Reviewer: Zep the Bear
Independent Professional Wrestling
Raul Torres Academia de Boxeo (Parking Lot)
July 24, 2016
Wrestling is not an easy business. For every performer who scratches and claws their way to achieving a personal “WrestleMania Moment,” there are thousands who endure a day job, enjoying little more spotlight than a few minutes in the ring for a tiny promotion at a local VFW Post or high school gym. Some are lucky to even get to do that.
Take the Cleveland Wrestling Alliance (CWA) for example. Here is the card they advertised for July 24, 2016.
The CWA is one of these ragtag promotions that are populated by dreamers. They have a roster composed of local veterans, students, and wrestlers who may or may not have ever been formally trained.
They run shows wherever they are allowed. For years they notoriously ran in a K-Mart parking lot.
The promoter(s) use the promise of outrageous violence, copious amounts of blood, and bizarre match stipulations to sell their shows. And to a reasonable extent, it works.
Take me, for example. I have been a wrestling fan for much longer than I care to admit. I’ve been to countless shows ranging from local startups and promotions on the rise, to ECW, TNA, and WCW. I’ve even been fortunate enough to twice attend WrestleMania. I’ve seen Hulk Hogan in front of thousands and Bryan Danielson in front of hundreds. I’ll never forget the night in Cleveland when I witnessed Stone Cold Steve Austin win the WWF Championship.
Taking that all into account, I’ve never been to a CWA event. That was by design. Honestly, they don’t have the best reputation in the area so I have simply avoided their shows.
That was until a couple weeks ago when I saw the above flyer.
“A rooftop match? Dafuq?”
It immediately captured my imagination. Knowing the history of the company, I was visualizing the bloodsoaked members of the Theatre of Pain tossing Revenge of the Nerds off the roof of some seedy building.
I was stoked. All this for $5? It was gonna be awesome.
The day of the event arrives. My buddy and I make the 30-minute trek to Cleveland from Akron. We pick up another friend on the way.
We arrive at the venue. As we drive down the block looking for a parking spot I see a ring set up in the back center of the Raul Torres Academia de Boxeo parking lot. Two guys are boxing. (This was a day long event. There was a boxing event sandwiched between two wrestling shows.)
We park down the block. No sooner do we exit the car and cross the street than a man walking towards us announces, “Ain’t no wrestling, brudda. Got cancelled.”
I give the guy major side-eye.
THAT’s why I never attend these type of shows. They are fly-by-night. It’s a gamble if they will even happen. I just rolled snake eyes. I was pissed.
One of my friends, a local wrestling photographer, spotted legendary regional ring announcer Hank Hudson sitting by himself. We went over to chat. We found out that earlier in the day the promoter decided to cancel the show. He made some calls and told the wrestlers who were not from the area to stay home.
Hank Hudson (Photograph by Wayne Palmer)
“However,” Hank said, “there will be wrestling. How much, I don’t know. But there will be some wrestling.”
Apparently, a couple of the locals booked for the show decided to go ahead with something. They placed a call for a couple other guys and were waiting on them.
So we hung out. Hank told old wrestling stories to my buddy. I quietly sat and listened. He talked about Bruno Sammartino, JT Lightning, and the good old days of when he broke into the business.
About an hour before the show was to begin, the DJ who had been playing music for the small crowd decides to leave. There would be no microphone for Hank to use to announce the wrestlers later.
Hank: “No big deal. I’ll just yell.”
Finally, after two hours it was time for the show to begin.
The 11-Minute Show
At around 7:30 Hank finally entered the ring. He announced that the card would be under the guise of “Independent Professional Wrestling.”
A “Winner Gets to Wrestle in the Main Event” Match
King Azul v. Bobby Modell
King Azul makes his way out first. He is pasty white and a little chubby. He wears a blue luchador mask. He walks through the crowd. (I did a quick head count. Despite the heat and lack of seating, it’s near 80 people strong.)
Bobby Modell is out next.
Someone had pulled a vehicle up near the ring. They opened the hatch on the back of their minivan to expose sizable speakers. The car stereo is used to play the wrestlers’ ring music.
Modell enters to Vanilla Ice’s signature song, “Ice Ice Baby.”
The two lock up.
Quickly, Modell has Azul locked in a Boston Crab.
Moments later, Modell stomps his foot on the mat to fire up the crowd.
Two attempts to hip toss Azul don’t go well. Frustrated, Modell suplexes him violently to the mat.
Modell scores major points when he nails Azul with a Vader Bomb. He attempts a pin but Azul is out at two.
King Azul v. Bobby Modell (Photograph by Wayne Palmer)
Local wrestler JD Smooth was at ringside.
“Choke him again,” he yells out encouragingly to Azul.
Azul delivers a dropkick.
Much to my surprise, a “CWA” chant erupts in the crowd.
Azul hits a clothesline followed by a corkscrew elbow.
After a kick out by Modell, Azul is frustrated and shoves the referee.
Azul begins chopping Modell. A frustrated Smooth then runs in the ring and chops Modell.
Clearly, anarchy is afoot.
Azul hits a rather nice double-leg dropkick.
Modell potatoes Azul in the face. He cannonballs Azul in the corner.
Azul is pinned.
“Ice Ice Baby” blares as Modell celebrates.
Winner: Bobby Modell
Jeremy the Savior & Grimm (Photograph by Wayne Palmer)
Tag Team Extravaganza
“Heaven & Hell” (Jeremy the Savior & “The Burning River Beast” Grimm) w/ Koleito v. Bobby Modell & “The Irish American” EZ Olsen w/ Lethal Suicide
Savior and Beast weave through the crowd as they make their way to the ring. The crowd is hyped for them.
Grimm and Olsen start the bout.
Olsen and his partner sneak in a little double-teaming.
Messiah is in. He goes for the pin but Olsen is out at two.
Modell tags in.
Messiah chops away at Modell while Grimm pins his arms behind his back.
Grim with a pin attempt.
Grim with a huge clothesline. He secures Messiah in a Kimora, which Messiah escapes.
Messiah and Olsen square off.
Messiah snaps off a nice double-leg dropkick on his opponent. He follows it with a pinfall.
Grimm knee strikes Olsen.
“You thought you won…YOU DIDN’T!!”
Hank Hudson announces Heaven & Hell as the winners.
The scuffle continues. Messiah launches himself off the top rope with a big elbow.
Hudson again announces Heaven & Hell as the victors.
Winners: Jeremy the Savior & “The Burning River Beast” Grimm
Total time of show: 10:59
So, how do I analyze this?
Was it the wild, bloody rooftop extravaganza I was expecting to see? No.
Was it even actually very good? Meh. That’s debatable.
However, and this is a very important point, I must applaud the nine guys who stuck around to make sure there was a wrestling show as advertised.
Eighty people showed up to see some wrestling…and they did. “The show must go on” is the oldest adage in show business for a reason. There was a ring and a crowd. That was all these guys needed.
I’m not necessarily applauding what I saw in the ring, but I’m certainly applauding why I saw it.
See ya at the matches…