ACW was founded by Michael Krause (known in wrestling as "Mike Mercury") along with Eric Hammers (a wrestler known as "Straight Edge"). All-Star Championship Wrestling took advantage of the pro wrestling boom of 1998 that increased interest in WWE, WCW and ECW sky-high. ACW offered Green Bay, Wisconsin area fans a steady dose of wrestling during a time when big promotions rarely held wrestling shows in Wisconsin.
The promotion's first show was in 1999 at the now-defunct Concert Cafe in Green Bay. The show featured a varied roster of performers including Adam Pearce, Mercury and Hammers. The show immediately created loyal legions of fans from Green Bay, Manitowoc and beyond.
ACW then began to run shows on the indoor sand volleyball courts of 'The Watering Hole', a bigger, better-lit building in nearby Howard, Wisconsin. These shows featured performers such as Kujo, the fire-spitting dark devil character Sam Hayne, Rob "Pimp Daddy" Norwood, Adrian Lynch, Shane "Hillbilly" Hills, and "Kamikaze" Ken Anderson. Ring announcer and play-by-play man Matt Byron, hated manager Angelo Stefano and chief referee Gino Lanza quickly generated a media buzz that spread throughout all of Northeast Wisconsin.
Under the guiding hand of noted graphic artists TJ Rappel and Krushervision the federation's website, www.acwprowrestling.com, developed a slick, professional look and grew to include an active message board. The ACW's website gave it an advantage over other independent wrestling federations that had failed to recognise the possibility of the internet for promotion.
The federation took itself to the next level when their efforts were noticed by a local TV station photographer, who brought the ACW to the attention of future booker, promoter and eventual owner Jason Jerry. Intrigued by this local phenomenon, the group (known as the A2NWO) worked with Krause and ACW management to produce an All-Star Championship Wrestling television show, which debuted in September 2000. Episodes were taped during an ACW show (starting at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, but primarily taking place at The Watering Hole). The night's card (order of matches) was split up into several episodes, which aired Saturday nights at midnight on WACY-TV (UPN 32) in the Green Bay/Appleton market. The federation commissioned a new championship to go with the heavyweight and tag-team belts: The ACW Television title.
Many tape-traders and experts in the pro wrestling field deemed ACW television as some of the best TV produced by independent wrestling companies. Some said the program was even better than ECW's weekly television program, which was nationally televised on TNN. The company put together episodes of TV taped from an individual show, complete with backstage interviews and sketches (the "Stefano Family Christmas" of 2000 is still talked about by tape-traders to this date) and sold them under the brand name of ACW Home Video, a practice that continues to this day with the successor company, NWA Wisconsin.
ACW shows featured a wide variety of matches: technical contests; tag matches featuring flamboyant performers such as The GQ Centerfolds; and hardcore, battle-all-over-the-arena matches with Eric Hammers and Dino "The Hardcore Luchador" Bambino leaping from risky heights. Perhaps ACW's best-known moment, however, was the "Seasons' Beatings" show in December 2000, where Sam Hayne's valet, Angelica, lit a folding table on fire in the ring, and Hayne powerbombed Bambino through it. The flames were very real, and Bambino was carried from the ring and hospitalized with burns to his back. During this period, the federation booked many formerly national performers for ACW shows, such as King Kong Bundy and George "The Animal" Steele. They also booked current national performers like WCW's Meng, ECW's Simon Diamond, and Jerry Lynn, acquisitions which further excited both casual and hardcore fans.
Unforeseen events with equipment availability and personnel issues suspended the TV show in early 2001, but by April television producer Jerry had assumed a larger role backstage. He helped put the company back on TV, this time on WIWB-TV (WB 14), airing on Saturday mornings. However, due to inferior equipment, this run of television did not look nearly as good as the earlier programming.
ACW management then made a deal with the promoters of Midwest Pro Wrestling (or MPW), based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to run an "invasion" angle, which would culminate in the two companies' merger. This plan led to many matches between wrestlers aligned with MPW (such as Sheriff Johnny Emerald, Shifty, and Shawn Daivari and home-grown ACW veterans (such as Loker and Ruff Ryder Rashaan). To heat up the feud a little further, ACW wrestler Adrian Lynch, playing up his real-life Minnesota roots, turned heel on his ACW comrades and became the on-screen leader of the MPW invasion, culminating in a 6-on-6 cage loser-leaves-town match in September 2001's "Kickoff Karnage" show at The Watering Hole. This bloody affair (on a show which also saw Anderson shed blood when he finally captured his first ACW heavyweight title from Kevin "God's Gift to Women" Krueger) gave the fans a surprise ending when another ACW-to-MPW turncoat, Loker, revealed himself to be aligned with the hometown ACW after all. In the end, Loker defeated Lynch and the Minnesota interlopers.
Despite the drama in the ring, the merger was in full swing backstage, and soon it was announced that ACW shows would now be presented under the MPW banner. The new management made a few changes, including cancelling the TV show and booting what was left of the A2NWO out of the company, forcing them to sit in the stands to watch the show. This new arrangement lasted through one show, "Revelations", before MPW retreated back to its home base of operations in Minneapolis, and Green Bay fans were left with no local pro wrestling federation nearby. The closest to Green Bay was Carmine DiSpirito's Mid-American Wrestling (MAW) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
After finding sitting on the sidelines unacceptable, Jason Jerry, a few of his old A2NWO comrades, and others who missed the grand experiment that ACW had been, decided to start anew. Jerry secured the rights to the name "All-Star Championship Wrestling", and in 2002, this time without Krause behind the scenes, re-started the company at "Rebirth" in Rockwood, Wisconsin. The former television championship was re-named the ACW Midwest Title for this new era. Several vets of the old ACW, such as Horace the Psychopath, and new talent such as J-Cash showed up for this new beginning. However some fans, unhappy that their old favorites weren't there, were disappointed that it wasn't exactly like the old days.
The company continued under Jerry's leadership, but wrestling as a whole was on a downward trend. ACW had gone from drawing a reported 700 fans at The Watering Hole in 2000 to less than 100 at some shows in 2002 and 2003, even at The Neng Yee Performance Center in Green Bay. Even names such as TNA wrestler Jesse James in Kiel, Wisconsin failed to draw a crowd. In an attempt to stop this trend and continue the company's evolution, Jerry affiliated the company with NWA Midwest and re-named the federation ACW-NWA Wisconsin, thus gaining access to NWA titles and wrestlers, and becoming part of the rich tradition of the National Wrestling Alliance
Under this joint banner, Ed Chuman and NWA Midwest brought new talent to the ACW arenas, including Colt Cabana, CM Punk, Austin Aries, the tag-team of "Spanish Stew" (Jose "El Vato" Guerrero and Dinn T. Moore), Chandler McClure, Bryce Benjamin, and Eric "The Underwear Model" Priest. NWA titles were also defended on ACW-NWA shows, such as the NWA Wisconsin title, and even the NWA Midwest X-Division Championship. Jerry also continued bringing in names from the past, such as Gangrel (who briefly held the ACW heavyweight title), Jerry "The King" Lawler, Raven, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and The Honky Tonk Man. Jerry also commissioned the company's first new championship belt since their TV title in 2000: the ACW X-Division title.
The company continued to evolve in 2004, and began to run more shows away from Green Bay. They broke ground in wrestling-hungry cities such as Appleton and Oshkosh, signing fresh performers, including Shortstack, known as "The World's Sexiest Midget". They also ran more X-division style matches, featuring younger, smaller wrestlers doing fantastic flips. NWA Wisconsin
In mid-2005, after a benefit show raising money for the Salvation Army in aid of Hurricane Katrina victims, Jerry officially changed the company's name to NWA Wisconsin, fully embracing its ties to the National Wrestling Alliance. The new company still refers to and honors its past, but the ACW brand name has been laid to rest. Those who were there for the ride, though, say that it was the best thing going in the business anywhere short of "The Big Three" and truly was "The Midwest Ass-Kicking Machine."
On Saturday, May 20 at Babba Louie's in Green Bay, WI, NWA Wisconsin wrestler Logan Lasher announced that ACW would return to The Watering Hole on June 17, 2006 for a "one night only" event. Little else is known at this time, but NWA Wisconsin owner, Jason Jerry had this to say on the NWA Wisconsin message boards:
"The ACW thing... after this post, it should go in it's own thread on the "other wrestling" board since it's not NWA:WI. Right now the show is being planned as a collaborative effort of many people, some who wish to remain hidden. Some even wish to remain hidden behind a bottle of scotch. Some behind gin. Everyone who was active in ACW from 1999-2001 is welcome to inquire about working the show... I can hook you up with the right people. I'll admit that I designed the flyer, and allowed them to be passed out at the last show NWA:WI show. I will probably ring announce the ACW show since I've been asked to. I have nothing to do with the website. I believe the show is being planned as a one-show reunion, but if it goes well, who knows?"
Founded in 2005 by Jason Jerry, NWA Wisconsin continues the tradition it created in 1998 under the name of All-Star Championship Wrestling. Although once considered Green Bay, Wisconsin's only locally owned and operated professional wrestling company, NWA Wisconsin has since changed the company focus and seldom holds events in the Green Bay area. The decision to hold events on a rotating venue schedule has proven to be quite a successful financial strategy.
In late 2005, NWA Wisconsin created a deal with Time-Warner Digital Cable to create a series of television specials labeled Happy Hour. Happy Hour episodes are available for free on Time Warner iN DEMAND channel 998 in Wisconsin, and online at http://nwawisconsin.com/videos.html. The name "Happy Hour" was a name chosen by the fans on an online web poll.
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