KSWA To Host 200th Event March 26...A Look Back Begins
February 26, 2016
by Trapper Tom, Ring Announcer/Wrestling Journalist
[The first in a series…]
On Saturday, March 26, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA), the longest-running professional wrestling organization in the city of Pittsburgh’s 200 year history, will fittingly host its 200th event.
And staying true to its eastern Pittsburgh city neighborhood roots, the KSWA will hold the Joe Abby Memorial Night in Lawrenceville, at the Teamster Temple. Since 2008 the evening has also served as the KSWA’s annual Hall of Fame Night.
It’s been a long and gratifying road for the Megastars of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance. Over the past 16 years, photographs from staffers, fans and Hall of Fame photographer Howard Kernats alike don’t lie. Fans, lovingly referred to as “Krazies,” come—in increasingly record numbers—from far and wide to be entertained by professional wrestlers from across the country and around the globe. The KSWA is wrestling the way Pittsburgh fans like it, the way “You” like it.
The KSWA had its first event on Friday, February 18, 2000 at Peabody High School in the city of Pittsburgh. In 2000, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance was a business venture created by Louie Syxmunki, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Syxmunki Sports Entertainment. Spurred into the business by other entrepreneurs (some observers say they belong to the Bloomfield and greater 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.
The sports landscape in Pittsburgh was interesting in a number of ways back in February, and the year 2000. The Pittsburgh Penguins were in their first year of ownership under Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux and on-ice leadership of Ivan Hlinka. 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.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the high temperate of the day was 36 degrees. It was 32 degrees at bell time. There were nine matches in that inaugural night.
[In the next installment, the first card and more will be reviewed from the first 199 events in KSWA history.]