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When Wrestling Was in Tiny Bars – Louisville Edition

Much ado has been made about a comment from a certain wrestling executive about how wrestling only took place in tiny bars before the WWF came along. Today I decided to share a few programs I have from one of those tiny bars: The Jefferson County Armory, now known as Louisville Gardens.

The first program is from way back in 1952. This tiny bar program saw World Champion Lou Thesz defend his title against Enrique Torres with former champ Ed “Strangler” Lewis in Thesz’s corner. Ray Eckert, Stu Gibson, Ethel Johnson, and Bill Longson were also on the card held in front of a meager 9281 fans in this tiny bar.

A year later, the same bar wrestling promotion, the Allen Athletic Club, presented this card:

Baron Leone was the victor in the main event that night, defeating Gentleman Jim Doby. Other stars included the Great Zorro (pictured), Mae Young, Bill Longson, Stu Gibson, and Gloria Barratini. The bar was really packed that night, with a new record attendance of 9384 reported in the newspaper.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited to see some of the changes this innovative WWE executive is already bringing to television. But if we’re really going to go all the way, perhaps we should drop the company line that pro wrestling was irrelevant before WWF at the same time we drop the word Superstar in favor of Wrestler.

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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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Pre-order Princess Victoria Now!

Princess Victoria is one of the unsung heroes of women’s wrestling. She only wrestled for four years, her career ending after a fluke accident, but she remains a fan favorite. She’s a Cauliflower Alley Club award winner and a Women’s Tag Team Champion. She’s also a true warrior, a survivor who overcame a horrific childhood before she ever set foot in the ring.

Vicki Otis holds nothing back in this new memoir. She is incredibly frank about the abuse she suffered as a child, a story she shares in hopes of helping others. Vicki will also make you laugh out loud with some fantastic memories of friends like Wendi Richter, Velvet McIntyre, Stan Stasiak, Buddy Rose, Sandy Barr, and Roddy Piper.

Books will be in stock this weekend and ship early next week. If you’re a fan of 80s wrestling or ladies wrestling, this is one you cannot miss!

Order your signed copy of Princess Victoria’s autobiography now! 

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Princess Victoria: Coming in April

I am very excited about this book.

I just re-read through the wrestling chapters tonight. Vicki has some tremendous stories about Wendi Richter, Velvet McIntyre, Stan Stasiak, Roddy Piper, and more.

This will not be an easy read for some. Her childhood was a living nightmare. It’s a story she wanted to tell in the hopes that other people with similar experiences can get help just as she has.

Available in April.

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Coming in 2021

Tracy Smothers never hesitated when asked who was his favorite opponent of all time. “Candido.” He couldn’t sing Chris Candido’s praises enough, and he lit up every time we talked about Chris. It was Tracy who said that Chris Candido should be my next book, and it was Tracy who put me in touch with his good friend Jimmy Shoulders, who in turn put me in touch with Chris’s family.

Jonny Candido and I have been working hard to put together the biography of one of the most beloved wrestlers ever to set foot in a locker room. Some call him a wrestler’s wrestler, and some argue that he was one of the most gifted men ever to set foot in the ring. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who loved the wrestling business more. His story has a tragic ending and plenty of drama, but it’s absolutely inspiring. Chris Candido truly lived and breathed professional wrestling, and I’m very excited to announce his biography will be released in early 2021.

Chris is not the only project now in the works for next year. Hot on the heels of the Elvira Snodgrass biography, I’ve just started working with one of the toughest women ever to set foot in the squared circle. Princess Victoria was poised to be one of the top women’s stars in the WWF before her career-ending accident in 1984. She was one of the first WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions, and she worked incredible matches with Velvet McIntyre, Wendi Richter, Sherri Martel, and more.

But wrestling is only a small part of the story. Vicki Otis was a warrior long before she became a professional wrestler. She endured a horrific childhood and unimaginable abuse. She survived, escaped, and ran off to pursue her dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Vicki’s tale is inspiring in a different way than Candido’s, and it is our hope that people who have endured similar backgrounds will find inspiration in her tale.

Candido’s book is entering the home stretch, and we’re shooting for an early 2021 release. Princess Victoria is just getting under way, but I’m hopeful for an early 2021 release for that book as well.

There’s more on the table for 2021, including a few more historical biographies and a new novel that has nothing to do with wrestling, but suffice to say, we’ll be kicking 2021 off in a big way.

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Pre-order Your Copy of Tracy Smothers’ Book!

Eat Sleep Wrestle is proud to present the autobiography of the one and only, Tracy Smothers!

He’s been hired and fired from every major wrestling company. He’s wrestled all over the United States, in Mexico, and Asia. He’s held multiple tag team belts and heavyweight championships. He’s been a top guy and a jobber. He’s been a hero, a villain, and a mentor to countless young wrestlers of the last two generations. He pinned legends. He defeated cancer. And yes, he wrestled three different bears.

Few wrestlers have logged as many miles as Tracy Smothers, and even fewer have made the impact he has on today’s young stars. Now for the first time, Tracy reveals how a promising young athlete Springfield, Tennessee, who once aspired to be a high school football coach found himself at the center of a fan riot in Mexico City and a bar fight in Malaysia. He talks about the last days of the territories, the rise of the Wild Eyed Southern Boys and the Young Pistols, his star turn in Smoky Mountain, his jobbing days in WWF, life-changing concussions, the FBI in ECW, and the dance contests in the indies. You’ll hear harrowing tales about bounty hunting, delivering pizzas, and yes… going toe to toe with the legendary Ginger the Wrestling Bear.

Tracy Smothers doesn’t care if you love him. He doesn’t care if you think he sucks. He doesn’t even really care if you read his book. There’s only one thing you need to know right now. If you don’t buy this book, EVERYBODY DIES!

If you want to get a signed copy of Tracy’s book you can now pre-order one through the book shop on this our website. Books are expected in early April. That said, with the current COVID-19 situation we cannot guarantee when they will ship. Tracy and I live 2 hours apart, but we will make every effort to get together as soon as books arrive so we can ship them to everyone who pre-orders.

Click here to pre-order a signed copy.

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The Best Part of the XFL

XFL
A quick note, while I am procrastinating from working transcribing audio for an upcoming book project.

Here is what I love best about the XFL. Look at how many players are in uniform each game. Look at the number of coaches and staff on the sidelines and in the box. Look at all the people who have a chance to make a living doing what they love.

The last few years, I’ve been inspired watching so many independent wrestlers I admire become signed wrestlers. I’ve enjoyed seeing people like Marko Stunt, Dave Crist, Jordynne Grace, and others suddenly find themselves with wrestling as their primary gig and not just something they do on the weekends.

It’s a little ironic that the XFL has done the same for football. After all, if XFL founder Vince McMahon had his way, all the companies now employing wrestlers like Marko, Dave, and Jordynne would cease to be. Nevertheless, this is a great time for football, a great time for wrestling, and an inspirational time for dreamers.

Oh yeah, the football has been a lot of fun. Way better than 19 years ago. I hope this incarnation of the XFL sticks around for a bit.

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Impact and the Future of Indy Wrestling

If you have any interest at all in independent wrestling – and even if you don’t – you need to hear Talk is Jericho’s Friday episode. Chris Jericho’s guests are Don Callis and Scott D’Amore, the new executive vice presidents of Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA). It’s an eye-opening discussion about their unique qualifications to take over the struggling promotion and take it in a new direction.

The highlight that stood out the most for me was when they discussed intellectual property rights and wrestlers. It’s well-known that Impact has finally given up the fight over control of “Broken” Matt Hardy, and the WWE and Hardy are already reaping the benefits. What D’Amore and Callis shared on the show was the reasoning behind their backing of this paradigm-shifting decision.

It was Vince McMahon and the WWF that established the idea that wrestling “characters” belonged to the promotion and not the wrestlers. Vince wanted control so he could own the merchandising and restrict people from leaving his company to make money of the characters he helped to create. The TNA policy that kept “Broken” Matt Hardy in limbo for seven months was adopted from the WWE policy.

Callis and D’Amore want to change that. They want to give a platform for wrestlers to build, grow, and market characters owned by the wrestlers. Wrestlers who sign on with Impact can rest assured they will not be starting over should their relationship with the company come to an end. The gains they make at Impact will benefit them in Ring of Honor, Japan, Mexico, Europe, anywhere they go.

Callis and D’Amore contend that wrestlers have more power now than at any time in the history of the business. It’s hard to argue with that statement. For nearly a hundred years, going back to the days of the Golddust Trio, the promoters held all the power. They controlled the territories. They controlled who won or lost. They controlled who got work and who starved.

The territories are no more. Today, wrestlers market themselves. They are savvy social media users. They have tools like Instagram, YouTube, and Pro Wrestling Tees that they are using to great effect. They give interviews on blogs like this. They appear on every podcast they can. They let their fans know where they can see them not only in person but on High Spots, Powerbomb.TV, and other networks.

Callis and D’Amore know the business of wrestling. They also know business-business. They see the market, they know the trends, and they seem smart enough to create an environment to appeal to wrestlers who are truly more independent than ever.

If you listen to podcasts, please give this episode a listen. It’s a great omen for what’s on the horizon, not only for Impact, but the independent scene at large.

2017 was a ground-breaking year for the independents. 2018 is looking even better. It will start with Alpha vs. Omega. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

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Why Jericho is the Best in the World

The best thing about Chris Jericho is you never know when he’s working you.

Jericho worked everyone the last few weeks in his Twitter war with Kenny Omega. Yes, we all suspected something was up, but no one knew what – not until he showed up on the big screen at Power Struggle this weekend.

In an era where fans think they know everything, Jericho is the one guy who can still pull off a shocker. He will never tip his hand if he thinks he can sneak up on you. He loves a surprise. If you’ve ever told anyone that you “called it” when he returned in the #2 spot at the Royal Rumble a few years ago, you are a liar.

Even now, questions surround his unexpected move to Japan. Did Vince know? One report says the WWE found out when the rest of us did early Sunday morning. His video package featured music from his band Fozzy, not his WWE theme. His contracts with WWE are month to month, and he has ROH on his cruise next October.

Sounds like he’s gone independent. Only Jericho knows, and he’s not telling.

That’s what makes him the Best in the World.

If you’re one of the many coming aboard the New Japan bandwagon because of Y2J, welcome. If you thought Balor vs Styles was awesome (and it was!) wait until you see what NJPW has to offer.