A very special event is coming to the Lowcountry on March 13.
Old School Championship Wrestling will present its 10th anniversary show with a star-studded lineup that features a first-ever meeting between former WWE stars Gangrel and Kevin Thorn.
It's a long-awaited showdown between two vampire-based characters, “a battle of the undead,” says promoter Joe Blumenfeld, who was instrumental in getting the two in the ring for the first time.
“People have wanted to see that for a long time. As a fan I can't wait for it. Just like all the fans, I've been dying to see that match.”
Blumenfeld, 48, has been putting together dream matches for the past decade. He'll readily tell you he's as big a fan as the folks who turn out every couple of months to watch the OSCW stars in action.
Old School is the longest-running independent promotion in the area, no small feat considering the plethora of promotions that dot the wrestling landscape. It's also one of the most respected outfits in the region, drawing praise from those who work for the group and from fans who faithfully follow the promotion.
Beginning its 10-year run with a show at an old, torn-down bingo hall in North Charleston with a dozen fans in attendance, later moving to a nightclub in Goose Creek, then to its current home at the Hanahan Rec Center, OSCW has featured such top names as Sid Vicious, Sgt. Slaughter, Tommy Rich, Dan Severn, Raven, The Barbarian, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Al Snow, Scotty Too Hotty and Chris Masters, along with a homegrown lineup that includes such future superstars as John Skyler, who has worked shows for WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor and Evolve.
“OSCW for the last 10 years has been the home of a who's who of professional wrestling's past, mixed together with the current crop of superstars as well as the stars of the future,” says Skyler (John Brumbaugh), a University of South Carolina graduate who started his career with OSCW. “First of all, for an independent wrestling promotion to be running for 10 years in this day and age is quite the milestone. A lot of promotions nowadays are very much here today and gone tomorrow.”
“When I started with OSCW, some wondered — including myself — if it would go a year let alone as long as it has,” says Bob Keller, a veteran wrestler, manager and trainer who has served as storyline commissioner of OSCW. “OSCW isn't just a sports entertainment company laced with wrestling; it's a wrestling show that lets the sport of professional wrestling be the entertainment.”
Blumenfeld was a student of the game, and started the company a decade ago after witnessing firsthand what not to do as a promoter.
“It was the way wrestlers were treated on the indies,”explains Blumenfeld. “A lot of promoters are not very good to the talent. You have to run around looking for your money — if you get even half of what you were promised. Some have 'A' and 'B' locker rooms to make some people feel inferior. Lots of times you don't even get a thank you or a handshake. That was hard to watch.”
It was only after some bitter episodes that Blumenfeld decided to go into business on his own.
“Going through this, it bothered me as an indy wrestler. But it upset me more watching my friends go through this. I can take it, but watching my friends go through it, and talking to them driving home and seeing their faces and how defeated they were, it really bothered me.”
The breaking point for Blumenfeld came when he was booked on an independent New Jersey show. The promoter of the event promised to cover transportation and lodging costs, along with $50, for a main-event shot. While the 50 bucks was a drop in the bucket, Blumenfeld refused to balk since he had always considered himself a team player and wanted to make the show a success.
Blumenfeld drove 14 hours through a snowstorm to get to the venue. When he arrived, the promoter not only wouldn't pay for his gas receipts, but told Blumenfeld that he couldn't get him a hotel and had to change the card, dropping him from the main event to a five-minute stint in an opening match battle royal. On the way home, Blumenfeld opened his pay envelope to find a paltry $5 bill instead of the promised $50 payoff.
Unfortunately, says Blumenfeld, it wasn't an isolated incident. Broken promises and bad payoffs — not to mention subpar shows — can be unfortunate by-products of the independent wrestling scene. Blumenfeld made a vow that it would never happen on his watch.
At the time a veteran of five years in the business, Blumenfeld decided to be a doer rather than complain about the treatment of indy wrestlers and the abuse perpetrated by shady promoters.
“It was put-up or shut-up time,” says Blumenfeld. “A little light bulb came on in my head. It was like my mom said: 'The Lord only helps those who help themselves.' And she was right.”
Since that time, the promoter has put together more than just a wrestling company. He has created a true wrestling family.
“These guys don't have to search for their envelopes. I wasn't going to do all the things that were done to me and done to these guys. I was going to treat them right. That was the birth of Old School. Even though I didn't like the way I was treated on the indys lots of times, those guys gave me the template to run a promotion.”
From the very first show, says Blumenfeld, he knew he had a winner.
“Right there I knew I had something. The guys walked out of that first show going, 'Wow, when can we come back?'”
And they've been coming back ever since. Many of the performers on that first show have become regulars.
Not only do Blumenfeld's troupe get their pay envelopes after each show, those rewards always come with a big hug from the amicable promoter and often an after-show blowout and full-course meal prepared by the OSCW founder's better half, Mary Sue O'Donnell.
“The only reason I can do Old School — and Mary Sue is the major one — is a few people that are essential,” says Blumenfeld. “Reggie (Vanderhoff) has been with me since the beginning. Whenever I need someone to talk to or I need to vent or someone to stabilize me, Reggie is right there.
“I cannot go on enough about Bob Keller. Bob is someone who I respect. Incredible, not just wrestling-wise, but as a person, as a professional, as a friend. Bob trains champions. Look at John Skyler. He is someone who cares about wrestling, who cares about the show, who cares about friendship. He is a great mentor.
“Mary Sue is the other half. Period. She doesn't get the recognition she deserves because she does all the grunt work. She's deals with the athletic commission, she deals with the bookings, she deals with getting the insurance for the venues. And on top of her plate being that full, she still worries about and loves all these guys and makes sure, when it's over, that they have the different types of food they want and are taken care of. I can't picture life without her.”
Even while working for other independents, Blumenfeld's regulars sing the promotion's praises.
“Joe and Mary Sue go above and beyond, more so than any other promoter I've worked for, to make sure the talent is happy, and also taken care of,” says Skyler. “A a performer, all we ever ask for is a platform to ply our trade, grow and improve so maybe one day some of us can move on to the next level of WWE, and Joe (and Mary Sue) have provided that platform for me and countless others. That platform is something I will always be thankful for.”
“I'm so proud of John,” says Blumenfeld. “ He was one of those guys that you knew from the beginning had it. When we first gave John a shot with us, from the first match I knew. He had the fire for it. He loves wrestling. He had the hunger for it. And not only that because you can't teach that. And to have Bob behind him. The knowledge that Bob has is incredible.”
The name “Old School” Wrestling, says Blumenfeld, is a tribute to the wrestlers who paved the way for today's generation.
“I just wanted to give a shout out to the stars many people don't remember. Don't get me wrong, the new guys are great, but if you didn't have your Four Horsemen, Blackjack Mulligan and the old school guys who showed us what to do and showed us the way, you wouldn't have wrestling. Old School gives a nod to them.”
While Blumenfeld doesn't like playing favorites, it's hard for him not to give special props to Gangrel (Dave Heath), who has headlined a number of OSCW shows over the past few years.
“He really is just one of the most incredible superstars I've ever met. I was fan of his when I was watching wrestling. But when I got to know David, I got to realize what an incredible, humble person he is.”
Out of all the shows promoted, Blumenfeld says his favorite was one in which WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter served as special referee for a match between the flag-waving Solitude (Blumenfeld) and the villainous Hans Bumgardner (Dan Johnson).
“Not only was everyone on the ball with Sarge there, they all went out there and gave 110 percent. That's one thing I love about my guys. They always come in ready and will give you everything they've got. But with Sarge there that night, everyone really was on top of their game. We gave everything that match. It was the match of the night.”
Backstage, jokes Blumenfeld, it was a different story when meeting the iconic Slaughter.
“We turned into two 9-year-old kids. We were shaking like little kids meeting Santa Claus.”
Blumenfeld's wrestling family concept shines through as he talks about watching young upstarts mature and develop into great workers.
While OSCW won't ever be mistaken for WWE, Blumenfeld promises a fun, entertaining product.
“No elaborate set-ups here — no fog or big screens. But you can expect to see great matches, experience a couple hours of action-packed, good old school wrestling, and have lots of fun with the whole family.”
Also scheduled on the March 13 show: Tracer X vs. BJ Hancock; Black Powers (Jett Black and Josh Powers) vs. Logan Creed and Mike Frehley (managed by Reginald Vanderhoff); Steven Hunter and Joshua Cutshall and vs. The Washington Bullets for the OSCW tag-team title; Asylum (managed by Ms. Harden) vs. Callie Casanova for the OSCW hardcore title; Nick Kismet vs. Zuka King vs. Hexxon vs. Kevin Phoenix in a four-corners match for the OSCW IC title; and Josh Magnum vs. Brandon Paradise for the OSCW heavyweight title.
Bell time is 5 p.m. Adult admission (cash at door) is $10; kids (12 and under) $5.
For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.