On Saturday, June 4th, 2022 CEW Presented Bridge City Slam IV. Outside of putting on incredible matches and entertaining shows, pro wrestling is about creating moments – iconic moments that will live on forever. Much like WWE has WrestleMania, Central Empire Wrestling has Bridge City Slam.
It’s their very own “Showcase of the Immortals.” It’s CEW’s biggest show of the year, and last Saturday, the fourth edition of the event, delivered a plethora of moments that will live forever in CEW lore.
In front of a crowd of over 700 wrestling fans, the stars of CEW and a handful of former WWE Superstars delivered a memorable night of wrestling action.
Storm Says Goodbye
In the night’s most bittersweet moment, Storm Thomas stepped into a CEW ring for the final time. Twelve years ago, while he was living in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Storm Thomas was approached by CEW promoter Austin Bayliss.
The two began a friendship, and Bayliss persistently pitched the idea of Thomas becoming a professional wrestler. Bayliss eventually helped train Thomas, and the rest was history.
Over the years, Storm Thomas excelled in the business, proudly carrying the banner of CEW. His travels took him all over the country. He won the Cauliflower Alley Club Men’s Wrestling Award in 2018.
He’s wrestled matches for companies like IMPACT and All Elite Wrestling and was even invited to attend a WWE tryout. No matter the success he gained, Storm Thomas always considered Central Empire Wrestling his home.
Earlier this year, Thomas announced he was ready to retire. It was time for him to move on from wrestling to focus on his family. The farewell tour spanned multiple promotions, but it was only fitting that the final stop would be at Central Empire Wrestling.
With his endgame set for Bridge City Slam IV, it was up to Storm Thomas to pick an opponent, someone to bring his story full circle.
That someone was his friend, Austin Bayliss.
The CEW promoter hadn’t wrestled a singles match in four years, and this decision took him by surprise. But when Storm Thomas made the challenge at CEW’s Legendary Series show in March, Bayliss begrudgingly accepted.
He wasn’t sure if he could – or should – be the one to help Storm Thomas ride off into the sunset. Adding even more nostalgia and intrigue to the match was the addition of CEW Hall of Famer Evan Jordan as a special guest referee.
Jordan, who was once the tag partner of Bayliss, was instrumental in Bayliss’s pursuit of Thomas to begin training.
CEW Presented Bridge City Slam IV – A Night For the Ages
Saturday’s farewell match began with a basic lock up, but Storm Thomas wasn’t pleased with the effort given by Bayliss. The former CEW Champion verbally tore into his friend, claiming that he began this and now it was time for him to end it.
Bayliss responded with a plea that he didn’t want this, which Storm reciprocated with a slap to the face. This brought the fight out of Austin Bayliss. From here, the two engaged in an epic back-and-forth, old-school wrestling match.
The drama was high, as they not only wanted to tell a memorable story, but they wanted to steal the show. Hip tosses were traded, suplexes were given, and they even brawled around the ringside area.
Seeing Storm Thomas hit his picture-perfect spinebuster one last time was a highlight for this wrestling fan. In the end, Storm Thomas’s attempt for a top-rope attack led to his downfall.
After Thomas climbed to the top turnbuckle, Bayliss hit the ropes, causing his friend to land awkwardly on the top turnbuckle. Bayliss soon joined him at the top and hit a devastating power slam from the top turnbuckle for the pinfall.
Trying his best to fight back the tears, Storm Thomas removed his boots one last time, a gesture symbolizing this truly was the end. Bayliss grabbed the mic and praised Storm for all he had done for CEW, and thanked him for the friendship they have built.
Tears now flowing, both men embraced before Storm Thomas was given the mic. Chants of “Storm, Storm, Storm” rang throughout the Bridge View Center as he addressed the fans. He thanked them and Austin Bayliss before explaining why he was ready to retire.
After accomplishing everything he could in the world of professional wrestling, it was now time for him to step aside for the next generation. He wants to give the young wrestlers their chance to shine, and now his focus was on being a better husband and father.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the arena as Thomas, Bayliss and Jordan made their way back to the locker room. Behind the scenes, the three were greeted by CEW Hall of Famer Donnie Peppercricket and all four men, who helped build CEW into a promotion now hosting nearly 800 people on this night, shared hugs in yet another memorable moment.
JT Energy Defends the Honor of CEW
For years, the fans of CEW have despised JT Energy. The current CEW Champion has long reveled in the fact that the fans do not like him. But, in pro wrestling, anytime a heel is as good as JT Energy has been for as long as he has, the fans eventually love to hate him.
That, more often than not, leads to the fans eventually cheering for them. This past Saturday, the CEW fans began to embrace JT Energy. Their change of heart wasn’t without reason.
Energy’s opponent Saturday night, Trevor Murdoch, did himself no favors in gaining the fans’ support. The former NWA Heavyweight Champion quickly got on the mic and berated not only Iowa but CEW as a promotion.
This sat well with no one inside the Bridge View Center, including JT Energy. The “Unsolved Mistery” gave Murdoch a pair of dropkicks, sending the former WWE Tag Team Champion scurrying ringside.
This received a boisterous applause from the crowd, further intensified by Energy’s shirt rip similar to that of 1980’s Hulk Hogan during his prime run as the WWE’s top baby face. Not deterred, Murdoch returned to the ring with the same intensity that led him to the NWA Title.
Murdoch’s attempts at wearing down the CEW Champion were continuously met with a resilient response from Mr. Bridge City Slam. With frustration setting in and the referee was inadvertently taken out, Murdoch brought a steel chair into the ring.
A vicious chair shot to the back scored the closest near fall of the night. With malicious intent, Murdoch placed a chair between the top two turnbuckles. However, his plan was foiled by Rory Fox, who pulled Energy out of the way at the last second.
Fox, who was ringside to make sure Energy didn’t cheat, didn’t take kindly to Murdoch’s comments about Iowa and CEW. The unlikely assist allowed Energy to hit his devastating scissor kick for the win.
After the match, hell must have frozen over as Rory Fox and JT Energy, long time heated rivals, shook hands in the middle of the ring. With cheers from the CEW fans raining down on him, Energy, still not quite sure how to feel about this, addressed them on the mic.
“Love me or hate me, I will give everything I have each time I step into this ring. I’m not a bad guy; I’m not a good guy; I am THE GUY in Central Empire Wrestling.”
Face to Face
Over a decade ago, Rory Fox suffered the most embarrassing moment of his wrestling career. On WWE television, his tights were completely ripped off, revealing the backside of “Wrestling’s Original Reality TV Star.” The culprit behind the wardrobe malfunction is Matt Cardona.
Since then, Cardona has taken any opportunity to rub the incident in Fox’s face. Their rivalry was set to come to a head at Bridge City Slam IV. Originally scheduled for their long-awaited one-on-one contest, destiny had other plans.
In April, Fox suffered a freak accident at a show in Kansas City, tearing his quad. The injury would keep him from competing at CEW’s biggest show. Cardona was then slated to face the winner of JT Energy and Trevor Murdoch, but he too suffered an injury, tearing his bicep just days before Bridge City Slam.
Not being able to compete wouldn’t keep these two rivals away from each other. Before the main event, Rory Fox came out to update the fans on his recovery before calling out Matt Cardona.
The NWA Champion quickly obliged, making his way down the long ramp to the ring. The two exchanged heated words and insults before agreeing to face off at Bridge City Slam V. The segment ended with a handshake offer from Fox, which was met with a middle finger from Cardona. Bridge City Slam V can’t come soon enough.
Many More Moments
• Donnie Peppercricket, Jared Thumb and Bushwacker Luke doing the iconic Bushwacker march with close to 50 kids receiving a “This is Awesome” chant.
• Carlito spitting apple in the face of Curt Gannon only to receive a vicious suplex from the “Suplex Cyclone. Now that was cool.
• Swoggle teasing the Candyman Willy Sweet, much to the delight of the CEW fans.
• Ottumwa, Iowa’s own JP Harlow, picking up a victory in his CEW debut against Joey “Jet” Avalon.
• Sierra gets to wrestle a match with her hero Victoria serving as special guest referee, followed by Valentina Loca receiving a Widow’s Peak from the former WWE Women’s Champion after Loca defeated Sierra.
Bridge City Slam IV took the prestige of this annual event to another level. Setting the bar high for the events to follow. It was a show full of iconic moments that will live on forever for CEW wrestlers, employees, and fans. An accomplishment not easily obtained.