Jebediah Blackhawk knows the moment his wrestling career found a new direction. OVW Rise, the Louisville promotion’s weekly live television show had just gone to commercial. Doug Basham removed his headset and excused himself to use the restroom. The clock was ticking, and the countdown to the next live segment — and the next wrestling match — was not going to wait on Doug.

Jedediah looked down at the headset. Doug could be back at any second, ready to walk the crew through the next match. But Doug wasn’t back.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

“Maybe it was a test,” he said, looking back on that moment. “No one’s ever told me if it was. The show had to go on, so I picked up the headset.”

Blackhawk was ready for the moment. He’d asked permission to shadow Basham several weeks prior, and OVW’s advanced class trainer was happy to oblige him. Now, with the cameras rolling inside a packed Davis Arena full of fans, Jedediah Blackhawk would show whether he’d learned enough to do this job from his observations.

He must have done something right. Six months later, he’s still agenting matches, producing live television, and sharing the wisdom he’s gathered since he first stepped into a wrestling ring more than two decades ago.

For a long time, the name Jedediah Blackhawk was one only deep dive, hardcore OVW fans would remember. He joined the promotion when it still bore the name Nightmare Academy, back when Mike Samples was still Danny Davis’s business partner.

Traditionally billed as native of Hawk Hollow, Kentucky, Jebediah Blackhawk, aka Chris Bell, was born and raised in the Valley Station neighborhood of Louisville. Hulk Hogan, Hulkamania, and Saturday Night’s Main Event hooked him on professional wrestling. He loved it so much so that he went from wrestling in the backyard with friends to joining the wresting team at Valley High School, making it all the way to the state finals.

Jebediah also played football. He was good enough to earn a spot playing for Campbellsville University in Kentucky. Football went fine that first semester, but the college part, no so much. He came home to work on his grades in the hopes he could come back for a second season.

It was during that break that his mother’s cousin told him about a professional wrestling show at the bingo hall in Dixie Highway. “The fans at OVW knew him as Cousin Krazy, but he was my actual cousin in real life.”

After the show Krazy asked young Jedediah if he thought he could wrestle. “Yeah, I think I can do that,” said Jedediah. Krazy marched Jedediah over to meet Danny Davis.

“If you’re serious,” said Danny, “Come on over to Watt Street.”

Jebediah went to see Danny in the ramshackle red brick building in Jeffersonville, Indiana, his school called home. Davis was honest with him. “It’s not going to be easy. you may not make a million dollars, but you can at least make a career of this.”

Young and brash, Jedediah saw only one option. “Hell, I wanted to make a million dollars!”

In the summer of 1996, Jebediah began training at the Watt Street location. “Trailer Park Trash was around. So was Vic the Bruiser. Nick Dinsmore had about three months on me. I helped them move to the Mechanic Street building in Jeffersonville. That’s when Danny renamed the company Ohio Valley Wrestling and started the weekly TV show.”

Jebediah Blackhawk in the earliest days of OVW. Photo courtesy Jebediah Blackhawk.

Jebediah Blackhawk in the earliest days of OVW. Photo courtesy Jebediah Blackhawk.

Being on a weekly television was a big ego boost to the young, aspiring wrestlers who called OVW home. Then the WWE struck a deal, making OVW its developmental territory.

“The first few guys who came in were just big body guys,” said Jebediah. “Then the second class comes in. Mark Henry. Big Show. The biggest man on the planet. That’s when things got real. That’s when we realized it took more than just being a good worker to make it. You had to have the look.”

Soon after, the next class arrived at OVW. “Batista was made out of stone. John Cena looked like he’d been made in a lab.”

For a young man in his early twenties, Jebediah ate up the atmosphere that followed the WWF talent around. He recalls a night walking into Phoenix Hill Tavern behind the Big Show (Paul Wight), seeing the attention they drew from the crowd. “It was one of the coolest nights of my life.”

Like many OVW originals, Jedediah had a chance to go to a WWF show. In Cleveland, Ohio, he got to work with Kane and Chyna in a segment, but while some of his fellow classmates garnered interest, the verdict wasn’t good for Blackhawk. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 263 pounds, Jim Ross told Danny Davis he was “big, just not big enough.” 

Being 20 years old, Jebediah wasn’t hearing it. He believed he was good enough as he was. He admits now he wasn’t teachable.

“I complained to Rip Rogers, our head trainer. I told him I was working so many hours at my day job so I had insurance, training at OVW, and working shows. ‘When am I supposed to go to the gym?’ I asked. He asked me, ‘When do you go to sleep?’ I told him I went to bed at 10. Rip just walked away. I didn’t get it. I didn’t have that ‘sleep when I’m dead’ mentality. Rip was trying to help me, but he knew he couldn’t help someone who didn’t want to be helped.”

Jebediah was working a hillbilly gimmick, which felt natural to him but didn’t catch on with the fans. One night in the locker room, he started preaching in character. Jim Cornette heard him and decided to have Jebediah switch gimmicks.

“I became Judas,” he recalled. “Jimmy put me in a faction with Wolfie D, Damian, Batista, and [Cornette’s] wife, who was known as Synn. I was too stupid to realize he’d put me in the cat bird seat. I hated the gimmick. Couldn’t get out of my own way. I was working as a substitute teacher during the day. Some of the kids came to our shows, and I hated them seeing me in this ritualistic, cult gimmick.”

Jebediah as Judas (far left) with the Disciples of Synn. Photo courtesy Jebediah Blackhawk.

Issues outside of wrestling made life more complicated. These factors, coupled with his building frustrations with the WWF, led to a rash decision. In the middle of a TV taping, Jebediah walked out the door and quit. “I checked the website the next day. My name, my pic, it was all gone. Like I never existed.”

Jebediah decided to go independent. He never went to IWA Mid-South, which was taking off at the same time in Louisville, but he did work for PDW, another OVW rival in town. “It was not what I was used to. It’s completely different than OVW. Every once in a while, you get a good hand, but a lot of those guys are barely trained.”

It wasn’t just the skill level. it was the style that some wrestlers and companies employed. “I got booked against Bull Pain one time. They rang the bell, he picked up a baseball bat, and I realized he was really gonna swing at me. I jumped out of the ring. The ref started to count. Bull told me to get in the ring. I told him what he could do with himself. The ref got to, ‘Nine! Ten’ He looked around, and went. ‘Eleven! Twelve!’ Finally, when he got to 20, he rang the bell.”

Later, there was another match against Bull Pain. This time, the two men spent a little more time talking before the match, figuring each other match. Bull was still stiffer than Jebediah was used to, but he redeemed himself from their first contest.

Being out in the real world, Jebediah fell hard. He went from being on weekly TV and working alongside future legends to absolutely nothing. He did the occasional charity show, but having let himself go physically, it got harder and harder.

Jebediah went back to school, earning a masters degree in education at the University of Louisville. “I went for elementary ed. My first class was fifth grade. I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Looking back, I wished I’d stuck to being a sub. When you’re a sub, you can walk in, play a character, kind of like wrestling. But full-time teaching just wasn’t what I expected it to be.”

He also started a family, his children now ages 18 and 6. Jebediah took a job working at a gym. Then he ran into another former OVW wrestler, Snake Williams, Jr. The two had always been friendly, and they picked up right where they had left off years before.  

“When my kid was born, Snake was the only one of the boys who came to see us,” said Jebediah. “He brought the kid an outfit.”

“I always liked Jeb,” said Williams, Jr. “He was always a nice guy. He invited me to go play golf one day, and we started talking about wrestling. I pitched him the whole Southern Discomfort idea and he liked it. Neither one of us had wrestled in a few years. I had a back injury and he had just walked away. He liked the idea so we started working out together.”

After some deliberation, Jebediah decided if he was going to go for one last run, he was going to do it right. He changed his diet. He worked out. Seeing all the young, fit kids on the indies, he and Snake knew they had to get into shape.

“Neither one of us had wrestled in a few years,” said Williams, Jr. “I had a back injury and he had just walked away. He liked the idea so we started working out together. Got somewhat in better shape. Hey, round is a shape!”

Southern Discomfort became a hit on the indies, but Snake had his sights set on another run at OVW. It was Snake who led Jebediah back through the doors of OVW 20 years later. The OVW fans didn’t take to Southern Discomfort in the same way indie fans did, but it’s the gimmick Jeb and Snake were working when the Netflix documentary crew came to town. “I hate how I look on that show: bald. I have hair!”

Jebediah Blackhawk and Snake Williams, Jr., in their Southern Discomfort days. Photo courtesy Jebediah Blackhawk.

When the boys realized Al Snow wasn’t buying the Southern Comfort gimmick, Jebediah made the difficult decision to part ways with Snake. It was disappointing, but Jedediah and Snake still speak highly of one another.

“Jeb really helped me get better at promos,” said Williams, Jr. “He helped me get better at tag team wrestling. I was always a singles wrestler. He’s like a brother to me and I will always appreciate what he’s done for me, and with me in the wrestling business. He will always be my brother.”

As for Blackhawk, he decided to give his hillbilly persona one more shot. “I did it in a dark match, and Al Snow liked it. I went on the summer tour, and I got to work all the big guys in the company.”

One of his favorite matches took place on the summer 2023 tour when he had his first match ever against Cash Flo. “I went to set the ring up, and whomever was supposed to work Cash was a no show. They asked me to work the main event with him.”

Cash was the OVW champion at that time, and someone decided to rib the boys by adding a last minute stipulation. “I think if was Daniel Spencer who was our referee,” said Jebediah. “He comes to us in the ring and says, ‘This is going to be two out of three falls.’ Cash says, ‘The hell it is!’ Then the ring announcer says, ‘This match is for the OVW Heavyweight Championship, and it will be two out of three falls.’ We were mad, but I tell you, man, we had a ball, It was like a dance working with Cash.”

“They definitely ribbed us,” said Cash, who was none to happy about it, but he has high praise for the man he had to pin twice that hot summer day. “Jebediah is always under control. It’s very easy to mesh with guys who are always under control. To say it was a night off would be understated.”

The summer of 2023 opened another door for Jebediah. Filmmaker Ash Avildsen brought a cast and crew to Louisville to shoot a biopic about the great women’s champion Mildred Burke. Ash made connections with OVW and other wrestling organizations in the area, and OVW showed up big time when the call went out for extras.

“That was a big opportunity,” Jebediah said. “My first day on the set, they put me and this one lady in the background to block the modern water fountain from being in the shot.”

Jebediah is one of many current and former OVW wrestlers fans are likely to spot in the crowd during wrestling matches. Amazing Maria, Orion, Dream Girl Ellie, Mahabali Shera, Tony Gunn, ZDP, Maximo Suave, Jake Cloyd, Shannon the Dude, Hy Zaya, Dean Hill, and many others worked on the film. Even Jim Cornette came out of Castle Cornette to play the part of NWA President Sam Menacker.

“After working some wrestling crowd scenes, they called me up and asked if I would come back, and I said yeah,” said Blackhawk. “They told me, ‘There’s just one thing. Can you shave your beard?’ I had grown out my big, hillbilly beard by that time, but as soon as they asked me, I went to a barber shop and told them, ‘Make me look like Walt Disney!’”

Clean shaven, save for a pencil-thin mustache, Jebediah played a roulette dealer in a scene with the film’s leads.

“The lead actor in the film gave me a line,” Jebediah said. “I wasn’t supposed to say anything, but in between takes, he told me, ‘If you could say something, “Win,” or, “Seven,” or something, just to give us the signal for our next cue, that would help.’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ I ad libbed a line, they liked it, and I got a SAG card!”

The producers thanked him for his time on set that day and advised him they wouldn’t need him any more, but Jebediah’s phone rang again when they moved production to the outdoor carnival scenes.

“A lot of the boys were on set, so I was excited to be there,” Jebediah said. “That day, someone didn’t show up who was supposed to be in a wrestling scene with one of the girls. They asked me, ‘Will you bump for this girl?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah, I will!’”

Jebediah found himself in the distant background for another scene at the carnival. “They put me and Zach Pittman [aka OVW star Super Z] next to the test of strength machine, but they didn’t give us any direction what to do. We were there with this one other guy, not a wrestler, and he was just gonna stand there. I told Zach, ‘Let’s get a little something going here.’ We made up our own little story, where Zach was the barker, trying to get this other fella to try the test of strength machine. I was Zach’s partner, trying to pick his pocket. The producers liked it so much they sent some other people to work with us.”

Naturally, Jebediah is excited to see the final film but is not getting his hopes too high. He had three featured spots as an extra, and he knows the odds of all three close ups making the final cut are slim.

“I’d love to do more movies,” said Jebediah. “I’ve signed with an agency, and the casting company still has my number. I can’t wrestle forever.”

The OVW fans love any chance they get to see Jebediah Blackhawk in action. Photo by Lloyd Thomas.

Knowing his days in the ring are numbered led Jebediah to look for a new opportunity at OVW. That’s when he spoke to Doug Basham about becoming an agent, a decision that led to the moment when he picked up the headset and called his first live TV match.

“That’s the key to longevity,” he said. “Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Are you willing to pick up the headset?”

Jebediah was hooked. “Now, my job is to find out what The Man wants done and get these kids who don’t want to listen to listen.”

The Man at OVW is Al Snow. What happens on OVW TV starts with him. Al lays out the creative vision, and he assigns different pieces of that vision to each agent. The agents communicate that vision to the talent.

A recent Rush Division title match that Jebediah agented had champion Will Austin facing Buzz Backlund. “Al told me exactly what he wanted. ‘I want this, this, this, and this. Nothing more.’ It was as simple and old-school a match as you can get. There were only three or four wrestling moves in that whole segment. Most of if was just Will arguing with the ref while Buzz recovers from a sneak attack, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.”

Getting Buzz, Will, the referee, and the production crew to execute Al’s vision was Jebediah’s role. He had to rein the boys in when they wanted to add more. He had to make sure the cameras were in the right place at the right time to capture the moment. “It’s like betting on a Kentucky Derby long shot. When that horse comes in, it’s an incredible feeling.”

Communicating with young wrestlers came easy to Jebediah. “I know what they’re thinking because I was that 20-year-old you couldn’t tell anything. I’ve been there done that. So when I hear one of these guys say, ‘Man, I’m gonna quit,’ I can tell them, ‘No, man, you don’t want to quit.’

“Now for some of them, maybe they need to stop the wrestling part, but that doesn’t mean they have to leave entirely. Maybe they want to produce, or write, or be an agent, or a photographer, or whatever. You don’t have to be a wrestler to be a part of this business. Everybody’s got a part. Everybody’s got a place.”

That’s another insight the Jebediah Blackhawk of today has that his younger self did not. It takes all kinds of people with all kinds of talents and skills to make a production work. OVW under Al Snow has evolved into a true village full of people with different experiences and talents who come together and make the live show happen every week. Jebediah’s new role in that village suits him well.

“Jeb hasn’t missed a beat stepping into his new role backstage,” said Luke Kurtis, one of OVW’s top fan favorites. “He brings a treasure trove of pro wrestling secrets.”

“He’s very knowledgeable when it comes to how fans perceive what happens in a match, which comes with his long tenure as a performer,” said Cash Flo. “He’s very good at relaying that to younger talent based on the business needed by the booker.”

Jebediah has nothing but praise for the men and women he works with in his new role. “Doug has been there, all the way to the top. He knows what it takes to get there. J-Mo? He’s a fan of professional wrestling the same way I am. He knows what a good match is supposed to look like, and he knows what he wants to see in a match. Maria? She’s got it. She’s never broken to the very top, but you don’t have to achieve the main event at WrestleMania to be successful. Truth Magnum works with a lot of the ladies. He’s quiet, but he knows how to teach someone to get star power. He’s got the credibility to back that up now because of the way he and Turbo Floyd have broken out for AEW as The Outrunners.”

Like many backstage, Jebediah has especially high praise for Adam Revolver, an OVW graduate and long-time fixture at OVW both in the ring and behind the scenes. “He’s a walking encyclopedia. He can not only tell us someone did a certain move in a match the week before. He knows who did that move 20 years ago on a spot show. He’s also a human calculator. I don’t know how he does it, but he has every moment down to the second. He’s the reason every one of our TV shows runs right on time.”

The OVW staff speak highly of Jebediah as well, with both Doug Basham and “Amazing” Maria James praising his old school sensibilities.

“Jeb does a great job at bringing out the storytelling of the matches he’s producing,” added Maria. “His mild manner and laid back attitude helps put the newer younger kids at ease and makes them feel comfortable coming into their new roles as wrestlers for OVW. I enjoy working with Jeb in any capacity, but I am really enjoying watching him come into his own backstage. He’s always so fun and enjoyable to be around as well. His calmness and great attitude is definitely needed in the high stress high pace of being backstage trying to put together a TV product.”

The boss is also happy to see Jebediah stepping up as well. “Jebediah is a great resource for his experience helping direct young talent,” said Al Snow. “He has strong leadership qualities that help keep the OVW ship afloat and moving in the right direction.”

Jebediah gets frustrated at times trying to get through to the more stubborn roster members. He knows he doesn’t have the gravitas Al and Doug do, but that doesn’t stop him from speaking his mind.

“I tell the kids, ‘If Al Snow tells you to do something, you better do it. It Doug tells you to do something, you better do it. If I tell you to do something, yeah. Go get a second opinion.’ I’ve seen them go and talk to Doug after. And once Doug tells them, they’re usually on board.”

There is no question that Jebediah is not afraid to bare his soul talking about his past. He deeply regrets walking away like he did, and he doesn’t want to see anyone make that same mistake. He tells the story of a current OVW wrestler, whose name he doesn’t mention, and watching him nearly take an identical path.

“This kid made a very public mistake. He got fired. Most guys would have given up completely. But he had it. Still has it. Heck, he’s better now than he was before. He came back in and said, ‘I’m sorry. Please give me another chance.’ He made promises. Al told him to prove it. So far, so good. It took me 20 years to walk back in the door; it took him a year.”

Jebediah pauses, getting choked up. “If I could go back, I’d walk back into class the day after I walked out. And I’d talk to Danny after. I’m grateful to Snake Williams for making me come back. He had the strength to bring me back to OVW. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

Of course not everyone is stubborn, hard-headed, and hard to reach as Jebediah was in his youth. He sees a lot of wrestlers at all places on the card who perk their ears up any time one of the agents speak up.

“Buzz Backlund only has a handful of matches, but Al Snow’s already trusted him to main event his TV show. He’s still pretty green, but he looks like he’s been doing it for ten years. His first match was so much better than my first match. He had character. He had charisma. He’s just going great.

“I like Will Austin. I like working with Will Austin. I see a lot of myself in him, and I feel like a dad all the time, telling him, ‘Don’t be that guy.’ I shouldn’t do that, but I can’t keep my mouth shut. Sometimes he doesn’t listen, and when that happens I ask him, ‘What did you learn?’ He says, ‘F—king listen.’ But he’s started to figure things out.”

Jebediah loves lifting up young talent like the high flying Will Austin. Photo by Tresia Leighann Allen.

Even though he doesn’t often work with her directly, Jebediah has especially high praise for Hollyhood Haley J. “Haley is so damn creative, and she’s found her gimmick at such a young age. What you saw on Netflix, her pitching ideas to Al? That’s her. And most of the time, Al’s response is simply, ‘Sounds good.’ Al will tell her if she’s wrong, but I don’t know of many times when she’s been wrong.”

The current direction of OVW has Jebediah pumped, and he gives the young stars a great deal of credit for their commitment to the promotion. “The best thing about these kids is the community they have with one another. On the indies, you might see people once a week, once a month. These kids left home to move to Louisville and chase their dreams. They live together. They work together, workout together, and play together. They like being around one another.

“It’s a lot like how it was during developmental. Paul Wight, Mark Henry, all those guys, they loved being here. They enjoyed the camaraderie. We all did.”

Jebediah marvels at the company’s longevity. Thirty years on, the company’s not only still going, it has a new and vibrant energy. Sure, the added attention and the added investment is nice, but he believes the people are the main reason for their success.

“This place should still be developmental for somebody. It was a mistake for WWE to leave here.”

Whether OVW stays its own entity or partners with another major promotion on a developmental deal remains to be seen. Come what may, Jebediah Blackhawk is in it for the long haul. He’s got a story to tell, and any young man or woman willing to listen can not only come away wiser, but avoid the regret that haunts Jebediah to this day.

Perhaps helping a few such dreamers to avoid those pitfalls will make the struggle and the disappointment Jebediah faced all worthwhile.

Cash Flo certainly agrees: “Jeb is invaluable piece of the machine at OVW and the sport as a whole. It needs more like him!”