KSWA Now The Longest-Running Wrestling Promotion In Pittsburgh History
February 2, 2015
by Trapper Tom, Ring Announcer/Wrestling Journalist
Now in its 15th campaign, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) finds itself in rarefied, historic air. The KSWA is the longest-running, independent professional wrestling organization in Pittsburgh’s grand history.
Before the KSWA, Pittsburgh’s storied “Studio Wrestling” was the longest-running organization in the city’s history. Technically, the WIIC (now WPXI)-powered Studio Wrestling from the Fineview neighborhood ran from 1959-1974; however, the last two years the show was not based in Pittsburgh.
[Editor’s note: Since the advent of the independent professional wrestling scene, Pennsylvania—and especially Western PA—has been a hot bed of action. McKeesport, PA is Allegheny County's second-largest city in Allegheny County; it's Pro Wrestling Xpress (PWX) celebrated its 20th year of entertaining the Monongahela Valley in 2014 and International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) has been accumulating an impressive history over 14 years from its base in Elizabeth, PA, which is 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh.]
In 2000, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance was a business venture created by Louie Syxmunki and based in the city's Lawrenceville neighborhood, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Syxmunki Sports Entertainment. Spurred into the business by other entrepreneurs (some observers say they belong to the Pittsburgh bookmaking community), Syxmunki held sole ownership of the promotion in its earliest days. A couple of years later, reportedly due to expansive gambling debts, he took on a partner who had a plan: Bobby O. In 2014, Tommy Faime joined Bobby O as 50% owners of the promotion.
The sports landscape in Pittsburgh was interesting in a number of ways. The Pittsburgh Penguins were in their first year of ownership under Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux. Jaromir Jagr was team Captain and was the leader in most offensive categories. They Pens were 37-31-8 and in third place of the Atlantic Division of the NHL. The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off of a dismal (for them) 6-10 season under Coach Bill Cowher. The 4th place squad in the AFC Central had missed the playoffs in 1999 for the second-consecutive season. The last game of the season at Three Rivers Stadium experienced the Tennessee Titans defeat the Steelers 47-36 on January 2, 2000. A less-than-capacity crowd of 48,025 cheered as QB Mike Tomczak tossed a 35-yard-TD to Bobby Shaw in the 4th quarter to close the gap. Third-string quarterback Pete Gonzales, who played college football at the University of Pittsburgh, would never play another professional game in his career. Meanwhile, the Gene Lamont-lead Pittsburgh Pirates ended up 78-83 in the National League Central standings. Outfielder Brian Giles lead the team with 39 homers, 115 RBI’s and a .315 batting average. Todd Richie led the team with a 15-9 record and 3.49 ERA. The team was only in its 7th consecutive season of losing baseball at that juncture.
The KSWA’s first-ever official event took place at Peabody High School in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood on Friday, February 18, 2000. Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States. He was in the final year of his second term. Tom Murphy Jr. was the 57th Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. He was halfway through his 1994-2006 stint. Both men were Democrats. The population of the city—which is broken down into 90 distinct communities—was 334,563 according to city data.com. Famous alumnus included Professional Wrestler Matt Bloom, who earned letters in baseball, basketball, football and track and field while at Peabody. He did not letter in wrestling. [It’s an interesting note that football players Bloom and Gonzalez played together at the University of Pittsburgh. Bloom, and offensive lineman, protected Gonzalez.] Other famous Peabody alumnus included dancer extraordinaire Gene Kelly as well as comedian and talk show host Charles Grodin. Batman’s TV “Riddler” Frank Gorshin attended the school. Poltergeist’s unique medium, played by Zelda Rubinstein, is undoubtedly the most recognizable woman to have ever haunted the Peabody halls. Regular gasoline at the pump was $1.40 a gallon.
From 2000 to 2015, the KSWA has worked diligently to serve Pittsburgh and beyond, with a great, family-friendly atmosphere dubbed: “Wrestling, the way YOU like it.”
In addition to Lawrenceville, the KSWA has populated shows in Bloomfield and other city neighborhoods.
In 2012, when Dominic DeNucci was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Amsterdam, New York on May 19, 2012 (and enshrined by Bruno Sammartino), the event was emceed by KSWA mainstay Lord Zoltan. The KSWA was the only professional wrestling organization anywhere to support DeNucci and Sammartino in mass.
Bill Peduto, the 60th Mayor of the city of Pittsburgh, has been a long-time fan and supporter of the KSWA. At the November 5, 2013 party in which he arrived the newly-elected Mayor, Peduto hoisted the KSWA Heavyweight Championship belt over his head. Cameras flashed and videographers retrieved their equipment to catch Peduto place the KSWA championship on the podium for all Pittsburgh to see.
Other influential friends of the KSWA include Pennsylvania state Democratic Party leader Jim Burn, Allegheny County Councilors John DeFazio, Chuck Martoni (both KSWA Hall of Famers) and U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle (who recently joined with Megastars for a community fundraiser and held the most prestigious title in the commonwealth around his waist).
On June 20, 2014, the KSWA became the only professional wrestling organization to be showcased on the front of the Wall Street Journal.
Over 15 years, the KSWA has hosted several dozen wrestling Megastars (35 of whom were ranked in a ground-breaking and often-duplicated ranking of their careers), as well as several “name” performers. Beginning with Brownsville, PA’s Bill Eadie, the KSWA has welcomed Barry Darso, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, Cody Michaels, Nick Busick, Davey O'Hannon, "Pretty Boy" Larry Sharpe, “Battman” Tony Marino, James J. Dillon, Zach Gowen, Donna Christiantello, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, Johnny Valiant, Bushwacker Luke Williams, Virgil and Larry Zbyszko. The KSWA has proudly carried the torch for Studio Wrestling and has honored the past with a Hall of Fame that includes Bruno Sammartino, Dominic DeNucci, George “The Animal” Steele, Ron Romano, Frank Durso, Joe Abby, Referee Bucky Palermo, Ron Romano, Bobby “Hurricane” Hunt and Bill Cardille. Former Pirate broadcaster Lanny Frattare is also a frequent guest and contributor.
The KSWA celebrates its 15th anniversary on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at the Teamster Temple, 4701 Butler Street in the Lawrenceville neighborhood within the city of Pittsburgh. Bell time is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for kids. Card and more can be found at kswa.net.