The return of wrestling Toledo can call its own

You may have noticed that I occasionally dabble in recognizing professional wrestling on GemuBaka, and there is a simple reason for that: Video games are my number-one passion, and pro wrestling follows close behind as number two. When a pro wrestling video game is available, I’m all over it.

Pro wrestling was my big connection with my paternal grandfather, and we spent many years bonding over it. He would watch the events of the 1980s, but I never caught a lot of it in the moment. Virtually none of my friends watched pro wrestling, and my parents would complain about it constantly if they were in eyeshot of it.

At some point around WrestleMania VII, I stumbled upon a late-night WWF special, and my memory of going all-in on pro wrestling stemmed from a scene with Hulk Hogan clearing the ring and waving the U.S. flag around as an arena full of people absolutely lost their minds. I tired catching any wrestling on TV that I possibly could from that point forward.

While we would watch a number of episodes of Monday Night RAW together, I regretfully never got to take grandpa to any sort of live show. I’ve only been to a couple of WWF events, but I’ve been able to attend dozens of indie shows in the area since the turn of the millennium.

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The latest show I’ve attended is a revival of Universal All Pro Wrestling (UAPW), which is a Toledo-area promotion that was prominent roughly 10 years ago. I recall seeing events advertised, including appearances by wrestlers such as Matt Hardy and area namesakes such as CKIII, but these came at a point in my life where I was adjusting to my post-college life of grinding out a full-time professional job, establishing finances and starting a family – I just simply didn’t get around to doing much in these years.

I caught word of the new UAPW show through a tweet made by Trey Miguel, an international star who happens to hail from the Glass City. Not much in the way of news and updates came for the show over the past couple of months, but, with the show’s poster featuring a number of wrestlers I’ve wanted to see in person for a while, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out the event.

The show was worth the price of the ticket and well beyond.

It might be difficult to understand for those outside of northwest Ohio, but Thursday’s UAPW show was extremely important for me in at least two ways.

It was a return of professional wrestling that Toledo can call its own, and it also incorporated elements of northern Ohio pro wrestling that took me back as far as 15 years ago. Mr. Main Event competed in a tag team match at the UAPW event, and this has to be the same Mr. Main Event I saw compete at a Millenium Wrestling Federation (MWF) event in 2005 (side note: I need to see if Black Velvet still wrestles).

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We celebrate the new MWF Champion Brandon X during a show in 2005 after he defeated Mr. Main Event for the title.

Mr. Main Event also appears to have done stints for Championship International Wrestling (CIW), and this promotion was the first indie pro wrestling show I ever attended. To my knowledge, CIW is still the only promotion that has ever held a show in my hometown since I’ve lived here.

It rolled through in 1998, bringing along talent such as “Diceman” Ronnie Vegas, “Flying” Andy Chene, Bobo Brazil Jr. and The Shadow, and it gave me my first taste of what professional wrestling was when it wasn’t backed by WWF’s network TV glitz and glam. It showed me how hard the talent was working and how important it was for those attending to get fully into the show and pay back that effort with cheers and boos.

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A flyer for a 1998 CIW show scheduled in Adrian, Michigan.

The mid- to late-2000s had me getting invested in the MWF and then finding out about Pro Wrestling Ohio (later Prime Wrestling) on SportsTime Ohio, which exposed me to northeast Ohio wrestling. Benjamin Boone (part of the Sons of Michigan), Bryan Castle and Krimson were a delight to see at the UAPW show, as I had not seen them since the closing of Prime.

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Prime Wrestling’s Wrestlution 5, in 2012, was the final live pro wrestling event I attended until 2020. A wrestler named Johnny Gargano won the championship at the event. He was a very nice guy, and I hope he’s doing well these days.

That’s the time when I buckled down on career and family, and I didn’t get back into the swing of attending indie events until the formation of Ruthless Pro Wrestling in 2020.

Honestly, when it came to pro wrestling, through most of the 2010s, I was kind of just going through the motions and casually following WWE’s programming. When the UFC had its big upswing, most everyone I watched pro wrestling with moved on to that sport and didn’t look back. It wasn’t until WWE went on firing sprees and the independents started to really bloom once again that I had my passion rekindled.

So, while I unfortunately missed out on the stints of the previous run of UAPW and Northwest Ohio Wrestling (NOW), I figured there was no way I was going to miss the return of UAPW. Trey Miguel, Jason Hotch (Page) and Sam Beale have become huge Toledo-area favorites of mine, and I’ve wanted to see Lady Frost and Mad Man Fulton wrestle for some time now, so everything else that would get added to the card was just a big bonus from that point.

During the times I was actually able to get out and attend wrestling shows in Toledo, my mind goes straight toward the former Toledo Sports Arena, which is no longer in existence now that The Huntington Center popped up in the downtown. I saw a few WWF events in that arena, which was the “premier” arena at that time, while, at the same time, I’ve also viewed area shows in abandoned stores inside shopping malls and local saloons – the mix of venues I’ve seen is actually pretty unreal now that I think about it.

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“Stone Cold” Steve Austin makes his entrance in the Toledo Sports Arena for a WWF house show held in 1996. He faced Shawn Michaels in the main event.

I didn’t know what to expect from St. Clement’s Hall for the August UAPW event, but we were pleasantly surprised by the venue – it was spacious, air conditioned and had a real nice look to it. We were also taken aback as I can’t remember the last time I attended a wrestling event that featured guardrails around the ring. A staging area was set up, and the ring had a nice skirt and turnbuckle pads. I’ve come to appreciate promoters working with what they have, but UAPW exceeded our expectations in providing a very professional-looking atmosphere for a local event.

The very spacious venue also allowed plenty of tables to be set up so the wrestlers, and other vendors, could set up and interact with the attendees. Since a lot of the wrestlers were relatively local, they had an excitement about them that was evident as pro wrestling was able to be featured in Toledo. I loved being able to chat with Benjamin Boone, Sam Beale, Mad Man Fulton, Lady Frost and “Savage Gentleman” Victor Benjamin, and hope they are able to attend future UAPW events.

The card featured seven booked matches, but there were other segments sprinkled in as well. In all, including the intermission, the bell-to-bell time of the full event was nearly three hours. The matches seemed to get more time as the card progressed, and Jason Hotch and Trey Miguel, as expected, wrestled a classic that went more than 20 minutes.

In watching other events, I am familiar with most of the wrestlers that were featured, but wrestlers I was able to learn about through the event include:

Kyler Coleman (@KylerColemanPro) – Coleman showboated and took on two wrestlers (whose names I couldn’t catch over the PA system), dispatching them quickly. He strikes me as the type of wrestler that fans will be begging for him to get his comeuppance, and he really had a few fans in the crowd worked up. He got a third match, which ended up being against Krimson – an appearance that popped the crowd. Coleman did some heavy bumping in the short contest, which really added to Krimson’s appearance. Coleman was the real wild card on the event, and he caught my attention. Hopefully he sticks around UAPW and shows what he can do in more straight-forward matches.

“Savage Gentleman” Victor Benjamin (@RealSavageGent) – I’ve been able to catch Victor Benjamin in passing through appearances in AEW and NWA, but the UAPW show gave me my first really good look at what the Savage Gentleman is capable of. I’m biased because I really dig the old “strongman/gentleman” gimmicks, he has steampunk-style gear and he has a Butterfinger championship … yes, like the candy bar. Benjamin had a real explosiveness in his strikes and slams, providing a good contrast in styles as he clashed with Sam Beale, Percy Drews and Benjamin Boone in a four-way contest. It’s got me interested in checking out more of his one-on-one matchups so I can see how hard he goes when the focus is solely on him and one opponent.

Damien Chambers, Aiden Prince and Brayden Lee (@realdamchambers @aidenprince @TheBraydenLee) – These three technical wrestlers were positioned in a three-way battle during the UAPW show. I was recently set to see Brayden Lee wrestle at another event, but circumstances canceled that match, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him pop up on the card. All three of these wrestlers are very athletic, so I could see them having a number of great matches against a variety of other opponents. The three had a highlight reel-style of match, and they were able to bring the crowd back up in excitement following the intermission. I’m looking forward to seeing more from these three.

Crash Jaxon (@thecrashjaxon) – I’m really not sure how I missed Crash Jaxon for so long. A heavyweight wrestler with a good look who can really go in the ring. My kids were watching my match clips, and they really gravitated toward Jaxon, being surprised by how crisp his movement was. Jaxon took the heat really well during his tag match, getting the crowd behind him, and he was able to put the other team away with a finishing power move. Thumbs up, please come back to UAPW.

Thankfully, the August UAPW show wasn’t a one-and-done deal. It was announced the promotion will make its return to Toledo in two weeks, running yet another show at the same venue Thursday, Sept. 1. And that’s fantastic, as I’d love to see this spirit of Toledo professional wrestling to carry on for some time.

Thanks to everyone involved with the show to make it possible, and I’ll be back to enjoy the matches once again!

Follow Universal All Pro Wrestling on Facebook

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Categories: GemuBaka Events, GemuBaka Feature

Author:djtatsujin

Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka (http://gemubaka.com). For business only: gemubaka at gmail

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