A cacophony of boos, cheers, hands clapping and feet stomping filled the small hall at the Skylight in downtown Newark, crowded with wrestling fans eager to see the debut Buckeye Championship Wrestling show on Saturday, Jan. 27.
The sold-out event brought a tag match, a six man scramble and a bakery deathmatch to Licking County for what promoter James Avery hopes is the beginning of “something special” for the Newark community.
When Buckeye Wrestling Alliance — the Newark-based wrestling promotion organization that often hosted events — closed its doors last year, familiar face Avery took over to keep the presence of professional wrestling in Newark.
He had experience working with the BWA and 24 years in professional wrestling, so felt it was the right move to make.
“I was the booker, I was responsible for putting together the matches and [was] a performer,” Avery said. “The promoter decided he wanted to get out and I thought there was a big hole left [in] Newark wrestling. I decided, ‘nobody better than myself to fill that hole.’”
He relaunched the organization under the name Buckeye Championship Wrestling (BCW) with many of the same wrestlers but with “bigger production,” seen at Saturday’s event.
The crowd at the Skylight was full of energy, and organizers had to scramble to find more chairs for an excess of attendees.
Once bell time came, all eyes were on the performers. In the opening match, fans were treated to the “Mystic Seer” Alexander Greenwald (Alexander Blackwood in the ring) as he took on Tommy Chill, a larger opponent. Greenwald is from Granville, Ohio and takes great pride in being able to wrestle in front of a community he knows so well.
“For me, it’s everything being involved with BCW and being on the ground floor of it and helping to build it up,” Greenwald said. “This is my home. These are the people that I care the most about.” Greenwald works at the Pizza Cottage in Mount Vernon between training and performing, allowing him to build a community and connection with Licking County residents — something he says has major benefits for the new promotion.
“Everyone remembers building the memories, building that magic and putting on a show where everyone can enjoy [wrestling],” Greenwald added.
Despite falling short in his match-up, Greenwald’s performance gave those in attendance much to remember.
For Pat “The Bruiser” Hickey, he had no idea independent wrestling existed until he began to get into wrestling more. He discovered a feeling more involved with the show as a fan in attendance.
No matter where someone sat at the Skylight, they could be heard and acknowledged.
“If you want your voice to be read a little more, and it’s your chance to catch the stars before they’re actual stars sometimes, and you get that core memory of like ‘I saw him before he had it all,” Hickey said. “You get to feel more immersed, you feel more involved, the wrestlers interact with you more, it’s the purest joy [you can get] from [watching] wrestling.”
In the front row and the back, audience members could hear everything. Every bodyslam was like a thunderstorm, each slap across the chest like a crack of a whip. Every groan from the wrestler made attendees feel the pain of hitting the mat.
The “Phantom of the Opera” boomed over the speakers, announcing the show’s main event where “The Baker” faced Magnum CK in a “bakery deathmatch.” Magnum CK’s hand emerged through a curtain, holding a vanilla cake with a generous amount of icing while the music played, and then The Baker appeared to the audience while “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band serenaded him, setting the tone for an entertaining main event.
Ringside, tons of items were available to the wrestlers, including a paper bag filled with every baking item imaginable, a sack of flour, and Magnum CK’s cake.
In addition to the wrestling, fans were treated to a mid-match concert when Magnum CK sang Dean Martin’s 1953 song “That’s Amore” while hitting The Baker with a trash can lid.
His plans to use flour backfired when it was thrown into his eyes. Blinded by his mistakes, he fell into the cake set out on the mat, and The Baker was able to pick up the win. The results of the match sent fans home happy and fulfilled by what they watched.
Looking toward the future, Avery hopes to build off the success of BCW’s debut show.
“Pro Wrestling, for me, truly is a passion project,” Avery said. “There is a fan base. There are people who are interested in coming, watching the show. So, right now, the goal is larger shows every other month. And then I’m looking at running a weekly, weekday showcase show.”
Buckeye Championship Wrestling’s next event will be Saturday, April 13.
Mike Maynard writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.