A Decade of Gulf Coast Wrestling
February 05, 2016
By: Josh Boutwell of WrestleView.com
Ever since I was a young child there have been two forms of sports and entertainment that have grabbed a hold of my life and forced me to love them no matter how frustrating that love can be at times. That would be football and pro wrestling. I’ve been watching and loving both since I’ve been able to walk and have always devoured everything about wrestling that I could growing up. From scouring the TV Guide to find whatever wrestling show came on at any time to trading tapes with my cousin to reading all the wrestling magazines every month and to my eventual discovery of the internet and the vast amount of wrestling on it I have searched out wrestling to wet my appetite. With all the love I had for wrestling the only “live” shows that I ever attended growing up were the few times that WWE, WCW, and ECW came to my part of the country (every single time at Dothan, Alabama’s Civic Center). It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I discovered local independent shows and wasn’t until after I graduated that I started to attend these events on a regular basis. Over the past ten years or so I have seen countless independent promotions come and go in these parts, some remembered much more fondly than others, but I have undoubtedly been entertained by some awesome action by these promotions and wrestlers over the years. As I sit and wonder what shows I will be able to attend this summer, during football off season, I have found myself remembering some of the greatest matches that I’ve seen and the great talent that performed. Trust me there have been some horrible acts to come down here in the gulf coast, and in fact those horrible acts and promotions resulted in many people considering the gulf coast to be the “drizzling shits,” but I have thoroughly enjoyed so many in this part of the country. Some of them have moved on to bigger and better things, some are still tearing it up every weekend across the south, and some have moved on to different aspects of their lives. I just want to take a moment to look at some of the stars that have come and those that will continue to entertain hopefully for years to come.
-“BTY” Colby Godwin
Mr. “Better Than You” himself Colby Godwin may be remembered in southeast Alabama as one of the best wrestling prospects it has ever created. The very first NHW event I ever saw was headlined by BTY and I became a huge fan of his from then on. Hits team with Chris Tighe routinely stole the show in those days. He grew up just down the road from me in Andalusia, AL and after becoming easily the top wrestler on the gulf coast he started to get some national recognition. He got a shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against The Sheik. He also ended up signing with Ring of Honor and moving to the northeast to train with Ring of Honor. During his year with ROH he got to share the ring with talent like future ROH World Champion Adam Cole, future TNA star Mike Bennett, future ROH Tag Team Champion Matt Taven, Mike Sydal, and the Bravado Brothers. While with ROH he changed his name to “Hoss Bryant,” with a clear nod to legendary Alabama head coach Bear Bryant there, and eventually returned to the south. Unfortunately injuries, most notably concussion related issues, forced him to prematurely leave the ring. In 2012 he briefly returned to the ring before injuries forced him out again, and now he has settled down to raise his beautiful baby boy, who is not surprisingly named after the beast himself Brock Lesnar, with his wife. BTY put on some incredible matches during his time in the ring, none greater than the showdown he had with Scotty Rayz one night in northern Florida, but one of the most memorable moments I got to see involving him live was a random night in 2012 in a small promotion called Impact Pro Wrestling in New Brockton, AL. BTY had not been previously announced as appearing and I had no idea he would until he made his way out for an exciting 4-Way Dance. It was the last time I got see Colby live but it was definitely a cool moment for me and I was happy that I got to see him do what he did best at least one more time.
You could make an argument that Rex is not only one of the most talented wrestlers from these parts but the most successful as well. Rex went from a skinny kid from Dothan, AL to one of the most gifted wrestlers on the gulf coast in just a matter of a few years. He also just happens to be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever been around. A few years ago he formed an unbelievably entertaining team with “Pure” Doug Pitt and the gorgeous “Busti” Becki Kennedy called “Filthy Gorgeous.” Their antics were hilarious and as a team there were very few better around. As time went on Rex just got better and better working a variety of styles with a variety of opponents. This led to him moving to Houston, Texas to join WWE Hall of Famer Booker T’s “Reality of Wrestling” school and promotion. There he became the villainous Russian Sergei Volkoff and eventually won the ROW TV Title. Since then he has enjoyed try outs for the WWE and event went to India last year to wrestle and train at Great Khali’s wrestling school. My own personal favorite match live that I got see Rex in was a one-on-one match with Scotty Rayz once again for IPW. The clash of styles with Rex’s terrific mat wrestling against the high flyer blended together to create a piece of art. I don’t know for sure what is Rex’s future but I truly believe that we will be seeing him on TV one way or another whether it be for WWE, TNA, ROH, or who knows maybe even Lucha Underground for New Japan. The sky is the limit for Dothan’s best.
-The Asphalt Cowboys/The Professionals (Justin Overstreet & Zane Stevens)
The Cowboys, also products of Dothan, could easily be on here as singles wrestlers because they are equally as good there, but their team is one of the better teams you are going to find on the Indies. I’ve had a chance to see these two in singles and tag teams dozens of times and they are both really good guys as well, despite Overstreet being a disgusting LSU fan (that’s a joke LSU folks). Justin is a protégé of former WCW star Glacier and he won the AIWF World Heavyweight Championship a couple of years ago and had a slew of stellar matches as champion as well as sharing the ring with multiple former WWE stars. Stevens on the other hand is a former NHW TV Champion and at one point was managed by “BTY” Colby Godwin at a point when NHW was at its highest. Whether they do it as a team or as singles wrestlers both of these guys are destined to be stars in my opinion and the sky is the limit for them. The best match I ever got to see live with Overstreet was his match with Lucha Locura for a short lived promotion in Dothan called SXW. These will undoubtedly continue to just get better as time goes.
-The Sin City Saints (Scotty & Billy Rayz)
I don’t think you could find a single team that is exciting as the duo of Billy and Scotty Rayz on the gulf coast. These brothers have been putting on exciting, high flying action for about a decade now and they continue to only get better each time you see them. As more and more high flyers join the gulf coast scene like Lucha Locura and Suicidal Soulja the matchups in the future could be unbelievably fun to see. In 2011 they both got a chance to take part in Dragon Gate USA events. First, Billy Rayz took part in a 6-Man Tag Team Dark Match at DG-USA’s “Untouchable ‘10” event and then in 2011 the two teamed up against Charade & Danny Steel in a tag match at “Mercury Rising.” The great thing about these two is that they can put on equally great matches as singles wrestlers or as a tag team. The best singles match I’ve ever seen from each was Scotty against BTY, that I mentioned earlier, and Billy vs. Lucha Locura at an NHW event while the tag team match I got a chance to see between them and The Onyx in Florida. These two high flyers are not going to be slowing down anytime soon either.
-“Scarface” Waylon Barley
Waylon Barley is massive and intimidating in the ring, the true definition of a monster. He also has a huge scar on his face that just adds to that intimidation. Several years ago he and BTY had a wonderful feud with each other, one of the first Indy feuds I actually followed, and over the last few years was one of the key people backstage for New Heights Wrestling.
The Puerto Rican sensation Lucha Locura burst onto the gulf coast scene a few years ago and immediately made an impact. The “Southern Style” of wrestling has always been known as a more brawling, slow paced methodical style but along with the Rayz boys and a few others Lucha has brought an exciting brand of wrestling that is a wonderful chance of pace. Lucha helped start his own promotion, Combat Sports Pro, a few years ago and then joined active duty in the military which took him away from the ring for awhile, but now he is back and has hit the ring hard on his return. The masked flyer has the ability to really make noise and bring even more spotlight to the gulf coast with his style. I got a chance to see him in a slew of great matches but I would have to say that my favorite was his 2/3 Falls Match with Lince Dorado in 2014 at SWA’s “WrestleMania of the Gulf Coast.”
The true definition of controversy Brian Caige has created a slew of heat wherever he has gone. He’s brash, he’s cocky, and sometimes he’s just an asshole, but he’s entertaining as hell and damn good in the ring. He’s about as well rounded as anyone else on the coast and when he grabs a microphone there are very few that can make a crowd want to hang him more than Caige can. Unfortunately he has rubbed a few people the wrong way that has hurt his chances at different promotions but wherever he gets a chance to show what he can do he always turns it up.
-“Shogun” Shane Gibson
The fun loving, entertaining “Shogun” oozes charisma and though his build isn’t what most wrestling fans are used to, he shows off a surprising amount of athleticism with it. Shogun has been entertaining fans with his funny style and sense of humor and can be just as entertaining in the ring.
Photo courtesy of 911wrestling.com
-“Busti” Becki Kennedy
Very few female wrestlers have came through the gulf coast and even less were very good at anything. “Busti” Becki Kennedy is the exception. She seemed to get better each time she got in the ring and as a valet/manager she was excellent as both a babyface and a heel. Not to mention that she had a body that would make men drool and not only was she gorgeous but she was one of the nicer people you would ever be around. She never met a fan that she didn’t want to hug and talk to and any promotion was lucky to have her as an ambassador for it. Unfortunately injuries forced her out of wrestling a few years ago. She made a brief return last year before injuries once again forced her out. I truly hope we haven’t seen the last of this beauty.
Frost has been around the Gulf Coast wrestling scene for over a decade and he has wrestled for pretty much every promotion around. He has probably been the most consistent wrestler over the time, able to work with anyone and in any style to put on a great show.
There are probably very few wrestlers on the gulf coast that have a brighter future than Paul Jordane. He has the look that the big leagues are looking for, he has the in-ring ability that they are looking for, he has the size they want, and he damn sure has the charisma and speaking ability that they want. Jordane was once signed to a WWE developmental contract and has appeared multiple times on WWE’s NXT show. He is a former NHW World Champion and has been working all over the place in the last few years. It is only a matter of time before he gets the call to come back to WWE.
The Suicidal one himself, Suicidal Soulja, is a high flyer star that is as equally charismatic as he is a daredevil in the ring. It seems that everywhere he goes fans fall in love with him and you don’t have to look any further than his incredible athleticism to see why.
While those are some of the past, present, and future stars of the Gulf Coast there are several promotions on the coast that need to be talked about as well.
-New Heights Wrestling
NHW may be the most consistent wrestling promotion of the last decade on the gulf coast but the promotions future is certainly in doubt. Last year NHW held its first event in years, in Ozark, Alabama, but have not held an event since that time. All of the wrestlers you see listed above have at one time or another busted their ass in an NHW ring and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of this group that at one point also had a local TV deal.
-Culture Shock Wrestling
CSW is probably the next most consistent promotion after NHW over the last several years and also features some of the most beautiful wrestling title belts around. Many of the stars I listed below have and continue to put on a hell of a show each and every month and are currently affiliated with AIWF.
-NWA Combat Sport Pro
Combat Sport Pro started a few years ago, founded by Lucha Locura, and has put on some of the most exciting events of the gulf coast. They eventually became officially part of the NWA, one of the only NWA affiliates on the gulf coast, and they continue to put on shows each and every month from the Pensacola, FL area.
-Gulf South Championship Wrestling
The Elberta, AL based promotion features many stars listed above, including Lucha Locura, and has been putting on shows for a while now. I haven’t had the chance to see them live yet but hopefully this summer I will get a chance to check them out.
-SWA “WrestleMania of the Gulf Coast”
At one point the SWA, run by long time gulf coast legend Mr. Fantasy, ran regular shows in Crestview, FL but then began just doing one show a year. The only supershow you can say that the gulf coast has every year that has affectionately become known by fans as “The WrestleMania of the Gulf Coast.” Each year Mr. Fantasy goes out of his way to bring a big star, whether from WWE or TNA or a legend, to Crestview to take part in this event. In the past names like Matt Hardy, Road Dogg, Bob Armstrong, Tom Prichard, Shane Helms, and many others have taken part in this event. Every year SWA packs the National Guard Armory for the event and every year they deliver one of the best independent shows around. Many of the names that I listed here will likely be taking part in this year’s event which will take place on June 18th. Hopefully I’ll get to see some of the guys listed above at this event and hopefully some of the readers as well.
I can’t talk about wrestling on the gulf coast without mentioning one of the nicest and most passionate guys I’ve come across at any Indy show, Mr. B-Smoov himself Brian Reese. Brian probably clocked more mileage on his vehicle than any fan I ever knew and probably as many as some wrestlers. He worked with several promotions whether as a ring announcer or a photographer and took photographs, excellent photographs, of pretty every wrestler on the coast. In 2014 the gulf coast lost one of its biggest promoters (even though he wasn’t an actual wrestling promoter, he did more “promotion” for some of the companies around here than the promotions themselves) and fans as Brian passed away after a long battle with health issues. I never once saw Brian at a show where he wasn’t smiling and enjoying himself no matter the pain he was obviously in, and he always made sure to make a few minutes to come over and talk to me whether it was about the show or about our favorite NFL team the Atlanta Falcons or just idle chit chat. Brian was an awesome guy and he is sorely missed. R.I.P. Brian!
All pictures courtesy of Josh Boutwell except where noted.
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