JT Lightning prays for bloody free-for-all brawls. Ten years ago, the 5-foot-10, 240-pound wrestler founded the Cleveland All-Pro Training Center, a proving ground for big-time grapplers on the rise. Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling, a sporadically scheduled series of swingfests, emerged at the same time.
This week's Rage in a Cage showcase commemorates the group's 10th anniversary with a night of old-school wrestling.
For All-Pro's first four years, Lightning specialized in hardcore action, in which competitors mangled each other in the name of entertainment. The more blood, the better. Now the focus has returned to displays of technique and classic good-guy/bad-guy confrontations, plus the occasional chair-bashing for variety. "The fans like that soap-opera-type thing," explains Lightning.
That's no joke. Audience reaction can be ruthless. "There have been times when the crowd has been totally silent when someone gets cut open and bleeds all over the place," Lightning says. "Then there have been times where the fans are chanting, 'We want blood!'"
That's probably what they'll scream when Raven takes on Buff Bugwell at Rage's main event. Raven, a former WWF and ECW star, is a fresh face on the upstart National Wrestling Alliance's Total Nonstop Action, broadcast Wednesdays via pay-per-view. "Raven has like an independent cult following, 'cause he's so respected in the business," Lightning says. "He knows how to work a crowd." Bugwell, formerly with the New World Order of World Class Wrestling, is another hot commodity. "Chicks dig him, and he'll bring in a lot of female fans who probably wouldn't come to a wrestling show," Lightning says.
Lightning himself will go up against Adam Cage in CAPW's heavyweight title match. Then Sheik Abdul Hassan and DisCole Fever square off against Tracy Smothers and Bobby Blaze for the tag-team title. "It's a coin toss on this one," Lightning says, as though the outcome truly matters. "I'd pick Smothers and Blaze, based on experience."
Stuff starts getting broken when longtime adversaries Jason Bane and BasketNazi face off in a table match. "Whoever puts his opponent through the most tables wins the match," Lightning explains. In a grudge rematch, H8 Pac goes against Lars Rockne for the first time since their infamous blood bath on May 18, when victor H8 Pac continued to pummel Rockne with a chair after the fight ended. "Rockne injured his shoulder and arm, and vowed for revenge," Lightning says. "So the rematch was granted."
For a change of scenery, Alexis Laree (the diva of the NWA's TNA) takes on Angela in a ladies' match. "If the girls are hot and can wrestle, it's a treat," Lightning says. "I just won't book two girls for tits and ass. I want an athletic wrestling match."
The crowd would probably settle for tits and ass.