When a casual fan thinks of pro wrestling, the first thought is generally the glitz and glamor of the WWE. On any given Monday night, you can tune in to WWE RAW (on the USA Network) and see an arena full of rabid fans cheering and jeering the biggest names in the industry, including: John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Triple H, the McMahons, and dozens of other Superstars.
What most people don’t think about, however, are the smaller groups that run shows on a weekly to monthly basis throughout the United States. These Independent Promotions run much smaller venues than the ones seen on TV (school gyms, the YMCA, fairgrounds, and even the parking lots of local businesses), and feature a wide range of wrestlers on their shows (from the aging legend to the up-and-comer just trying to catch a break). Ticket prices are usually very inexpensive, and the smaller scale allows fans accessibility to the action and performers you are not going to find at many other shows (wrestling or otherwise).
Similar to watching Minor League Baseball, there is a wonderful charm that is associated with Indy Wrestling, and a well-run organization can develop a loyal fan base that is like no other.
American Premier Wrestling is a perfect example of what Independent Wrestling is all about.
Started in 1999 by Tommy Nero and John Anthony in Plano, TX, TCW (Texas Championship Wrestling) “Back in 1999, it started as a way to engage and empower the youth in the community with Pro Wrestling, as well as to help raise funds for Collin College and other organizations,” explains Tommy Nero, co-founder (along with ‘Coach’ John Anthony) of Texas Championship Wrestling in Plano, TX. “When we relocated to Georgia, we merged with another small promotion to form APW.”
Once settled in to Statesboro, Nero says that APW was able to gain a reputation for being the little group that was bringing popular names to the area.
“I can’t name all of them, but the ones that stand out are first and foremost (the late, great) ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams, Ted DiBiase, Tito Santana, Buff Bagwell, Rodney Mack, ‘Cowboy’ Jeremy Young, Tommy ‘Wildfire’ Rich, Black Bart, Luminous, Necro Butcher, and Prince Iaukea.”
Nero has since retired from the business, but not before selling APW to Cujo LeDuc, who is doing his part to continue the traditions started in 1999.
“Fifteen years strong, and we’re still serving the community with a product that engages the kids in a family friendly environment, with a respect for God, Community, and Tradition.”
Cujo is a member of the (in)famous Leduc wrestling family from Quebec, Canada, and had been around the wrestling world his entire life. It was only natural that he would one day run his own promotion, especially one that lives by the ‘God, Community, and Tradition’ creed, values that most wrestling organizations do not share.
“We all thank and believe in God for making this dream a reality, and give all glory to him,” LeDuc stated. “This company was created for the community, and stay engaged via stewardship. And we value that time honored tradition of RESPECT, be it at training, in the ring, or in the community.”
Another aspect of APW you don’t see anywhere else is the Kids’ Division, made up of children as young as 7 years old, competing against each other on the same shows as the adults.
“They are the backbone of APW, no question. The kids help enhance the crowd, keep things in perspective, and definitely support our mission.” Cujo explained. “They are a tremendous draw for us, and a lot of the youngsters show more talent and enthusiasm than some of the adults we have!”
The idea to incorporate the kids came in the very beginning.
“John Anthony and I started it back in 1999,” said Nero. “We were about the kids and needed to help them understand that the sport had a place in their lives, but without the ‘hardcore/back-yard stuff’ that had and continues to pollute the sport.”
To help recruit and teach the kids, APW holds ‘Kids Camps’ during the year. These 3-5 day camps always culminate with a Kids SuperShow, where the kids are introduced to and perform for the APW fans.
Leduc is unapologetic when it comes to his excitement for the camps and the talent they produce.
“Those are always my favorite shows of the year. The kids put so much effort into learning the in-ring skills and developing their characters that when they get the opportunity to show off for the live crowd, the ring cannot hold their pride. Or mine, for that matter.”
The camps have proven to be so successful over the past couple of years, Cujo was excited to announce that a second summer session will be added this year.
“APW is very excited to team up with the Judgement Day Gym in Rincon for our second camp of the summer. Not only does it give the kids another opportunity to join us, but also lets us take a big leap into the Rincon market.”
One of the goals for APW this year was to extend itself out of their comfort zone in Statesboro, and begin promoting shows in different locations. The first of those shows took place on April 5th in Rincon at the Judgement Day Gym.
“Our first ever trip to Rincon on April 5th turned out to be one of our best shows yet! We had such a great time, that we were able to book the second show on May 17th, as well as the Kids Camp starting June 16th.”
On the heels of those great announcements, Cujo wasn’t done.
“I am also happy to announce that APW will be coming to Savannah on June 14th at the National Guard Armory, and then we’ll be going to Claxton on June 21st. And stay tuned, because there is more to come! Exciting things are happening at APW, and I invite everybody to get on board.”
Below is a list of events currently scheduled:
May 3rd – BRAWL 12 @ Ryan’s in Statesboro
Dinner + Show to benefit the American Cancer Society
May 17th – Rincon Rampage @ Judgement Day Gym in Rincon
A fundraiser for the American Cancer Society
May 31st – Rock & Wrestling @ D&R Car Care in Statesboro
Live concert before the show featuring Dead Man’s Hand
June 2nd - June 6th – Summer Kids Camp @ Statesboro Karate Studio
Kids SuperShow will be held on June 6th
June 14th – Smackdown For The Shriners @ The National Guard Armory in Savannah
A benefit event for the Shiners of Savannah
June 16th - June 20th – Rincon Kids Camp @ Judgement Day Gym
Kids SuperShow will be held on June 20th
June 21st – Clash In Claxton @ Claxton Elementary School
A fundraiser for the Evans County Humane Society
In addition to those shows, APW is still adding events throughout the summer at various locations, in Statesboro and beyond.
If you would like more information about APW, its events, and how to become a sponsorship partner, please visit their website at www.apwonline.net or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/APW-Wrestling.
Stay tuned in the upcoming days/weeks, as I will be posting exclusive interviews with some of APW’s stars, including Cujo, Heavyweight Champion Aaron Orion, Johnny Starr, Kids Champion Monster, and more!