The men and women of Ohio Valley Wrestling have finished their 2023 summer tour. This was the second year in a row they’ve taken the show on the road, visiting towns like Somerset, Ashland, Middlesboro, and Georgetown. You don’t get all the stars on the weekends like you do at the Thursday night TV taping, but the wrestlers who make the trip get a little extra scratch, and the crowds are thrilled to see them.

Some famous faces made the trek to Davis Arena in June. Yes, fans, that was “Baby Billy” from The Righteous Gemstones you saw seated in the back row next to the hard cam. Producer/director Ash Avildsen brought Hollywood to Louisville this summer filming the professional wrestling biopic Queen of the Ring. Based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeff Leen, the film tells the story of the legendary women’s wrestling champion Mildred Burke.

Shannon the Dude and Jessie Godderz of OVW.

Shannon the Dude and Jessie Godderz reign supreme — for now — at OVW. Photo by Pamela Barnett

A good number of wrestlers, referees, backstage crew members, and fans took part in the late night shoots for this exciting film project. You’ll see OVW stars everywhere in this production, and you’ll definitely see a few OVW legends in featured roles. Jebediah Blackhawk trimmed off his signature beard just to get some extra screen time!

Davis Arena has been warmer this summer than last year, when I effectively became a regular thanks to a shift in my family’s busy schedule. But attendance is up — way up — from a year ago. If you’ve never been to the big metal building that sits off the road at 4400 Old Shepherdsville Road in Louisville, there’s seating on all four sides of the ring: a handful beside the entrance ramp, and general seating on three sides. Last August they had the ramp side seats filled along with just one section of general seating across from the hard cam.

Regular attendance is at least triple that right now, and the crowd of regulars grows after each special event. All four sides were jam packed for The Big One, OVW’s biggest show of the year, on August 10. It was even crazier back in January when EC3’s debut at the Nightmare Rumble packed them in like sardines.

It’s not uncommon to find myself sitting next to newbies, people who have lived in Louisville all their lives and never been to OVW. “Who are the big stars?” they ask. “Who do you think is going to get signed?” Some recognize Leila Grey from AEW. Some know Jack Vaughn from TikTok. Others recognize The Outrunners from AEW. Or Ring of Honor. Or NWA.

The energy in the ring continues to grow. Al Snow, the mastermind, or Yoda as Hy Zaya refers to him, finds a careful balance between booking young, up-and-coming wrestlers alongside seasoned veterans and locker room leaders. Everyone has upped their game. Week after week, they’re tighter, crisper. The crowd feeds of their excitement. The wrestlers feed off the crowd. Some nights it becomes and absolute frenzy.

It’s almost as if they sense something big is coming.

Freya the Slaya

The Queen of the North, Freya the Slaya, will appear in Netflix’s Wrestlers. Photo by Pamela Barnett

Who am I kidding? The men and women of OVW have had a glow about them for over a year, and it’s not exactly a huge secret why. True, many who have joined the weekly crowd in the past year were not around to see the tell-tale signs. The extra lighting. The extra crew. The man with the really nice film camera on his shoulder gliding about the ring on a hover board.

There were fewer butts in the seats at that time. But we all knew it was coming.

Monday, August 21, the cat finally leapt out of the bad. A new documentary series premieres September 13 on Netflix, called, simply, Wrestlers. Ohio Valley Wrestling, once the crown jewel of WWE’s Developmental Program, long forgotten by many fans, will slide into a spotlight bigger than its ever known.

Fans will get an all access look at the new model OVW, a territory (not a school!) brought back from the brink by Al Snow now seen worldwide every week on television and the Internet. They’ll go backstage and beyond, seeing wrestlers at home, in the gym, and even the tanning booth.

They’ll meet Bryan Kennison and Steven Johnson, two local boys who started making social media posts and moved all the way unto the announcer’s table.

They’ll meet the men and women in stripes, including Impact’s Daniel Spencer, Charlene McKenzie, Jake Cloyd, and the oh-so-lovable Aaron Grider.

They’ll meet Cash Flo and Hy Zaya, two long-time pillars of the local indie scene now thriving more than ever under Al Snow.

They’ll meet the Alaskan goddess Freya the Slaya, the Scottish warrior Crixus, and the Indian Lion Mahabali Shera.

Kal Herro

The next big star? Kal Herro is on the rise, just as Wrestlers is set to premiere on Netflix. Photo by Pamela Barnett

There will be plenty of young talent on display, stars on the rise like Kal Herro, Luke Kurtis, Haley J, and Shaloncé Royal.

The Outrunners, the self-proclaimed youngest men in wrestling, Truth Magnum and Turbo Floyd, will definitely get some face time.

Fans may get to meet ringside photographers Lloyd Thomas, who recently took a wicked bump through a table, and Pamela Barnett, whose photos are featured in this story.

And love him or hate him, Mr. Pec-Tacular Jessie Godderz will definitely make his presence known.

The response so far on social media appears overwhelmingly positive. And the OVW crew? They’re positively giddy. They were in the right place at the right time when the cameras rolled in 2022. They’ve been waiting for this day for a year. They cannot wait to see what happens next.

Daniel Spencer, Haley J, and Leila Grey at OVW.

Senior official Daniel Spencer checks on HollyHood Haley J and Leila Grey, all of whom will appear in Wrestlers on Netflix. Photo by Pamela Barnett

Fans who want to see more will have no trouble doing so. The weekly program airs live on FITE TV Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. Eastern. Replays of both hours run each week on YTA, Game Plus, Next Level Sports, The Action Channel, and Astound TV Network.

Of course, you’re welcome to make the trek to see OVW live. They’re already bracing for a bump in attendance. If you’re among those giving it some thought, here are a few tips:

1. Go early to get a good seat and a parking spot. Parking is at a premium, and the wrestlers take up a lot of space.

2. Use your map app. Davis Arena is set back off the road, and the signs are small. It’s easy to shoot right past.

3. If you’re early enough to grab a bite, I highly recommend the Cuban sandwich at Mi Sueno on Bardstown Road, just five minutes away.

After seeing the turnout at The Big One, one member of Al Snow’s crew asked the question: “Do we have a larger venue if this thing really takes off?”

Time will tell if Al has to answer that question. It’s a problem OVW’s Yoda would love to have.

TOP PHOTO: A still from Wrestlers. Courtesy Netflix


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