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School’s Out: The Evolution of OVW

In a last minute turn of events, I made my way to Ohio Valley Wrestling tonight for the live broadcast of television episode 1199. I’ve witnessed many TV tapings in Davis Arena since my first visit twenty years ago, and I saw some terrific action tonight. What struck me the most, however, is how different this OVW is from the OVW I used to know.

I still have a program from the first night I ever visited OVW. Kurt Angle was in the main event, and a number of WWE stars like Batista, Shelton Benjamin, Rob Conway, and The Bashams, were on the card. Outside of Angle, however, none of the above were Superstars at the time. They were students, wrestling on a televised program from a wrestling school. Yes, these were the Superstars of Tomorrow Today, but it still had the feel of a wrestling school program.

I don’t get that feeling in Davis Arena these days. OVW continues to evolve under new management, and it no longer feels like you’re watching wrestling in a wrestling school. Everything about OVW screams “territory.”

First of all, there’s the arena itself. From the lighting rigs above to the seating arrangements to the presentation itself, nothing screams “wrestling school.” It looks and feels like any other professional promotion. I take that back; it feels a cut above most wrestling promotions, including some others that are televised. This is Professional wrestling with a capital P.

Second, take a look in the ring. Can you identify the students? Are they the young ones in the ring? Or maybe the newer faces? Perhaps the officials, or maybe the television crew? Every OVW card is stacked with talented men and women including long-time independent stalwarts (Hi, Cash Flo!) and faces you’ve seen not just on wrestling TV but reality TV. (I see you, Jesse Godderdz!)

The matches do not feel like students vs. students. The storylines do not smell of amateur booking. Once again, OVW  presents Professional wrestling with a capital P.

Now truth be told, everyone backstage at OVW, save for one, is a student of OVW. From the wrestlers to the refs to the production team to the announcers, every man and woman has come to sit under the learning tree of Al Snow. Even Doug Basham, who made a cameo during tonight’s pull apart between Amazing Maria and her daughter Haley J, is a student here. Yes, he’s a former WWE Tag Team Champion. Yes, he’s now teaching the advanced class. But he will tell you how much he has learned from resident “Mr. Miyagi.”

Al Snow is a born teacher. His stated goal is that everyone who works for OVW will take what they learn and use it to reach their goals in pro wrestling. The testimony to Al’s genius is how very professional, how very “non-wrestling school” his burgeoning territory looks in person. OVW is run like a territory. The people working OVW are taught to perform as professionals. Every time I attend a show, OVW moves further and further away from their wrestling school roots.

OVW tours like a territory. They’ve been all over the state this summer, putting on house shows in big towns and small. They’re across the river in New Albany tomorrow night (August 5), and they’re back at Davis Arena Saturday (August 6) for a stellar card that includes a casket match, the return to action by Amazing Maria, and a special appearance by Scotty 2 Hotty.

And of course, OVW broadcasts not only locally, but internationally through Fite TV. OVW’s wrestlers and announcers receive fan mail (and email) from around the world. Every week, more and more eyes are on the long-running Louisville promotion, one that marks its 1200th episode in seven days. Tonight’s episode is worth catching on Fite and included some great tag team action with Jesse Godderdz and Tony Gunn, a hard-hitting eight man match at the very end, and some fun video segments with Freya the Slaya and my old pal from the Three Blind Refs video, Aaron Grider.

OVW may not be in the same conversation as AEW, WWE, Impact, or New Japan, but the students of Al Snow have transformed what was once the nation’s top wrestling school into an honest-to-goodness, 21st century territory. Great things continue to happen at Davis Arena, and greater things are on the horizon for the students: in and out of Davis Arena.

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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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Coming Soon: Bluegrass Brawlers, 10th Anniversary Edition

It’s been almost 10 years since I started writing about pro wrestling in December 2012. Okay, so that’s eleven months out, but what’s pro wrestling without a little exaggeration?

The book that started it all, Bluegrass Brawlers (2014), is no longer available on Amazon or Kindle. That’s because I’ve gone back to the beginning to create a new edition, a 10th anniversary edition, if you will.

Bluegrass Brawlers is getting a major overhaul. I spent the last several months compiling every wrestling result from 1880 through 1966, when Louisville went dark before the Memphis era. I also conducted more than a dozen new interviews including Jeff Van Camp, Al Snow, Billie Starkz, Bryan Kennison, Charlene McKenzie, Hy Zaya, Cash Flo, Josh Ashcraft, Judi-Rae Hendrix, Maria James, Haley J, Ryan Howe, and Doug Basham. And I still have a few more to go.

The original book covered four distinct eras: The Pioneers (1880-1920), The Allen Athletic Club (1935-1957), the Memphis era (1970-1997), and the OVW era (1996-2014). All four of those sections have been expanded, some by a little, some by a lot. I also expanded on the Dick the Bruiser era (touched only briefly in the 2014 edition), filled in the time gap between 1920-1935, and told the story of Louisville since 2014.

New stories covered in the new edition include:

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 promotion.

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.

Tales from the first students at OVW including Doug Basham and Nick Dinsmore.

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.

And the rise of women’s wrestling in Louisville and beyond.

The new book includes a lot more photos and 50% (and counting) more written content. Thanks to a more professional layout, it’ll still be around 330 pages.

Last but not least, the book is getting a brand new cover. Artist Adrian Johnson, who did covers for Tracy Smothers and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell, is working on something really special.

The target release month is March. So far, it’s on schedule. I’ll announce more here and on my social media in the coming months!

This new edition has been a long time coming. It’s going to be special.

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Nick Depp is Prince of the Deathmatch!

Saturday night, Nick Depp made a statement at IWA Mid-South. Before a packed, standing room only crowd in Memphis, Indiana, the young wrestler staked his place in the legendary promotion’s history by becoming the 2017 Prince of the Deathmatch.

Depp’s coronation is the result of a lot of hard work and a dream he began pursuing back in 2011. The Livermore, Kentucky native started training with the Waddell brothers in WWA.

“My first job in the wrestling business was as the ring announcer. I was horrible.” Depp’s inability to get anyone’s name right was embarrassing, but the promoters turned it into his first angle, when wrestlers came after him for the messing up their names.

Depp spent six months tagging with his friend Nick Willis as the Flight Club, winning the WWA Tag Team Championships. From there, he went on to Southern Wrestling Entertainment, where he furthered his training with veteran Cash Flo. “Cash taught me the art of selling and advanced psychology.”

In 2014 he left SWE and headed for IWA Mid-South. Depp caught the eye of Nick Maniwa and Reed Bentley, who spoke up for him and got him a shot at IWA-MS’s tryout show against Juan Hado and Alex Rudolph. The match earned Depp a roster spot and the chance to train with Ian Rotten.

“Ian completed my training,” says Depp. “It’s mind blowing how much you can learn from him. And the gift never stops giving.”

Depp competed in two previous deathmatch tournaments prior to Saturdays win: The 2015 POTDM tournament and the Kings of the Colosseum Deathmatch tournament. He’s especially proud of a 2016 Tai Pei Deathmatch he had against former IWA Mid-South Champion John Wayne Murdoch. “Axel Rotten did commentary for that match. Ian sat beside him and they watched, which I thought was pretty sick because this was their match. That moment can never happen again, and I’m so proud to be able to say that happened. Plus I beat Murdoch, and that year he went on to win King of the Deathmatch.”

I asked Depp what his goal was for 2017, now that he is deathmatch royalty. His answer was simple. “Always looking to improve, and also looking to be the best I can be.” With an attitude like that, Depp is likely to make an even greater impact on the business in the future.

Nick Depp can be booked at fakenickdepp@google.com

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Primus Primer: Cash Flo

14199677_1157799777631907_5163760381507081028_nToday’s Primus Primer comes once again from Righteous Jesse of the Kick Out at Two Podcast, who gives you a look at another dangerous veteran in the tournament, Cash Flo!

Cash Flo is walking into The Primus on September 9th with full intentions on winning the PWF championship. A man who has been in the business of professional wrestling since 1997. A man who cut his teeth in hardcore wrestling, Cash Flo is someone who should not be taken lightly.

I’ve seen PWF fliers that mention “Professor Cash Flo’s chop class.” I finally got to witness that in person earlier this year. It sounded like he was fully capable of causing someone’s chest to collapse.
With nearly 20 years of experience, Cash Flo is someone who is no stranger to championships.

Having held multiple IWA Mid South championships and the PWF tag team championships, I would say Cash Flo has a great chance at winning the Pro Wrestling Freedom championship September 9th.

Pro Wrestling Freedom presents The Primus, Friday night, September 9, in Jeffersonville, Indiana at The Arena. For show information and tickets, visit The Primus event page on Facebook

Follow and subscribe to Righteous Jesse and the Kick Out At Two gang on iTunes and Soundcloud

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Primus Primer: Andrew Hunter

10897112_1614144802141735_6578436952931233883_nHe’s not the biggest guy in the field; he might be the smallest. He’s also not the most experienced, though he has more years under his belt that you might think. But Andrew Hunter is a threat to win at PRIMUS because he might the the hungriest.

Andrew Hunter has been a fixture ever since PWF debuted at the Arena in Jeffersonville. He’s already faced two men in the tournament this year, Aaron Williams and Cash Flo. He’s battled men two and three times his size, and like a honey badger staring down a wildebeest, he does so without any fear.

Hunter currently holds one half of the UWA tag team championship with his partner, Matt Atreya. He also cracked the top 100 for the Indy Power Rankings’ mid year rankings, coming in at 95.

Hunter has his detractors in and out of the business, but he has done everything his way and continues to find success. He has dreams of breaking out from the local scene, where he works both PWF and UWA, and Primus might be the first step to fulfilling those dreams. He has his work cut out for him with Chip Day waiting for him in the first round.

Pro Wrestling Freedom: Primus on Friday takes place on September 9 in Jeffersonville, Indiana at the Arena. For event and ticket information, visit the PWF: The Primus page on Facebook.

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The Fearville Werewolf

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Friday night I saw a gutsy young wrestler answer an open challenge from Cash Flo. Even though Flo was bigger than him, not to mention far more experienced, Andrew Hunter took to the ring and his opponent with all the fearlessness of a veteran. He lost the match, but he won the crowd, and that is often the greater victory.

Andrew Hunter has dreamed of wrestling since the age of 8. “I never really had the aspirations of being in the Main Event of Wrestlemania. I just wanted to travel the world. I mean growing up and never having a consistent source of cable to watch the main stream product I watched wrestling where I could when I could. So this consisted of a lot of late 80’s and early 90’s Japanese tapes from AJPW and NJPW. I saw a range of the best of Stan Hanson to the best of Great Sasuke and everywhere in between. So I was captivated with the in your face smash mouth style from a young age.”

Not surprisingly, Andrew’s list of favorite wrestlers growing up has a little more diversity than most. Having watched so many overseas promotion, his favorites included Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Great Sasuke, Great Muta, and Ultimo Dragon along with Randy Savage and Brian Pillman.

Andrew began his training with Jimmy Feltcher at the Coliseum in Evansville, Indiana. “My first match was a handicap match. It was Brett Taylor, Michael Kaiden and myself against Nick Depp and Nick Willis. The match went ok but we all had a lot left to learn as it pertains to the business.”

Andrew draws a great deal of inspiration from his past when it pertains to his in-ring persona. He’s smaller than most of his opponents, but he’s fearless. “[I was] raised in a home of abuse and alcoholism. Being able to come out of that environment as a success makes you a survivor. What makes me unique is that survivor mentality.”

The Fearville Werewolf, as he is sometimes called, has had some great matches in his young career, citing Toby Farley and Aaron Williams as favorite opponents. His ultimate fantasy would be a match with the late Brian Pillman, but in reality, the opponent he desires most is Sami Callihan.

Andrew works mainly in Kentucky and Indiana area, with PWF and UWA being his home promotions. He’s already been a CCW Tri-State Champion and currently holds the AWA Junior Heavyweight Champion. If all goes well, Hunter has his eyes set on ROH, NJPW, PWG, and AAA

“I just basically want to be welled traveled internationally,” he says.

You can keep up with Andrew Hunter (or contact him for bookings) via TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Youtube.

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PWF Comes to Jeffersonville April 8!

12952768_10153893671035339_2100030830_oThe Arena has been a hit since the day 2 Tuff Tony opened the doors on the Jeffersonville wrestling venue. Friday night, a pair of seasoned promoters bring their act to town as Pro Wrestling Freedom presents a stellar card of indy wrestling action.

Founded in 2012 in Corbin, Kentucky, PWF has made its name by booking the best young talent possible. “In the beginning, we brought in a few names at first such as Vader and Dutch Mantell,” says co-promoter Jimmy Feltcher. “However what we discovered along the way is the fans were paying to see the Independent talent, not being entertained by the past.

The Kentucky version of PWF folded in 2013, but Feltcher and his partner John Norris (Father Fear) decided to bring it back in early 2016. True to their roots, PWF is bringing in a loaded card featuring Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, Roscoe Eat Lisa, Menace, Gary Jay, Cash Flo, and Team IOU.

“There will be something for everyone,” promises Feltcher. “Hard hitting violence, high flying, and everything in between. When you come to a PWF show, Our goal is take you from your reality and into ours.”

Children are welcome, and PWF strives to create a family-friendly atmosphere, but Feltcher cautions fans to use their discretion. “Remember, these are grown men, who are beating the hell out of each. Tempers flare, and sometimes the vocabulary can be less than desirable.”

General admission seats are $10. First row is already sold out. Doors open at 7 PM Friday, and bell time is at 8 PM. For more information, visit the event website on Facebook.

Hy Zaya and Menace are all featured in the book Eat Sleep Wrestle by John Cosper, available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.