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June 4, 2014

Direct Kick: No more OVW in London

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Once upon a time, Ohio Valley Wrestling and London went hand-in-hand. Large crowds packed the Optimist Club to see the future of professional wrestling. Countless number of future WWE stars appeared, including the likes of CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Mickie James, Wade Barrett and Ryback, to name just a small few, made their way through OVW and London before hitting the big time with the WWE. It was, after all, the official training ground of the WWE.

Even established stars, like Mark Henry, have appeared in London thanks to OVW. Crowds of over 300 were normal when OVW came to town. Then a few years ago the WWE up and pulled out of OVW, moving their training facility to Florida. Once that happened, the crowds started getting smaller and smaller. Even when OVW became affiliated with TNA, that never really helped the crowds. Soon that partnership also dissolved, and OVW was lucky to draw 125 here in London.

After the last show back in November there was no return date announced for London. After 10 years of putting on shows here, it was over.

Now the last tie that the organization had with London has officially been severed, as Joey Kesler informed me Monday that WOBZ Channel 9 would no longer be carrying OVW’s TV show.

“I got an email from Danny Davis, owner of OVW,” Kesler said. “It said the time has come for OVW to exit the London, Ky. TV market. While we have enjoyed having you air the OVW product, we feel that our absence from live shows in London does not justify the continued association.” Kesler said his station has been airing OVW since 2008.

“It was my son’s love of wrestling, and all young people’s love of wrestling, that brought OVW to Channel 9,” Kesler said. “I had been an affiliate with WWE, airing “Afterburn” since the beginning. Wrestling had a lot of followers on our station.”

Kesler said he was surprised when he got the email from Davis.

“I hadn’t gotten anything from them in a while then I saw that letter and I was shocked to see they would leave London, but things happen,” Kesler said. “OVW brought in a lot of superstars. We had a pizza party at the station one time with Mark Henry, Mr. Anderson and Eugene. We would have them live on the Chit Chat Show. There were a lot of good times.”

But like the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

“OVW was totally professional compared to some of the other Mickey Mouse wrestling shows I’ve carried,” Kesler said. “But when WWE pulled out it was a shot heard around the world. Warmer weather prevailed as they are all training in Florida now.”

I think the biggest problem was wrestling fans in the area got spoiled. They were used to seeing wrestlers that would soon by on Raw and Smackdown. They could say they saw them before they became famous. Once that was no longer a factor, fans just weren’t interested in seeing the product OVW was providing, even though it was still a very good product.

OVW allowed me the opportunity to interview many of their superstars as I tried to help give them as much publicity as I could. They were helping the Optimist Club, so I helped them.

“Without your paper’s coverage of OVW it wouldn’t have been as successful as it was here in London,” Kesler said. “We could never get any other newspaper to cover it.”

Kesler said he will miss carrying the program, and attending the shows.

“It’s getting harder for local small market TV stations to get quality programming,” Kesler said. “A lot of people enjoyed watching OVW. It was on Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m., which was a good time. We’re sorry that we won’t be carrying their program anymore, but times change.”

Yes, times change. I will also miss OVW. They provided me with a lot of entertainment over the years. But I also understand their reasoning for pulling their TV show from this market. It’s just sad that it had to come to this.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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