If you took a poll at the beginning of the night, I doubt many fans would have predicted the finish of the Cowboy Invitational Tournament on the night of October 6, 2022 at Ohio Valley Wrestling’s Davis Arena in Louisville, Kentucky. Sure, a few diehards would have picked the right man, but the safe money, especially going into the finals, had to be on Omar Amir. Amir had history with James Storm, the man awaiting the winner of the Cowboy Invitational. Storm took his title, and Omar wanted payback. And let’s be honest: this is OVW. Omar was the younger man.
All that being said, not a single fan felt disappointed when Omar Amir found his shoulders pinned to the mat for the three count. Half the fans were already on their feet, and by the time the bell finished chiming, everyone was standing.
It felt unreal. Was this really happening? Did we really see this? Were we really going to get Cash Flo vs. James Storm for the OVW Heavyweight Championship and OVW National Heavyweight Championship next week?
Tony Borcherding, aka 2 Tuff Tony, was sitting on the hard cam side of the arena as I walked out. I paused to shake his hand and discuss what had just taken place.
“Can you believe this?” I said. “You really think we’ll see an IWA Mid-South original become the OVW champion?”
Tony smiled and shrugged. “You do what’s best for business.”
Cash looked as exhilarated as he was exhausted when he took his usually spot at the gimmick table with his tag partner Dimes. His big smile beaming, he shook hands, took photos, and signed autographs just as did every week. He’d wrestled three times that night, but the big man wasn’t going to let his fans down. His eyes lit up when I reached the table to shake his hand.
“Great show tonight,” I said.
“I got a work out, didn’t I?” he said.
Mike Walden has been putting in the work longer than some OVW wrestlers have been alive. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and grew up in the Hillview neighborhood watching wrestling with his grandparents. “They had a floor model TV, and they loved wrestling. Memphis, Georgia Championship Wrestling, the AWA with Verne Gagne. If wrestling was on TV, we were watching.”
Mike dreamed of being a professional athlete, and at the age of sixteen, he became the very first student to train at a wrestling school founded in his hometown. No, not OVW, but IWA Mid-South, founded by ECW veteran Ian Rotten.
“There were other students at IWA Mid-South when I started,” said Walden. “Guys who had started elsewhere that Ian took under his wing, but I came from the streets. I started day one with IWA.”
While OVW would become the chosen destination for WWE’s developmental program, it was IWA Mid-South that had all the buzz in the late 90s. The hardcore style caught on with the Louisville fans starved for action, and the legendary “old Kmart building” refitted to become IWA’s home base was packed every week. But popularity wasn’t the reason Cash chose IWA Mid-South.
“IWA was closer to me,” said Cash. “OVW was across the river in Jeffersonville (Indiana) at the time. In all honesty, I’m glad I chose IWA. It made me tough.”
The differences between IWA Mid-South and OVW could not have been greater. While OVW leaned on tradition and structure, IWA had a much different flavor. “I don’t want to say it was organized chaos, because it really wasn’t that organized,” said Cash. “The energy started the day before the show, when we got the building ready, all the way through the next night when we cleaned up the mess. They were able to serve alcohol in that building, and that definitely added to the craziness.
“It was chaos, but it was the place to be. Not only for the fans but the wrestlers.”
The violent, anything goes nature of many IWA Mid-South matches took a heavy toll on some of its stars, but barbed wire and blood were not requisites for working at the old Kmart building. IWA fans still talk fondly about seeing future stars like CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Seth Rollins at IWA.
“Cash never really did the deathmatches,” said 2 Tuff Tony. “That’s one reason he’s still in as good a shape as he is now.”
While still a part of IWA Mid-South, Cash began working for Juggalo Championship Wrestling, a promotion founded by the Insane Clown Posse. That connection led to his OVW debut in 2010. It all started one night when Cash jumped the barrier with 2 Tuff Tony and Mad Man Pondo, kicking off a JCW invasion of OVW. “I feuded with Beef Wellington for a time,” recalls Cash. “When that feud was over, I went on my merry way.”
Cash spent some time in Washington state working for Jimmy Jack Funk and at a wrestling school for Buddy Wayne. “It’s so different out there. The athletic commission is more strict and much more expensive. You typically have to go down to Portland or Northern California for work. I wrestled on a lot of Native American reservations.”
After coming home, Cash worked for a number of promotions including Southern Indiana companies like Destination One Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Freedom, and Paradigm Pro Wrestling. He brought the fans to their feet any time he burst through the curtain, their hands raised in the air, mimicking the fan favorite by rubbing their money fingers together.
In 2015 Cash began dropping by Davis Arena on show nights, hoping to get on with the promotion. “Back then, you wrestled OVW for exposure dollars more than real dollars. Sometimes they used me, sometimes they wouldn’t. But eventually, they found a spot for me.”
A former student of his named Big Zo was starting to gain momentum working with referee turned heel manager Josh Ashcraft. One night during an OVW TV Championship match, the fans were shocked to see another IWA Mid-South original, “The Hood Ninja” Hy Zaya, enter Davis Arena from the side door to help Zo secure the victory. As if Hy Zaya’s arrival wasn’t shocking enough, Cash Flo soon joined the faction known as the Legacy of Brutality.
The Legacy had a few different incarnations and was one of the bright spots in the final years under Danny Davis. The boys who made up the faction were just as tight outside the ring as inside. “A lot of what we wore, what we did in the ring, it was all inside jokes,” said Hy Zaya. “Just a way to crack ourselves up.”
Then one day, a surprise announcement caught everyone off guard: Danny Davis had sold the company to Al Snow.
Snow had history at OVW himself. He had been a trainer going back to the WWE days and also brokered the deal that briefly made OVW a developmental school for TNA. A born teacher, Al Snow brought a new energy and passion to the building. Things were about to change for everyone, including Cash Flo.
“Day one, Al came up to me and said, ‘Okay, now you look like a wrestler,’” said Cash.
Al put Cash to work, making him a trainer for the beginners class at the Al Snow Wrestling Academy. But Cash will be the first to tell you how much he’s learned from Al.
“I’ve learned so much in the last four or five years about psychology and feeding off the fans,” said Cash. “I used to just go out there and act like the toughest guy around. Al showed me how to take fans on a ride emotionally. He taught me the art of wrestling, and I am so thankful to him for that.”
Al brought big changes to Davis Arena. OVW was known as a great wrestling school; Al wanted OVW to become a great wrestling show. To that end OVW started pulling thing a number of veterans like Tony Gunn, Jessie Godderdz, Turbo Floyd and Truth Magnum of The Outrunners, and newly-minted TikTok star “The Veteran” Jack Vaughn.
Cash Flo teamed up with another long-time OVW star, the 5’8” “super heavyweight” Dimes, to form the tag team Bank Roll. The duo became a huge hit with the fans and even carried the OVW Tag Team Championships until recently losing them to The Fallen. Then on October 6, Cash was chosen to be one of eight men in the Cowboy Invitational to determine a number one contender for the two titles held by another veteran: former TNA star James Storm.
Storm made his debut for OVW on July 7, 2022, defeating Mahabali Shera for the OVW National Heavyweight Championship. Less than two months later, he took the OVW Heavyweight Championship from Bahamian star Omar Amir. Amir certainly felt like the odds-on favorite to win the Cowboy Invitational, so when Cash Flo got the victory, you could feel something special was in the air.
Cash got on the microphone right after the match. He promised the fans the titles around James Storm’s waist were coming home. Home to OVW.
James Storm and Cash Flo were acquainted with one another, and not just at OVW. “We’ve run in the same circles and know some of the same people,” said Cash, “But this was the first time we ever wrestled each other.”
Fast forward to October 13, 2022. By the time I arrived at 7:03, the only seating left was on the hard cam side. Word had gotten around that Cash was going for the titles, and the fans turned out in droves. Many of them knew Cash only from OVW. Some had seen him wrestle for IWA Mid-South, or JCW, or any number of promotions across the river at the Jeffersonville Arena. They came to cheer on one of the good guys, a wrestler who not only played babyface in the ring but genuinely was one of the nicest men in the business.
It’s hard not to like Cash when you meet him. He’s 6’4” with the body of an offensive lineman and the ability to go airborne from the top rope. He still has long hair, sports a goatee, looks a bit like Jeff Bridges in the face. He speaks with an easy, down-to-Earth Louisville drawl, and his smile is infectious… and deceptive. The gentle giant is known as the “Owner of the Chop Shop” for good reason: he throws the loudest hand chop this side of Wahoo McDaniel, the kind that makes even the most passive wrestling fan grimace with pain.
“The worst pain I ever felt in the ring was from a Cash Flo chop,” said Turbo Floyd, who lost in the Cowboy Invitational to Cash. “He’s chopped me in the chest a few times, and that’s fine. But one time, he chopped my inner leg. That one really stung.”
Cash made an appearance during the first hour of the October 13 program. Dressed to the nines in a blue dress shirt with gray slacks and a matching vest, he vowed once more to bring the titles home.
James Storm interrupted the speech and made his way out to the ring. The two men had never faced one another in a match before that night, but they were well acquainted, having run in similar circles for years. Storm congratulated Cash on winning a title shot and offered the challenger a handshake. Cash accepted, and all seemed well. Then the champion hit Cash from behind with a cheap shot.
Calling on all he’d learned from Al Snow the past several years, Cash made the crowd feel his pain. They were on the mat with him. They were 100% behind him.
When the main event finally arrived, Cash and Storm truly took the fans on a roller coaster. Storm played the stall game at first, pacing outside the ring and making Cash wait on him while the fans grew impatient. One of the few men big enough to stand eye to eye with Storm, Cash put on the match of his life. The fans cheered when he seized the upper hand, and they pleaded for him to persevere when he sunk into the valleys. Every false finish in his favor was greeted with relief. Every time Storm kicked out at two, you could hear the disappointment.
“We ended up having more time than we expected,” said Cash, who didn’t know what that finish would be himself until just the show began. “We were expecting to go one TV segment, but we started early and had to go two. We just improvised and made it work.”
A hopeful crowd began to have its doubts. Maybe it’s not going to happen. Maybe Cash is just the next victim, the next man to make James Storm appear unbeatable – and make his ultimate conqueror look that much stronger.
“We knew most people weren’t giving me a chance,” said Cash.
Omar Amir was at ringside for the action, seated between Josh Ashcraft and play-by-play man Bryan Kennison. His presence made it seem like this would be just another James Storm victory, especially when Storm struck Amir with a water bottle. Amir kept his cool and his seat, allowing the two big men continue their fight without interference.
“Come on, Cash, you can do this!” shouted a young man on the front row, drawing a look of scorn from James Storm.
When Storm brought a chair into the ring, everyone fear the worst. If Storm hit Cash with the chair, he’d be disqualified and retain his title. But no! Cash moved out of the way. Storm hit the top rope with the chair. The chair ricocheted back and hit him in the head. Cash went for the pin. One… two…
Ride’s not over yet.
Storm seized control once more. Cash kicked out on two and a half. Storm kicked out at two and a half. Fans greeted each near fall with increasing trepidation. They knew it was only a matter of time before Storm pulled out one final dirty trick to seal the deal.
Cash took Storm down again. He hooked the leg. The referee started to count. One… Two…
The referee called for the bell. The screams were deafening. Cash rose to his knees, the emotion of the moment overwhelming. The referee took the belts from ringside and held them out to the new champion as the ring announcer made it official.
Cash had done it. An IWA Mid-South original, a founding member of the Legacy of Brutality, was now the OWW Heavyweight Champion and OVW National Heavyweight Champion.
Josh Ashcraft hit the ring and hugged his former client. The emotion on his face was plain to see; he couldn’t be prouder of his friend. “Cash winning both the OVW and National titles is a huge milestone for him in his career. With all of the momentum that OVW has right now and the big things on the horizon for us, I know he’s proud to be the guy carrying the ball for us so to speak. I couldn’t be more proud or happy for him.”
Omar Amir also entered the ring, applauding the new champ. Tag partner Dimes came out to celebrate. So did Kat Herro, Ryan Von Rockit, and other babyfaces. The fans continue to cheer. No one moved until Cash spoke again, thanking the fans for their love, sharing the moment with everyone in the arena and watching at home.
A few days after the match, Cash reflected on how he came to this place in his career. “This is why you put in the work. Going into it, all I wanted to do was further the banner I carry, further the name of OVW. I’m glad that I’ve been doing what I do for as long as I have, and it makes me feel pretty good to have that hard work recognized.”
Humble to a fault, the new champion still plans to take things week to week, representing OVW to the best of his ability and hopeful he can help the company draw new fans.
“Fans who have never watched or haven’t watched need to know, this is not the same OVW. Whatever you’ve seen, whatever you’ve heard about OVW in the past, the is not the same company. It’s an entirely different experience, from coming to Davis Arena, to the building set up, to the lights and music. And that’s all because of Al. He puts his heart into it. He’s done a lot of great things here, and there are more big things coming.”
The red lights on the TV cameras finally went dark. Cash climbed out of the ring, two golden belts slung over his shoulders, and did something he normally does not do: he went straight to the backstage area. The man upstairs on the sound board pressed play on the tune “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz, the musical cue that the show is over.
Many fans did ease on out of Davis Arena, but a good number congregated over by the concessions stand. Some were saying hello to other wrestlers, taking photographs, and buying autographs. Most were waiting for Cash to be Cash and make his way out to his own gimmick table.
Win or lose, he always comes to the table after a show, exchanging handshakes and fist bumps while selling everything from T-shirts to mini wrestling buddies. Nothing would change that, not even winning the two biggest prizes OVW has to offer.
After just a few extra minutes wait, Cash emerged to another round of applause. His smile was just a little bigger. A little grander. A little more golden.
Cash is King, and now, the king has all the gold.