Indie Wrestler With Local Ties To Be Honored

Tony Storm after winning the CEW Championship Belt.

Tony Storm after winning the CEW Championship Belt.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The dust is beginning to settle from Central Empire Wrestling’s event this past weekend at Nelson Pioneer Farm.

The main event between Tony Storm and Rory Fox was certainly the highlight for many fans in attendance.

Both professionals arrived in the ring from different paths. Fox gained notoriety on MTV’s True Life as he pursued his dream to become a professional wrestler.

Fox now travels the midwest bringing his bad boy persona to life several nights a week.

Storm has his wrestling connection grounded in Oskaloosa, but he’s since flourished in other areas in the southeastern part of the country.

“I never intended for this to happen. I never intended for the whole professional wrestler, on the road every weekend, taking calls from other states, getting emails from other promotions all the way across the country,” said Storm. “I was 23 or 24 when this whole thing started and what happened was I was already in a position where most people consider starting their real life. I had a full-time job, I just finished my bachelor’s degree, and I was working on my masters, but I had a colleague, an acquaintance at the time, who then became a really good friend.

Austin Bayliss, the owner of Central Empire Wrestling, would visit Storm about becoming a wrestler. “He would continuously come to my office and say “Hey Tony, I see you sitting in the front row at CEW.” He’s like “You’ve got such a great build, such a great look, I think you could be part of the roster. I think you could make something happen, and I would love to train you.”

Tony Storm as a CEW fan back in 2010. Storm is seen doing a thumbs up just before a match starts.

Tony Storm as a CEW fan back in 2010. Storm is seen doing a thumbs up just before a match starts.

Storms response was, “Nah, I don’t know anything about that, that’s not my life, you know I’m content where I’m at.”

“For about once a week, for about 8 or 9 weeks, Austin would come by and would pitch this same idea of me coming to training.”

Tony would tell Austin, “You know it’s not for me, I enjoy watching, and I enjoy being a fan.”

“I think that, what I just said a moment ago, is when I realized the problem was… is I was content. I’m 24 years old, and I’m not doing anything anymore,” explained Storm. “I come from a background of being a high school football player, a collegiate football player. You know, into different recreational activities.”

“So I’ve always been active and done things, but at 24, being fresh out of school and into my first real job, I didn’t have any outlook. So I took him [Austin] up on his offer, and we started to train down in Wellman, Iowa, and it went well. I picked it up quickly. I want to say within 3 or 4 months I was ready for my first match. One thing led to another, and the match went well. The next match went well; the next match went well. I found myself in a position to do a show at the Penn Activity Center at William Penn where I was working at that moment. I joined on with The Masters of Mayhem, and they were the top group in CEW at the time. The next thing you know, I’m right there in the mix with guys like Tim Rhodes, Mic Mayhem, and Brian Gott. At that moment we just started to run roughshod all over CEW, and Tim and I became the CEW tag team champions.”

CEW Owner and Promoter Austin Bayliss spoke about getting Storm involved as a wrestler, “Tony was getting closer to graduation and it was nearing the point of not working out, once and for all. It was do or die time for me if I was going to get Tony to train… and I think I simply put it to him that way. I had a show coming up at William Penn, where there was an opportunity for him to be involved… Tony and I both appreciate talent, and the last thing either of us wanted was for him to be involved in front of our peers and be anything less than entertaining. Tony is smart, and he knew it was time to train, even if only long enough to get through the William Penn show. What he didn’t realize, is it would be just as much fun as I told him it would be. The William Penn show came and went and Tony kept training. One show led to two shows, two shows led to three shows and so on. It felt great to see Tony understand wrestling and succeed with training. I was confident in both of us, and the journey to the commitment and eventual success is very sweet.”

Tony Storm in an earlier CEW match. (file photo)

Tony Storm in an earlier CEW match. (file photo)

“I then had an opportunity to move to Florida,” explains Storm. I met up with a man by the name of Steve Keirn, who has trained all over the world and he’s trained a lot of guys that are currently in the WWE right now. A lot of top guys like Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambros, these are all the guys that he was working with at Florida Championship Wrestling, before it became NXT.”

“So he [Keirn] would invite me to the shows, and he would ask me to watch these performers that he was currently training.” Those individuals were headlining the WWE’s biggest night in Wrestlemania,” explained Storm. “You know he got me hooked up with a couple of guys down there, got me a couple of tryouts. One thing led to another. I would do good at one promotion, and another promotion would hear about me. I would reach out to another promotion, and now every single weekend I have at least one show, from now through the end of June.”

One of those nights landed him back in Oskaloosa, where he was defending his title against Fox. “The next weekend I’m in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Chipley, Florida. Then I’m in Las Vegas, Nevada wrestling for the Cauliflower Alley Clubs 53rd annual reunion, receiving an award there as well. Then I’m back to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, and I’m in negotiations with a couple of people in Kentucky; and it’s a wild ride right now.”

That stop in Las Vegas will be the highlight of Storm’s career to date, when he’s inducted into the Cauliflower Alley Club.

The inductees along with Storm will include; Baron von Raschke, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, along with his mentor Steve Keirn.

A young wrestling fan is excited to see Tony Storm head to the ring to take on Rory Fox.

A young wrestling fan is excited to see Tony Storm head to the ring to take on Rory Fox.

“You know even to be mentioned in the same breath as some of these people is outlandish and outstanding. I still, to this day, won’t believe it until I get there,” Storm adds. “I’ve called the president of the Cauliflower Alley Club 2 or 3 times. Mr. Brian Field and I are very good friends right now, and I’ve asked him 2 or 3 times ‘Is this a joke? Are you guys pulling an elaborate joke?’ Because as much as I don’t believe it, I’m relishing it; I’m loving every moment of it.”

“I had a lot of reservations when I was accepting the nomination because they can nominate anyone, and if you don’t accept a nomination they nominate someone else. I went back and forth with Brian a few times, and he asked me one thing that I’ll never forget. He said, ‘Do you know how many matches it takes to get signed by the WWE?’ I said no I don’t. He [Brian] said, ‘One. You can get fresh out of school, you can have one good match in the right place, at the right time, and in front of the right people, and if you impress them you could get signed to WWE in one match. And that’s similar to what happened to you. The difference is, there’s a lot of us in this area who have seen you grow in the last couple of years. But what happened is, you were in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right person, who saw a specific match and said this kid’s got something; and that’s what happened.'”

Storm said that match happened in Tampa, Florida at the old Fort Homer W. Hesterly, where Florida Championship Wrestling used to happen. “We’re talking about the Grands and the Malenkos. We’re talking about legitimate wrestling and history was in that building. They’re currently working on a project that will put up a wall of fame to commemorate these individuals for all of their efforts into this industry. The big start of that was a one night only wrestling show in the new Jewish Community Center that has taken the place of that property.”

Rory Fox taunts Tony Storm after a mid-ring brawl. This confrontation lead to Storm challenging and ultimately defeating Fox.

Rory Fox taunts Tony Storm after a mid-ring brawl. This confrontation lead to Storm challenging and ultimately defeating Fox.

“I was invited to be on the show by Joe Malenko. He asked me to come on the show, and I was more than happy to be on the show. They put me in the ring with a gentleman who is a part of the Tampa fire department. He’s had maybe a handful or two handfuls of matches his entire wrestling career. But he’s a huge draw because he’s a local hero. This guy has been a part of the fire department for many, many years and they said, ‘We need you to make this guy look like a million bucks and that’s all you need to do. He’s brought in 50 some odd tickets himself, different fans paying just to see him, so we need you to make him look like a million bucks’, and I said, ‘You know what? Done.’ And the outcome of that match was a really good match, a lot of fun for me, a lot of fun for him and a lot of fun for the crowd.”

“What happened then was I was nominated to go to the Cauliflower Alley club for a small handful of reasons. Number 1 was because I impressed the right people at the right time. Number 2 was that the Cauliflower Alley Club always gets a little bit of backlash because they don’t put in a lot of Indie [Independant] guys, they usually look to the names I mentioned earlier who have been in the WWE or the WCW, or New Japan where they have this huge worldwide presence. But because they don’t normally put in a lot of Indie guys, this was an opportunity for them to do that. Also, I’m a lot younger than most of the people who get nominated and the board figured that this was a really good idea for everybody. You know I could be an ambassador for the brand for a long time to come, as well as this could help my career. So again, I’m very humbled and am very grateful to have been in the right place at the right time. I’ll be honest, I’ve caught a lot of backlash for it, just for accepting the nomination. What I’ll tell you is what I’ve told everybody else, had I accepted the nomination, which I did, a lot of people are going to say: You haven’t been in the business long enough, you don’t deserve it. You’ve never wrestled out of the country. Who did you ever beat? I’ve heard it all at this point. I look at that same person and say, ‘Had you found out I was nominated and I declined to accept, you would tell me that I was trash for disrespecting a business that tried to give me something that doesn’t give anybody anything.’ You have to earn everything in this business, and if one person thought that I earned this, then I earned it, they nominated me. So as much bad publicity that I’ve gotten for it, the respect that I’ve gained from people that matter most is what means everything to me.”

Tony Storm prepares to body slam Rory Fox during their first match. Storm won to claim the CEW Championship Belt.

Tony Storm prepares to body slam Rory Fox during their first match. Storm won to claim the CEW Championship Belt.

What Storm fails to mention is the gutsy performance he put on that night. Having gotten very ill at the end of his vacation, Storm was packed with IV fluid and medication and went to the match anyway. “When I got in the car to go to the building, I knew that I had lied to my entire family because the wrestling bug is stronger than any other bug that I’ve ever had.”

“I still put on one heck of a match with Joe Bucks in one of the most historical buildings in the history of professional wrestling, and that’s what led to this.”

Bayliss said of Storms induction into the Cauliflower Alley Club, “is a very proud moment for me, especially when you know the story about how he was nominated. Tony watched and listened to me from the very beginning of his career about taking something small and making it big. He took what could have been just another show, and made it into a career-changing moment. You never know who will be watching and when, and that’s why it’s important to always do the best business you can. Wrestling is very physical, but it’s also equally as mentally demanding. Tony has both aspects down. This award is an incredible honor… and the Tony I know, will take this opportunity and make the most of it.”

“There’s a saying that goes, “Be nice to the people on your way up the ladder, because they’ll be the same ones passing you on your way down.” Tony is an example of a homegrown talent on his way up the ladder… and he’s doing everything right. When he won the CEW Championship in February, the locker room was genuinely ecstatic for him. Many in the locker room had a role in his training early on. For him to leave Iowa and progress so much, only to return humble and win the CEW Championship is something that everyone can respect. Everyone in CEW knows that Tony is on his way up the ladder, and we’re all honored to share the same locker room as him,” said Bayliss.

Storm remains CEW Champion after he and Fox squared off for the second time.

Storm remains CEW Champion after he and Fox squared off for the second time.

Storm looks at the photo of him hanging from the ceiling of Bradbury Hall, and thinks back to the time when he was a fan sitting in the front row at CEW events back in 2010. “It’s the most surreal thing in the world to grow from a brand new wrestler that just got his first pair of boots to headlining and main eventing not only a CEW show where you got your start, but headlining the nine-year anniversary as the champion from a different state. There are so many talented wrestlers in the state of Iowa who can come to these shows more easily than I am. But being in the position that I’m in, I’m humbled, and I’m honored to not only be able to represent the Tony Storm brand from Tampa, Florida to Oskaloosa, Iowa but to represent CEW as their champion on the nine-year anniversary.”

Some may consider the quality of wrestling as subpar in Iowa, but Storm disagrees. He believes that the talent within CEW could compete with any other wrestlers on any stage. “You could see Danny Birch VS. Brian Gott and it would be a great match anywhere. So to say the Central Empire Wrestling or Oskaloosa, Iowa is the B team is blasphemy, it’s just not true. I would love to see a match with Supafly Vs. Angel Fashion in Puerto Rico because I think they would tear the house down. Both have a great Lucha background and different styles at the same time that makes them such great competitors. So no, none of these competitors are what I would consider a B team.”

Bayliss said of Oskaloosa and the support he’s gotten here. “CEW has been in Oskaloosa for nine years. I’ve met so many incredible people in Oskaloosa. Tony being one of them. I’ve been a speaker and pallbearer at a fan from Oskaloosa’s funeral. One of my wrestlers met his wife in Oskaloosa. I’ve trained a handful of people from Oskaloosa to become a professional wrestler. The bonds I’ve made with so many fans in Oskaloosa are incredible… they’re very loyal fans. As a kid from a small town, I appreciate entertaining a small town. I think fans can see that… from the top to the bottom of the show, everyone works hard to put on an entertaining show. Oskaloosa and CEW are made for each other, we really are. I’ve enjoyed every town we’ve been in for different reasons… but Oskaloosa has definitely had the most impact on me as a promoter.”

Storm defeated Fox to retain the CEW title, and will return to Oskaloosa later this year to defend his title against Fox once again.

Posted by on Apr 16 2018. Filed under Local News, Professional Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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