In the world of independent wrestling, the name Castaldi doesn’t ring too many bells. But in 1975, that young man (then known as “The Hitman”) began his career in the Midwest. Competing under a mask, the newcomer evolved through training and added several matches to his resumé before re-inventing into Tony “Little Dynamite” Casta.
He became a decorated wrestler in the Mid-Missouri Wrestling Alliance, which the fans in South St. Louis recognize as the MMWA at the South Broadway Athletic Club in Soulard.
Casta worked with many of the greats, including Bruiser Brody, Tojo Yamamoto, Spike Huber, Ox Baker, Buddy Roberts, Iceman King Parsons, “Crusher” Blackwell, Chris Adams, Bob Orton, Scott Casey, Gypsy Joe, Professor Toru Tanaka and Mike & Pat Kelly.
Among his many accomplishments was the opportunity to serve as referee for a match involving former World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz.
Not confined to singles competition, Casta also competed as a tag team with the legend Ed Smith, who had worked as a referee and wrestler in Sam Muchnick’s St. Louis Wrestling Club. The pair captured the MMWA Tag Team Championship on two separate occasions.
Notably, Casta held the MMWA Junior Heavyweight Title seven times. In the late 80’s, Casta suffered an AC separation that sidelined him for six months.
He retired and became the SBAC’s wrestling promoter. From 1985-2012, he teamed up with Herb Simmons, creating the partnership known as MMWA-SICW. The two had spent years in Missouri and Illinois, working with the legends from Wrestling at the Chase, as well as independent wresters such as: Giant Assassin, Big Daddy, Ron Powers, Gary Jackson, Freedom Rider, the Masked Executioners, John Blackheart, Tom Sullivan, Dr. Blood, Keith Smith, and Chaz Wesson.
Casta eventually became (and still is) the president of the South Broadway Athletic Club and a member of the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame committee. He promotes local talent and kids to keep them off the streets. His guidance led to charity events like the spaghetti wrestling fundraiser (emceed by the legendary Smash) which raised money for local children’s homes and helped bring smiles to kids who would have had nothing for the holidays.
Casta continues to lead MMWA Wrestling, filled with hungry talents who must learn to walk before they fly. The MMWA has seen everything from a young Randy Orton working his way toward WWE, to Ted DiBiase recording a taping of the history of Wrestling at the Chase in the promotion’s training annex.
From his days training in the back room of the SBAC to helping hone and showcase the talent of outstanding local wrestlers, Casta has cemented his legacy as a true Midwest legend. He has shown his big heart for local youth and special needs organizations. Tony works hard to make a difference in the community.
His wife of 38 years, Wanda, and his nephew, Anthony, are always supporting him. After all these years, the fans do too.
-Dynamo Pro Championship: Mike Outlaw vs. Ken Kasa
-Spi-Ral vs. Elvis Aliaga
-Keon Option vs. Ozzie Gallagher
-Brandon Aarons vs. Danny Adams
-Dustin Bozworth vs. Brandon Espinosa
-Marriah Moreno vs. Lucy Mendez
Now, as promised, a special comment about the Mid-Missouri Wrestling Alliance’s December 6th event at the South Broadway Athletic Club in St. Louis.
DISCLAIMER: I’m biased. Deal with it.
It’s an old cliché but it’s true; there’s no substitute for being at a live event. Watching the video is one thing, but the live atmosphere is a lot of fun. I recommend that any wrestling fan attend at least one independent wrestling card just for that experience. Wrestling fans in general are a unique kind of people and that especially holds true on the indy level.
I couldn’t judge the attendance from the online video, but the people were making plenty of noise. Of note, there was a VERY loud group of supporters for Kevin Lee Davidson. I’ll keep this to more general commentary as opposed to a blow-by-blow.
Your ring announcer was Ben Simon. Your referees were Nick Ridenour and Brian Stoltz.
10-Man Royal Rumble For the MMWA Survivor Title: This was the first time in a while that the former Battle Royal Title had been defended in a battle royal format. Brian James had to fight through multiple opponents to retain his title. The random draw put him in the #1 slot. Jimmy D (fresh off his suspension) was #2 but he was eliminated quickly…after that, there were no more eliminations until the final competitor (Kevin Lee Davidson) had entered the ring. The remaining entrants, in order: Laurence Johnson, Sean Orleans (who spent most of the match taking cheapshots and hiding behind his stablemates), Jacko (formerly Jackson Whitechapel), Barackus, Dave Osborne, Tag Team Champion Andrew Wilder, Tag Team Champion Johnathan Zulu, and Davidson.
Davidson immediately made an impact by eliminating both tag champs at the same time. Barackus eliminated Johnson, but J’Mal Swagg distracted the big man and he stepped over the top rope to go after him (thus eliminating himself). Davidson and Orleans double-teamed and eliminated Osborne, then Jacko tossed Orleans and Davidson tossed Jacko in rapid succession. Both James and Davidson went over the top rope at roughly the same time; from my video’s vantage point, it looked like Davidson’s feet hit the floor first so James was indeed the rightful winner.
Barackus vs. J’Mal Swagg: The two were still fighting after Barackus’s elimination from the Rumble, so Jim Harris decided to just start the singles match. This was more competitive than I was expecting as Swagg was able to take out the leg on a few occasions. J’Mal was able to escape Barackus’s clawhold Flatliner a few times due to the leg damage, but the big man finally hit his move for the win.
Andrew Wilder & Johnathon Zulu vs. Draco Verdadero & Flaming Freddie Fury for the Tag Team Title: Draco looked distinctly…darker than usual. This wasn’t set up to be too competitive and it lived up to that standard…a Stunner/inverted neckbreaker combo led to Wilder pinning Fury for the win.
Moondog Rover vs. Kevin Lee Davidson (w/ Sean Orleans) for the TV Title: LaMarcus Clinton was lurking in the background for the Elitism matches on this night; he was walking with a cane so I guess he was injured (he was originally scheduled to be in the main event instead of Davidson). Orleans distracted the ref at a timely moment so LMC could interject himself and his cane into the matchup; that led to K.L.D. getting the title-winning pinfall after a big splash. The big man’s gonna be a tough one to unseat as champion…
Gary Jackson vs. Jimmy D: This one was pretty straightforward…Gary won with the Texas Cloverleaf and said he was looking for another title shot. Co-Commissioner Jim Harris said he would grant his request once he became the sole Commissioner, something that was on the line in the main event…
Team Harris vs. Team Orleans: Sean Orleans became Commissioner after The Elitism won a gauntlet match earlier in the year, but promoter Tony Casta named former Commissioner Jim Harris as “Co-Commissioner” to balance out the matchmaking power. Of course, they were not on the same page…to be more accurate, they were in completely different libraries. As a result, this match was set up to decide who would become the lone Commissioner of the MMWA. I’ve seen quite a few elimination tag matches lately, including one at Dynamo in October as well as WWE’s Survivor Series…always been a fan of the format.
I still don’t get Jackson Whitechapel’s persona change to Jacko (a clown), but the fans seem to like it and that’s what counts. He eliminated Sean Orleans out of nowhere, only to eat a superkick from A.J. Williams to re-even the sides. A blind tag allowed Laurence Johnson to clothesline Everett Connors from behind, scoring a fall on the Junior Heavyweight Champion and continuing their feud. Brian James was the next to go; he already went through a tough contest earlier in the night and the numbers caught up to him. A Davidson spinebuster set up a Macho Elbow from A.J. for the three-count, leaving Da’Marius Jones and Dave Osborne against four Elitism members.
Osborne is taking a break from wrestling and he went out with a bang, single-handedly turning the tide for his team. He pinned A.J. after a spinebuster, then delivered an impressive cobra clutch suplex on Kevin Lee Davidson to beat the new TV Champ. Johnson was the next to go after a swinging uranage backbreaker…but Espinosa cut off the momentum with his jumping DDT to eliminate Big Dave. That left Da’Marius and Espinosa and the two had a really good ten-minute match-within-a-match. A.J. stuck his nose into the proceedings again in an attempt to screw over his former tag team partner, but it was not to be. Espinosa went to the top rope to finish, but Da’Marius caught him with a mid-air Paydirt for the final win!
Espinosa was unusually respectful and offered Jones a title shot…but Jim Harris noted that Gary Jackson had already been promised a title shot. In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, Harris decided that Espinosa would defend against Da’Marius in January…then the winner of that match would defend against Gary later that night. No word on whether Gary will face “suitable competition” before his championship match (à la WrestleMania X).
Now, as promised, a special comment about Dynamo Pro Wrestling at the Stratford Bar & Grill in Fenton on December 6th.
DISCLAIMER: I’m biased. Deal with it.
The busy weekend continued with Dynamo’s final event of the year. They had a great turnout, mostly in support of the upstart challenger to the Dynamo Pro Title. The area’s talent was spread across this card, MMWA at South Broadway (separate commentary to come), and Metro Pro in Kansas City.
Your ring announcer was Chris Roedel; your referees were Jay King, Patrick Hook, and Richard White.
Brandon Espinosa started the event, complaining about being left off the card while some rookie punk got the title shot at Ricky Cruz. That brought out Cruz, but Espy backed off and said he would go to “7th Street” where he was a main-eventer…all righty then. Ricky threw out a joking line about “where the big boys play” before turning his attention to Mike Outlaw…Outlaw came out and Cruz acknowledged that he had a hand in training him. Of course, he taught Outlaw everything he knows, but not everything Ricky Cruz knows…and in one final lesson, Ricky slapped him HARD before leaving the ring.
The Bum Rush Brothers (“The Don Mega” Shorty Biggs & Outtkast) vs. Dave DeLorean & Jayden Fenix (w/ Travis Cook & Michael Magnuson): Travis claimed Magnuson was injured (he was on crutches at ringside), then introduced Fenix as his replacement. I don’t know if Fenix is a WLW or Dynamo trainee, but this was my first time seeing or hearing about him. The BRB’s and Black Hand Warriors had battled for most of the year, including a few Tag Title changes, and this should have settled the feud. After a lot of near-falls were exchanged, Travis blatantly interfered to save his team and was ejected from ringside. As the referee’s attention was diverted, Magnuson hit Outtkast from behind with his crutch and DeLorean finished the job with a powerbomb onto the knee in 12:37. I suspect this issue isn’t QUITE over yet…
Brandon Aarons vs. “The Alternative” Ozzie Gallagher: Gallagher changed his name out of disgust over sharing a first name with his long-time rival; he was introduced as “Ozwald Gallagher” at PWE the previous night. (To be fair, there ARE a lot of Brandons in the wrestling scene around here…MARKET CONFUSION~!) These two have gone back and forth over the course of 2014, though I think Aarons has the edge in the overall series. Aarons won a solid matchup with his version of the Burning Hammer in 4:38.
High Level Enterprise (Jack Gamble & Jon Webb) vs. “The” Evan Morris & “The New Hotness” Danny Adams: Yay for matching tag team gear! The emphasis on tag team wrestling was pushed on this night with three tag bouts…the outcomes may determine the pecking order as it relates to the next shot at the belts. This one could have realistically gone either way, but HLE overcame a spirited effort by the new duo of Morris & Adams. Webb pinned Morris after a second-rope moonsault in 12:55.
Keon Option vs. “Ironman” Ken Kasa (w/ Travis Cook): I mentioned the notable fanbase for Outlaw, but Option had quite a few fans in Fenton as well. We could use a promo segment to establish his “Straps Down University” catchphrase…Travis had trouble figuring out the “K.O., S.D.U.!” chants. Option is still very new, but he’s looked decent in his first few outings…this was one of his longest matches to date. Alas, the dreaded rookie mistake came back to bite him as Kasa avoided a blind cross-body off the second rope…that led to Kasa hitting the John Wu Dropkick to win in 10:45.
Intermission! I’m trying to cut back on the sugary stuff and caffeine, so balance between soda and water is a good way to go (leaning toward water). Still working on the whole healthier-diet thing, including (gasp!) salads.
“The Madman” Paco Gonzalez vs. Elvis Aliaga: This was a solid matchup but the fans didn’t seem to be into it for whatever reason…not sure why. Paco has had a fan section at recent events, but maybe they weren’t in attendance for this one. There was one scary moment where Paco did a running plancha and nearly crashed and burned as he caught his feet on the top rope…thankfully he seemed okay afterwards. Aliaga won clean with the T.C.B. (Falcon Arrow) in 9:01.
“Dirdey” Jake Dirden & Jackal vs. The Professionals (Shawn Santel & Mauler McDarby)(w/ Travis Cook) for the Tag Team Title: So if Santel & McDarby would have won the belts, would the Black Hand Warriors have gotten the first title shot? Inquiring minds want to know. Dirden & Jackal are the most recent Unlikely Duo™ to hold tag team gold in professional wrestling as Dirden was a substitute for the injured Rocket Mapache in the match where the belts changed hands. Travis wanted to get “his” belts back, regardless of which team did the job. Good tag team matchup here; Jackal got the win out of nowhere with a ‘rana on McDarby in 10:30. The Professionals did the post-match attack, but Mapache came out with some sort of metal weapon in hand (ring wrench?) and that momentary distraction allowed Dirden and Jackal to fight back.
“The King of Chaos” Ricky Cruz vs. Mike Outlaw for the Dynamo Pro Title: Outlaw has been one of the most impressive Dynamo newcomers in 2014. Last month, Dynamo did a unique gauntlet-style matchup with competitors who had never challenged for the Dynamo Pro Title…the winner was guaranteed a championship match and Outlaw capitalized on that opportunity to earn his way to this main event.
The atmosphere was off the charts for this one. I thought about the possibilities of Cruz cheating outrageously to hang onto his title, Cruz retaining via cheap DQ or countout, or even a time limit draw (which would have been my second in as many indy events for the weekend).
It was the veteran champion against the upstart challenger…as you might expect, overconfidence proved to be Ricky’s undoing on a few occasions. He doesn’t go to the top rope very often and that backfired on him as he got slammed to the mat, leading to Outlaw hitting the Macho Elbow for a near-fall (That needs a name…”High Noon”, maybe?). He followed up with his middle-rope springboard European uppercut for another close two-count. Cruz cut him off with an eyerake and backcracker…for two. Superkick…for two.
Outlaw rallied back with a somersault plancha, then hit another Macho Elbow…for ANOTHER two-and-a-half count. Ricky cut him off again and hit the Cruz Control (swinging fisherman buster)…for 2½! If anyone has kicked out of that before, it hasn’t happened often…Ricky lost his cool and stormed back to the dressing room, returning with a steel chair. However, that backfired on him as Outlaw avoided the swing, then dropkicked the chair back into his face. The third time was the charm as Outlaw hit his third top-rope elbowdrop of the match and that was finally enough to seal the deal in 21:00, making Mike Outlaw the new Dynamo Pro Wrestling Champion!
Cruz grabbed the belt away from the referee, but handed it over to Outlaw before exiting without incident…after that, much of the locker room came out to celebrate with the new champion. It was a really cool moment and Drew described it as a “feel-good” moment in an industry that doesn’t have nearly enough of them lately. That especially holds true in this era of “pay yer dues,” “it factors,” “intangibles,” “brass rings,” etc.
Between SLA and Dynamo this past weekend, I got to see two really fun main events that were two completely different kinds of matches. It says a lot about the different products within this one wrestling scene and the variety that’s available to wrestling fans…there’s plenty out there if you’re willing to look for it.
MMWA had its final card of the year at South Broadway on Saturday…I hope to do a full commentary on that once I’ve watched the online video.
Heath Hatton had been a fighting champion ever since defeating “Ironman” Ken Kasa on July 26th in East Carondelet, Illinois. Since then, he had been hunted by many of the toughest men in the Midwest today, including the “The King of Chaos” Ricky Cruz, Ken Kasa, and Bull Bronson. Yet, it would be a man who had been relentless in his pursuit of the SICW title: Flash Flanagan.
Flanagan has a long history of calculated violence in his career. He made his way from Puerto Rico to WWE, earning a reputation as a bulldozer known to strike fear in fans and opponents.
The first piece of business was getting under the skin of champion Hatton when he targeted Hatton’s protégé “The Man of Tomorrow” Daniel Eads. Flanagan dished out a brutal beating on the rising young star during a match that brought out the champion to make the save.
That set up a title match in Fairmont City where Flanagan nearly cheated his way to victory, but the decision was reversed and Hatton was able to fight another day as champ.
After a successful title defense back in East Carondelet, Illinois against Travis Cook’s bodyguard Bull Bronson, Hatton again was staring across the ring at Flanagan on the cold November night.
Early and often in the match, the challenger Flanagan worked on Hatton’s arm. Just when it looked as if Hatton was about to take over, one minor mistake lead to pain for the champ; Hatton accidentally took out the ref with a blind crossbody off the second rope. Hatton locked in the crossface on Flanagan , but the ref was still down and didn’t see the tapout. When Hatton attempted to revive the referee, Flanagan struck with a superkick and then a ruthless blow to the head via his kendo stick.
Flanagan thought he had won the belt, before Hatton kicked out. When Flanagan attempted to use a steel chair, Hatton was a step ahead and reversed an Irish whip into the chair, then attempted a rollup to end the match. Flanagan blocked it, sat down on the shoulders, and held onto the ropes to end the reign of Heath Hatton as the Classic Wrestling Champion.
Legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette returns as a guest referee Saturday, December 13th in East Carondelet for a No Disqualification Match. There will be a winner when Red River Jack (with Big Daddy) faces “The King of Chaos” Ricky Cruz (with Travis Cook).
On December 13th, “Volatile” Curtis Wylde (with Wyldefyre) will make his debut with SICW Wrestling Explosion.
Classic Wrestling Champion Flash Flanagan defends his title against the “Old School Warrior” Chaz Wesson.
Also, Gary Jackson will match against Mohamad Ali Vaez. Sean Vincent will appear for the first time in two years.
-Team MMWA (Brian James, Da’Marius Jones, Dave Osborne, Everett Connors, & Jackson Whitechapel) vs. Team Elitism (Brandon Espinosa, A.J. Williams, Laurence Johnson, Sean Orleans, & ?) – Elimination Tag Match
-Andrew Wilder & Johnathan Zulu vs. Draco Verdadero & Freddie Fury – Tag Team Title