Pro Wrestling

Independent Promoter: A Day in the Life

There exists in Delaware, a state second only to Rhode Island in terms of smallest land area, a town without a stoplight and a population of just four hundred and one people called Houston.  Being from the “First State” (Delaware was the very first state to sign the Constitution of the United States, making them, officially, the first state to exist within the union) myself, I used to take pride in the fact that I could get anywhere within the state without the use of directions or GPS, as I had either lived or worked in almost every area of the state in my thirty-four years on this earth – until this past Saturday, that is, when that pride was tarnished just a touch because I had no fucking clue how to get to the location that would house the latest story I decided to write for ProSportsExtra.  About an hour and fifteen minutes after I typed in the address of a volunteer fire department in Houston, Delaware (pronounced “house-ton”), I reached my destination.  

The volunteer fire house was of decent size, considering it belonged to a town I had only heard fabled to exist prior to the confirmation I received when Shawn Hardy, longtime owner and promoter of 1st State Championship Pro Wrestling (1CW, for short), sent me a flyer detailing his upcoming wrestling event that I had just decided to cover.  When I got out of my Carolina blue 2007 Ford Mustang and surveyed the area before me, I briefly laughed at the juxtaposition before me. The “town” consisted of two stop signs, a few houses, a great many trees, lots of grass, some railroad tracks, a moderately sized firehouse with the accompanying trucks and a great big LCD electronic sign that alternated between showcasing the weather outside and tonight’s big event – a 1CW promoted professional wrestling show featuring for its main event, a “Fatal 4-Way” contest for the uniquely designed 1CW Heavyweight Championship.  

In a heavily wooded area that reeked of small town boredom, the sign was a beacon of energy and excitement.

Eager to stretch my legs, I got out of my car and leaned against it while I sent a “where-the-hell-do-I-go-now” text over to Hardy.  While I awaited his response, I found out quickly that despite it being almost March, we were still very much within the grips of winter.  It was cold. Worse? It was extremely windy. Hardy told me that I should come around back, as he was still holed up in his business partner’s truck finishing up any last minute gameplanning that might have been necessary.  I cut through the wind as it sliced through me and finally got to meet the subjects of my next article: Shawn Hardy, owner and promoter of 1CW since 2003, and his fairly new partner in the business, the younger Shawn Carlson.  They indicated that they were about to head into the venue, but were just finishing up some work. I ask if they park all the way out here so that they can have a quick getaway from angry, un-put-over talent? They laugh and say that it’s something like that.

“Everybody gets their own deal.  Some folks get paid more than others.  There’s more drama in the locker room of an independent pro wrestling event WITHOUT taking payouts into consideration.  There’s practically always a show within a show behind the scenes,” Hardy explains, as Carlson smirks in agreement. Carlson, formerly of Baltimore Championship Wrestling, is a relatively new addition to the 1CW family, it turns out.  Hardy was the one and only 1CW owner for the better part of seventeen years, but recent back surgeries have rendered him unable to play as big a role in the on-screen/before-crowd product as he used to. That is where having another partner came in very handy, among many other ways, as it would turn out.  Hardy and Carlson agree that they both see eye to eye on the vast majority of issues – especially, in regard to how they treat the talent – and that, during their locker room speeches, it helps tremendously to be able to play “good cop, bad cop” with the roster. At the end of the day, however, they pay and treat their talent very well – but maintaining their walk on that line is not easy.

The fact of the matter is, some talent is more over with the 1CW crowd than others.  Some folks travel from Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia – even Florida. There are quite a few considerations a promoter must make when they decide how much they are willing to pay their talent.  Once the deal is made, the promoters have to simply hold out hope that everyone is satisfied, and more importantly, that everyone just keeps their damn mouths shut. The two Shawns choose the far end of the parking lot to park their office so that they can pay the wrestlers out one by one, as opposed to a mad rush upon them in the locker room at the end of the night.  While walking into the firehouse, we get to catching up. I tell them that I now live in Earleville, Maryland and this sparks the imagination of Carlson, who laughs and turns toward me, beaming, “oh, shit! I used to party in Earleville all the time! Earleville, Galena, Chesapeake City!” For frame of reference, there are only 3,046 people that live in Earleville. That makes the area about seven times the size of the town the three of us are catching up in, but it’s still small by all accounts, so this is a major coincidence that warranted making this story.  I think that connection made me seem a little less foreign, so I was thankful for that. When we get inside the firehouse, it has transformed.  

As soon as the door opened, one could enjoy a grand view of the squared circle, already resurrected to its glory from the last event 1CW put on in December of 2019.  The ring has a black mat, two blue ropes and one gold one, the colors of “The First State,” aka: Delaware. There is probably around ten or twelve people standing in and around the ring, coming together in unison to create the 1CW ring crew.  Hardy taps me on the shoulder and motions toward them as he says, “those are a lot of our younger, hungry guys. They come from further away and they get here a hell of a lot earlier to practice, bullshit, and just be around the sport and one another.  Those guys might not be our main eventers, but they’re the heart of 1CW.”  

Against the outside wall, there are a bevy of lockers with the names of Houston’s Volunteer Fire Department roster listed across the tops, their extensive equipment hanging below.  Toward the end of this row, a makeshift commentary table was put up and the three of us set our things down there, making camp. Just about five or six feet away, several members of the 1CW ring crew/undercard are putting together a rather impressive 1CW black “curtain” from behind which wrestlers will appear before the crowd, mimicking the “big time” pro wrestling companies. On either side, there are rotating neon lights, blinding any wrestling reporters dumb enough to keep said lights well within their peripheral.  Carlson yells out to one of the would-be wrestler-transformed ring workers that he really appreciated how early they got their promo in to him and that he really enjoyed it. Hardy then yells for everyone in attendance so far to come and sign their liability waivers necessary for their insurance. In a hushed tone, Hardy relays to me that, “probably about 90% of independent promotions across the nation do not have insurance.” Hardy states that, in a way, this is one of the characteristics that sets them apart from other independent wrestling companies around the globe.  

“It’s important to us that we take care of everyone that comes and works for us.  We carry a high standard of excellence with our name and the boys – and girls, I should say – everyone knows it,” Hardy explains to me, before pointing to the signage outlined curtain that I just complimented him on. “Production value is extremely important to us.  Sometimes, we even have a live band come in and play before the show and during the intermission. A few of our guys even have theme songs played by that band,” Hardy informs me, as I dream of how cool it always is when live musicians play wrestling entrances and how awesome it would be for it to just be the standard in professional wrestling.  When my daydream subsides, I realize that the number of people in the giant room have about doubled and Shawn informs me that just about everyone is here that will be here – and, as I secretly hoped for the purpose of added drama to this very story you are reading, there is going to be one no-show. The two promoters and I agree that it’s a pretty shitty thing to do, but they explain just why a no-call, no-show is so harmful to the product. 

When the wrestlers arrive on the scene, they are immediately given their match’s finish, so that they can put together their match, working backward, more cohesively than if they had no direction at all.  When there is a no-call, no-show, however, it is not typically something for which someone can plan. Whoever was supposed to work with the no-show now has a raw deal. They have to be added to another match somewhere on the card – and that match has already likely been figured out by the originally intended combatants.  That leaves the guy who showed up to do his job as a potential odd-man out, looking for scrap time to get their stuff in. Things are thrown together and changes are made hastily when this occurs, and ultimately, despite the professional effort put in by all parties that did show up, the match rarely comes off as well as it could or should have.  

So basically, this means that the crowd – the fans – are the ones who actually pay for the unprofessional indiscretion of no-call, no-shows.  Luckily, this is not these promoters’ first rodeo: “after you’ve been in it for a while, you can usually tell who is in danger of no-showing. When you reach out to them toward the day of the event and they are spotty getting back to you or they are not happy with the direction you’ve suggested and – basically, you can tell, more often than not, when someone is going to screw you over and decide not to show up.”  Hardy and Carlson, nearly in unison, say that they don’t put up with that kind of unprofessionalism. It was at that point that I was able to construe 1CW’s basic mantra: “We try to set a very high standard of professionalism from the jump. Our production value standards are very high. If you look like you’re big time and treat folks like they’re big time, you’ll be big time.” It made sense to me. Hardy continued, “we support those that support us.  We take care of our talent. We take care of our fans. Y’know, during the holidays, on Thanksgiving, we will donate entire meals to the fans we know support us with the last dollars in their pocket.” I thought that was extremely cool, so I let them know. What I would find out next would nearly take my breath away.  

“It’s all about our fans.  It’s about the people. We do this because it’s fun – we obviously love it – and because we want to help people.  That’s why we do that on Thanksgiving and that’s why we donate all of the proceeds we make after we pay out the roster.”  Hold up. Stop. Run that back for me, please. “Every dime that Shawn and I make goes to whatever charity we are supporting for each show.”  My jaw dropped. I asked them, every single time? “Every single time. I’m head of training and development for Jersey Mike’s Subs. I worked ten to ten yesterday and I am going to work ten to ten tomorrow.”  I figured that they would have side gigs, but for a promotion as authentic as 1CW – with real guardrails, a halfway expensive PA system, etc., – I figured that it was a money making venture. Apparently, that was not the case.  To make sure that I was not being fed a line of bullshit, I immediately asked which charity they were supporting with this event.  

“Shooter’s Choice (the name of that evening’s event) proceeds are all going to a foundation created by our timekeeper’s family.  His daughter suffers from HPS (Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome), a rare, genetic metabolic disorder,” Hardy informs me, as he hands me a tri-fold pamphlet detailing the disease.  Sufferers of HPS can present with varying degrees of albinism (low amounts of pigmentation in skin) and have vision impairment, bleeding disorders, pulmonary fibrosis, and granulomatous inflammatory bowel disease.  Not everyone with HPS has every one of these symptoms, but all of them are characterized by having albinism of the skin, hair, and/or eyes and the blood disorder. Hardy tells me that the same pamphlet will be made available to all crowd members prior to and throughout the show.  

Considering I had no idea that HPS existed before that moment, I would say it’s an effective strategy for spreading awareness.  Later, while sitting next to the timekeeper, I would find out that his daughter had been battling HPS for twenty-seven years and was given a glimpse into what life was like for those afflicted with the genetic disorder.  The HPS Network has been putting together an annual conference for the same amount of years that its founders’ daughter has been affected by the disorder, and their next one is coming up in Long Island in about a month. Their latest conference housed over three hundred families – a far cry from the first one that took place in their home’s basement, twenty-seven years ago – so, the money they receive from tonight’s take will benefit the network enormously.

“Then, coming up on April 11th, we will have The Second Annual Chapel Cup.  A good friend and worker of ours, Eric Chapel, took his own life early last year.  So, we decided to put together a memorial tournament for him. The proceeds of each annual event will go directly into a trust-fund for his children that will be given access to it when they come of age to do so. Last year we were able to raise $3,500 for his family. It’s gonna be a tag team tournament and our biggest show of the year,” Hardy details, as he, his brother, ring announcer Marlon Dinkins, all of whom I just met, pile into Hardy’s car to grab a bite to eat before the show.  Far away from the ears and eyes of prying wrestlers, Hardy goes on to describe some of the fond memories he had of his fallen good friend, Eric.

“He was a couple of years in the business one year when we took him up to the old ECW arena during the week of Wrestlemania.  I was signing autographs with, I think, Hurricane Helms at that convention and Eric came along. I think of this all the time, too – the smile on his face when he saw that we were signing autographs just one table over from Sabu – he was a kid in a candy store.  I’ll never forget it. A kid in a candy store. From that point on, it hit him that he was close to the “big time” – y’know, that he had sorta made it as a wrestler. I still think about him all the time. I miss him,” Hardy trailed off as the sentiment was echoed by everyone else in the car besides myself.  “Every charity show we do is big – they’re all charity shows, so – but, the Chapel Cup is super important,” Hardy dictates as the car falls silent again. “He was like the class clown. Always laughing. Always joking. It was like he was always putting on a show. I was…shocked – when I found out. Had no idea.  No idea.” The two other passengers in the car agree that Chapel’s untimely death came out of nowhere. I, personally, did not know Chapel, but the circumstances of his death sound familiar to me. I have struggled with my mental health for as far back as I can remember, so it did not surprise me to hear that no one saw Chapel’s suicide coming.  Regardless of the story’s familiarity, it was devastatingly sad just like the rest. After several quiet moments spent in remembrance of their friend, Marlon mentions something about loyalty and I push them to expound upon that.  

“Some places nickel and dime their guys.  Some places treat ‘em like shit. We don’t.  We take care of our guys. It’s a business, but it’s a people business.  For instance, listen to this: some places will charge their roster for t-shirts.  You got a six dollar t-shirt there and you charge ‘em twenty bucks for it? No. Some places do that, but we don’t.  In fact, we will just give them a t-shirt. Why wouldn’t you? First off, it breeds loyalty. When you give people something that they have had to pay for elsewhere, then you’re already a step above the competition.  Hell, one of my guys recently scored front-fucking-row tickets to AEW Dynamite! down in Florida and guess whose shirt he was representing? One-cee-fuckin’-dubbleya, that’s who. And he was on TV a hell of a lot! I got practically two hours of primetime press from a fifty cent t-shirt I gave out to one of the boys!”  The whole car laughs and agrees with the concept of building loyalty as we pop into McDonalds and universally order from their dollar menu. What’s that old adage? No one is making a million dollars in this business? Something like that. Hardy insists on picking up the tab – before he knew that it only cost two dollars (they had touch-screen ordering, so he couldn’t have known the extent of the damage) – so, being a struggling artist, I allow it. 

When we get back into the car and head back toward the venue, I get to speaking to Marlon Dinkins, the 1CW ring announcer.  I ask him about his side career in wrestling and if he wants to pursue it as a full-time career, and he absolutely does. “I work in the Delmarva area all the way on up to around Brooklyn.  The whole territory, but 1CW and Totem Pro Wrestling are my two homes. Totem Pole Pro is a wrestling school in Camden, Delaware where a lot of the guys you’ll see working tonight graduated from.  It’s run by a guy named Mark Harro.” This prompts Hardy to chime in once again.  

“Mark and I have worked together forever,” Hardy instructs me, “he was my head trainer for a long time.  Just on the card tonight, he’s got the “Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy,” Hardy began to list off, as I recognized the name as belonging to the first person besides Hardy and Carlson that I interviewed that afternoon – “who the show is loosely based on, he’s gonna get a nice, little push here,” Hardy continued to bullet point off Harro’s small army of wrestling cadets – “Chris Wylde -” Shawn changes directions in his orating briefly – “you may have heard of him, he was just at SmackDown this last Friday.  He went sorta viral on the internet as the guy that Braun Strowman threw/pounced way out into the crowd.” I absolutely do recognize that hilarious interaction. “Who else does Harro have? AK Willis, young, talented guy, Nelson Brought, Big Dustin, Charles Colton, Muddy Waters, Jason Andrews,” and the list went on. Together with Hardy, Tom Lyons invented the 1CW Indy Round-Up Championship, which was a midcard championship belt that was designed to be defended all over the independent wrestling scene, not just 1CW.  

However, promoter Shawn Carlson would inform me, “we had to do away with that belt, because it became just too much drama.”  I asked him to explain what that drama entailed and he obliged. “Basically, because it was a belt, in theory, to be defended as a sort of national championship, where the champ could defend it places other than just 1CW, people that had absolutely nothing to do with 1CW wanted to act as though they had a say in who won the belt, who challenged for it, all this shit, saying that those decisions should be made before a committee and not by Shawn and I.  So, we had to retire that one.” Later on that evening, in what seems to be true 1CW fashion, they found a deserving heir to hold that belt of so much controversy for the rest of time. Just before the intermission, Hardy took the mic and pointed out that there was a birthday in the crowd, and that birthday belonged to the grandson of Tom Lyons. Hardy then took the now-defunct Indy Round-Up Championship and bestowed it upon the young fan – who looked almost overwhelmed with happiness when he was rewarded with it.  

Soon afterward, I inquired as to who were Hardy’s really big influences in the business.  He didn’t hesitate to answer, “Axl Rotten – unfortunately, Axl was a heroin addict and he actually passed away from a heroin overdose – but Axl had a brilliant, brilliant wrestling mind.  He would call me up at three or four in the morning and I was asleep, but I would wake up and we would talk for hours about different wrestling angles. I miss him. I learned the most from him.  When I met him, I shut up, listened, and learned. That’s what every new wrestler or promoter on the scene should do. Let’s see, who else? Well, Mickie James was our very first women’s champion!  Mickie and I go way back, she’s an outstanding person. Chris Wylde, the guy who is on his way to the show right now on his way home from being in SmackDown on Friday, he was a cook at the bar I was managing in Dover when I first started 1CW up.  He was my very first student.” I would find out later that Wylde does enhancement for the WWE and is used by them regularly in the event that they need someone to fill any sort of role. I would also find out later that Wylde is probably the most beloved 1CW wrestler on the roster, judging by the crowd response he received prior to, during, and after his match.  He is definitely over in Delaware.  

There would be many points before this one that I would recognize that Hardy “gets” people.  He understands the business very, very well. He treats everyone with as much respect as is appropriate at all times.  When we got back from our little trip to get something in our stomachs before the show began, I had an opportunity to learn about the promotion and about Hardy straight from the roster.  I was not able to speak to everyone, but I did get to bend the ear of quite a few. I offered up transparent, legitimate access to everyone to speak their truths and have them committed to print forever.  If they wanted to slam Hardy or 1CW, they absolutely could with no questions asked. No one did, of course. In fact, everyone had close to the same things to say about Hardy and Carlson. By the end of the night, it was clear to me that the two promoters had a sincere reputation as super professional, good, honest, respectful guys that love the business and would take their shirt off of their back if you needed it.  

By the time the show began, I admit, my journalistic integrity was a bit compromised.  I wanted the show to go well. I wanted the crowd to pop all night. I wanted to see these guys succeed, because they worked their asses off to give their talent opportunities to succeed and to give the fans what they paid for and more.  Earlier in the day, there was a very athletic-looking guy with dark features named Kekoa Mana – the Maryland Heavyweight Champion and owner of Workrate Wrestling School out of Pennsylvania – and he was passing the time by giving wrestling lessons to a female wrestling hopeful that happened to also be hanging around in the far hours away from the show.  I asked the Shawns about this and they said that Kekoa was a great guy, one of their favorite workers, and that, “a lot of guys would charge for that, but he’s not.” For impromptu lessons? I asked, “yeah, kind of like, ‘give me twenty dollars and I’ll show you some stuff?” They nodded yes. Marlon, standing nearby, wonders why Kekoa hasn’t been signed by a major promotion, yet.  They all do. Marlon said that Kekoa always shows up in a suit, he has a very high level of professionalism that he routinely holds himself to. It is for that same reason that Marlon shows up in a suit for every show, as well. Kekoa and guys like him raise the bar just a little bit with their work ethic and good will toward the industry.  

That begged my next question for them.

“Does being a good person have anything to do with who you decide to push?”

Absolutely it does, they told me.  The people you put your titles on and the ones that you give the big pushes to, they represent your promotion mtwenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.  That and you want to make sure that those who show good will toward the business are rewarded – as long as it makes sense, of course.

After a quick vape break, I catch back up with Hardy and ask him how he would describe 1CW’s attitude toward the fans and the quality of their shows.  “Most promotions in this state and around this region already have one, if not two, shows under their belt already this year. This is our first one. It’s our opinion that we have to show the fans that have waited to see us this long that they were not waiting in vain.  You have to show your fans the value in the money they spend for this show. From the moment they walk in, they should feel like they’re at an event. We should be hyping the crowd from the very get-go. As soon as they walk in, we’re blasting t-shirts off from cannons – we do a lot that other promotions aren’t willing to do or don’t care to do.”

As the evening closes in on the afternoon, I am able to get several quick sit-down interviews with some of 1CW’s top guys.  My first is with a young, up and coming member of the 1CW roster named, AK Willis. AK is a local guy – born in Cambridge, Maryland, lives in Salisbury, and following his graduation from Harro’s Totem Pro Wrestling school after three years, he has worked events all over the “territory” – Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware – and has worked with 1CW regularly since early in 2018.  I asked Willis who his major influences were and without missing a beat he told me he loves to hit hard, like Ron Simmons, Butch Reed, and Booker T – he would describe his style as a hybrid between Simmons and Booker T – and after watching AK in action, I can attest to that assertion, as I witnessed him deliver the best Booker T style side scissor-kick that I have seen outside of Book, himself.  AK recently became a member of 1CW’s resident top heel stable, called, “The Boys,” along with leader “Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy, Travis Banks, both with whom I had the chance to speak, along with several others.  

The next wrestler I had the pleasure of speaking with was who the show was loosely named after – “The Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy (“Shooter’s Choice” was the name of the show) who Hardy informed me would be on the receiving end of a strong push here in the near future.  McMurphy is a classic top heel member of the stable, “The Boys,” and describes his character as “an evil version of Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club.” Trained by Dirty Sunny Deeds in the winter of 2015, McMurphy is a homegrown talent, calling Greenwood, Delaware the place from where he hails, and has wrestled as far north as Canada.  In high school, he was a wrestler and earned the nickname, “The Shamrock Shooter,” and it simply stuck. The “McMurphy” portion of his name comes from the novel and film, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, in which Jack Nicholson plays an quick-witted, sharp talking, rebellious inmate of the same name.  McMurphy and Kekoa Mana would square off later that evening in what many might call the match of the night.

Next up, I was able to speak at length with a wrestler that goes by the name of “Crazi Shea.”  A 20 year veteran of the sport, Erik Shea has been with Shawn Hardy and 1CW since the very beginning.  His nickname was not chosen, but earned, as he routinely jumped from the top of the highest surface available during every 1CW show.  In fact, last year he jumped from four stories in the air and earned Hardy the distinction of being the only promoter in Delaware to ever be fined by the state (the state of Delaware has much more strict rules than does many of the states surrounding – though, four stories could very well be a fineable offense in every state, commonwealth, and/or territory in the great United States of America.  On this subject, Hardy humorously related, “the charity pot isn’t big enough to share with the state. Can’t do that again.” Back to Shea – despite his reputation for death-defying maneuvers/jumps, he is proud to say that he has never broken a bone in his body!  

Shea runs Asylum Pit Club and Asylum Pro Wrestling, but he learned everything he knows from Shawn Hardy.  He says that if he had not met Hardy, it is likely that he would not be in the business any longer, (as I would learn throughout the course of the day, talking to the boys) many promoters don’t care what they put you through.  Hardy is different – he always shows you the long-term plan for your character and how every angle works for you. He does that for everyone. He gives everyone a chance. He says that 1CW has a family feel and that it’s difficult to cultivate a locker room that wants the company to succeed overall – not when it’s such a “me” business – but somehow, Hardy and Carlson make it happen.  

Shea just recently started wearing a mask.  Part of his gimmick for years was breathing fire before the crowd – right up until August of last year, when his gimmick backfired on him (no pun intended).  Shea received second and third degree burns on ninety percent of his face and scalp. He was on fire for a horrifying twenty seconds before the volunteer firemen on hand were able to put him out!  Not even seven days later, Shea was back in the ring, wrestling with scabs all over his face. Shortly thereafter, Erik’s gear maker sent him a prototype of a mask he thought Shea would like and, sure enough, Shea decided to rock it, and has ever since.

As we came closer to show time, I decided to meander my way into the back locker room and see what was going on back there.  When I arrived, I found a huge, open conference room full of wrestlers – all paired off or squared off into groups of three or four – a linear show that would feature one match at a time was being planned all at the same time.  Is that kinda crazy to think about? No? Maybe, I was high during this point. I don’t remember. Anyway, it was at this point that Hardy introduced me to one of his first students, a gentleman named Travis Banks, who was changing and going over his match with his opponent, Muddy Waters.  On the table just beyond where they stood sat a brand spankin’ new championship title belt, still wrapped in plastic. Muddy Waters brought it with him and was planning to put Banks over so that Banks would become the inaugural Independent Heritage Champion. The Independent Heritage Championship was designed to replace the recently retired 1CW Indy Round-Up Championship that I referenced before – but it would be different in that it would not belong to one, single promotion.  Instead, it would belong to all independent promotions and none of them at the same time – if you’re having trouble picturing what that entails, picture what the NWA World Heavyweight Championship used to be in the 1970s and ‘80s – except, a midcard title that would not overshadow or compete with the top title of any promotion. That is the vision Waters and other like minded individuals have for the title.

Choosing who would be the owner of the Independent Heritage Championship would be done by ensuring that the champion carry themselves in a certain manner.  Waters stated that future champions would, “be humble and respect those that came before them. They would adhere to time-honored traditions, such as wiping your feet prior to entering the ring, for instance. Waters feels as though this code of valor is lost on the majority of the new, younger generation, and hopes that having the title will encourage some of the younger members of the locker room to carry themselves with adherence to that code.  Travis Banks, something of a prodigal son of 1CW, has been anointed by the powers that be (behind the Independent Heritage Championship), to be the first Indy Heritage Champion. 

Time has flown by thus far, today, and before I know it, Hardy and Carlson are calling for everyone to, “bring it in” – it’s time for the pre-show pep talk.  The show’s energy can have a lot to do with what goes on during this speech, as Hardy and Carlson bounce off from one another. Together, they address the new state rules and regulations – profane gestures, etc.  They reiterate that 1CW is family-friendly and that the folks in the locker room are selected based on their standards of professionalism. They were giving chances to a lot of newer folks and explained that tonight was their night to show what they can do.  They address the inconsistency amongst the roster when it came to promos – some folks were fastidious and submitted compelling, timely promos and some folks dropped the ball. Regardless, the overall vibe in the locker room during the speech is positive and Hardy and Carlson’s words are well-received.  After a quick, “1CW” on three, the meeting deliberates and the show nears closer to belltime.

I step outside for a moment to gauge the level of business we can look forward to seeing.  It is six o’clock and the parking lot is just about full! Fifteen minutes later, the parking lot would spill into overflow parking in the adjacent field.  Business is looking very good. By the time the opening bell rang, there were two hundred and fifty plus in attendance. Hardy and Carlson both confirmed to me earlier that they expect between two-fifty and three hundred for every show, and what I saw before me was right on par with that. 

Showtime

After the opening bell rings, Hardy hops on the stick to get the crowd good and fired up.  Just after that, there is a pre-show that feature an intergender tag match, among other attractions – unfortunately, my phone, the device upon which I take notes, was dying rapidly, and I desperately needed to allow it to charge for fifteen minutes.  So, to put it simply, I missed most of the preshow. However, I do remember making several observations at this time. Having been a bartender/manager for the majority of my adult life, lighting has become a very important aspect of my life – I notice and critique it in every situation or setting.  That being said, the lighting in there was perfect for that event. I was honestly impressed. You don’t care about that, though, so I’ll move forward. The crowd was very family oriented, though there were several pockets of young adults cheering in the crowd, as well.  

Long time 1CW Promoter Shawn Hardy opens up his latest event, called “Shooter’s Choice,” from Houston, Delaware, by riling up the crowd and presenting the Independent Wrestling scene’s newest (non-1CW exclusive) title , The Independent Heritage Championship. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Hardy and Carlson mentioned earlier how much they value excellent production value and it really shows.  The atmosphere was set so that I felt as though I was somewhere else other than a no-stoplight town in rural Delaware.  The crowd was obviously a loyal one, as they were extremely familiar with every wrestler on the card as well as what kind of angle or gimmick they had happening.  From the very beginning, there was a great deal of chanting, which is to be expected at a solid wrestling show in this day and age. All considerations put together, I feel as though I am attending a professional wrestling show put on by a high end independent company – pretty much the highest review I could give these guys – and that’s not because I ended up rooting for them to succeed.  Marlon Dinkins made himself apparent once again and announced that we were live and streaming across multiple platforms. We were underway, folks. 

Opening Match:  Muddy Waters vs. Travis Banks for the vacant Independent Heritage Championship 

Banks nails a missile dropkick on Waters in the opening match of February 29th’s 1CW Presents: “Shooter’s Choice” event, from Houston, Delaware. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

The storyline here is that Travis Banks is returning to 1CW as something of a prodigal son.  Banks worked as the face and Waters the heel in this one. The first observation I made was that this ring was much LOUDer than any other ring I had been around before – however, that may be because I was sitting next to the timekeeper, attached to the ring.  Not sure, but either way, it wasn’t a negative thing – it only added to the atmosphere. This one wound up with Banks going over on Waters, as the major heel stable of 1CW, called, “The Boys,” take Waters out before inducting the newly crowned Independent Heritage Champion, Travis Banks, as their newest member.  

Banks was being enthusiastically cheered through the majority of the match, so I think that this was a major swerve to start the show and the crowd ate it right up.  The heel stable’s gon’ heel stable in the ring, until their manager comes to the ring, along with the two promoters and the “acting GM.” Long story short, the promoters hands were forced at one point to give all of The Boys “ironclad” contracts (meaning they cannot be fired) but the tides turned and Hardy/Carlson (playing himself, in character) were able to renege on the deal, much to the chagrin of The Boys and its management.  This angle sets up the rest of the show and the tone for the audience from the very beginning. It was very well-written and executed, in my humble opinion. Every participant in the angle clearly knew their character, their character’s motivations, and most importantly, the crowd knew exactly who they were and what was going on. There was no measurable amount of disconnect whatsoever (that is pretty much gibberish, but I think you get it).

The prodigal son returns (and joins the bad guys). Following a grueling match, in which he won the brand new Independent Heritage Championship, Travis Banks turns his back on the fans and joins heel stable, The Boys, led by “Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy… Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winner:  (And NEW) Independent Heritage Champion, Travis Banks!!

Match #2: Mark Carlson and MTV vs. Mongo & Chuck

Mongo and Chuck enter the arena last Saturday in Houston, Delaware at 1CW’s first event of the year, “Shooter’s Choice.” Photo credit: Paul Milliner

This match started off with a laugh from me – I knew Mongo by his real name, as we lived at the beach at around the same time.  I remember both of us being Seahawks fans. Same team love aside, Mongo played a very solid big man in this very solid match! Mark Carlson, of course, is the ring name of promoter, Shawn Carlson, and let me tell you folks something – Carlson wrestles on the stiff side.  That might be an understatement, but in this day and age, wrestling strong style is a positive – and honestly, I think he set the tone for the rest of the roster in the back that likely has to guess how the promoter that evening “likes” his wrestling to be.  There was nothing to confuse, here. I thought Chuck was dead, at one point. The crowd had a great time during this one, chanting, “bil-ly-goat” at Chuck, who did, in fact, look like a billy goat. Anyway, after some good back and forth, Mark Carlson and MTV go over.  Following the match, more drama set off! Mongo, upset with the loss and his partner’s performance, turned on Chuck and beat the living hell out of him for a while! A few locker room faces charge to the ring to break up the fighting and subdue Mongo and we move forward with the show.

Mark Carlson was all over the show last Saturday. Together with Shawn Hardy, he is a promoter, a manager, AND a very capable in-ring performer. The crowd loved this guy. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winners:  MTV and Mark Carlson!!

Match #3: Tim Taylor © vs. Crazii Shea vs. Tommy Vecs for the 1CW Cruiserweight Championship

Long time 1CW mainstay, Crazii Shea, makes his in-ring return to the company at last Saturday’s “Shooter’s Choice” event in Houston, Delaware. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Tim Taylor is the reigning Cruiserweight Champion, and let me tell you something – he’s definitely a cruiserweight.  He was talented, though, so it was alright that his ring gear was what Hillbilly Jim’s outfit was pressed onto a singlet.  Denim overalls printed on spandex. Classic. This was an outstanding, action packed match.  Sound wrestling mechanics and psychology are on display throughout the match, which is always a plus.  Shea, as I was told to expect, did his best to take the worst bumps of the night (and would have, if I didn’t count the main event).  Crazii was definitely over with this crowd, as they chanted his name fairly consistently throughout the match (even when he was not directly involved).  The finish came when Shea put Taylor up on the top turnbuckle, then lost control of the exchange and wound up laid out, nailed by a picture-perfect Avalanche Canadian Destroyer that sends the crowd into a fervor.  

1CW Cruiserweight Champion, Tim Taylor, retained his title after a vicious second rope Canadian Destroyer to Crazii Shea last Saturday, at 1CW’s “Shooter’s Choice” Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winner:  (And Still) 1CW Cruiserweight Champion, Tim Taylor!!

Match #4:  Andino & Grimes vs. The Old Bay Boys

The Old Bay Boys put down their competition last Saturday, at 1CW’s “Shooter’s Choice.” Photo credit: Paul Milliner

For those of you reading this article in parts unknown, far away from the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula, Old Bay is a seasoning heavily favored in this area.  Folks put it on everything, but what it’s most commonly associated with is crabs. So, to put it briefly, that makes their gimmick folksy and the crowd actually does eat it right up.  Prior to the show, Carlson told me how he really wanted to sign one of the Old Bay Boys, but wasn’t too hot on how green his younger, smaller partner was – but one wouldn’t come without the other, and I’ll tell you folks, deciding to bring both of them in was the right call.  They really displayed an excellent sense of continuity in the ring, arguably better than any other team that evening. I was thoroughly impressed. If you live in the Northeast area, keep an eye out for them. That’s not to knock Andino & Grimes, as they were very much within the same level of talent as the Old Bay Boys.  The finish was pretty standout, as well – a Tiger Driver ‘98 rolled right into a bridging German suplex for the pin and the win. The Old Bay Boys could be tag team title contenders very soon.

Winners:  The Old Bay Boys!!

Match #5:  Viva Las Amish & Vinny Vegas vs. The Boys

One member of Viva Las Amish carries a live chicken to ringside with him, selling his gimmick with the utmost of authenticity… Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Well, there’s no two ways to put this: Viva Las Amish are really, really f***ing over in Delaware.  When “Amish Paradise” by Al Yankovic began to blare from the PA system, the en-ti-re crowd shot to their feet and basically lost their sh** for the next several minutes.  It was pretty easy to see why, as well – they were the perfect gimmick tag team for this family friendly, rural crowd. One of the guys carried a butter-churning device to the ring, while the other guy?  He carried a live chicken. The crowd went absolutely ape-s*** over these guys. I looked at Hardy with slight confusion, because how they were so freaking over sorta puzzled me. He was well aware of their popularity, though (obviously). The kayfabe reason for this match was that, more or less, Vinny Vegas won the Amish guys in a Vegas card game.  The crowd remained hyped and into the match the entire time, becoming very interactive with The Boys’ heel manager throughout the match. During the match, AK Rollins hit the best Booker T-esque side-scissor kick that I’ve seen since Booker T did it himself. The guys wrestle pretty stiff and the crowd loves them for it. Amidst a great deal of shenanigans, The Boys walk away from this hotly contested bout with the pin and the win.

AK Willis and The Boys win their six man tag team match, last Saturday, 2/29/2020. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winners:  The Boys!!

Match #6:  “The Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy vs. Kekoa Mana

While the main event was highly athletic and full of ridiculous spots – as far as ring psychology goes, this was the match of the night.  To be honest, it was more than fitting that McMurphy and Mana faced off against one another, as in my opinion, both of them are a heartbeat away from being signed by a major promotion.  The athleticism and spots were there, of course, but these guys played their parts better than anyone else all night long. Shooter, you wanted to kill him. He was an arrogant prick and he had the crowd ready to lynch him with every little gesture he made.  On the other hand, Mana played the role of hero face overcoming all odds to a tee. In my professional opinion, these guys deserved to have their match be the “focus” of the show, and it likely was.  

Shooter and Mana would combine outstanding ring psychology with nonstop action in their bid to steal the show last Saturday, at 1CW’s “Shooter’s Choice.” Photo credit: Paul Milliner

The crowd lived and died with every maneuver – everything happened as it should have, and watching those guys, for me, was like watching young Steamboat and Flair (Shooter even threw in a Flair oversell) go at it.  Or, the Delaware equivalent of that. I’m not saying these two were the greatest wrestlers of all-time. I just didn’t see them coming. I’m glad that they made such an impression on me, as one was the guy from earlier in this story who was giving away lessons for free in his downtime (when he owns a school) and the other was a real nice guy that had nothing but positive things to say about life and the world when I spoke to him.  You know? I’m glad that I’m not giving such high praise to a couple of dicks. The crowd chanted, “This is Awesome” throughout the match, and they weren’t lying. I think if both of these guys had two more inches on their frame, they’d be signed by now. Anyway, Shooter ended up pulling off the win after a discus clothesline.

The “Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy wins what many would say was the match of the night. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winner: “The Shamrock Shooter” Killian McMurphy!!

Match #7:  EN Bush vs. Jason Andrews © vs. Myles Millenium for the 1CW Bulletproof Championship

Arm drag city to kick off the 1CW Bulletproof Championship match… Photo credit: Paul Milliner

The match begins with a series of arm drags and fancy footwork that reminds me a little of the GCW spot that featured nothing but counters, creating something of a dance – and I mean that in a positive way.  The first five or six minutes of this one is nonstop action. At one point, Hardy sits down at the timekeeper’s table next to me and whispers to the referee, “ten in, five left,” indicating the time constraints the match must fall within – there has been communication like this throughout the evening, as Hardy takes pride in running his shows.  I already know the outcome of this match, as I was sitting next to Carlson when he delivered the finish to Jason Andrews, who, while disappointed, took the bad news in stride and proceeded to devise a great match with Bush and Millenium, who would be the one to end up with the strap. Hardy tells me, quietly, that Millenium was once his biggest heel and is now one of his biggest faces – the crowd agrees, as they cheer and chant for Miles consistently throughout the match.  

The finish is something of a spectacle, as Miles hits Bush with a superplex – who hits Andrews with an avalanche back suplex – and they all crumple down on the mat.  Miles is quick to his feet, hits a Styles Clash on Bush and scores the pin to become the new 1CW Bulletproof (Midcard) Championship! Following the match, Millenium scuffles with The Boys as they make themselves known at ringside and Carlson grabs the mic before throwing down the gauntlet for The Boys at Chapel Cup, encouraging them to put together one or several tag teams to be in the new, prestigious tournament.

Miles Millenium takes over possession of the 1CW Bulletproof Championship… Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winner:  (And NEW) 1CW Bulletproof Champion, Miles Millenium!!

Match #8:  PJ Parker vs. Chris Wylde (#1C) for the #1 Contendership to the 1CW World Heavyweight Championship

Chris Wylde works the crowd on his way to the ring. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Parker is playing the heel in this match-up, as Wylde is clearly the biggest fan favorite in the company – if I were to judge by crowd noise, anyway.  I had the opportunity to speak to Wylde moments before the show kicked off. The buzz around the show in the locker room was that Wylde was on his way to the show after having just been at SmackDown the night before.  WWE has used Chris in a number of televised roles in the past, having him act as enhancement talent several times, and once, even as a banana in No Way Jose’s conga line that was pounced by Braun Strowman seemingly dozens of feet into the crowd. Wylde circles the entire “arena” before entering the ring, really ramping up the fan engagement. It is clear that Wylde has been around a bit longer than most – not by his age, but by his level of professionalism, right down to his look.  He carries a “pro-level” intensity throughout the match and looks the most like a pro out of almost anyone – rocking a serious tan, a fairly muscular build, and the long, greased up hair that we have all come to know and expect from professional wrestlers. This match also featured a female referee, showing that 1CW is very much a part of the women’s revolution. A tope suicida from Wylde ignites the 1CW fandom, as the crowd chants, “Let’s Get Wylde,” periodically.  

Parker and Wylde have a great back and forth throughout the match, with almost countless nearfalls.  Parker plays a solid big man role as Wylde’s foil. After a lot of intense, crowd-popping close calls including Wylde holding Parker in both the Crippler Crossface and the Rings of Saturn, Parker finally hits Wylde with something similar to a One-Winged Angel (possible mistake) for the pin and the win.  Following the match, Wylde jumps on the mic. Unbeknownst to me, Wylde had a long undefeated streak going into this match, so that has finally ended. He gives props to PJ Parker for doing what no one else had been able to do up and down the Eastern Seaboard and gives a shout-out to the fallen, “Role Model” Eric Chapel, of whom the Chapel Cup will be in honor.  Chapel urges Parker to take his #1 Contendership shot at the second annual Chapel Cup. Parker responds by mimicking Chapel’s old, signature pose, and the crowd reacts positively.

Eric Chapel’s Signature Movement As Remembered by PJ Parker, the NEW #1 Contender to Mr. Grim’s 1CW World Heavyweight Championship
Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Match #9:  Riot City vs. Dawg Nation (C) for the 

1CW Tag Team Championships

Dawg Nation would retain their 1CW Tag Team Championships on February 29th in Houston, Delaware at 1CW’s “Shooter’s Choice” event. Photo credit: Paul Milliner

My personal professionalism took a hit during this match, as my iphone (aka my notepad, my computer, etc.) ran out of juice, so I was forced to charge it and take notes from a less suitable vantage point.  Anyway, Riot City are clearly the fan favorites in this one, as the crowd gets behind them early on, chanting their names. Dawg Nation have a pretty endearing gimmick, in my opinion, as they constantly mimic one another’s moves while standing in their corner.  What one does to the opponent, the other one does to thin air – it’s actually pretty funny to watch. Anyway, there’s some great back and forth, but ultimately, Dawg Nation retains in the end. I want to reiterate that both teams displayed excellent, cohesive tag team wrestling, I just was not able to take the same notes that I did for every other match.  I’ll get both teams next time.

Winners: (And Still) 1CW Tag Team Champions, Dawg Nation!!

Match #10 (The Main Event):  KA Robinson vs. Diamante Diamond vs. VAM vs. Chris Slade vs. Mr. Grim (c) for the 1CW World Heavyweight Championship

Mr. Grim featuring his strength, while in the process of delivering a fallaway slam/samoan drop combo in the main event of 1CW’s recent “Shooter’s Choice.” Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Let me start off by saying that this match deserved its main event billing, and in terms of pure athleticism, it was the match of the night, hands down.  It is my understanding that this fatal five-way was created in order to celebrate and observe Black History Month, as the show took place on Leap Day, February twenty-ninth.  Carlson told me that, “it’s for the culture. The reason we did that is there’s a well-known feeling that black wrestlers aren’t represented very well with other, bigger companies, so I wanted to give them a bigger platform to show their stuff on, this month.”  As one might ascertain after reading that statement, all of the participants in this match were of African-American descent. However, it did not matter that it was Black History month, as this main event lived up to its moniker – there was constant action with constant high spots – making this main event truly a do-not-blink sort of affair.  

There was quite an assortment of true characters involved in this match, as well.  Diamante had a Velveteen Dream/Prince sort of vibe to him, while Chris Slade rocked a Sub-Zero mask and made a spectacle out of his educated feet.  VAM was a classic arrogant heel, conniving and scheming throughout the match, while Robinson played a classic face. However, the real story of the match was (as I suppose it should be), Mr. Grim.  Grim is built like Taz and wears the same sort of singlet as him, though it is entirely black. Again, like Taz, Grim is a suplex machine. A. Suplex. Machine. Just ONE of the high spots in the match saw Grim hit a fallaway slam on two of the opponents AND a samoan drop on the other two opponents ALL at the same, damn time.  Grim’s capability did not stop at stiff-suplexing, either, as he hit a flying cannonball out over the top rope to take out each of the combatants standing around outside of the ring. Grim also works stiff as hell – which, with today’s limelight being centered on strong style offenses, is a great thing for his career. 

Chris Slade and KA Robinson throw caution to the wind as they dive toward ringside to the waiting arms of VAM and Diamante Diamond.
Photo credit: Paul Milliner

 A couple of other high spots Grim worked in saw him hit flipping side-walk slams (almost Dominators) into german suplex combinations on two back to back opponents.  Outside of Grim, the action was just as intense and fully-loaded – each member getting to showcase crisp athleticism and outstanding ring psychology. Outside of Grim, I would say the star of the match was VAM, who played the sniveling, conniving heel role perfectly.  VAM also met his end in the match after Slade executed a picturesque package Michinoku-Driver (I am taking artistic liberty with that name) – a move I had never seen before, but hope to see again…and again…and again. After Grim finished off the last combatant, that being Chris Slade, he showcased another portion of his gimmick that I found fascinating.  Slade, seemingly unconscious, was wrapped up in a real-live body bag that Grim then flung over his shoulder, the one unoccupied by his 1CW World Championship, before exiting the arena. The crowd was raucous for this match and stayed heavily enthused to the very last second.  

Dark. Mr. Grim loads up the second to last man standing, Chris Slade, in a body bag before walking off the scene last Saturday, at 1CW’s “Shooter’s Choice.” Photo credit: Paul Milliner

Winner: (And Still) 1CW World Heavyweight Champion, MR. GRIM!!

Following the match, I was able to get a brief interview with the 1CW Champion, Mr. Grim.  I asked him about being the champion and he told me that he didn’t even want the title, at first, but Hardy and Carlson really felt as though his character would best serve the company if he was the champion, so he ultimately agreed.  Grim has been the 1CW World Heavyweight Champion for a little over a year now. Grim wrestles up and down the Eastern Seaboard, he says. I ask him about his strong style, as if I were to characterize Grim by one thing he does in the ring, it’d be that he wrestles a stiff match.  Grim relays that he does it that way because he does not want anyone wondering whether or not what they’re doing inside of that ring is “real.” There’s enough fakeness in professional wrestling – the hits should be hard and concrete. Grim, in short, tries to show the fans something they do not necessarily always see inside of a pro-wrestling ring.  It seems evident to me that Grim will be located in the near future on one of the major wrestling promotions on television. His athleticism, strength, ring psychology, general character – it is all a cut above the rest of the roster (save perhaps McMurphy and Mana). With that interview in the books, my day with 1CW promoter Shawn Hardy came to a close.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about what it’s like to be granted an all-access pass behind that scenes and that you will look forward to reading more articles for myself and Pro Sports Extra in the near future. Cheers, folks!

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