Pro wrestling: The Bash in Beckley keeps growing

May 15—When a pro wrestling power team with the clout possessed by Gary Damron and Steve New puts its collective head together, you know something big is coming.

That was the goal when New presented to Damron an idea at a time when the area needed something just that — big — to get their minds off a difficult period and perhaps even celebrate a return to better times.

"At the time, pandemic regulations were letting up," said New, the Beckley attorney whose name recognition in pro wresting circles rivals that of his law practice. "My daughter (Rebekah) graduated in May of '21 from Woodrow. June of '21 we could start gathering up again, so I reached out to Gary a few months in advance and was like, 'Let's run a big show.'"

Damron, of course, is the owner of All Star Wrestling, a Boone County-based organization that has established itself as the top indie promotion in West Virginia. When he heard New's idea, he was all for it.

"He came to me a few years ago and said, 'I want to do an event in Beckley. I want you to book it and be over it. We'll just kind of work together,'" Damron said. "I thought, well, this may happen or it may not."

New was convinced the show would soar, so Damron made all the arrangements, from securing the location and talent to getting the budget in place.

All they needed was a name.

"I just decided, 'Hey, what a better name than 'The Bash in Beckley?'" Damron said. "And that just kind of stuck."

They may not have recognized it at the time, but a Beckley phenomenon was born.

A second and third installment followed, and in less than three weeks, The Bash in Beckley IV will help usher in the summer at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

The event will be held June 1 with doors opening at 4 p.m. Wrestling will begin at 7 p.m. with matches pitting top indie stars and various ring legends.

New's original intent was to try to hold that inaugural event outdoors. But with pandemic restrictions loosening, he realized the Armory would be the perfect location.

"Gary had been limited to running drive-in shows, outdoor shows in Logan and at Waterways Park in Boone County and what have you," New said. "(I said) 'Man, let's blow the doors off of it.'

"We put together what we thought was a really good card and we drew about a thousand people at the old Raleigh County Armory. It was great, and it seemed to have just built on itself. We had tremendous momentum."

Previous shows brought in the likes of Jerry "The King" Lawler, "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and "Hands of Stone" Ronnie Garvin, and that's only a few. The legends signed autographs and had their pictures taken with fans.

That will be the case this year, and the legends will be many. Among them will be Dustin Rhodes, "The Enforcer" Arn Anderson (along with his son Brock, one half of the new AML Tag Team Champions), Chavo Guerrero, Henry O. Godwinn (Monroe County resident Mark Canterbury), "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart, the Rock 'n' Roll Express and referee Earl Hebner, along with ECW icons such as "The Franchise" Shane Douglas, "The Queen of Extreme" Francine, The Sandman, Sabu and Bill Alfonso.

The meet and greet will start at 4 p.m., giving fans three hours to meet the stars.

Then, the wrestling begins.

On a night of big bouts, All Star Wrestling heavyweight champion Heath — the Wyoming County native and former WWE and Impact Wrestling star — will put the belt on the line in a fatal four way against Jason "The Gift" Kincaid, Aaron West and Chance Prophet.

Beckley native Chance Rizer will be back in his hometown, teaming with Mason Myles to take on the legendary Rock 'n' Roll Express — Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Angelina Love and Psycho Boy Fodder will wrestle in a mixed tag match against the Neon Blondes.

Also on hand will be ASW tag team champions DDTrash (Ron Mathis and Bruce Grey), Super Oprah, Brian Meyers, ASW women's champion Nurse Mika and, of course, Huffmanly. He was severely injured in a match last June and made his return at ASW The Return last Saturday in his hometown of Madison.

Kevin Kelly, the former WWE and AEW announcer, will be the special emcee for the event.

There will also be vendors on hand and ASW merchandise will be available for purchase.

The Bash in Beckley is the state's top independent wrestling event, and New points out that it takes the work of many to pull it off.

"I always like giving credit where it's due," he said. "No. 1, Gary has a tremendous team. All of his graphics people, his on-the-ground people, his announcers, his social media people, the person who helps him make travel plans, all of that. All Star Wrestling is not just Gary. It's not a one-man operation. It's lots of people involved in the success of All Star Wrestling, as I'm sure Gary would tell you.

"No. 2, the local support from Andrea (Akers) and the people at the Convention Center. Lola and Rick Rizer, WCIR and 93.5 The Buzz, that whole family of stations have been really good to us, very supportive. Great corporate sponsors. And then just the people in southern West Virginia. We're drawing more and more and more every year. We are ahead of where we were in terms of ticket sales, and when you bring in the kind of talent that we have — the FTRs and the Jerry Lawlers and The Wolves, you name it; Dustin Rhodes this year — it's just incredible. That kind of stuff doesn't come to Beckley terribly often, so when it does, go out and enjoy it. It's great. It's family fun. You're not going to see anything or hear anything filthy at an All Star Wrestling show. I wouldn't be associated with anything that was filth.

"You are going to get your money's worth. The show starts at 7 and ends at about 11. That's four hours of entertainment. The talent is right there. It might cost you a little bit of money for an autograph and/or a picture. That's how they make their money. It's just a great time."

Damron is ready for the fourth installment of a show that is likely to keep going for years to come.

"We seem to have grown over the years," he said. "It seems to get a little bigger every year. This year is definitely going to be no different. We're definitely going to have a big show this year. We're excited."

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