January 1, 2022
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
Pittsburgh's Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) returned to action after COVID-19 restrictions staggered the city's longest running and Western Pennsylvania's longest-continuously-running promotion. And soon after the veil that closed wrestling in Pittsburgh was raised, the KSWA sprinted to a quick and meaningful schedule of events.
And that doesn't begin to touch on the charitable and community work that the KSWA has championed during its more than two-decades as the unmatched leader in Western Pennsylvania Independent sport.
Here are the Top 10 people, places and things for KSWA in the Year That Was...in no particular order.
1. Returning After A Long Time Off
From February, 22, 2000 to May 14, 2021, some 447 days, the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) was shuttered. Empty arena events where the Megastars of Pittsburgh's official professional wrestling organization were unable to interact with the Krazies were meaningless. The KSWA has always been the interaction with those who live a love of professional wrestling on their sleeve. From Spirit Hall in Lawrenceville to JB's Roadside Bar and Grill in West Deer, the KSWA took some unprecedented steps.
The first day back saw the KSWA present six matches, including four title bouts. The KSWA was off and running with a calendar that witnessed 16 events in the next 204 days. And while the KSWA is temporarily without a permanent home for 2022, events have been lined up and exciting developments continue to present themselves almost weekly.
J-Ru first appeared on the very first Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) card at Peabody High School on February 28, 2000. He famously opened that night of action in a pinning loss to Eric "The Electric" Love. He would disappear from the Pittsburgh promotion, only to return about a decade later. Since that time he has found success as a singles as well as a tag team wrestler. His most success time in the KSWA was earlier this year as the 5-Star Champion. Whether he was complaining about his ring music, or hiding the 5-Star belt in a suitcase, J-Ru made each and every defense important. He held off the advances of The Ram Anthony Drake, Joshua Kavod and others. A fighting champion, J-Ru has fine-tuned himself physically and has never been better away from the hip tosses and Irish whips inside the squared circle. There's plenty to believe that J-Ru will continue to improve as 2022 is set on the horizon.
3. The Renegades
When "Big Country" Matt McGraw and Yinza, the Pittsburgh Luchadore, joined the KSWA by training together and taking part in early matches together, one could tell a unique friendship was formed. McGraw, the muscle, and Yinza, the more traditional of the two, worked well together from the beginning. With "Three Rivers" monkey flips and other creative maneuvers, Yinza quickly became a fan favorite. With massive spears and impressive power, McGraw earned a legion of devotees. On May 15, 2001 (in only the second event of the year) the soon-to-be-dubbed "Renegades" earned historical designation by winning the KSWA tag team championship over BROhemoth and Mitch Napier in Sheradan. The most coveted tag team championships in the Commonwealth have changed hands some 42 times in 21 years, but none have been as unique as Yinza and McGraw. The duo has successfully defended the championship eight times, and have not backed down from a challenge.
4. The rivalry between Lou Martin and Del Douglas
"The King" Del Douglas and "The Face of Pittsburgh" faced off numerous times during the KSWA's 16 events in 2021. Even a "loser eats dog food" match at Brawl Under the Bridge didn't stop these two uber Megastars.
The two multiple-time champions battled in outdoor conditions throughout the hot spring, summer and fall months.
5. Bobby O saves wrestling in Pittsburgh
The Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) raced out of the competitive gates in 2021 with a spell-binding 16 events. That's in 7.5 months! The ambitious tour started at JB's Roadside Bar and Grille, and then Langley American Legion Post #496 the very next day! July featured a stop at MJ's Steel City Grill and then the summer tent pole that is Brawl Under the Bridge. The annual spectacular was the highest-attended independent professional wrestling event of Western Pennsylvania's summer.
A lot of this can be attributed to the Owner of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance, Bobby O. He and the KSWA Championship Committee worked diligently to "swing for the fences' when it came to producing a family-friendly product to the greater Pittsburgh area. Bobby O and the the KSWA provided many opportunities for wrestlers and their fans alike.
Bobby O and the Championship Committee also launched a successful campaign with Three Rivers Harley-Davidson, a partnership that will lead to more good in 2022.
In addition, Bobby O was personally acknowledged for his 35-year participation in the Western Pennsylvania sporting scene, a legacy that is second-to-none for professional wrestling promoters.
6. "The Count" Joins Pittsburgh Wrestling's Veteran Stable of Referees
Professional Wrestling Referees on the independent scene often get little respect. That's never the case with the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance. Second-generation Megastar Jimmy James is one of the longest-reigning officiants in this region of the state, and KSWA Hall of Famer and Pride of Springdale Shawn Patrick is the gold standard.
James (the son of the late, great KSWA Hall of Famer Joe Perri) has been with the KSWA for nearly 15 years. James is not only a veteran, but a one-time "Iron Man" who displayed yoman's work as tireless rule-keeper.
Patrick, a Main Event Magnet, who has worked countless top-of-the-card events and maintains a professionalism that's second to none. Whether he's calling for a submission, acknowledging an important title change, or being choked out by athletes like Dennis Gregory, Patrick has done the job better in the ring than the vast majority who have tried.
Now add "The Count" Mark Charles, III. A gentleman in-and-out of the ring, the guardian of truth frequently wears bow ties when he's not inside the squared circle. Patient, intelligent, generous and respectful, it's hard to believe that Charles III, whose professional motto is aptly, "Fairness, Kindness and Impartiality," started his foray into the sport less than two years ago. His addition makes the KSWA stable of referees the best in the Commonwealth, and beyond.
7. Joshua Kavod, The Ram and Sin Born
In 2021, the KSWA featured a record-shattering amount of "new" and "returning" faces. The trio of "The Regent" Joshua Kavod, "The Ram" Anthony Drake and Sin Born helped navigate a fast-and-furious schedule of matches. From JB's to Brawl, to FanFest, Drake, Kavod and Sin Born traveled the highways and bi-ways with the Megastars and a true caravan of fans. All three have had wins and losses--and Kavod became the 5-Star Champion and Megastar of the Year. The year 2022 looks brighter for these wrestlers.
8. Shawn Blanchard
"The O.G. of the VIPs" began the year on the shelf, nursing an injury that limited him to seconding Del Douglas to the ring in his ever-escalating feud with Lou Martin. As the days, weeks and months wore on, Blanchard became more of the feisty, crabby and vicious competitor fans remember for more than a quarter-century.
He would return to the squared circle only in October at the Kinloch Volunteer Fire Department and the Children's Miracle Network fundraiser. His match there with Shane Starr for the Golden Triangle Championship was one of the finest of the campaign.
Blanchard immediately tore into a long-brewing feud with Lou Martin. The two former multiple tag team champions waged a war (that saw KSWA Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon get involved) that saw them beat each other into pulps at FanFest. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Blanchard had his sights set on the KSWA Heavyweight Championship in the new year.
9. Shane Starr
The KSWA Heavyweight Championship has more-than-earned its significance as the most important championship in the Commonwealth. However, it can definitively be argued that Shane Starr has made the city of Pittsburgh crown jewel, the Golden Triangle Championship, the second-most cherished title in the Keystone State.
Through an at-times almost weekly schedule of defenses, Starr oftentimes went shoulder to shoulder with KSWA Heavyweight Champion Anthony Alexander (Starr defended his belt two more times in the year). Starr defended the Golden Triangle Championship 14 times in 2021. It was a true who's who of talent with the likes of Dennis Gregory, Bubba the Bulldog, BROhemoth, J-Ru, Remy LeVay, Malakai Gage and Lucio Deveer falling at the Sharpsburg Sharpshooter of Shane Starr. That's not to mention the multiple defenses against Zak Myers, Del Douglas and Shawn Blanchard.
Shane Starr is at the absolute top of his game.
10. Anthony Alexander
As of December 31, 2021, "Double-A" Anthony Alexander has been the KSWA Heavyweight Champion for a total of 755 days, an amount that surpasses Lou Martin's second reign of 735 days (2011-2013). Martin's first World Title Reign of 798 days (2004-2006) is in sight.
Alexander defended the Commonwealth's most prestigious title a dozen times in 2021, making it once again the most coveted championship in professional wrestling. And the pool of challengers was impressive, talented, and at times massive. From BROhemoth, Sin Born, Lucio Deveer, to Harley T. Morris, Dennis Gregory and Bubba the Bulldog, Alexander also fought off Officer Dan Murphy, and Beastman multiple times. No one anywhere fought off that challenge of challengers.
Alexander was also lead to the ring by "Cowboy" Bob Orton in his defense of the title to the returning Edric Everhart at FanFest. That helped cap off a record-breaking year for The Prime Time Player.