The Jarkaster Journey: Overdrive

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Photo / TMK Photography

Hello, everyone! I am back with another update on my life as a pro wrestling referee! This entry will be on my time reffing at Empire State Wrestling’s October show “Overdrive”.

Before I dive into the event, I considered this show to be my anniversary of sorts. I made my referee debut on September 8, 2007, so this would be my latest show since my 11-year referee “birthday”. It feels weird saying it was over 10 years ago since I reffed my first match in a roller skating rink in Northeast Ohio, as it still feels like it was not that long ago. But in many ways, those memories are starting to get fuzzier as they fade away.

Anyways, back to “Overdrive”. This event is ESW’s last show at the St. Johnsburg Fire Hall in North Tonawanda, N.Y. prior to its annual “super show” called “Wrestlebash” at the Frontier Fire Hall in Niagara Falls, N.Y. in November. Frontier can hold a few hundred more with the bigger names being brought in that I will get to later. Thus, “Overdrive” serves as a setup show to “Wrestlebash” in terms of storylines, setting up matches, etc. Overall, I think “Overdrive” served that purpose well and was a solid event from top-to-bottom.

The first match I reffed was on the pre-show featuring Jerk Cockins against Vinnie Moon. Once again, the pre-show matches were taped exclusively for Powerslam.TV while the rest of the show aired live over ESW’s Twitch feed. I purposely requested this match because outside of wrestling, Cockins and I became coworkers a few weeks ago. Alas, it could provide interesting lunch room talk. The match was quick and continued the storyline of Moon striving, but still struggling, to secure his first win in ESW with Sebastian Suave trying to give him guidance.

I then reffed Brandon Thurston versus Ace Romero. I definitely looked forward to this match after Romero launched Anthony Gaines into the stratosphere this past summer. You probably saw the viral “pounce” video.

You can check out the “pounce” video here:

Both of these guys dished out vicious chops to each other and Romero gave Thurston a black hole slam outside of the ring. This was a super physical match with Thurston scoring the submission win and qualifying for a spot in the Ilio DiPaolo Cup match at “Wrestlebash”.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ilio DiPaolo, he was an international wrestling star from the territory days of the 1950s and 1960s. Originally from Italy, DiPaolo settled in Buffalo and opened a popular restaurant under his name that still operates to this day. A few years ago when it was decided to start a trophy match, it made perfect sense to name it in honor of our local legend.

The bout itself consists of six competitors that come out in intervals. The winner of the DiPaolo Cup is able to cash in the trophy whenever they please for a shot at the ESW Heavyweight Championship, just like World Wrestling Entertainment’s Money in the Bank winner.

Many of Western New York’s top wrestlers wrestled in these matches, as well as national stars such as the first ever winner Trent Barretta, Evan Bourne, and Cortez Castro. I had the pleasure of reffing the 2016 DiPaolo Cup match that saw R.J. City take home the prize. Last year, I reffed the flip side in a way, as Kevin Bennett cashed in the DiPaolo Cup, the same night he won it, during the heavyweight title match between R.J. City and Pepper Parks (then known as Braxton Sutter) and won the title.

You can see Bennett’s title win here:

My next match once again featured Suave and Moon, but this time swapping roles. Suave tried to show Moon how to win a match when he took on Cheech. Even the result was close to the same, with Suave being unable to truly educate Moon on how to get that elusive first ESW win.

My final match of the night was a fatal four way for another spot in the DiPaolo Cup match. This bout featured two tag teams that seemed on the verge of exploding with Tarik and Daniel Garcia, formerly known as North America’s Most Wanted, and Andy Cravatta and Randy Philbrick of the Oliver Street Express all competing for one spot. While Tarik and Garcia were at each other’s throats, it seemed like OSE would have each other’s backs. OSE were getting frustrated with each other over the last few months during their losing streak, but they looked like they were working well together. However, it shocked the crowd and I when Philbrick turned on Cravatta and laid him out. This allowed Garcia to eventually lock him in one of the most brutal sharpshooters I ever saw for the tap out victory.

Photo / TMK Photography

After the show ended, I lined up J.T. Dunn to record an episode of “Inside the Empire” with us. We set up in the back bar area of the fire hall and recorded an interesting 20+ minute episode with him before we got booted out by the St. Johnsburg staff. Unfortunately, a few days later we found out there was some sort of equipment malfunction and the episode did not record. It was pretty disappointing to discover that but I will chalk it up as a learning lesson, and hopefully, someday we will be able to record again with Dunn, even if it is over Skype or phone.

Later on, most of us headed to the after party at Mooney’s on Main, with many of us clad in new ESW hoodies and baseball hats. It looked like an ESW gang overran the bar. It was a jovial time for our crew as we were still buzzing from the show and the names announced for “Wrestlebash”. The headliners will be Mikey and Kenny from The Spirit Squad, Kongo Kong and former World Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion David Arquette!

We set a graphic to be published during the show to coincide with the live announcement, and the online reaction for Arquette was huge. I checked the number while we were at the bar and they were at levels I never witnessed before since joining the social media team. The next morning, I already had people chomping on the bit for ticket information. The excitement is real!

Photo / TMK Photography

As I wrap up this entry, I must say 11 years ago, I never thought I would be on the same show as ex-WCW champion, let alone a famous movie star. It truly is an amazing journey, not just for me, but all of us in the independent wrestling circuit. You never know what may happen with your career if you keep working hard and doing the most to constantly improve yourself. You just might be sharing the marquee with someone from Hollywood!

Next time, I hope to update you all on how things went down at “Wrestlebash” and the happenings leading up to it. It looks like we will try to record another episode of the podcast, plus we will be broadcasting live at the Buffalo Sports Pod-A-Thon at the end of October. The excitement never stops. Thanks for reading!

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Photos / Powerslam.TV