A Promotion With Spirit: KSWA Wrestling Enters Its "Modern Era" on 51st Street
May 19, 2016
by Trapper Tom, Ring Announcer/Wrestling Journalist
(KSWA wrestling returns to the Lawrenceville Moose--now called "Spirit Lounge"--on Saturday, May 28. This is the second in a series of features detailing the most vaunted home for professional wrestling in Pittsburgh since Television Hill and Studio Wrestling.)
The year 2005 is widely considered to be the start of the "Modern Era" for Pittsburgh's Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA). It was the first full year at what was soon be known as the “KSWA Arena." It was hosting events on a more frequent basis, and attendance was growing. In August the federation received its very first “front page” exposure, as Pittsburgh’s “The Front” featured the organization. The story, widespread from the advertiser-supported publication, showcased the feud between Biker Al and then-Golden Triangle Champion “Double A” Anthony Alexander.
Having a dedicated monthly location also helped with the first attendance spike. Routinely, then-KSWA co-owner Bobby O would be amazed as house numbers picked up. Attendance, which had grown from the low 100’s often topped 200. But there was still room to grow. And the KSWA did as time went on.
In early-to-mid November, 2005, Pittsburgh City Paper interviewed some of the wrestlers and spotted the popular La Lucha on its cover. Along with “The Front” cover-story, this would jump-start KSWA’s profile as the top wrestling promotion in the region. But this was only the beginning.
When FanFest arrived on December, 3, 2005, Bobby O and the KSWA Championship Committee had no idea what the event might become. There was a buzz and the KSWA Arena was ready for a seven-match “FanFest.” What also made the event unique was the inclusion of a Toy Drive, and Allegheny County’s “Holiday Project” was the beneficiary. Hundreds of toys were delivered by the KSWA Krazies, and hundreds of needy children were aided by the incredible generosity shown by the fans. This involvement increased by leaps and bounds throughout the rest of the KSWA Arena/FanFest run.
In 2006, the KSWA hosted 11 of its 14 events at the Arena. In July, the first and only “Wrestle/Rock” took place. A band played before the 8-match event, in which the feud between then-KSWA Champion Shawn Blanchard and challenger La Lucha heated up. La Lucha made Blanchard tap out in a non-title match. The Krazies annoyed Blanchard for months and mocked him with a “You Tapped Out” chant.
The KSWA Kruiserweight Cup tournament took place in 2006 at the Arena, and in August, “Double-A” Anthony Alexander won a tournament that unified the Golden Triangle and Tri-State titles.
On November 17, 2006 the KSWA hosted, “Clash Against Cancer” at the KSWA Arena. For a while, it held the record for the highest-attended event at the KSWA Arena, with more than 330 people. The fundraiser boasted a Shawn Blanchard/Anthony Alexander double count out for the KSWA’s top prize, while in the Main Event, “Big” Mike Malachi defeated La Lucha.
The attendance record lasted for only a few weeks because FanFest 2006 broke that record with nearly 350 people. Observers say the #1 moment in KSWA history occurred that night when La Lucha defeated Shawn Blanchard for the KSWA World Heavyweight title. To this day, nearly nine years later, observers who were there say the ovation for that win was the greatest in KSWA history.
One month later, La Lucha would lose the KSWA belt in dubious fashion to Shawn Blanchard and Battle Bowl is born.
In 2007, nine of 13 KSWA events were held at the Arena. Double-A won a #1 contender battle royal before Battle Bowl was born, and Shawn Blanchard became the KSWA Champion after pinning Kris Kash in a Triple Threat Match with La Lucha all in January.
Champion Shawn Blanchard dominated 2007, except for when Bobby O’s team won the only “Captain’s Series” ever waged. FanFest 2007 saw Michael Cruz become Golden Triangle Champion, La Lucha and Joey Quervo snare the tag team championship and Alexander defeat Blanchard for the KSWA title after a long feud.
In 2008, ten events were held at the Arena, including the inaugural Joe Abby Memorial Tournament and the KSWA Hall of Fame ceremony. The first inductees were (posthumously) Joe Abby, and by surprise, Frank Durso. Over the years the Joe Abby Tournament and Hall of Fame ceremony would become the highest profiled and most important event of its type in independent wrestling.
In 2009, there were nine events, including the first-ever Battle Bowl and a western Pennsylvania wrestling legend made Pittsburgh—and the KSWA—his professional wrestling home.