Celebrating At Milestone With 100 Events At The KSWA Arena In Pittsburgh
August 14, 2017
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
From its inception in the year 2000 until August, 2004, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) had hosted 22 events. From Peabody High School to the Candlelight Lounge, the KSWA always traveled; however, Pittsburgh’s professional wrestling organization made the Bloomfield V.F.W. its first home. Some 19 events were held a few blocks from the Bloomfield Bridge in those first four years. In fact, from 2001-2003, the KSWA held cards nowhere else.
Then, on Saturday, August 14, 2004 the KSWA moved to what was the Lawrenceville Moose Hall along 51st Street in the Lawrenceville neighborhood within the city of Pittsburgh. The eight-match card dubbed “Mayhem at the Moose” included the Ray Mendez tournament, an Ali Kaida v. La Lucha “Mexican Street Fight,” Bob Atlas defeating Shawn Blanchard for the KSWA Tri State Title and Biker Al winning a Battle Royal that enabled him to not only win the KSWA Tag Team Titles, but also the ability to choose the partner of his choice (it turned out to be La Lucha).
Globally, the Summer Olympics began in Greece and locally, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured a front-page obituary to the Pittsburgh Marathon. Little did Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, the KSWA, and independent professional wrestling in Pennsylvania know what would transpire over the next 13 years and 99 more events.
On Saturday, September 9, 2017 the KSWA will present its 100th professional wrestling at what is now Spirit Hall, 242 51st Street, Pittsburgh. Over the past 17 years, the KSWA (the longest-running promotion in the city’s history) has hosted a total of 224 events, 171 of which have been within the Pittsburgh city limits.
Back when the KSWA started at what will be called “The Arena” for this rest of the retrospective, “Dr. Devastation” Lou Martin had just begun his first run as Heavyweight Champion. The title, while the only single championship defended within the city limits, had not yet earned the distinction of being the most coveted in the Commonwealth. In addition, it was here that the promotion started its ascent as the most important in the state, and arguably all of independent wrestling (that argument is set for another time).
The next six KSWA events would take place at the Arena. The inaugural two-day Millvale Days in 2005 broke the string. Later that same year, KSWA FanFest/Toy Drive began at The Arena. Although it would not boast a legendary name on the card for a few more years, KSWA FanFest was beginning to find its way as the “tent pole” event of the year.
On April 1, 2006, Shawn Blanchard defeated Lou Martin and Anthony Alexander in a Triple Threat match to win the KSWA Championship for the third time. But then Blanchard would duel with La Lucha for the rest of 2006 and their feud reached its apex at FanFest of that year. La Lucha won the title in a Main Event before a ruckus, packed house that still resonates with the Krazies to this very day. Most observers agree that this match, and the hype that lead to it, elevated the KSWA Championship to a different level.
At the very next Arena event in January, Blanchard won the title again—his fourth—by pinning Kris Kash in a controversial Triple Threat match that saw La Lucha lose but never get pinned (the Mayor of Mexico City never received a proper rematch).
On December 1, 2007, “Double A” Anthony Alexander defeated Shawn Blanchard for the KSWA Title. On July 11, 2009, Blanchard reclaimed the prize for the fifth time. On May 1, 2010, the Latin Assassin bested Blanchard for the championship, again at The Arena.
March 29, 2008 ushered in the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament and the KSWA Hall of Fame. The first members were Abby and VIP Advisor Frank Durso. Over the years, the KSWA Hall of Fame has included a Who’s Who of important Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania wrestlers, personalities and influential innovators. It has become the longest-running independent wrestling Hall of Fame in the industry. The tournament itself has been a launching pad for success. While the format has changed over the run, the tournament has led to opportunities for individuals and tag teams alike, or just resume toppers for longtime veterans like Lord Zoltan, who has been inducted into the KSWA Hall of Fame and won the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament.
At the December 6, 2008 FanFest, Demolition Ax and Kris Kash defeated Blanchard and Martin in a special tag team attraction. Ax’s participation not only started a movement to bring in “names” for FanFest, but attendance records continued to be broken annually.
The phenomenon called “Battle Bowl” began on January 17, 2009 at the Arena. Shawn Blanchard was the first Battle Bowl winner, with Lou Martin registering a runner-up finish and Ali Kaida was third. As was the case, Blanchard won an opportunity at the KSWA Championship, Martin and a tag team partner of his choice would have an opportunity at the KSWA Tag Team belts sometime in 2009, and Ali Kaida was granted a shot at the Golden Triangle Championship. Battle Bowl has become one of the most eagerly-anticipated matches on the KSWA Calendar.
Demolition Ax returned to the KSWA in March, 2009 to be added as the third member of the Hall of Fame.
The Keystone State Wrestling Alliance received its first “Day” in the city of Pittsburgh when then-City Councilman Bill Peduto arrived with a proclamation. March 27, 2010 was deemed “KSWA Day in the City of Pittsburgh” to commemorate a decade of action and activity.
In March, 2010, Donna Christiantello and Dominic DeNucci were on hand for induction into the KSWA Hall of Fame.
FanFest 2010 witnessed James J. Dillon arrive in the KSWA for the first time. He began the night in the corner of Kris Kash and Shane Starr as they took on the VIPs—Blanchard and Martin. However, by the end of the capacity-crowd event, Dillon had used his shoe to clobber one of his wards and he joined the VIPs.
March, 2011 Ron Romano was inducted posthumously into the KSWA Hall of Fame but “Hurricane” Bobby Hunt made his way to the Arena for the ceremony.
On July 9, 2011, Ali Kaida upset many of the Bloomfield Bookies by pinning The Latin Assassin for the KSWA Championship, also at The Arena.
On December 3, 2011, George “The Animal” Steele appeared at the KSWA Arena for the very first time. With much fanfare, his FanFest appearance broke all KSWA attendance records. It’s been reported by Pittsburgh Police that more than 200 fans were turned away at the door because of capacity concerns. Several other wrestlers attended as well, including “Battman” Tony Mario, Dominic DeNucci and Cody Michaels. In the Main Event, Mitch Napier defeated a Fatal Four-way crowd that included Blanchard, Kaida and The Latin Assassin. Mere moments after the win, Lou Martin cashed in a Battle Bowl contract and legally and nefariously beat Napier for the most coveted title in the Commonwealth.
In 2012, Lord Zoltan and famed wrestling photographer Howard Kernats were inducted into the KSWA Hall of Fame at the Arena.
The following year at FanFest on December 8, 2012, Bruno Sammartino made his last independent wrestling event anywhere when he and Dominic DeNucci met fans. It was here that Sammartino was inducted by KSWA Owner Bobby O into the KSWA Hall of Fame.
December 7, 2013 brought a different stipulation to the FanFest stage. Lou Martin defended the belt against Golden Triangle Champion Shane Starr in a “winner takes all” contest. On a night that saw Bucky Palermo arrived on the scene for the first time, “Luscious Johnny Valiant” be inducted in the Hall of Fame (Tommy Faime received his plaque at the Joe Abby Tournament in March) and Zach Gowen defeat the Jester (before Jester turned on “King” Del Douglas), Starr upended Martin and became a World Champion. As of press, this was the last KSWA Heavyweight Championship title change at The Arena. Some 10 title changes in a row took place at the Arena (the last four have all occurred at the Teamster Temple).
The year 2014 brought an end to the spectacular KSWA Arena run for professional wrestling in Pittsburgh. The calendar began in an unsuspecting an exciting way when “Big” Mike Malachi returned to action after a 3-year, 1-month and 8-day retirement at Battle Bowl VI on January 11.
At the 7th Annual Joe Abby Memorial Tournament, the KSWA inducted “Chilly” Billy Cardille, “Jumpin’” Johnny DeFazio and Chuck Martoni into the Hall of Fame. Lord Zoltan defeated Lou Martin for the Joe Abby Memorial trophy and celebrated in the ring with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who stopped by to visit on March 29.
New ownership took over the Arena at the KSWA came back for the first time, two years and two months to the day of the last event. That May 28, 2016 return was highlighted by Nick “Big Bully” Busick, who made a triumphant return to the KSWA after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer about one-year prior. He had bested the disease and was being interviewed by KDKA TV videographer L. David Colabine. The segment, which featured Busick addressing the crowd and shots of the action, won a Golden Quill Award earlier this year.
In 2017, the KSWA returned “home” to the Arena. The Krazies, who became more engrossed than ever in the Megastars, continue to support professional wrestling in Pittsburgh in exceeding numbers. Over the first half of 2017, the Krazies have been introduced to new talent like MV Young, BROhemoth and David Lawless to name a few, and have witnessed the shocking debut of Dennis Gregory and a monumental return of “Double A” Anthony Alexander after 2,194 days away from the ring.
On March 25, 2017, not only did Alexander return, but “The Fighting Cop From Carnegie” Frank Holtz, Pittsburgh Pirate-turned Studio Wrestling pitchman Pie Traynor and “Gentleman” Joe Perri were all inducted into the KSWA Hall of Fame at the Arena. (Bill Apter previously had been inducted in December, 2016 at FanFest at the Teamster Temple).
The historic home of modern day professional wrestling in Pittsburgh remains in the heart of Lawrenceville. The Arena has been home to local wrestling mainstays like Lord Zoltan and Mayor Mystery for nearly a decade. Other veterans like Jack Massacre and T-Rantula have also made it their in-ring home. All regional talent wants to wrestle for the KSWA and in front of the Krazies. Its where Megastars like Jay Flash, The Jester, Tony Johnson and System Elite cut their teeth. It’s where KSWA Hall of Famer Donna Christiantello, George “The Animal” Steele, and “Chilly” Bill Cardille said goodbye to wrestling fans.
The KSWA will observe its 100th event at the “Arena” at Spirit Hall in the heart of Lawrenceville on Saturday, December 9. Bell time is 7:30 p.m. The KSWA Championship Committee is deciding upon a night of exciting matches, which will be announced in the days and weeks ahead.