Found this randomly on Youtube one day recently and I thought it would be well worth a look. It’s the 17th of January 1998 and we are in the Davis Arena of Jeffersonville, Indiana (that’s right: not Ohio) for the first episode of Ohio Valley Wrestling! Your main event tonight: Nick Dinsmore and Rob Conway take on Juan Hurtado and Assassin #2! Who?
While this is OVW’s first ever TV show, they had already been in existence for a bit at the time. They are still a couple of years off becoming WWE’s farm at this point, and in 1998 are still under the NWA umbrella, so you won’t be seeing any megastars in this program. Still, you will be seeing some familiar faces.
We are welcomed by Dean Hill who is sitting in front of a banner with the American flag and a giant bald eagle, so you better believe we are in the heart of ‘Merica tonight. Hill promises that we are going to see some old school wrestling tonight. He name-drops a few people he previously worked with in the USWA for some reason: I presume as another example of “clean pro-wrestling” as he puts it. There will be no obscene language, and no extreme violence – I wonder who that”s aimed at, hur – and we get underway with “the prettiest ring announcer in professional wrestling”, Faye Davis. So misogyny is still on the table then. It’s probably the badly done audio, but Davis comes off so loud as to make you want to plug up your ears.
David C vs Doug Basham
We are in a small arena in a small-ass ring. David C is a nobody, and Doug Basham is Doug Basham a few years before he hit the WWE mid-card. Waistlock chains as Hill plays up OVW’s family atmosphere – take that Bischoff – as Basham gets in a brief arm-lock. Wrist-lock chains, C takes Basham down by the hair, but the “All-American” hops right back up. Basham with a shoulder charge, arm-drag takedown, armbar, more wrist-lock chains. Drop toe-hold takes C down, Scoop Slam, leg-drop but C back with a jaw-breaker. Basham gets up an elbow on a charge, second-rope bulldog, and follows that up with a snap neckbreaker to get the win in just under three.
Winner: Doug Basham, I’m sure even now dreaming of the Basham Brothers gimmick.
Verdict: Fine three minute opener.
Hill back on the monologue to warn people against trying all of this at home, and plugs the OVW Training Centre at the same time. We get thrown to the operator of said Centre who plugs the TV show. He criticises obscene gestures, profanity and “sexual content” in wrestling. Take that Attitude Era!
Hill plugs a few upcoming shows, which includes directions to the arena and a 1AM TV time, and time for the next match. I love the territories sometimes.
Cousin Otter & Jebediah Blackhawk vs the Intern & Jason Lee
The Intern is hilariously billed as being from “General Hospital”, and appears to be a luchador doctor. Otter and Blackhawk look like they are rocking a hillbilly gimmick, so “Hollywood” Jason Lee is the sanest looking of the bunch. Blackhawk and Lee to start. The hillbilly’s are the faces by the way. Wrist-lock chains, Lee posing for the crowd with his not-actually-that-great muscles, and back to the wrist-lock chains. Hill spending the match trying to play up the build for this match, that there is no footage for: tl:dr, Lee insulted the hillbillys.
Otter in, double arm-drag, and Cousin starts throwing Lee around. Intern dodges a tag, Lee takes an Atomic Drop from Otter just after Hill insisted Otter doesn’t know how to actually wrestle. Blackhawk back in, double-elbow, but Lee with a rake to the eyes that allows him to get the tag. Intern immediately beaten down, takes a chokeslam from Otter, a huge splash off the top from Blackhawk, and that’ll be the 1, 2, 3 in just under three minutes.
Winners: Otter and Blackhawk, what an animal combo.
Verdict: I’ll admit, they got some big air off that chokeslam and splash
The camera goes back to Hill who describes the aftermath brawling without us getting to see it, before he is joined by Rip Rodgers, the OVW Champion. He’s the King of OVW, and he has something important to say. He’s a shouty heel, and the crowd chants “Crazy” to his general annoyance. He sees the future as him being champ forever, despite big name challengers like Nick Dinsmore and Rob Conway. Definitely getting the feeling that OVW’s roster might consist of ten people or less at this time. Time for another match.
Trailer Park Trash vs American Ninja
Amazing match-up here. Ninja is Mikey Henderson, a little known guy who once jobbed to “Prototype” – aka, the future John Cena – in a one of the latter’s first ever matches in 2000. Trash a similar level, who once jobbed to the Corporate Ministry.
Takedown from Trash as Hill outlines that Ninja’s opponent has a cousin from an asylum, and his name is, I did you not, “Cousin Crazy”. He’ll be in OVW soon. Having initially described Trash as a fan favourite, Hill must then explain why he is being booed by the audience (it’s because he is trailer trash, if you need an explanation). A few chains, Ninja with a nice snap suplex off a charge, into an armbar. Somersault legdrop from Ninja, nice, then nobody home on a springboard legdrop. Trash with a choke, so I suppose he must be a heel, no matter what Hill said. Takes Ninja down with a clothesline, cocky pin gets two.
Hill is giving directions to arenas again as Trash lays in some chops. Corner charge, another cocky pin gets two. Scoop Slam, two, bear hug and the momentum this one has had has vanished quickly. Ninja battles out of it, flying clothesline, spinning elbow, then a very awkward whip from the corner to the middle of the ropes with Trash coming off and going for a move, looked very badly coordinated. Trash hits a Jackknife Powerbomb, then a leg drop off the top for the win in just under four-and-a-half.
Winner: The Trailer Park Boy
Verdict: Was alright, except for that weird part of the finish.
Hill has barely acknowledged the result before he starts talking about a fundraiser for a local church, I love the territories sometimes. OVW is open for advertising, just so you know. After the break, Doug Basham has the mike, and talks about his tutelage under “Nightmare Danny Davis”. Says he had “much success” with the WWF, and that’s a flat-out lie in 1998. Back on the commentary desk, Hill lets us know the OVW postal address, and he wants to read your letters. It’s like a time machine this one. Main event coming up.
Assassin #2 & Juan Hurtado vs Nick Dinsmore & Rob Conway
Dinsmore, who would be a mainstay in OVW, is the future Eugene of course. I believe he holds the record for OVW Title reigns? Conway had a few of those himself before his run in the Fed. I’m afraid I don’t know who Hurtado and Assassin are, but don’t think it really matters here.
Hill, previously obsessed with noting this is wholesome family entertainment, is happy to call attention to the crowds “Retardo” chant directed at Hurtado. Hurtado and Dinsmore to start, with Dinsmore getting two off a roll-up straight away. Gets in an arm-drag with a bit of difficulty, and Assassin in. Conway tagged, Scoop Slam to Assassin, another iffy armdrag, then a snapmare, then another Scoop Slam. Hmm. Dinsmore back in as Hurtado walks off, leaving the Assassin to his fate. Assassin beaten down, Conway in and hits a running knee, back body-drop, powerslam. Dinsmore tagged in, and gets an assist off Conway to hit a big splash for the 1, 2, 3 in around three minutes.
Winners: Eugene and one half of La Resistance
Verdict: Nothing tag squash. If this is the wrestling you grew up with, you grew up with garbage.
Hill runs down the card that we have seen, plugs next weeks episode, asks for more sponsors and that’s all.
Best Match: I suppose the opener by default, both guys could go sufficiently well, especially Basham.
Best Wrestler: Ninja was popping off some decent moves in his match.
Worst Match: The main event, which even by squash standards was a waste of time.
Worst Wrestler: Hurtado did literally nothing but take an arm drag wrong.
Overall Verdict: The sad truth is OVW needed to become part of the Fed family to actually get anywhere, as evidenced by how slapdash this is, in terms of wrestling and presentation. Still it is a fascinating glimpse at the dying days of independent territory wrestling of that era. Good and bad.
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