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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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The Ladies Steal the Show at Heroes and Legends

First things first: Heroes and Legends is a fantastic promotion. Based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this independent wrestling group puts on a heck of a show. Heroes and Legends VIII took place today at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. If the very name of the building doesn’t remind you of the old territory days, the guest list will. Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Jerry Lawler were the headliners, and the King even stepped into the ring, giving the fans a classic strap-dropping performance against Dru Skillz.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The day began at noon, when the doors opened and fans came through to check out the vendor tables. Vendors included toys and collectibles, an artist, a few promoters from other area shows, a podcast, and the US military. Wrestlers for the show were sprinkled throughout the vendors to ensure that both wrestlers and vendors got some traffic.

Girl Fight put on a show that started around 1:30. The GF show was depleted due to several last minute cancellations, including Su Yung. The young competitors worked their hearts out, but could not get the attention of the crowd.

Enter Mickie Knuckles.

Mickie and Dementia D’Rose took on Amazing Maria and Samantha Heights in a tag match for the main event. Mickie tried to get the crowd’s attention and pump them up. The crowd gave her nothing, right up until the moment she said, “No Holds Barred, No DQ, Falls Count Anywhere.”

The fans popped, and the ladies literally tore the house down. Samantha Heights was duplexed down a set of bleachers steps and later tossed into a trash can. Amazing Maria was squashed beneath a steel chair. Maria and Samantha were dropped onto a table that refused to give. Fans swarmed, phones held high, to follow the action, with Sugar Dunkerton leading the crowd and the cheers in the front. It was sensational match that set the bar ridiculously high for the main show.

The Razor Ramones punk band played a brief  set mid-afternoon, then proceeded to sell cassettes – yes, I said CASSETTES – to the fans. (More on them later this week.) A battle royal took place at 4:30, with a surprise appearance by Bushwhacker Luke, and then it was show time.

The War Memorial Coliseum proved a great venue for wrestling. The main lights dimmed, and spotlights illuminated the ring, giving the whole room an old school feel. Once again, the ladies rose to the occasion, as the best match on the first half of the card was a Falls Count Anywhere battle between Randi West and Paloma Star, with Hardcore Heather Owens acting as guest referee.

Sugar Dunkerton and the former Adam Rose were an entertaining tag team in the second half of the night, and their match ended with a parade of Rosebuds, including the bunny. Their match was followed by Lawler and Dru Skillz from Indianapolis, in which Lawler gave the fans exactly what they wanted.

The main event pitted local hero Kongo Kong against Ryback, and it proved to be a phenomenal way to end the night. Kong dwarfed Ryback, who is not normally the smaller man in the match, and both men exhibited their power and agility. Ryback had no trouble powerlifting the monster Kong, while Kong brought the house down when he super-plexed Ryback from the top rope. The match became a triple threat when the masked “Ginger Dragon” entered the fray. The Dragon turned out to be Dru Skillz, who won the belt from Ryback, but Ryback and Kong teamed up on the duplicitous new champ – including two top rope splashes from Kong.

A few other thoughts on my first experience at Heroes and Legends:

Rob Conway is as good a guy as everyone says he is. The two of us graduated from New Albany High School in the early 90s, and it was great getting to meet him and hear some of his stories.

Shannon Moore shook hands with everyone in the vendor area when he arrived, even the non-wrestlers. A class act. Mickie Knuckles did the same just before she left.

I got to meet Tyger Smith, who helped train my friends Marc Hauss and Eric Emanon. Nice guy with some funny stories.

There’s nothing more cruel than teasing that we might get a Ninja (Hy Zaya) vs. Demon (Shane Mercer)  showdown at the end of a battle royal – only to see both eliminated by the masked man who won the match. So close!

Did I mention the ladies stole the show? Seriously, the WWE does NOT have the market cornered on women’s wrestling. Mickie, Heather Owens, and Randi West deliver every time. Dementia D’Rose and Paloma Star held their own with the hardcore veterans and dished some serious violence. Samantha Heights and Amazing Maria are stars on the rise.

If you’re in Northern Indiana, you owe it to yourself to check out Heroes and Legends. Jayson Maples and his crew do everything right, creating the perfect mix of classic stars with independent talent. Kudos to everyone who made today such a memorable event.

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NVD and Horrorshow Head to Orlando

There’s a lot of wrestling going on in Orlando, starting tomorrow night. A number of friends of mine are headed South and will be in the thick of the action. If you’re going to be in the area for Wrestlemania, you need to see the Ninja vs. the Demon.

The ninja in question is the “Hood Ninja” Hy Zaya, and IWA Mid-South original from Louisville, Kentucky. The demon is the “Iron Demon” Shane Mercer, Hy Zaya’s some time travel partner and tag partner. These two have torn the house down all over the Midwest, and ‘Mania wrestling fans who attend Fighting Evolution’s Wrassling Party on Friday the 31st.

Hy Zaya and Mercer will square off during the Florida Legends show Friday afternoon from 12-2, a show that also includes New Jack, B Brian Blair, Bugsy McGraw, Bill Alfonso, Abudadein, and Kevin Sullivan. Mercer will be defending the Strong Style Championship, the first time ever the belt has been on the line in Florida. He will also have a distinct advantage with the notorious Horrorshow manager Jason Saint in his corner.

Saint will also be managing Amazing Maria on the same show in her match against Alyssa Skyy. Canadian-born Amazing Maria has been a stand out for Girl Fight, OVW, and other promotions, and with the recent signings by the WWE, she’s poised to make her mark in women’s wrestling this year.

Jason Saint will also be making an appearance on April 1 at WrassleMaimYa in Samsula, FL, managing Amazing Maria against Mila Naniki. He will also manage Tripp Cassidy against Chris Silvio in a Samsula Street Fight with Ultraviolent Rules.

Fans in Louisville have been spoiled by the action brought by Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, and Amazing Maria along with all of Jason Saint’s “clients.” If you’ve never had the chance, it’ll be worth your time to see all of them in action this weekend in Orlando.

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Twenty Years of Doing It by Their Rules

There’s nothing in the world like an “IWA Mid-South Rules” match. That’s because in an IWA Mid-South Rules match, there are no rules. There’s no disqualifications, and falls count anywhere. And if you see the action coming your way, grab your stuff and get OUT of the way.

IWA Mid-South has been doing it their way for a long, long time. They’ve seen dozens of would-be competition come and go in that time. They’ve been chased out of buildings and entire states. The haters can keep on hating because this Thursday, IWA Mid-South will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Ian Rotten has booked a stellar line up in celebration of the milestone anniversary. There’s no flier online yet, but the line-up, care of IWA Mid South’s Facebook page, says all you need to know:

“Money” MATT CAGE vs “Knockout Artist” CHRIS HERO vs COLT “Boom Boom” CABANA

THE THREEJECTS (REED BENTLEY, JOHN WAYNE MURDOCH & NICK DEPP) & MARK WOLF take on TODD MORTON’s HANGMEN, DEREK NEAL & BULL PAIN

JJ GARRETT defends his IWA World Title against “The Wild Eyed Southern Boy” TRACY SMOTHERS

“Dangerous” DOUG GILBERT vs KONGO KONG

“Fight or Die” COLE RADRICK vs “Callihan Death Machine” SAMI CALLIHAN

4 WAY TAG MATCH: SAGE PHILIPS & TEDDY KING vs THE BROTHERHOOD (BROTHER REED & MICKEY MUSCLES) vs BOMB SHELTER (ZODIAK & JOSEPH SCHWARTZ) vs NVD (HY-ZAYA & SHANE MERCER)

RAM JAM vs ZACH GOWEN

LOSER LEAVES IWA: “Nasty” NATE CROSS w/ DAHLIA vs JC ROTTEN w/ TORI

20th ANNIVERSARY IWA RUMBLE! 2 competitors start, every minute another competitor enters the ring!

DIRTY DUTCH MANTEL is also scheduled to appear!

The show will be at Jammerz Roller Rink in Clarksville, Indiana on Thursday, October 6. First and second row seat holders get early admission at 5:30 PM for a Meet and Greet. Doors open at 6:45 with bell time at 7:30.

Tickets are $30 for first row, $25 for second row, $20 for general admission. Kids 13 and under are $15.

Contact Misty at BestMistyEVER@gmail.com to order tickets.

Congratulations to Ian and the amazing crew who have kept this Kentuckiana tradition going for two decades!

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#SelfMandibleClaw: Aidan Blackhart’s Journey to The Gathering

Several months back I did a feature on Aidan Blackhart. If you’ve seen a guy coming to the ring with a Shakeweight, you know the guy I’m talking about. Blackhart had a dream at that time to wrestle at Bloodymania at the Gathering of the Juggalos, one of the most unique of all wrestling events hosted by the Insane Clown Posse. This summer, he checked that goal off his list. Blackhart (pictured below with Shane Mercer and Hy Zaya) offers his first hand account of his first ever trip exclusively for Eat Sleep Wrestle readers. 

14159095_533776366818186_2095518016_nIn 2015 I set a goal for myself. Wrestle at the Gathering of the Juggalos. Not only has wrestling been a huge part of my life, but so has music. The Gathering has been hyped up to me from many friends since it first started. So why not enjoy both my passions in one weekend. Not only were all my expectations met, they were blown out of the water.

First day i arrived around 7am from driving all night. We caught some rest before the first try out show. Waking up with about 30 mins to spare, my eyes had a feast of wonders to see as I made my way to the “Kayfabe” campground where the JCW stage was held. Got signed up and looked around at what appeared to be a LOT of backyarders and non wrestlers. Knowing they had little to no experience gave me room to shine.

First day we cut a promo, then had a match. I was paired with a juggalo named “karnage”. Stepped in the ring and he turned into a deer staring into headlights. Very fit headlights with a 10lb shakewieght coming at you. I busted him open with it while the ref was turned, then locked in “The Aidan Lock” and got the win.

After the first try out, Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, and myself went on a search for food. Walking up to a gyro hut this guy was whacked out on god knows what, trying to make himself throw up. Shoving his whole hand into his mouth and reach into his stomach literally. Looked like he was giving himself the mandible claw. After that I knew it was gonna be a fun time. now when we someone that has too much on their plate, we tell them to do a self mandible claw.

Day two was similar, doing try out’s with the survivors of the first day. I still knew this was mine to conquer. Taking turns doing chops and other wrestling moves, while showing I had what it takes. After we went over everything, we were told to report back by 9pm for the Bloodymania Battle Royal.

I was so exhausted from wrestling, concerts, walking in the sun, barely eating, and excitement, i had to stretch out and catch a nap before the show. Woke up with about 10 mins to spare, groggy and stumbling from laying on the ground. Once the music hit my adrenaline went on over drive, made it to the final 3 and even hit someone with a G–damninator then eliminated him.

After the match I asked a friend if I could use their lawn chair to get comfy, then fell asleep through the rest of the show. Even though I missed a lot of great matches, I was there. Goals can be met no matter what you want to achieve. Nothing can top the feeling of doing something you thought would never happen, with great friends.

Follow Aidan Blackhart on Facebook and on Twitter

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Corey Hollis on the Kick Out at Two Podcast!

Friday’s guest on the Kick Out at Two Podcast is Corey Hollis. Corey is a native of Alabama currently signed with the NWA. He currently holds the WrestleForce Tag Team Championship with Adam Page and is a former PWX Tag Team Champion.

Download the Kick Out at Two Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud, and be sure to follow them on Facebook.

The Kick Out at Two gang will be at Pro Wrestling Freedom: The Primus tomorrow night! Come see the 12 man tournament featuring Jimmy Rave, Murder One, Chip Day, Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, Aaron Williams, Jason “The Gift” Kincaid, and more. And be sure to say hello to my wrestling loving friends from the heart of Tennessee!

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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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Brother’s Keepers

13321899_10204634102251031_7530363067376011121_nIf you don’t know, the two men in the photo at left are Hy Zaya and Shane Mercer, two of the very best wrestlers in the Midwest.

These two men have been bitter rivals. They have fought, they have bled, they have waged war with one another.

They have also shared locker rooms, cars, and hotel rooms with one another. They have traveled the country side by side in pursuit of a dream they share in common.

Are they rivals? Of course they are. But they are also brothers in the truest sense of the word.

“Sure we’ve discussed racial overtones as a topic,” says mercer, “But I don’t think we honestly thought much of color when it came to each other and sharing the road life. Life’s about so much more than color.
Enjoy it man.”

This is the way it has always been in wrestling, at least among “the boys.” While the seats and the card out front may have divided along color, the boys rarely were. They shared locker rooms. They shared rides. They shared tables at dinner. They shared hotel rooms – even if that meant one sneaking the other in when the manager wasn’t looking.

When the opportunity finally came, many white wrestlers were happy to put black wrestlers over. Even the great Lou Thesz, who would never, ever allow Buddy Rogers to go over him in the ring, put the legendary Seelie Samara over when given the chance.

Why didn’t these men see color? For one thing, they shared a common enemy. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, they were all united against the unscrupulous promoters who didn’t want to pay any of them fair compensation. But that wasn’t the only reason for the difference.

Wrestlers judge other wrestlers on just one thing – how you work in the ring. If you know your craft, if you treat others with respect, if you give as well as you take, you are welcome. It’s the color of your character, not your skin, that matters most.

Whatever you think of pro wrestling inside the ring, we can all take a lesson from how they do business outside the arena. It’s time to look past what’s on the outside. We all need to overcome our prejudices and look a little deeper.

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Pro Wrestling Freedom Delivers

13095793_1069991786412707_6899430250700239435_nPro Wrestling Freedom is new name in the Louisville/ Southern Indiana indy wrestling scene. As crowded as the local market is with wrestling promotions, you’d think there wouldn’t be room for one more, but PWF offers a product unique and exciting enough to set it apart. No one promotion can deliver with every wrestling fan, and from the looks of things tonight, PWF is finding its share.

PWF is anchored by a strong group of Louisville area stars headed by Hy Zaya and his road partner, “The Iron Demon” Shane Mercer. But like the now dormant D1W, PWF also draws some of the top stars from other regions. Murder One and Chip Day were up from Atlanta for tonight’s show, and Rockstar Pro’s current champ Aaron Williams was in from Ohio. The result is a mix of new and familiar faces, all of whom left everything they had in the ring.

It would be hard to pick a standout match from tonight’s show, but the battle between Shane Mercer and Timmy Lou Retton would be a good place to start. Mercer is a beast in the ring, a powerhouse of strength who never disappoints. Retton’s red, white, and blue gimmick is deceptive; while he looks like a comedy act, he truly is a dynamic and gifted athlete who can not only match Mercer with the power moves but surprise you with his tumbling and gymnastic skills.

Aaron Williams and Chip Day didn’t disappoint in the semi wind-up. Their match turned out to be more comedy than I’m used to seeing from Williams, but were well-matched in personality and talent. “I have until five!” became a catchphrase for the fans as well as the grapplers before the night was over.

Jason Saint’s Horrorshow stable made its presence known during the show in a few entertaining matches. Saint is a maniacal presence at ringside who can anger you while also making you laugh. Nick Depp and Team IOU were well matched with the heel manager. Depp was entertaining in his match with the legendary Mickie Knuckles, and Nick Iggy of Team IOU is a heat magnet with his non-stop banter.

The main event was a first time ever confrontation between Hy Zaya and Murder One. A far from some of the more technical wrestling matches on the card, this turned into a brawl. Hy Zaya and Murder One lived up to their top billing with a violent melee that ended in a double count out, setting up a prolonged after show struggle and the main event for next month’s card.

PWF is running in The Arena in Jeffersonville. The next show is June 3, and all the details will soon be posted to their Facebook page. A street fight rematch between Hy Zaya and Murder One is already booked, and it looks like Chip Day and Shane Mercer will be a go as well.

Indy wrestling is alive and well. Buy a ticket, buy a T-shirt from a wrestler, and support the men and women keeping the tradition alive.