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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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Lillie Lockhart Has a Pro Wrestling Tees Page

Lillie Lockhart now has a Pro Wrestling Tees store. Who is Lillie Lockhart? She’s one of the new generation of women’s wrestlers you can catch at Girl Fight Wrestling. She’s also one of thousands of wrestlers you can find in Pro Wrestling Tees, a website that has helped many independent wrestlers keep going during these (I don’t want to say it, but here I go) unprecedented times.

There are many places you can spend money this holiday season. You can certainly spend more for brand name stars on the brand name wrestling company’s web store. But there’s a lot of good that you can do shopping with the indy stars and legends on Pro Wrestling Tees. Click here to give Lillie’s shop a look. Do a search for your indy star or legend like Mr. Grim, Charlie Kruel, Mad Man Pondo, Chris Hero, and even Dr. D David Schultz!

Support pro wrestling and give someone a Merry Christmas all in one stop!

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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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In This Corner: AKIRA

First off, let’s get this straight. If you spell it with lowercase letters, you’re spelling it wrong.

“It’s AKIRA not Akira,” explains AKIRA, a truly gifted young shooter who stole the show at Girl Fight’s Pick Your Poison event in Southern Indiana last November. “One looks cool, the other looks like you forgot my last name.”

Although he lives just a stone’s throw away from the Jeffersonville, Indiana Arena, many local fans have never seen AKIRA in action before Girl Fight. Yet AKIRA is a hard-working, extreme grappler who has traveled all over the US and Mexico and bears the battle scars to prove it. He’s also one of a growing number of young wrestlers who continues to study the once lost art of shoot fighting.

“I started off with Blake Reed of New Wave Pro,” he explains. “Then I went to train with Katsuyori Shibata for a week and really found a base for my style. I then followed that up by training with Jay Grooms, who was a student of the late Great Billy Robinson. So you can generally trace bits and pieces of my background to Robinson, and by a stretttchhhh Inoki and Gotch.

If the names Billy Robinson, Karl Gotch, or (heaven forbid!) Antonio Inoki are unfamiliar, you should look them up. Robinson was a legitimate shooter, one of those “dangerous” grapplers old wrestlers speak about with the same respect as Haku and Dr. D David Schultz. In other words, he’s a man you didn’t play cute with in the ring unless you really wanted to get hurt. Antonio Inoki, of course, is one of the great legends of Japan and the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Karl Gotch was his mentor and Billy’s, a truly dangerous man and the one guy Muhammed Ali would not go near when he was in Japan to face Inoki.

All this to say, AKIRA knows his legacy, and his legacy is men who could hurt people.

That’s not to say AKIRA doesn’t know how to work a wrestling match. He’s trained with a number of big name and “outlaw” style grapplers too, including the Rejects. AKIRA can work with anyone, but he knows how to protect himself. In days gone by, when men like Dr. D first trained with men like Herb Welch, they were taught how to shoot so they could protect themselves in the ring. It’s a skill many wrestlers who were trained in a Performance Center never even touch, but it’s one AKIRA values highly. “You can’t trust everyone,” he adds. “I’d rather be able to have some sort of semblance of control in a fight.”

It’s easy to see AKIRA’s heroes in his wrestling style. As a kid, he idolized men like Brett Hart, RVD, Hayavusa, Tajiri, and the Rock. ”When I got back into wrestling around 18, it was Suzuki, Nakamura, Shibata, Sakuraba, Styles. I would even add Lesnar to that list. Kasai and Gage inspired me to try deathmatches.”

As a writer of wrestling history, I love guys like AKIRA, who appreciate the stories of the men and women who came before him. AKIRA sees value in learning about the past, as a fan and as a wrestler. “History teaches respect. It shows the good of wrestling and the bad of if as well. History teaches acknowledgement of those that came before you.”

He’s got an ambitious wish list of wrestlers he hopes to share the ring with one day, including Katsuyori Shibata,  DBS, Jr., Minoru Suzuki, Simon Grimm, Chris Dickinson, Josh Barnett, Tom Lawlor, Hiromu Takahashi, Nakamura, Ibushi, Takeda, Kasai, Daniel Makabe, and Tony Deppen (again).

AKIRA’s had many rivals in the ring, but if there’s one wrestler you could call his nemesis, it’s Charlie Kruel. Fans of Ms. Kruel have long enjoyed listening to AKIRA heckle the psycho killer from the back of the room during her matches, and I just had to ask AKIRA, why do you hate the girl so much.

AKIRA just hangs his head and sighs. “I live with her. Like…that’s all that needs to be said. And she doesn’t take Kota the Deathmatch Doge out.” Nuff said.

AKIRA’s love of deathmatches is well-known, and fans who visit his social media feeds will see plenty of blood and scars. That said, AKIRA, is far from being “just a bleeder.” He can work any style you throw at him and put on as entertaining a match as you’ll see on the independents. “I can legitimately wrestle, but that doesn’t mean I can’t slug it out with the best of them. I have a love for scifi anime and film, and my music tastes cover a weird spectrum.”

AKIRA’s goal is the same as many young wrestlers: “To make a living on my own terms and be looked upon in a heralded light at the end of the day for my contributions,” he says. “To be a King…you know? At the end of the day, I just want to fight for you all.”

If you want to check out AKIRA (again, all caps!) you can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @theakiraway. And be sure to visit his Teespring shop: Akira’s Corner.