BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #16 - FROM THE VAULT: The Shooting Stars vs Darius Carter/Magic - BWO, 6/18/11
Last month, I began the FROM THE VAULT series, promising to go back in the annals of independent wrestling and find obscure matches that you might not have known existed. My post on the Down Boyz against Mikey Webb and Donovan Dijak got some good views for the site, so I went back and saw another match worthy of reporting on.
I am sticking with tag team wrestling for this one; however, unlike the 2016 ACE Pro Wrestling barnburner, I am going into a complete 180. I’m taking it back to the days of the early 2010s, where a vintage style of pro wrestling was being appreciated.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the BWO.
No, not the Blue World Order.
The Bodyslam Wrestling Organization was around for over a decade from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. The first time I ever saw the promotion was in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in 2009, when Dan Murdoch and Don Montoya, one of the inaugural members of the Black T-Shirt Squad (another story for another time), defeated Steve Off and Preacher Finneus James in a violent Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.
Not too long after that event, the BWO moved to Elmwood Park, NJ and made their home base at the Elmwood Park American Legion. In 2010, I went to almost every single BWO event, from events at the Legion, to Lodi High School in Lodi, NJ, to the Cheer Gym in Manahawkin, NJ, and even to Port Reading, NJ, solely to watch Chris Hero wrestle the aforementioned Preacher.
In 2010, the BWO was at their peak, in this writer’s opinion. They found a way to mix the old timers, like Richie Rotten, Preacher, Don Montoya, Joey da Bull, and the late, great manager Tony Schoff, with the young guns developed internally, such as Steve Off, Darius Carter, Ray Ray Marz, Tristen Law, and Dan Murdoch, while other performers from the Northeast would come in as well, like Balls Mahoney, Stevie Richards, TJ Marconi, Damien Darling, Robbie E, and Corvis Fear.
By 2011, the BWO gained some serious attention from a legendary family within pro wrestling: the Savoldis.
Angelo Savoldi was an absolute legend within the realm of pro wrestling. Breaking into the industry in 1937, Mr. Savoldi wrestled almost 40 years, traveling the world, winning the National Wrestling Alliance Junior Heavyweight championship FIVE times between 1958 and 1964, last losing it to the great Danny Hodge in Oklahoma City, OK, and retired as a member of the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1972. He later became a minority shareholder in the WWWF during the 1970s, which proved fruitful by the 1980s.
In 1984, Mr. Savoldi, alongside his sons Mario, Tommy, and Joe, formed International Championship Wrestling. Almost immediately, ICW made a partnership with the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico, who was founded in 1974 by the legendary Gorilla Monsoon under the “Capitol Sports Promotions” and was currently owned by Carlos Colon, WWE Hall of Famer. Over the next decade, ICW also worked alongside the American Wrestling Association, World Class Championship Wrestling, and other independent companies to keep this venture moving. Their syndicated wrestling program mixed old school matches alongside current ICW performers. Although ICW changed its name to International World Class Championship Wrestling in 1991, the promotion ultimately went under in 1995.
The Savoldi family kept promoting on a smaller scale until 2008-2009, when they formed the NWA On Fire promotion. Although they were part of the NWA, On Fire developed its own cult following in Maine, bringing in young talent from the New England region and having a platform for old school style wrestling, including a great rivalry between Brian Fury and Julian Starr, while also using performers like DC Dillinger, Jivin’ Jimmy, the East Coast Cowboy, and Mark Shurman, amongst others.
With a small syndicated television program in the New England area, NWA On Fire had a solid weekly platform.
With a unique vibe of pro wrestling, the BWO had its solid core talent.
In 2011, both companies became aware of one another. What was the connection that led to this alliance?
Tom Verga isn’t a name you’d recognize from staring at it. In fact, not many people would know the name Tom Verga at all. But Tom, also known as Tommy Hunter, was an excellent producer of pro wrestling. He was the primary editor of the NWA On Fire television show, while also handling DVD editing for the BWO.
Tom’s connection to both put each other in contact. Not too long after that, the BWO and NWA On Fire announced an alliance.
On June 18, 2011, “Meltdown” would take place at the Elmwood Park American Legion. The footage would be filmed for both DVD release, as well as for local syndication.
Thanks to the power of YouTube, I was able to find some matches that were released from that event. However, the one match that caught my eye that led to this Hot Take was a fun, old school tag team encounter with some serious implications.
Steve Off and Glenn Ulrich - the Shooting Stars - would defend their BWO Tag Team championships against Money & Power: the Icon, the Legend Magic and Mr. Darius Carter.
At this time in BWO, Steve Off and Glenn Ulrich had a lot of power within the promotion. Off held every championship the promotion ever made, while Ulrich was the “owner” of the company. Together, they found some good chemistry as a tag team and within months, won the Tag Team titles.
On the other end, Darius Carter was a year and a half into the business. A wealth of potential and ungodly amounts of talent, “Wrestling’s Richest Prize” needed guidance to help channel his relative inexperience. Magic, a man with, at this stage, 20 years experience as a professional, decided to mentor the brash Carter and try to gain the BWO Tag Team titles to add to his impressive resume.
In front of a packed house in Elmwood Park, these two tandems went toe-to-toe and laid it all on the line.
Almost twelve years later, to most, this would be just an ordinary tag team match. But the match itself demonstrated a lot of things.
First, with Jon Harder and Tommy Savoldi on the call, this is truly the best of both worlds. The old school but excitable Savoldi alongside the nerdy but charismatic Harder made for a fun tandem on commentary. Talking to Harder prior to posting this article, he said to me that working with Tommy was “a blessing in disguise, as it made me better and taught me to listen to what my partner had to say, other than trying to ‘get’ my stuff in.”
Second, this might have been the biggest crowd in Elmwood Park history. I remember being in attendance for this event, and the amount of ground level promotion around Lodi and Elmwood Park showed. People of all ages showed up in droves to support the local wrestling in town. Even in 2011, the internet was great, but the flyering and postering around town brought people in.
Finally, the story. Steve and Glenn started off fast, but quickly fell to the brash and powerful team of Magic and Carter. However, every time Magic took control, Carter, showcasing his inexperience, rushed back in and wanted the glory. However, Magic finally had enough and humbled Carter with some tough love, forcing him to take the Shooting Stars’ finishing move, Cutting Off the Lights, inevitably causing Off and Ulrich to retain their belts by not moving a muscle to make the save.
To me, in 2011, the simplicity of it was a thing of beauty. The fans in attendance did not want a “five star” wrestling classic; they wanted to be entertained. All four men did exactly that.
This match had the action, the energy from the crowd, and the solid call from the commentators. It’s a perfect television match.
Sadly, the BWO/NWA On Fire union did not last, and by the end of the 2010s, both promotions ceased operations.
However, most of the talent in this match is still around today. Steve Off is currently the man behind the magic at Pro Wrestling Magic and is the current Dark Arts Champion. Darius Carter has become an independent King of the Metropolitan area and won the 2022 Super 8 Tournament, on top of various independent wrestling championships. Magic has gotten his due being a Northeast independent wrestling icon, mentoring names like Carter, Chris Dickinson, Jaka, TJ Marconi, and countless others.
As I’ve said before, FROM THE VAULT is to celebrate and respect the history of independent wrestling and wrestlers that have made a go of it. Next month, I will do my best to find a singles match, but rest assured, the legacy of the independent scene will be discovered in my Hot Take.
Lastly, Rest in Power to the great Tom Verga. He’s almost been gone a decade already, but his legacy will forever live on with BWO and NWA on Fire footage that’s online. His work and dedication made memories worth a lifetime for some. He will never be forgotten.