For The Krazies: How KSWA FanFest/Toy Drive Became The Premier Event Of Its Type Anywhere
November 15, 2014
by Trapper Tom, Ring Announcer/Wrestling Journalist
In 2005, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) was celebrating its 5th year as Pittsburgh’s professional wrestling organization. Traditionally, it’s most-anticipated, largest event of the year was in February for its anniversary show.
On February 19, 2005, “When World’s Collide” was the organization’s fourth show at the KSWA Arena in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood within the city of Pittsburgh. The year was an important one in the promotion’s history. Throughout the entire calendar year, “Dr. Devastation” Lou Martin was the KSWA Heavyweight Champion. “Double A” Anthony Alexander won the Golden Triangle Championship at the anniversary show by besting The Latin Assassin. Biker Al and La Lucha opened 2005 as KSWA Tag Team Champs. “The Single Threat” Del Douglas and “Mr. Tenacity” Tommy Faime would win the straps that August.
In September, the KSWA would help Millvale Borough rejuvenate after Hurricane Ivan by celebrating Millvale Days with two free, outdoor shows. At the conclusion of the second day, a “King” was born when Del Douglas bested all the other Megastars in a Battle Royal.
And then the KSWA debuted FanFest on December 3, 2005. Just prior to that, the Pittsburgh City Paper weekly magazine featured the KSWA on its front cover. The response was enormous.
The organization had never hosted an event in December before. In 2005, crowds saw “Big” Mike Malachi win a $10,000 Battle Royal. A young, dynamic team called “The Lost Boys” (more on them later) would defeat Biker Al and the “Drunken Luchadore” Joey Quervo. La Lucha defeated “The Enforcer” Shawn Blanchard is a “FanFest Match.” Lou Martin bested Ali Kaida, and held onto the KSWA title. Later that night, Blanchard would return and defeated Anthony Alexander to become the new #1 Contender for the KSWA strap. Malachi returned and beat The Latin Assassin for the Tri-State title. And then in the Main Event, La Lucha and Justin Sane won the KSWA Tag Team belts by beating Del Douglas, who defended alone because of Tommy Faime’s second retirement.
The event drew a growing crowd and by all accounts was very entertaining. By 2006, the KSWA was starting to embark one what most observers call “The Modern Era.” In 2005, the KSWA hosted eight events—the most in any calendar year. In 2006 there were 13 events, including FanFest on December 2. Bolstered by a regular venue in the KSWA Arena and a handful of special fundraisers, the organization was busier than ever.
November 17 “Clash Against Cancer” fundraiser that became the first event in which more than 300 people attended at the KSWA Arena. The ever-growing base of KSWA Krazies were entrenched in the feud between now-KSWA Champion Shawn Blanchard and the most popular Megastar of the time, La Lucha.
At FanFest on December 2, 2006, the KSWA incorporated the name “FanFest/Toy Drive” to its annual schedule. In conjunction with the Allegheny County Department of Human Service’s Holiday Project, the KSWA started to collect new, unwrapped toys for needy kids throughout Allegheny County. The KSWA fans, the “Krazies” have responded in untold numbers.
In the Main Event, La Lucha finally made Blanchard submit in front of a record-breaking crowd of 320. The roar of the approving crowd could be heard down the Allegheny River. The moment, and atmosphere, was considered a “Coming of Age” moment for the KSWA. For its toy donations from a record-breaking amount of fans, the KSWA would first receive a letter of thanks from then-Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.
On December 1, 2007, the attendance record would break again with more than 320. For the second year in a row, Shawn Blanchard would lose what was becoming the most coveted Single’s Title in the Commonwealth when he lost to Anthony Alexander. More toys than the year before would be raised for the Holiday Project.
In 2008, the KSWA’s 14th event would be FanFest/Toy Drive on December 6. In a break from tradition, the KSWA would employ an outside “name” wrestler to help bolster interest and sales. After 72 events in nearly 8 full years, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance brought in Demolition Ax, aka Brownsville, PA native Bill Eadie, to wrestle a match. Demolition Ax and Kris Kash defeated Blanchard and Martin in front of another record-shattering crowd. Mr. Eadie’s participation would be the beginning of an important chapter in KSWA lore. And more importantly, more children benefitting from receiving toys donated by the KSWA Krazies.
In 2009, international wrestling legend Dominic DeNucci would make his first appearance in the KSWA and battle villainous manager Frank Durso. On December 5, 2009, DeNucci and Durso would tangle in a one-on-one match that “old school” match fans enjoyed. Durso would win the match, but not without controversy. DeNucci would return to the KSWA many times over the years and would be inducted into the group’s Hall of Fame in 2010. It’s also of interest to note that independent wrestling legend Lord Zoltan, who joined the KSWA earlier in 2009, wrestled in his first FanFest match that year. He defeated future-tag partner Justin Sane in a “Loser Wears A Dress For A Year” match. Attendance records would once again be broken and more toys would be donated to needy youth.
In advance of FanFest/Toy Drive on December 4, 2010, the KSWA would reach out beyond its Western Pennsylvania roots to bring James J. Dillon, the infamous leader of the legendary Four Horsemen, to FanFest. Dillon, who had an impactful Studio Wrestling stop in the early days of his career, managed KSWA Tag Team champions Kris Kash and Shane Starr to the ring against Blanchard and Martin. Toward the end of that match, Dillon took off a shoe and blasted Kash in the head with it. That set up a Blanchard and Martin win for tag team gold. The Krazies were irate, but it should be noted that Dillon grew most famous for betting on the bad guys. Meanwhile, in the tradition of Studio Wrestling announcer and former Pirate Pie Traynor, former Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare began a reoccurring career as guest ring announcer. Again, attendance records were smashed and donation trucks for the Allegheny County Holiday Project filled.
December 3, 2011 started out unlike any other FanFest/Toy Drive day. Unrelated to the KSWA, a fundraiser for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Amsterdam, New York was held in Greentree, PA. Dubbed a “Roast” of Dominic DeNucci, the event was more of a networking function and playful lunch for all involved. George “The Animal” Steele, who was scheduled to headline FanFest/Toy Drive that night at the KSWA Arena, made an unscheduled stop at the roast. He got re-acquainted with fellow guests “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe, “The Battman” Tony Marino, Davey O’Hannon, Cody Michaels and others. Later that evening during FanFest, Sharpe, O’Hannon, Michaels and DeNucci all “stopped by” FanFest. Marino even helped Lord Zoltan and Justin Sane from losing the KSWA tag team championship when he helped guide a referee from an infraction from their opposition, Canadian Perfection. The standing-room-only crowd extended far from the ring. Pittsburgh Police officially estimate that 250 fans were turned away at the door because an already-capacity-crowd of more than 500 packed the KSWA Arena. “Dr. Devastation” Lou Martin won his second KSWA World Title by dastardly means at the end of the evening. The title changed was detailed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A record number of toys were also turned over to the Holiday Project as a result.
KSWA Owner Bobby O and the Championship Committee ascertained that besting FanFest 2011 was going to be a tough hoe. After years of relationship-building which culminated with the KSWA being the only professional wrestling organization anywhere to be represented with a large contingent at the Hall of Fame and Museum induction ceremony in Amsterdam, New York in May 2012, FanFest 2012 was perched at historic highs. It was announced that “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino was going to visit FanFest/Toy Drive on December 8, 2012. Again, an attendance record was shattered when more than 550 attended FanFest. Sammartino, along with DeNucci, thrilled an enormous crowd. It was the biggest crowd on record for an independent wrestling show within the city of Pittsburgh. This was also the first time in which Owner Bobby O would induct a wrestler into the prestigious KSWA Hall of Fame outside of the confines of the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament. Months later, Sammartino would accept honors for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. In Pittsburgh at FanFest, even more toys were donated to children within Allegheny County who needed a boost.
In 2013, FanFest would again focus on its Pittsburgh roots. In the months leading up to December 7th, KSWA Krazies were eager to see who the KSWA would sign for the biggest, most-anticipated event of the wrestling calendar year. It was announced that “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, a Pittsburgh born-and-bred wrestler with a famed history was coming to the event. In addition, the one-legged superstar Zach Gowen came in from Michigan for the event. Not since J.J. Dillon in 2010 had a visiting headliner participated in a match. Not since Dominic DeNucci wrestled in 2009 had a headliner gone into the ring. Gowen took on The Jester in a most spectacular match. Valiant would entertain the crowd with some of his well-respected stand-up routine. In addition to that, one of Studio Wrestling’s referees and current Lawrenceville shoe-maker Bucky Palermo made a surprise visit to FanFest. The KSWA Krazies were also spectacular, as they vaulted their giving to remarkable levels. Enterprise Car Sale came forward with a $500 donation out-of-the-blue just to buy more toys. Needy children throughout Allegheny County benefitted like never before.
That leads up to this year’s event, scheduled for December 6, 2014. WWE legends The Honky Tonk Man and Hacksaw Jim Dugan are scheduled to be in Pittsburgh; and sponsorships and giving by the KSWA Krazies continues to impress. The buzz around KSWA FanFest/Toy Drive always gets loud and this year the hum is only growing. Bell time is 7:30.