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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cheap Heat: The Story of Twin States Wrestling

The Story of Twin States Wrestling

I have been a fan of pro wrestling for nearly my entire life, but I started following it religiously in late 1985 when I was eight years old.  I always dreamed of being a professional wrestler and I eventually ended up getting to do that on a small level in 1997 when I graduated college.  However, I also always dreamed of running/booking my own wrestling show back to when I was eight years old and booking matches and angles with my large rubber LJN action figures.  Still to this day there's a bunch of notebooks at my parents house filled with hundreds of matches and "events" I booked and acted out with those wrestling figures.  From that time on I always wanted the opportunity to promote and book a wrestling show of my own one day.  Fast forward to 1997, I started wrestling and eventually branched out into managing, ring announcing, doing television and dvd commentary, and even refereeing a time or two.  I got the opportunity here and there to help out and interject some ideas with booking on a few shows but never the chance to book a show exactly the way I wanted to with who I wanted to book.  Seeing as how I was living in Alabama but was originally from Mississippi, I had even picked a name for a promotion if I ever started one, Twin States Wrestling.  After years of wanting to do so I eventually decided the opportunity would never present itself and I would never have the money to gamble on a wrestling show as I'd seen too many friends lose large sums of money on shows they were sure were going to be successful, so I resigned myself to the fact that Twin States Wrestling would never become a reality.  

Then at then end of 2015, I was talking to my buddy Ace Haven who mentioned he wished he could find someone to rent his building and run a show on a different day to help out with the bills and I asked him what he would charge, he said being a friend he would cut me a good deal and he told me what it would cost to get the building, which is "show ready"...everything you need to run a wrestling show is set up in that building seven days a week, 365 days a year.  The price he proposed was beyond reasonable and for the first time I started to seriously consider making this dream happen.  I discussed it with my wife and we talked about what our budget could be...there was no "money mark" and whatever we put into this show was coming from our personal budget and we weren't willing to gamble a lot as we just didn't have it to spend.  Since ProSouth ran the building every Friday night, we decided to try a Sunday show.  The plan was to run every other month to start and see how things go.  I decided the first show would be a tournament to crown the first ever 'Twin States Champion', entitled 'Battle for the Belt'.  The reasoning was two fold..1) A new show needs a champion and 2) more importantly, a tournament would allow me to book less people and have people work more than once.  There were a lot of people to consider...many guys who I consider friends...many who I considered to be great talents who I wanted to book in the future...but I had to narrow it down to eight guys for this tournment.  I knew from the beginning I wanted the show to be a variety of styles, something for everyone.  Not just "memphis style", highspots, strong style, or any one thing....but a variety of the things people come to see these days.  After quite a bit of thought, I decided on eight guys who I felt all brought something different and special to the show and the tournament. "The Last Hero" Ace Haven, Neil 'the Real Deal' Taylor, Eric Wayne, Jeremiah Plunkett, Jeremy Flynt, Chase Owens, Tank, and Donnie Primetime.  I spent a lot of time on the brackets and how each would match up and how I wanted the show to build towards the Main Event and crowning of the first champion.  The toughest part was deciding who to put the title on.  Most folks who know me were assuming I would either put it on Flynt or Neil which meant they weren't an option although either would have made a great champion. (BTW, Neil made the poster which I thought he did an AWESOME job on...it's hanging in my "wrestling room" as we speak).  At one point I was going to put it on Eric Wayne, but then I decided to go with Chase Owens since he was getting a lot of attention as part of the Bullet Club over in Japan and then I would likely move it to Eric later.  I also had a 'Showcase Match' with Charles Zanders and Duke Warfield, two guys who I really like and had a good match. The show went pretty well, not everything came off the way I wanted it to but overall I'm proud of the show....however, it didn't draw worth a shit.  I hung posters all over the area and advertised as best I could, we even did an angle on the Friday night ProSouth show to try to bring in their crowd but it just didn't work.  I talked with quite a few people and got their opinions and I decided to try another Sunday in March but the consensus was I needed a couple of "names" to help draw.

So I scheduled a show in March called 'RAVEolution' headlined by former TNA/ROH star Jimmy Rave challenging Chase Owens for the Twin States title.  I also booked at that time ROH star and former NFL star MOOSE to take on Eric Wayne.  Now this show is when I started to get the full promoter experience.  I started having random guys messaging me on Facebook trying to get booked on the show....we're talking everything from backyard looking guys to guys who were currently working for TNA at the time.  Not to mention guys lobbying to  go over in their matches and shit like that on a show that only drew 35 people the first time around.  Then came the cancellations....I had five guys cancel in one week due to various reasons.  Then a few canceled the day before the show (then a couple un-canceled) it was a freaking nightmare.  I'll write another column (or perhaps do a podcast with Ace Haven) and get more into the booking of matches and some detailed stories about these first couple of shows at a later time so this one doesn't go on forever.  Anyway, the show was good...there were some frustrations on my part with some people who were trying to impose their will on the finishes of their matches and I even changed a couple of finishes because of it but all and all the show was good but again, my wife and I lost a pretty good chunk of money which didn't make either one of us happy.  I wasn't quite ready to throw in the towel just yet, however it was clear that Sunday was not the day to run wrestling in Piedmont, Alabama.

After losing our ass on RAVEolution, we took a few months off and I decided we would try a Saturday night in Piedmont. I had a friend and former Co-Worker Ted Gilmer who is a huge wrestling fan who had a lot of medical bills to pay for due to cancer treatment that I wanted to do a benefit for so we decided to go for it as the next Twin States event.  It was set to be a Tag Team Title Tournament and I had bunch of people lined up to work the show.  Then the month before the show was set to happen, I got a big promotion at work that changed my schedule to six days a week for the following six months which knocked me out of being able to run or even attend the event.  I was really stressed about what to do, I hated to cancel this benefit for Team Ted but there was no way I could do it.  Luckily, Ace Haven was kind enough to step in and take over the show so it could still take place.  We concocted a "kayfabe" story that Twin States had been "bought out" and they ran the show with a new card and new storylines including crowning a new champion since Jimmy Rave wasn't available.  There would be one more Twin States show under the new regime but it didn't draw any better than the previous shows for whatever reason.  Twin States was "shut down" and the title continued to be defended on ProSouth shows until just recently when Donnie Primetime managed to "unify" the Twin States title with the ProSouth title. 

So is Twin States Wrestling dead forever?? I don't know. In retrospect, trying to run a small town that already had a weekly show that's been going for many, many years in the same building was probably a mistake...however if it wasn't for that opportunity it probably would have never happened at all.  Now that my work schedule has leveled out to mostly five days a week, I wanted to run a show here in Cullman, Alabama to help promote my business but haven't been able to nail down a venue.  I would love nothing more than to find a partner to work with to bring Twin States Wrestling back to life for three or four shows each year in this area..Cullman, Jasper, Decatur, and anywhere else in a reasonable distance someone wanted to run.  If anyone has some money to put in or a ring/set up and would like to go in on some shows together in the future, feel free to contact me and we can talk.  I think Twin States has potential and in a different area could be successful.  I would love to see it through and book some more shows but financially I just can't do it alone (and stay married..lol).  If there's any interest, the matches from both 'Battle for the Belt' and 'RAVEolution' are available to watch on youtube right here!  I think it would make for an interesting/fun podcast in the future to get Ace Haven and maybe another guy or two who was on the show and knows the area to go through the cards of those shows and try to pinpoint where it went wrong and what could have been done differently that would have produced a better result.  Again, check out some of the matches and give your opinion on the matches and the show...Could it have been successful elsewhere? Was it just bad booking? Bad timing? Bad luck? I would love to hear opinions either via email at genejackson95@gmail.com or on facebook at facebook.com/kingofallwrestlingmedia

Let me know your opinion and I will share them here in a future edition of Cheap Heat!
Thanks for reading!

Jimmy Rave after defeating Chase Owens for the Twin States Title

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