MADISON — All Star Wrestling and promoter Gary Damron recently celebrated 15 years of bringing professional wresting to Southern West Virginia.
“Meeting the people I watched growing up has been a big thing,” Damron said. “And I love meeting the people that come to the shows, that’s a big thing too. You make friendships.”
When it started in 2006, ASW held shows in Mingo and Logan counties, before finding its home in Boone.
“The very first one was in Williamson at the field house,” Damron said. “Then the second one was at Logan at the field house. And then the next one we did was Gilbert, and after a while we went to Madison. We just hopped, skipped and jumped everywhere there at first.”
The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 left the company to get creative with pay-per-views, drive-in shows in Winfield and Logan, and returning to its roots with socially distanced events in Gilbert and Harts.
“I had a lot of fun at those,” Damron said. “The drive in shows were a lot of fun because it was different. It kept us together.”
The anniversary show May 8 also marked the company’s return to its home at the Madison Civic Center for the first time in nearly 15 months.
“It made it sweeter returning to our home, the Madison Civic Center,” said Dustin Dent, an ASW staff member. “Everything went smoothly, and we’re lucky at ASW to have a great team that helps with different things that go into running a show. From our staff to trainees, it’s a total team effort with Gary leading the way.”
Matt Wolfe, known professionally as Shane Storm, said the return to Madison was a major highlight after the past year.
“The highlight of the anniversary show for me was being back in front of a live crowd in Madison, which I consider the home of ASW,” Wolfe said. “It’s been over a year since we were there and I was itching to get back. Also, my mom was there, and she doesn’t get to see me wrestle a lot so it was extra special for me.”
Dent has been with the company since the beginning, and said he has seen first-hand the work that has gone into keeping the doors open for 15 years.
“I’ve been with ASW since the very first show,” Dent said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Working with Gary is great. He has a strong passion and love for the business. I’ve seen him fight through adversity and he puts his blood, sweat and tears into ASW. Celebrating 15 years is a great accomplishment.”
The anniversary show May 8, which drew a crowd of about 400 fans, was headlined by WWE hall of famers Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Jimmy Hart. Hart said he always enjoys returning to West Virginia for ASW, especially because it reminds him of Randy “Macho Man” Savage making his start in the area.
“I’ve been here five different times through the years,” Hart said. “What makes this so special is this area is where Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage and his family started the Poffos years ago. To me, these smaller territories are still the backbone of professional wrestling.”
Hart also mentioned the extensive list of other famous wrestlers who have been to ASW through the years, and those still to come.
“Gary has kept a lot of people working through the years when they weren’t with a major company,” Hart said. “The Midnight Express have been here, the Rock & Roll Express have been here, they are major names in the wrestling business. Handsome Jimmy Valiant has been here, he’s in the hall of fame. Jerry Lawler is coming in a couple of weeks, one of the biggest names ever in the wrestling business.”
Hart said smaller promotions are what give a platform for people to get into the business, and that ASW reminds him of his younger days in Memphis, Tennessee.
“You see some of the young, upcoming kids in the ring working their hearts out trying to maybe one day be seen by one of the major companies around the world, and get that big call where they can go and do what they love doing,” Hart said. “If it wasn’t for Gary, these kids out here wouldn’t have a place to perform. It reminds me of when I started in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Before the WWE or WCW, a lot of the major companies, there were always the small companies like Gary’s All Star Wrestling. In Memphis it was called Memphis Championship Wrestling, that’s where I came from. We wrestled in buildings like this. That’s what’s so special about this, it kind of brings back old memories.”
The May 8 show saw three new inductions to the Hall of Fame and seven matches, including an annual memorial contest in remembrance of one of ASW’s first wrestlers.
“One of the matches we now do every year is the Woody Numbers Memorial Battle Royal,” Dent said. “Unfortunately, we lost Woody a few years ago, way too soon, and we do this to honor him. He was a great friend and talent to ASW, and one of my best friends who got me in this crazy business 16 or so years ago.”
Dent said the show was a perfect springboard for a return back to some normalcy.
“The anniversary show may have been my favorite to date,” Dent said. “Every match was top-notch, and everyone busted their butts to put on a great show.”
Wolfe said, above all else, ASW has remained strong for 15 years because it is one large family.
“ASW is home for me,” Wolfe said. “We really are like a family. A majority of the biggest moments of my wrestling career have happened in an ASW ring. Gary has given me many opportunities to wrestle the heroes I had growing up, and I will forever be grateful for that.”
ASW will return to Madison again June 5. For more details visit https://www.facebook.com/allstarwrestlingwv.