By Rich Dalton
The NBWA started off the year not just with a bang, but a BIG BANG! During the first week of 2008, it was announced that the NBWA had reached a deal with UPTV( Comcast Cable Access Channel 6 in Champaign/Urbana) to broadcast the brand new television series “NBWA Championship Wrestling” which would feature 1 hour of NBWA matches and interviews that had been taped at the live NBWA events. So on January 13th, 2008, the NBWA wrestlers and fans all gathered in Danville, Illinois for the first ever “NBWA Championship Wrestling” Live T.V. tapings. The NBWA champions to begin the year were Cecil Cerveza as the NBWA No-Limits Champion, “The Worlds Greatest Masked Team” held the Tag Team Titles, “Bloody” Harker Dirge was the Mid-West Champion, and “The Don” Kato Morales held the NBWA Heavyweight Title. During the show “The Don” made the announcement that at the very next show “Pick Your Poison” The NBWA would have a 6 man cage match for the NBWA Heavyweight Title, the participants would include Jon Divosi, Eric Ruffington, Angelo Santelli, Da Cobra, Jason Vendetta, and “The Don” Kato Morales.
When the dust settled on February 9th, the NBWA had not just one new champion, but ALL 4 NBWA titles had changed hands that day! The first championship to change hands was the Tag Team Titles that were held by “The Worlds Greatest Masked Team”, they were defeated by the team “The Killer Bee’s” (Josh Powers & Morton Von Prose), who were making their NBWA debut. “Hero of the Day” Danny McKay, who was also a member of “The Killer Bee’s” also, won gold that afternoon defeating Cecil Cerveza to claim the NBWA No-Limits Championship. For the first time ever, the NBWA held a “Casket Match” between “Bloody” Harker Dirge and his long time nemesis Midnight Sun. Midnight Sun was able to capture the Mid-West title thanks in part to the help of a ball of fire! To end the show, the crowd witnessed the crowning of a new NBWA Heavyweight Champion, Eric Ruffington in the 6 man cage match. Ruffington won the title with the help of “The Don”, who claimed to be injured earlier in the match and was escorted to the locker room, only to re-appear during the final moments costing Aaron Mathews the win. Following the match “The Don” turned his back on the NBWA fan’s and one by one demolished his former allies, Jon Divosi, Angelo Santelli, Nicky “The Weasel” Mankotti, and Aaron Mathews.
"Bloody" Harker Dirge NBWA Wrestler of the Year
On Sunday, February 24th, “The Nose Bleed Seats” held their first annual awards presentation, recognizing the achievements of wrestlers through central Illinois. A whopping five awards went out to the lady, and gentlemen of the NBWA. Carley Rae won “Referee of the Year”, Issan Hadeev won the award for “Most Hated”, the newly crowned NBWA Heavyweight Champion, Eric Ruffington won the “Golden Mic Award”, “Dangerous” Drew Thomas won the “Diamond in the Rough Award”, and “Bloody” Harker Dirge took home the “Respect Award”
NBWA Superstar- Simply Divosi
In March the NBWA debuted a brand new TV show on UPTV, “Off the Ropes” OTR was a one hour long show hosted by Jon Divosi, as he sat down to talk with many local wrestlers, referees, commentators, and promoters. “Off the Ropes” only taped 15 or so episodes, and then went into re-runs for most of the remainder of the year. Many of the “Off the Ropes” episodes are still available to watch on-line on Google Video, just search for “Off the Ropes”
On March 16th, the NBWA celebrated their 3rd anniversary with the “Eric Ruffington Invitational Battle Royal”, which featured 52 wrestlers from all over the mid-west, all trying to score a win, and an opportunity to face the new NBWA heavy weight champion. On a bit of a sad note, the battle royal was the final match for Former Tag team Champion, and No-Limits champion “Pain Train”, and the final appearance of former Heavyweight Champion, former Mid-West Champion, and Former tag Team Champion, Jeckel. NBWA newcomer Bobby Houston was the winner of the battle royal, who later went on to lose the promised title match against Ruffington. Other highlights from this show include Cheapshot McGrot defeating Midnight Sun to capture the NBWA Mid-West Title. This would be the last time Midnight Sun appeared in the NBWA, where the masked man disappeared to is still unknown to this day. “The Future” Donavan Ruddick made his NBWA debut in the battle royal. In the main event of the evening, “The Don” Kato Morales reformed the team of “Dangerous by Design” marking the return of Issan Hadeev who had been MIA for 4 months. “Dangerous by Design” would face off against “The New Breed” in an 8 man tag team match. During the match, there was an altercation between teammates “The Don” and DaCobra. “The Don” slapped DaCobra, and DaCobra left the ring, and returned to the locker room leaving his team at a disadvantage 4 against 3. Now it looked as though “The New Breed” was going to get some revenge on “The Don”, but in another stunning moment in NBWA history, Aaron Mathews super kicked his partner Angelo Santelli, and turned his back on the NBWA fans, and once again was on the side of “The Don”.
Aaron Mathews is one of the young guns to look out for in 2009
On April 4th, Aaron Mathews had the chance to explain his action from the previous show. Aaron had said that it was the fans that turned their backs on Matthews in February, who had cheered for Harker Dirge to be appointed to the 6 man cage match following “The Don’s” injury, instead of their hero Aaron Matthews. Also on April 4th the NBWA held a series of qualifying matches for the 3rd annual Alberta J. Murray Memorial Tournament. Qualifiers included Jaxson Pride, Jason Vendetta, Issan Hadeev, Aaron Matthews, and DaCobra. Other highlights from the show include the presentation of the brand new NBWA Mid-West Television Title, which was won by Aaron Matthews in a Fatal 4 Way Match against, Cheapshot McGrot Cyclone and, Nick Cuttler. Former NBWA Tag Team Champions “Team Dammit” was victorious in their long awaited return to the NBWA ring to answer the open challenge from “The Killer Bee’s” in a non title match. DaCobra made it official, he was no longer affiliated with “The Don”, he was now one of the “good guys” joined by friend and partner “Da Best Kept Secret” D’Andre King. Finally, in what would be his final act as commissioner of the NBWA, Tittie Nashville announced that Jon Divosi and Angelo Santelli were going to be participants in the Alberta J. Murray Memorial Tournament. It is still unknown as to what ever happened to commissioner Nashville, he just disappeared, never to be heard from again……
On May 11th, NBWA celebrated Mother’s Day, with a special tribute to all mom’s, “Mother’s Day Mayhem” This show marked the NBWA debut of “The New Age Rat Pack” Andy Roberts and Connor Riley, who would later go on the be called the “R&R Escorts”. Also in a feature match, NBWA fan Melissa Castle defended the pride of all Mom’s in the audience with a victory in a tag team match with NBWA referee’s Shad and Chad Tally against Jason Vendetta and “Your Role Model” Jeff Harris. In the main event NBWA fans saw “Bloody” Harker Dirge win his match against NBWA Mid-West Television Champion Aaron Matthews by disqualification, but this marked the beginning of what would go on to be the NBWA “Fued of the Year” between BHD and NBWA Heavyweight Champion Eric Ruffington following Ruffington’s involvement in the match.
The month of May also saw the debut of the NBWA sponsored recreational league softball ball team. The team featured such NBWA stars as Jon Divosi, Angelo Santelli, Aaron Matthews, Jeff Harris, Jon Castle, Vic Santelli, and “The Don”. Team New Breed didn’t fare too well only winning 3 games and losing 13.
On May 24th, the NBWA returned to Lincoln’s Challenge Academy in Rantoul, IL for the first time since November of 2007 when “Dangerous” Drew Thomas suffered his broken neck at the hands of Jason Vendetta. To open the show, ‘The Don” Eric Ruffington, Issan Hadeev, and others attempted to burn the American flag, as the LCA cadets littered the ring with soda bottles and other misc. trash. Their plans were foiled as an angry “Bloody” Harker Dirge stormed the ring and rescued the flag. The fans in Rantoul also saw a “last chance battle royal” for the 8th and final spot in the Alberta J. Murray Memorial Tournament. The last two participants were “Mr. Excitement”, Brandon Keith and Cyclone; in the end it was Mr. Excitement who claimed the final spot in the tournament. Also in Rantoul, D’Andre King got his first taste of NBWA gold by defeating “Hero of the Day” Danny McKay to capture the NBWA No-Limit’s Title. Adam Evans made his return to the NBWA after almost 2 years in a 6 man tag team match with Angelo Santelli, and Jon Divosi as they faced off against Aaron Matthews, Issan Hadeev, and Jason Vendetta. Also making his return to the NBWA was “The Strangler” Diego Corleone after nearly a one year absence, he faced off against “Bloody” Harker Dirge in the 3rd phase of a gauntlet match. Harker was victorious in the match winning the opportunity to face NBWA Heavyweight Champion Eric Ruffington. BHD won his match against Ruffington, but unfortunately it was a win by DQ, and as we all know a title cannot change hands by a DQ.
June 8th held the 3 annual Alberta J. Murray Memorial Tournament, but just 1 week before the show a video had made its way to the internet that was an eye witness account of vehicular assault on Jon Divosi, Nicky Mankotti, and Angelo Santelli. Mankotti, and Divosi escaped the assault with minor cuts and bruises, but Angelo Santelli wasn’t so lucky. Angelo suffered severe bruising, and a neck injury causing him to bow out of the tournament. As the tournament played out, DaCobra, Issan Hadeev, Jon Divosi, and Aaron Matthews all won opening round matches, and in the second round DaCobra def Issan Hadeev, and Divosi def Matthews to set up a final match between DaCobra and Divosi. In the finals DaCobra was victorious, winning the 2008 AJM Tournament Trophy!, but just wait…Jason Vendetta was at ringside to cash in his 2007 AJM trophy which gave him the right to fight anyone at any time, and Vendetta wanted the 2008 Trophy! Vendetta went on to defeat Da Cobra in controversial fashion with the help of “The Irish Playboy” Justin Clark, winning the 2008 Alberta J. Murray Memorial trophy. In other news from the show Eric Ruffington defeats “Bloody” Harker Dirge, by DQ when the referee noticed that a chain had made its way into the ring and assumed that Harker had used it. By winning the match, Ruffington announced that Harker would never get another re-match for as long as he held the Heavyweight title.
On June 22nd the NBWA celebrated the second Jason Vendetta Appreciation night, following his 2008 AJM Tournament win. To celebrate his win Vendetta kicked off “The Common Man Challenge” where Jason Vendetta would choose a common person from the crowd, to wrestle against, and to start things off he choose to wrestle the little brother of Cecil Cerveza, Joey Cerveza. Vendetta of course was the winner.
Angry with the way he had been screwed out of the NBWA Heavyweight Title, Harker Dirge was going to destroy anyone that got in his path! Harker Dirge threw the rule book out the window in his match with Gavin Alexander, using his chain as a weapon and getting disqualified, and not thinking twice about it! In an unexpected upset, Cyclone defeated NBWA Champion Eric Ruffington in a non title match. Cyclone’s tag team partner was in action as well, but with a new masked partner Noon Moon, Cheapshot McGrot and Noon Moon won the NBWA Tag team Titles from “The Killer Bee’s”. In the main event of the evening, Mid-West Television Champion Aaron Matthews defeated Jon Divosi in a best 2 out of 3 falls matches to retain the title.
In July, the NBWA held a free fan appreciation show in the town of Potomac which featured Harker Dirge winning his match in the main event against Danny McKay, Angelo Santelli defeating Gavin Alexander, Jason Vendetta winning against Cecil Cerveza, plus many more matches.
On July 13th the NBWA fans in Danville were in for a big surprise…. 1/2 of the Tag Team Champions, Noon Moon won a battle royal for the chance to face NBWA Champion Eric Ruffington, and during his match with Ruffington, Noon Moon unmasked himself to reveal that Noon Moon was “Bloody” Harker Dirge!! Harker went on to win the match with his finishing maneuver “The Dirt Nap” becoming the NEW NBWA Heavyweight Champion, and to celebrate the occasion NBWA announcer, Eric Loy presented BHD with a brand new custom made Championship belt! In other big news from the show, Cyclone and Cheapshot officially end their partnership after Cyclone was upset that Cheapshot choose a new partner at the NBWA show on June 22nd.
To begin the month of August, the NBWA announced that it was officially going to be “Fan Appreciation Month” Featuring 3 shows in the month of August, all with special matches that the fans requested to see! The first show of the month was on August 10th, which was highlighted by the much anticipated return to the ring of “Dangerous” Drew Thomas following a 9 month hiatus following a severe neck injury. DDT fought “The Arabian Assassin” Issan Hadeev, and won the match by DQ as “The Don” and Aaron Matthews interfered in the match and tried to break Drew’s neck! Also during the show, it was announced that due to the disappearance of Tittie Nashville, the NBWA would now be ran by a Board of Directors that was going to be head by ring announcer Miss Amanda. In her first order as board member, Amanda announced that there would be a best 2 out of 3 match series between Cyclone and Cheapshot for ownership of the NBWA Tag team Titles. Cheapshot won the first meeting.
On August 23rd the NBWA made their second ever trip to Indianola for a FREE fan appreciation show at “The Good Ole Days Festival” where the entire show was made up of matches that fans had chosen that featured matches between Jason Vendetta and Jon Divosi, Aaron Mathews vs Nick “The Weasel” Mankotti, and a fresh faces match between Temple Rain and Chuck Ray
August 30th marked the long awaited return of the NBWA to Watseka, Illinois! This show kicked off with the NBWA debut of Ryan Phoenix as he lost his match against Cecil Cerveza. “The Irish Playboy” gained his first NBWA title, when he won a triple threat match against D’Andre King and Nicky Mankotti for the NBWA No-Limits Title. Aaron Matthews defeated Jon Divosi in a 4 corners strap match to retain the NBWA Mid-West TV title, and following the match Matthews literally SMASHED the belt over Divosi’s head breaking the belt into pieces! We were treated to a huge announcement from NBWA official Shad Tally when he announced that he would be leaving the NBWA to go to Tampa, Florida to work with Florida Championship Wrestling, a training ground for WWE wrestlers! In the main event of the afternoon, “Bloody” Harker Dirge successfully defended his NBWA Heavyweight Title against Issan Hadeev inside the confines of a steel cage.
Sunday September 7th, the NBWA returned home to Danville, IL only to witness one of the NBWA originals calling it quits. Jon Divosi, decided to put an end to his long and storied NBWA career following yet another loss. Divosi claimed he “wanted to save face” and just walk away…. Other highlights included the formation of the new tag team “Encore” which feature former No-Limits Champion D’Andre King, and Vic “The Pitbull” Santelli. Jason Vendetta continuing “The Common Man Challenge” against Jon Castle. and the Main event featured a Street Fight between “Dangerous Drew Thomas & Harker Dirge vs “The Don” Kato Morales & Issan Hadeev. During the match Kato and Issan had double teamed DDT, and sandwiched his surgically repaired neck inside a steel chair and repeatedly stopped it closed. An enraged Harker Dirge then unleashed a vicious attack on Issan and Kato, using his 50 pound steel chain to bust open the forehead of The Don, and then sandwiched his knee in a steel chair and tried to break Kato’s leg the same way he tried to break Drew’s neck. Some how Issan Hadeev escaped relative unharmed, but Harker warned him….YOU’RE NEXT!
October 11th marked another stop in Watseka, IL for NBWA action. The first order of business was the announcement that Jon Castle was now on the NBWA’s Board of Directors. Jon’s first act was to announce that since “The Irish Playboy” was MIA this afternoon that his cohort Jeff Harris would be defending the No-Limits Title in his place and he would defend it against….”Simply Divosi”. No longer Jon Divosi, had undergone a complete physical, mental, and emotional, makeover, and now was the superstar known as “Simply Divosi”. In other title action Cyclone had finally ended the best of 3 series for the Tag team Titles against Cheapshot McGrot with a win, becoming the NBWA Tag team champion, and in doing so, he gained the right to choose a new person to defend the titles with, and in the end, he chose his former partner Cheapshot reforming The World’s Greatest Masked Team. In a 3rd title change, Nicky “The Weasel” Mankotti defeated Aaron Matthews to become the new Mid-West television Champion claimed Jason Vendetta lost to a “little person” in the “Common Man Challenge”, finally granting DaCobra a rematch for the 2008 Alberta J. Murray Memorial Trophy. The NBWA also made history this afternoon crowning the first ever Heritage Wrestling Coalition Champion ( a championship title that would be recognized by multiple promotions state wide)in a 6 pack challenge match that featured Cecil Cerveza, Issan Hadeev, Danny McKay, Brandon Espinosa, Jaxson Pride and DaCobra. In the end, Issan Hadeev won the gold, becoming the inaugural HWC Champion!
On October 18th, the NBWA held a private show for 200+ fans in the town of Sullivan. This even featured a match that would go on too be nominated for match of the Year between “Simply Divosi” and Dacobra.
On October 26th the NBWA held a special Halloween even that saw the return of “The Future” Donovan Ruddick, who absolutely destroyed Jason Vendetta, who came to the ring dressed as Hannah Montana, by order of DaCobra. But Vendetta wasn’t the only one to dress up for Halloween, Gavin Alexander, The Irish Playboy, Josh Powers, and Morton Von Prose dressed up as, and mocked members of “The New Breed”, but they were confronted by two of the real members of “The New Breed” Simply Divosi, and Pitbull, who were accompanied by D’Andre King, who went on to be victorious in a match against Gavin, Powers, and Von Prose. Wild Bill was also in the Halloween spirit when he came to the ring dressed as former NBWA Mid-West Champion “Captian Krunk” for a Triple Threat Match for the NBWA Mid -West T.V. Title. Wild Bill won the match against Aaron Matthews and Nicky Mankotti becoming the new Champion.
On Sunday November 2nd the NBWA opened their doors to the public for their annual awards ceremony, hosted by Jason Vendetta and Cyclone. Eric Loy was named “Personality of the Year”, Danny McKay brought home the “Horizon Award”, “Feud of the Year” went to Harker Dirge and Eric Ruffington, Ruffington also won the “Villain of the Year” Award, and Harker won the award for “Hero of the Year”. Angelo Santelli was awarded with an “Outstanding Achievement Award” and Issan Hadeev won the award for “Best Mic Skills”. “Most Memorable Moment” went to “The Don” for when he turned his back on “The New Breed” in the 6 man cage match in February, which won the award for “Match of the Year” “Bloody” Harker Dirge won the final award of the night bringing home the “Wrestler of the Year” Award.
On November 4th fans of the NBWA started to see some pretty interesting pictures appear on the NBWA’s Myspace page. The pictures depicted “teaser’ images of former WWE Superstars, saying that they would be appearing on December 6th.
Could it be true? Were Jake “The Snake” Roberts and the Honky Tonk Man coming to the NBWA? At the NBWA event on November 16th, “NBWA Gives Thanks” all the rumors were cleared up, and then some! It was confirmed by NBWA that indeed Jake Roberts and Honky Tonk Man were going to be appearing on December 6th as well as Danny Bashem, Pat Tanaka, and Rosey! It was also announced that Jason Vendetta would be putting his 2008 Alberta J. Murray trophy on the line against Da Cobra in a Ladder Match. We would also be seeing a Title vs. Title match between Harker Dirge and Issan Hadeev. Hadeev wrestled in the main event that day against Bear St. Pierre, and successfully defended his HWC title.
December 6th was now upon us, and it was not only the biggest event in NBWA history, but the biggest independent wrestling event ever in central Illinois, drawing nearly 800 wrestling fans from all over the state of Illinois. The crowd saw 7 former WWE alumni in action that day in all beginning with match between Cecil Cerveza and Tracy Smothers defeated by “The Damaja” Danny Bashem and Jeff Harris. The next match featured the return of “Dangerous” Drew Thomas to the arena where just 13 months earlier he suffered his broken neck. Drew and Joey Grunge lost in their match against former WWE stars Moon Dog Cujo, and Danny McKay. DaCobra finally reclaimed what was his in the first place, the 2008 Alberta J. Murray Memorial Trophy, in the Ladder Match with Jason Vendetta. “Simply Divosi” successfully defended his No-Limits title against former WWE star, one half of the team “The Orient Express” Pat Tanaka. The Honky Tonk Man defeated Eric Ruffington not only in a wrestling match but also a singing competition. “Bloody” Harker Dirge defeated Issan Hadeev in the Title vs. Title match in somewhat controversial fashion to claim the Heritage Wrestling Coalition title when Honky Tonk Man came to the ring and called a submission when referee Carley Rae was knocked out. Following the match “The Superhero in Training” Rosey made an appearance, power bombing Issan Hadeev through a table. Finally in the main event Jake “The Snake” Roberts defeated Blake Steel with his trademark maneuver The DDT.
DaCobra-2008 Alberta J. Murray Memorial Trophy winner.
So there it is, in a nutshell, all the major happenings of the NBWA for the entire year of 2008. We saw 20 NBWA events, 4 of them being free fan appreciation shows, in 6 cities throughout central Illinois. We saw the creation of a BRAND New Championship, the Heritage Wrestling Coalition. The NBWA also purchased a brand new $1,600 custom made Heavyweight championship belt. The NBWA also purchased a new belt to be held by the newly re-named NBWA Mid-West Television Championship. We saw a whopping 16 NBWA Championships change hands (4 new No-Limits Champions, 3 new Tag Team Champions, 2 HWC Champions, 4 new Mid-West T.V. Champions, 2 new Alberta J. Murray Memorial Champions, and 2 new Heavyweight Champions). But the final number is one that is most important…3,500 + that’s the number of fans the NBWA has entertained through the year. Thank You to all 3,500+ fans that came out in support of the NBWA in 2008. It was a fantastic year book ended by 2 of the biggest events in NBWA history.
What will be in store for the NBWA in 2009, what new faces will we meet in 2009, and who will we say goodbye to in 2009? There is only one way to find out, start the New Year off with all your favorite NBWA stars, and follow them as they all try to capture NBWA gold.
Go to NBWA for more info on a show near you.