I haven’t been posting stories to this site very much lately. Part of that is just being busy, but another reason for my lack of content is the opportunity Sam! Wrestling has given me.
Greg Oliver at Slam! has long been a big help to me with research on my books, and over the last year, I’ve begun contributing stories to his website. A number of those stories profiled the stars of OVW, a subject near and dear to my heart. So for those who missed them, here’s where you can catch up:
The calendar said Groundhog’s Day, but love was in the air at Ohio Valley Wrestling – at least for a few folks in the stands, who took advantage of OVW’s Valentines ticket packages that night. A packed crowd showed up to see some outstanding action, including two great hourly main events and another show-stealing performance by The Derby City Destroyers and The Outrunners.
In the time I’ve been a regular attendee at OVW, one of the most exciting things to see is the growth in the weekly crowd. Granted, Tough Love was the promotions “special event” for the month of February, but the seats were packed from one side of Davis Arena to the other for what had to be the third largest crowd of the year after the two Nightmare Rumble shows in January.
Last night’s crowd was particularly engaged and vocal. Maybe it’s the local brew or the local food now being served at the concession stand courtesy of Gorilla Bob’s Grub Shack, but last night’s crowd would chant anything – literally. At one point they actually chanted, “We’ll chant anything!”
The OVW roster gave them plenty to cheer about, from a frenetic rematch between Blanco Loco and Hy Zaya to the Rush Division Speed Rumble won by Kat Herro, to the first in what’s sure to be a classic series between Ryan Von Rockit and Star Rider.
The first hour ended with a long-anticipated clash between Hollyhood Haley J and the “fallen” Shawna Reed. Reed, who found herself stranded in the UK earlier this week, showed no sign of jet lag as she and Haley battled in and out of the ring in a no hold barred, no DQ match. With OVW Women’s Champ Shaloncé Royal on guest commentary, the ladies endured some wicked chair shots and suplexes on the outside of the ring, and when Haley took a face full of red mist from Shawna, it appeared to be over. Haley persevered, so Shawna tried again, this time misting referee Charlene in the face.
Desperate to steal a win from her foe, Haley grabbed Shawna and kissed her hard at the center of the ring. Dazed and stunned, Shawna then got a taste of her own medicine as Haley hit her in the face with mist and scored the win.
A pair of tag matches dominated the second hour action, including a two out of three falls contest between The Derby City Destroyers, Big Beef Gnarls Garvin and Biz Zo, and The Outrunners, Truth Magnum and Turbo Floyd. The Florida boys, most recently featured on AEW Dynamite against The Acclaimed (ahem, Tony Khan, just sign them already!) were taken by surprise before the bell even rang, and the referee awarded them a win for the first fall after Big Beef used a steel chair. A badly beaten Truth Magnum couldn’t even get to his feet after the early attack, and the second fall went to The Destroyers.
Honestly, the quick two falls felt like a cheat, but the action in the deciding fall made up for the quickness of the first two. As I mentioned on Twitter last night, I’ve seen OVW do homage to the famous Eddie Guerrero chair spot before, and last night, as before, they did it with a twist. Turbo Floyd shared video of his clever tactics on Twitter last night:
The Outrunners won the deciding fall, and Turbo scored a huge laugh with his ref massage, but it was Big Zo who got the biggest pop of the match. As Zo waited his turn to tag back into the match, the vociferous crowd taunted Zo about a slight wardrobe malfunction: “Fix your wedgie! Fix your wedgie!” Zo must have had his eye on the monitors because as soon as we went to commercial, he grabbed the spandex on his rear cheeks and pulled his trunks even tighter into his crack. The crowd ate it up. Zo didn’t even crack a smile as he adjusted himself in plenty of time for the feed to go live again. Mad respect to the big man.
The main event of the evening pitted Cash Flo against two members of OVW’s newest heel faction led by the infamous Jessie Godderz. Godderz himself took the ring with EC3 to face Cash and a partner of his choosing. Fans were elated when Tony “Don’t Call Him Mudd” Gunn made his long-awaited return to Davis Arena for the match.
Gunn was force to watch for most of the match as Cash took on both men, though not by choice. Godderz and EC3 cut the ring in half and gave the big man a rough go, keeping Gunn in the corner by refusing to allow the tag. With Shannon the Dude at ringside, the heels employed plenty of dirty tricks to keep the odds in their favor, but Cash was eventually able to spring free and give Gunn a chance to throw hands with EC3 and his bitter rival, Jessie Godderz.
Alas, a happy ending was not in the cards for Tough Love. This new faction, which also includes Mahabali Shera, Luke Curtis, and Adam Revolver, is proving to be almost unstoppable. Right after EC3 and Godderz got the win, Godderz took to the mike to run down the crowd and send them home even angrier. Then EC3 got on the mike, taunting the fans, asking where they were going and why they were so sad.
OVW truly stands out for their ability to tell a long term story, and much as the fans HATE this new alliance, they’re not going away any time soon. They already own three belts, and they’ve got their sights set on claiming all the gold. There are tag team titles to be won, along with the Country Boy Brewing Kentucky Championship. The tale of Haley J and Shawna Reed might – and I stress MIGHT – be over, but this new tale of domination from six dirty, cheating heels is just ramping up.
OVW is live every Thursday night at Davis Arena in Louisville and on FITE.
I never get tired of seeing OVW live. Not these days. I haven’t been able to go every week this fall because of work and just life in general, but every time I go, I see something great.
The Nightmare Cup delivered a few great moments tonight. The gimmick this year is that tag teams are being selected by random draw, which is how Omar Amir came to team up with Adam Revolver while Tony Bizo teamed with Anthony F.N. Catena. The story for this match was played perfectly straight but was absolutely hilarious. The heels wanted to be heels, and their babyface partners just wouldn’t play ball. Amir and Catena repeatedly drew the ire of Revolver and Bizo by refusing to cheat, to do double teams, and to take cheap shots. “That’s not how we do this!” Amir told Revolver at one point.
The second Nightmare Cup brought a little of the same dynamic, at least on one side. “Hustla” Deget Bundlez of Dark Kloudz and “Big Whiskey” Jared Kripke struggled to get on the same page as Kripke refused to play dirty. Their opponents were much more in sync, thanks to a little heel play that took place backstage. When the official in charge of pulling names for partners was distracted, Truth Magnum slipped the name of his tag partner Turbo Floyd into the hopper. And as often happens, The Outrunners delivered one of the best matches of the night.
Speaking of The Outrunners, they were seeing double at ringside because Bryan Kennison and Steven Johnson dressed up as the tag team as part of the night’s Halloween festivities. Turbo and Truth were perplexed at first, but then decided, “We love it!” and high-fived the announcers.
Dressed as Captain Jack Morgan, Josh Ashcraft could only lament, “Am I the only grown up at this table tonight?”
The women’s division had a chance to shine this evening as well. Fans were treated to three matches, with Shalonce Royal defeating Judi Hendrix, Alice Crowley defeating Arie Alexander, and Haley J fighting Freya the Slaya to a no contest, thanks to the antics of Jessie Godderdz and Tony Gunn. It’s worth noting that Alice left Arie looking pretty shaken up in the middle of the ring. You can tell how serious a situation is by how many officials come out of the back, and tonight, all of the officials and Doug Basham rushed to Arie’s aid. Could we be on the verge of a monster push for Big Al?
Kudos also go to Manny Domingo, who continues to win over fans week to week with his blazing speed and aerial acrobatics. Domingo has taken OVW by storm, and fans are definitely keyed up to see him challenge Luke Kurtis for the Rush Championship.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give props to Superior Tony Evans, who took a beating not once but twice tonight. After cutting a stellar heel promo about how he intended to seize his moment, he poked the bear a little too hard and got laid out by the OVW Heavyweight and National Champion Cash Flo. An hour later he returned to take another whipping in an actual match with the always charismatic Luscious Lawrence.
Not to bury the lead here, but the best part of tonight for me didn’t take place in the ring. Tonight, I took my fourteen year old daughter Lydia to OVW for the first time, and she absolutely loved it. She caught on really quick that booing the heels is even more satisfying than cheering the babyfaces, and she took a special dislike to Tony Evans.
It was delightful looking through her eyes, seeing professional wrestling live for the first time. Well, second time. She’d seen some matches a few years ago at the Indianapolis Public Library, of all places, but this was her first real show. She became completely swept up in the moment. I saw her hands nervously shaking on her knees as the tag match between The Outrunners and Bundlez and Kripke raced to its climax. She howled with laughter every time Jessie Godderdz and Tony Gunn appeared, doing their Road Runner and Coyote act.
The kid was quite observant of things beyond the ring as well. “That guy’s running the whole show,” she said, remarking on the always in motion, always on the spot A.J. McKay at ringside. A.J. truly is one of the unsung heroes who makes the show tick every week, and it was cool to see her recognize that.
I was especially glad she got to see a modern show where the ladies are so well represented. I told her on the way home that what happened tonight rarely if ever happened twenty years ago. Three women’s matches took place in two hours, one of them was the main event. Huge kudos to Amazing Maria, Al Snow, and everyone who has brought the women’s division so far along!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is not the OVW of old. It’s not even the OVW of a few years ago. This is a growing territory with a worldwide viewing audience. It’s a veteran-driven program that keeps fans watching week after week not just for the stars but the stories.
And tonight, much to my wife’s dismay, OVW made a fan out of my kid.
“I’m not gonna have a voice tomorrow,” she said on the way to the car. “Worth it,” she added.
There’s a core group of fans who attend Ohio Valley Wrestling every week. For the last five weeks, and honestly for the foreseeable future, I’ve become one of them.
It’s been fun over the years dropping in and out to see how the promotion changes and to watch wrestlers come into their own. Having seen the tag team Dark Cloud in one of their first OVW matches versus seeing them now, interacting with the fans, it’s incredible how much they’ve evolved. But you make a much different connection with a promotion when you never miss a show. Wrestlers who may not catch your attention that first week may draw you in the second, third, or fourth time you see them.
After more than a month of live shows, I thought I’d share here a few talents that have really caught my eye. I’m purposely not including friends of mine or long-time OVW standouts. The five (make that six) wrestlers mentioned are people who have grown on me and kept me wanting to go back every week.
Oh how the fans hate Shalonce! They hate her arrogance. They hate her dirty tricks. And they hate – HATE! – her singing. Shalonce sings through every match, her powerful voice belting high note after high note, as she wears her opponents down. She’s fast, she’s powerful, and she’s relentless.
In real life Shalonce is a trained opera singer, and she’s not the first such talent to come along in pro wrestling. Back in the 1950s, a woman named Gloria Barratini made the jump from singing opera to pro wrestling. I don’t know that Gloria sang in the ring to the delight (or dismay) of the fans like Shalonce does, but she did wrestle in Louisville a few times, including a bout against the great Mae Young at The Armory (Louisville Gardens).
Shalonce has a lot of charisma, and she’s a heck of a wrestler. She also had a show-stealing match with Jada Stone (another new-to-me face!) during the September 1 TV taping. And I love watching the fans hate on her almost as much as I enjoy watching her wrestle.
Jack made me sit up straight during his match last night when he LEVELED a kid with the hardest clothesline I’ve seen in Davis Arena since the days when the APA were in town. When JBL (then still known as Bradshaw) threw a clothesline in a dark match one night, I could feel it from the second row. I felt Jack’s from the top row last night.
Jack Vaughn’s Twitter says he’s an eighteen year veteran. He’s 6’6″ and looks like he fell through a time warp in Memphis, circa 1983. He’s a no nonsense, hard nosed, old fashioned rassler who often makes mince meat of the younger guys in the ring. He’s also clearly a locker room leader, based on some of his social media posts. The fans may hate him, but they have to respect him!
FYI, Jack only has a handful of followers on Twitter. That’s a crying shame, because young wrestlers could learn a lot from the wisdom he dispenses.
Speaking of guys who look like they fell through a time warp! With their hot pink trunks, their decidedly old school facial hair, and Miami Vice like intro, The Outrunners look like the kind of guys my grandpa would have rooted for on Championship Wrestling from Florida.
Like everyone I’ve mentioned so far, Turbo Floyd and Truth Magnum are unabashed heels, dirty cheaters who look for every angle they can get to seize their advantage over their prettier, often younger opponents. They’re equally adept with zingers and one-liners as they are with putting together some slam-bang action. They get plenty of boos from the ladies and the kids, but there’s a solid block of guys who will cheer Truth and Turbo on against anyone.
Yep, I’m one of those guys.
The Outrunners went 25 minutes during the August 24 TV taping with Level X. No one was fidgeting or watching the clock during either bout. From start to finish, it was as entertaining a match as I’ve ever seen live, ending with a no contest finish that set up their Saturday night double dog collar match on August 27 that you can watch here:
It’s worth noting that the Tornado Tag from August 24 really made me appreciate the boys from Level X. Axton Ray took an absolute beating in that bout and never quit. He and his partner Blanco Loco have a bright future.
Truth Magnum was once known as Shiloh Jonze, and back in 2014, he was one half of one of my favorite matches ever at the Davis Arena with his former tag partner Raul Espinoza. I’ll have to reprint that story sometime, as it was published in my now out of print book Eat Sleep Wrestle.
Yep, another heel. The biggest, baddest woman in the OVW women’s division, the Queen of the North is pretty universally hated by the OVW fans. That’s due in large part to how well Freya plays the role given her.
Freya has a lot in common with Jack Vaughn in the way she works. She’s slower, more deliberate, and she makes every move look devastating. She may not be the current OVW Women’s Champion, thanks in part to her “ex-boyfriend” referee Aaron Grider, but until someone knocks her off her pedestal, she is still the most dominant woman in the house.
And shout out to Aaron Grider, who two years ago appeared in a short film for me during Covid. Aaron got a lot of TV time during Freya’s recent run as champ, and he made the most of it. You hated him for letting himself be led around by the nose, and when Freya let her true feelings be known, your heart broke for him.
Jay stands out on this list for two reasons. One, he’s a babyface, the only one I’ll write about in this column. And two… this kid didn’t exactly grow on me. He grabbed me from the moment he hit the ring.
Jay is tall, fit, and incredibly athletic. He flies high when he’s on offense, and he flops hard when he’s taking a beating. Every time I see this kid, he’s doing something new in the air or off the ropes. He’s incredibly fast and remarkably creative, and when he takes to the sky, it feels like he’s in the air forever.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. He’s also eighteen years old.
I’ve seen Jay twice at OVW and once at Paradigm Pro Wrestling in Jeffersonville. I sure hope to see a lot more of him in the coming years, and I don’t mean on the local scene.
One final note. Al Snow’s stated goal with OVW is that everyone who works at Davis Arena, from the wrestlers and refs to the backstage crew, can use it as a launching pad to the next level in professional wrestling. It’s worth noting that Shalonce Royal, The Outrunners, and Freya the Slaya have all made appearances on AEW Dark. They’re not the only current OVW roster members to do so, and they definitely won’t be the last.