight faithful were left wondering if they would ever run another show.

Eight months later, Girl Fight is reloaded and ready to go. The promotion that gave a boost to many current WWE, AEW, and Impact stars will host “Jawbreaker” on Saturday night, September 26 at Park Memorial UMC in Jeffersonville. Fans will see rising stars who are already Girl Fight favorites including Billie Starkz, Charlie Kruel, Hawlee Cromwell, Seishin, and Big Mama. They will meet new faces like Megan Difrancisco, Camron Bra’nae, and Bailey McRoberts.

And the main event? Oh, it’s a good one.

Mickie Knuckles vs. Su Yung.

If you know the names, you know how good this one’s going to be. Impact and Girl Fight fans already know how good Su Yung (aka Susie) can be. And Mickie? She only steals the show any time she makes an appearance at Girl Fight.

The good news is Girl Fight’s in a new venue with more room than ever before at a Southern Indiana show. The bad news is capacity is limited. (Stupid Covid.) The even worse news? Front row is gone, and the remaining general admission tickets are selling fast.

Head to www.girlfightwrestling.com to find out how to order tickets before it’s too late!

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Paradigm Pro Is Still Here!

PPW: So Far Gone

Jordan Rose summed up the mood in the Sellersburg American Legion Post on Friday night for all the fans in attendance at Paradigm Pro Wrestling’s January event. After losing their building just a few weeks before, thanks to a suspicious phone call placed to the nearby city of Clarksville, the powers that be at PPW were able to find a new home quickly. Not only were all the previously booked wrestlers in attendance, PPW likely drew a few extra fans thanks to the cash bar at the back of the room. In a spirit of defiance and pride, Rose directed his gaze at the steadi-cam perched on the announcer’s table and sent a message to the man or woman who not only evicted PPW from Malice Manor but managed to get Girl Fight’s most recent offering canceled:

“WE’RE STILL HERE!!!”

The recent incident is not the first one of its kind. Not in wrestling, not in Kentuckiana, certainly not in recent memory. It was just a few years ago that two more phone calls successfully shutting down IWA Mid-South at Jammerz Rollerdome while unsuccessfully attempting to close the Arena in Jeffersonville. The so-called snitch was identified as a rival promoter who has since vanished from the area, along with his promoter. The identify of this recent caller remains anonymous, and in all fairness, it could just as easily be a local do-gooder rather than a promoter will ill intent. Nevertheless, it’s worth sharing a thought I’ve spoken only privately up until now.

If you are running 5000 fans a week, you have a territory to defend.

If you are running under 200 a week, as all the local promotions on both sides of the river are, you do not have a territory. You have NOTHING to defend.

Run your shows, and let everyone else be.

Be thankful for the loyal fans you have, and remember – even out of those 200, at least half are patronizing the other guys too.

With all that said, let’s go to the show and talk a couple of highlights:

First, let’s talk about the Lost Boys. I’m thrilled to see Hoodfoot has connected with Adam Slade and what appears to be a great faction. If you get the chance to see (or book) this group, do it. Adam Slade, Bradley Prescott IV, Hoodfoot, and the rest are hungry, talented, and most of all – fun. These guys are fueled by a love of wrestling and entertaining. Great to see so many of them on the show.

I finally got to see Warhorse Friday night, and wow, that was a fun match with the aforementioned Bradley Prescott IV. I love this guy’s look, too. His promo photos remind me of Zartan. He’s got a great gimmick, and he really connects with the fans. I’ll go see him any day.

It was great seeing Reed Bentley again, but I have to admit, I’m questioning these stories he told me when we first met. Reed tells me he trained in an actual ring, but he spends so little time wrestling inside a ring, I don’t know if I believe him. Joking aside, it was fun seeing him in a singles match again. Much as I love him with John Wayne Murdoch (who I will get to) and their all-out wars as the Rejects, it’s nice to see both those guys show what they can do as singles.

Billie Starkz is a superstar in the making. The girl connects with the fans like another young lady I first saw wrestling locally back in 2014 who just made her third appearance in the Royal Rumble. She’s already where Crazy Mary was skill wise at that time, and she’s five years younger than Mary was at that time. Enjoy her while she’s young, fans. She won’t be in this area for very long once she hits 18.

Calvin Tankman is a monster. He is big, strong, agile, and OVER with the fans. Not sure why he is “unsigned” but that’s a status I would expect changes before the end of this year. 

The PPW title match went on second to last, which is what happens when you have John Wayne Murdoch scheduled in a street fight. The Duke of Hardcore can do no wrong in the eyes of fans around these parts, and everyone was thrilled to see the doors, steel chairs, and other implements of destruction set out for the main event. It’s almost a foregone conclusion in these moments that JWM is always going to win this type of match, and you could feel the shockwave ripple through the crowd when the referee counted three and raised the hand of…. Nolan Edwards? Yes!! It was Edwards who defeated John Wayne Murdoch in his own specialty match. Edwards has scored several huge wins as of late across the region against top stars, not the least of which was Kongo Kong, and now he has a huge statement win at PPW. PPW has already proven to be a launch pad for young stars, introducing fans to guys like Corey Storm and Ace Austin. Nolan Edwards is poised to have a breakout year in 2020. 

Oh, and speaking of break out stars, PPW fans better enjoy every chance they get to see Dominic Garrini up close. The bare-footed shooter has an invitation to the eight man tournament that kicks off the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame festivities this July in Waterloo, Iowa. Other competitors include Colt Cabana, Mad Man Fulton, Mr. Anderson, Gary Jay, and the man Garrini most wants to get his hands on – Ken Shamrock. This is a high profile tournament and an incredible opportunity for Garrini.

PPW will return to Sellersburg on March 27 for their next Heavy Hitters event. Fans who want to check out this outstanding and (so far) unkillable promotion can follow them on Facebook for more information.