Indies: Live Report From OTW’s 2016 Sole Survivor

John Corrigan attended Old Time Wrestling for the first time. He loved it.

On the fifth anniversary of Randy Savage’s death, Brian Johnson endured his own Macho Man marathon. It wasn’t in front of thousands at the Atlantic City Convention Hall, and it wasn’t on pay-per-view like WrestleMania IV. But it was in the Garden State: at Old Time Wrestling’s annual Sole Survivor tournament in front of 50 screaming fans in Williamstown, New Jersey.

The Philadelphia native competed in three matches against three different opponents in his quest to become the Sole Survivor, earning a title shot at a time of his choosing in the process.

In the first round, the “President of Pro Wrestling” squared off with fellow fan favorite Valiente, a masked luchadore hellbent on stealing the show with high-risk offense including a Swanton over the top rope onto the concrete floor. Johnson eventually grounded the daredevil and emerged victorious before shaking hands with Valiente in a refreshing display of mutual respect.

IMG_5755Someone who received no respect was Elia Baratz, the Jewish Heavyweight Champion. The fans catcalled Baratz with anti-Semitic remarks, even referencing the Holocaust. Never verklempt, the Hebrew powerhouse responded with a fury of slams and clotheslines, and occasional cries of “Oy Vey!”

He was my favorite performer of the evening.

In the second round, Johnson battled newcomer Mike Eddis, a cocky mammoth who drowned out chants of “You Can’t Wrestle” with thunderous elbow drops upon Johnson’s chest. It was the proverbial teacher vs. student as Johnson leads OTW’s Training Academy and Eddis strove to establish his own reputation by dethroning his mentor. However, Johnson’s experience and durability proved to be the deciding factor in conquering the rookie monster.

OTW is run by former ECW referee Jim Molineaux and operates out of a smaller ECW arena-type setting in the Monroe Business Center. Fans of all ages attended the show, but it’s primarily a family-friendly nature with clearly defined heroes and villains. The company prides itself on “bringing back the ‘old school’ classic pro wrestling style while also building up the future of the business.” In that sense, it accomplishes its mission. But OTW also provides an element seemingly forgotten in the modern era: storytelling. The pacing of the matches allows fans to immerse themselves in the drama without having to worry about blinking and missing three high spots.

It’s also affordable with $10 tickets for adults, $5 for kids, and not a bad seat in the house.


In the semifinals, Johnson faced OTW veteran Mik Drake in a 20-minute show stealer. Although both competitors were exhausted from their previous matchups, they dug deep and let it all hang out for the main event of the evening. Drake hit Johnson with everything in his arsenal including a devastating power slam and a super kick catching Johnson mid-air. However, the Commander-In-Chief rallied back, kicking out of every pin attempt, and finally nailing Drake with a Pearl River Plunge for the win.

Unfortunately, Johnson would go on to lose the finals of Sole Survivor to “The King of Class” Andd Bivians the next night. But his technical expertise, natural charisma, and “never surrender” attitude will take him through a lengthy and successful career in professional wrestling.

As Wrestledelphia contributor Justin Henry tweeted: “Macho Man Randy Savage wasn’t a great wrestler because of some wild, intricate moveset. He was great because you believed that he believed.”

Ditto Brian Johnson.

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