October 29, 2011 will be a bittersweet day. On October 29, 2011, the IWF, Independent Wrestling Federation in West Paterson, NJ will hold its final live event, and then close its doors for good. The IWF has held a place in my heart for the past 11 and 1/2 years. That’s where I got started.

In December of 1999, at 23 years old, I walked into the IWF Center wrestling school, met Kevin Knight, and decided “this is what I’m going to do”. I never had dreams or aspirations of making it big in the WWE or WCW. I knew already, even back then, that I didn’t want to work that insane road schedule. My dream was to work for ECW, the “renegade” promotion from South Philly, 2 hours from where I lived. I loved ECW, and very much still do. Unfortunately, the company closed its doors in early 2001, and I never got the chance to work there, but that didn’t give me a reason to give up my love: professional wrestling. After graduating from 12 months of training at IWF, I moved on to CWF, under the leadership of Pete Ferriero, and the rest is history. Kevin Knight and I lost touch shortly after my graduation. I continued wrestling all over the east coast and parts of Canada, and still do today. About a year ago, in Sept of 2010, a close friend of mine, Larry Lawson, wanted to start training. I instantly recommended the IWF school. I emailed Kevin, told him about my friend, and asked if it would be cool that I come down to the school with him. Kevin invited me to come anytime. I went back to IWF regularly for about 4 months, while my friend Larry was in training, until I injured my left knee, and required surgery. I was out of action for quite a while. During my time off, I regularly attended IWF live events. Once I was back in the ring, I was traveling/wrestling every weekend, along with working my day job during the week and simply didn’t have time to really go to training when I wanted to, and I started doing 4 live online radio shows a week, which were on training nights, so that got in the way as well. When I could, I’d spend an hour or two either at a wrestling school in PA when I was there, or in the ring before my weekend shows, just bumping around and staying active. I still went to a few IWF shows even though I hadn’t been back for training in months, and I was always welcomed, and always felt appreciated. This Saturday, that will all come to an end, as IWF will host its last show ever. It’s going to be an emotional day. There will be wrestlers there who haven’t been to IWF in years, and there will be the current group of IWF stars. I can’t wait to get there and see the action get underway.

I owe my entire 11+ year career to Kevin Knight and the IWF. To Biggie Biggs, to Rich Ross, to AJ Sparxx, and to everyone who helped with our training back in 2000: Steve Corino, Simon Diamond, Danny Doring, Dawn Marie, Mike Kehner and so many others. Throughout the years that I was away from IWF, I still worked a ton of shows with a lot of then-current, as well as former, IWF talent, and I still do regularly. We were trained well, we were trained professionally, we were trained old school, and most importantly, we were trained PROPERLY. I will deeply miss IWF and the school, even just the building itself. It’s the end of an era.

Earlier this week, I planned on simply attending the final event, paying my respects to those who gave me the opportunity to live my dream, and to say goodbye to the school that produced me. But much to my delight, Kevin Knight e-mailed me this afternoon, Wednesday 10/26, and asked if I’d like to be a part of the show. I said HELL YEAH.  I am so honored and thrilled to be booked on the final IWF event in history. It will be fun. It will be great. But I honest-to-God hold that place and that promotion in very high regard, so because of that, it will be emotional. When we first started our training, Kevin said to us one day in class “a lot of people have said ‘Who the hell is Kevin Knight, and who is he to open a wrestling school’. Well, I’m gonna show ’em who I am”, and show them he did. The IWF school has produced WWE and TNA talent, the top two wrestling companies on television right now, and if its’ doors weren’t closing, there could easily be 3 or 4 more guys there who would be signed within the next 2 years as well. As IWF guys, we weren’t millionaires, we weren’t driving around in limos or had huge fancy houses. We had things SO much more important than any of that. We had PRIDE, we had RESPECT. I can’t tell you how many times a promoter heard I was trained by Kevin Knight and the IWF, and I was booked solely on that basis, and a few of those promoters I still work for to this day. Kevin trained us well, and PROPERLY. THAT is key. We were taught professionalism, respect, and how to conduct ourselves in AND out of the ring. I realize I can be crude and/or harsh at times, but that’s just me, nothing to do with wrestling.

This Saturday will be the first IWF live event that I work since my wrestling school graduation in June of 2001, of which I still have my graduation certificate. This Saturday will be a great day, and I’m extremely proud to say that I’m a Camp IWF graduate and alumni. This is the end of an era. Without a doubt, one of the best and well-run wrestling training centers in the country is closing its’ doors. And I’m honored to be one of the boys, who will make the final walk down IWF’s aisle from the dressing room to the ring.

Thank you to Kevin Knight, without whom, I may not have lasted as long as I have, and I’m still going.

Thank you to Biggie Biggs, who’s mind for the business is FILLED with gems of knowledge.

Thank you to AJ Sparxx and Rich Ross, for their teachings of a lot of the “behind-the-curtain” aspects of the wrestling business.

And thank you to every wrestler, manager, staff member, and referee, who’s ever walked through the doors of Camp IWF. I’ve learned from all of you in one way or another.

It’s been great. Thank you, Kevin.