Continued Spirit: Massacre, Flash, Battman, Steele, Zbyszko, Sammartino Make Memorable Appearances
May 26, 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 last in a series of features detailing the most vaunted home for professional wrestling in Pittsburgh since Television Hill and Studio Wrestling.)
With 14 events in 2010, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) was just entering its stride as Pittsburgh’s professional wrestling organization.
In January, Anthony Alexander won Battle Bowl and had a chance at the KSWA World Title. Alex Arcadian won the opportunity at the Golden Triangle belt and The Blood Beast won a shot at the tag team belts. In February, Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto arrived at the Arena to give the KSWA its own “Day” in the city. March 27, 2010 was “KSWA Day” in the city of Pittsburgh to acknowledge the organization’s 10th anniversary.
On the same night, February 20, 2010, a group of young wrestlers started with the organization and their time in Pittsburgh would often define their wrestling careers. Keith Haught, who would later become The Jester, Jay Flash, “Ice Man” Tony Johnson and Drew Belanger debuted on that evening. Belanger’s tag team partner, J.P. Goulet, would follow along in July. All of those Megastars eventually earned titles in the KSWA and the majority of the group was able to stay on board with the Commonwealth’s most decorated federation.
In 2010, the legendary Dominic DeNucci and the leading female wrestler to ever come out of Pittsburgh, Donna Christiantello, were inducted into the KSWA Hall of Fame in March. With Joe Abby, Frank Durso and Bill Eadie, the KSWA Hall of Fame was already starting to resemble the top independent wrestling fall of fame in western Pennsylvania. In 2011, Studio Wrestling stalwart Ron Romano and Bobby “Hurricane” Hunt followed. In 2012, professional wrestling’s leading photographer, Howard Kernats, and the incomparable Lord Zoltan were inducted in a March ceremony. And in the first break of tradition, Bruno Sammartino, in his last independent wrestling appearance anywhere, was inducted into the Hall of Fame at FanFest in 2012. In 2013, George “The Animal” Steele would be inducted from his appearance at the Horror Realm convention and “Mr. Tenacity” Tommy Faime was inducted during the Joe Abby Tournament. “Luscious” Johnny Valiant and referee Bucky Palermo rounded out the Class of 2013 at the KSWA Arena. In 2014, “Chilly” Bill Cardille, “Jumpin’” Johnny DeFazio and Chuck Martoni represented the final Hall of Fame Class inducted at the former Moose Hall.
On May 1, 2010 The Latin Assassin defeated Shawn Blanchard to win the KSWA World title. Also on the card that night was Pittsburgh wrestling legend Larry Zbyszko.
Also in May, the KSWA launched an Internet TV program from the KSWA Arena. The KSWA Championship Committee enjoyed the limited-run experiment, but ultimately decided on live events.
On September 4, 2010, the KSWA, in conjunction with area wrestling fans, organized the Officer Paul Sciullo Memorial Wrestling event. Bobby Badfingers won a Battle Royal named in the slain Officer’s name. The overwhelmingly successful event featured Doink the Clown, Dominic DeNucci, Demolition Ax and Shane Douglas.
In 2011, the KSWA hosted 10 events at the Arena, with Lou Martin leading things off by winning Battle Bowl III. On June 11, Lord Zoltan surprised the KSWA Arena crowd by being the surprise entrant in the Ultimate Survivor Match and turning on the VIPs. On July 2, 2011, Zoltan and Justin Sane defeated the VIPs and became the tag team champions. That match, although not at the Arena, signified the beginning of the single-most successful KSWA tag team championship run of all time.
On July 9 at the Arena, Ali Kaida defeated The Latin Assassin and became KSWA World Champion.
On August 13, 2011, Jack Massacre debuted in the KSWA. The seven-foot-tall, 360 pound giant from Waco, Texas, became an instant sensation. For many years, no wrestler rivaled Massacre’s size. Interestingly, only T-Rantula, who briefly ran a federation at Pittsburgh’s Station Square, was the only wrestler remotely of Massacre’s size.
During FanFest on December 3, 2011, famed Studio Wrestling legend “Battman” Tony Marino, Dominic DeNucci, “Irish” Davey O’Hannon, Larry Sharpe, and Cody Michaels all stopped by the Arena. Earlier in the day, DeNucci was honored with a friendly “roast” and City Councilman Bill Peduto presented DeNucci with his own “Day.” The day was also unique for Pittsburgh wrestling because George “The Animal” Steele made his first appearance in the KSWA for FanFest. It was the very first time that more than 500 fans packed any KSWA event. Pittsburgh police estimated that 250 Krazies were turned away that night because of fire code regulations. The event was featured in a Tony Norman column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and former Pittsburgh Pirate announcer Lanny Frattare was on hand for his second event as a Special Guest Ring Announcer.
“Battman” even helped restart a KSWA Tag Team Title match when it appeared that J.P. Goulet and Drew Belanger had defeated Party Gras. Marino instructed the ref that Goulet’s leg was on the rope when the pinfall counted. The match restarted and Party Gras retained with a roll up.
Mitch Napier won the KSWA title in a Fatal Four way but was ambushed by Lou Martin and his nearly year-long championship match. A Death Certificate later and Martin was the KSWA Champion for a second time.
In 2012, nine events were held at the Arena. Kris Kash won Battle Bowl IV. On April 28, Bushwhacker Luke from WWF fame was on hand for an event. At FanFest, 2012, as previously noted, Bruno Sammartino was on hand with Dominic DeNucci. The KSWA attendance record, which was set in 2011 with Steele, was broken one year later with the Living Legend. More than 560 fans packed the KSWA Arena to see Sammartino in an iconic and endearing appearance.
In 2013, another nine events were held. Shawn Blanchard won Battle Bowl V. At FanFest, one-legged wonder Zach Gowen defeated The Jester in a match. Afterwards, The Jester and Del Douglas had a falling out and Jester became a fan favorite. Also in the Main Event, after nearly a year of feuding, a “Title v. Title” match between Lou Martin and Shane Starr was held. Starr, then the Golden Triangle Champion, defeated Martin to also become the KSWA World Champion.
In 2014 the KSWA hosted its final few events at the KSWA Arena. In one of the most surprising and exciting moments in KSWA history, “Big” Mike Malachi returned to the organization after retiring. Fans packed the Arena and jumped up and down in glee as Malachi was the Battle Bowl winner. On March 29, 2014 at the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament, now Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto rushed the ring to dance with Lord Zoltan in the Abby final match with Lou Martin. Zoltan won the trophy and danced with Peduto once again in the ring.
Throughout the years, few wrestling promoters ran professional events and only one found success within the city of Pittsburgh over the decade in which the KSWA held down the fort. Charlatans tried to showcase acrobats who dove from second levels in front of dozens, while others failed with “midgets” in front of even less. None invested in the product the same way in which the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance dedicated itself to the city of Pittsburgh, and the KSWA Arena, for a decade.