Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Central Empire Wrestling.
Austin Bayliss, a digital broadcasting major at William Penn University, will graduate this spring having already established a professional wresting empire of his own.
Since the summer of 2007, Bayliss has helped organized Central Empire Wresting events in Oskaloosa. At first, these events were held at the YMCA, but have been held at Bradbury Hall on the Nelson Pioneer Farm for the past year and a half. This January will mark the CEW’s fifth year in existence.
Professional wrestling has had a place in the forefront of Bayliss’ mind for most of his life.
“I started watching wresting in fifth grade and I sort of became hooked,” said Bayliss, noting that the soap opera-like storylines and action are what really drew him in.
By the time he was in high school, Bayliss had already began training to become a professional wrestler at a facility in northwest Iowa.
While attending Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Bayliss said he wanted to turn his hobby into a business and decided to start Central Empire Wrestling. Today, Bayliss’s CEW is licensed with the state of Iowa as a legitimate business for which he serves as owner, event promoter and trainer.
“It’s a hobby, but it’s a legitimate hobby and not a ‘fly-by-night’ thing,” said Bayliss.
Bayliss also works to pass on his knowledge of professional wrestling at the Central Empire Wrestling Academy, located close to his home in Wellman. For about four hours every Thursday evening, training sessions for a half a dozen or so aspiring professional wrestlers from around Iowa are held. Bayliss added, there is a group of wrestling students from Pella and Oskaloosa who car pool to these Thursday night training sessions.
“Wrestling is very physical, and in order to not get hurt, you have to learn the proper techniques like how to fall, how to take a bump and how to give a move to your opponent, and how to entertain the crowd,” explained Bayliss. “It’s really a place where tomorrow’s stars are born.”
When asked what kinds of people aspire to professional wrestling greatness, Bayliss said everyone who learns at the CEW Academy is a fan of the sport first. He said many of these folks may not have excelled in a conventional sport such as football or basketball, but they remain athletic individuals with a need for an outlet to showcase their physical talents.
“Personally, I was never that great of a football player,” said Bayliss with a laugh. “I’m short and slow, so that leaves basketball out too. Wrestling has always been something I’ve been able to keep up with.”
Professional wrestling in the CEW and other organizations is, of course, based in entertainment rather than reality. However, Bayliss stressed that his wrestlers are trained professionals who put a lot of training into their craft.
“It’s a simulation of an altercation, but, at the end of the day, it’s entertaining for the crowd,” Bayliss said. “But, people do get hurt and you have to be very athletic to do this.”
Much like the more mainstream professional wrestling organizations, wrestlers in the CEW perform as characters in twisted plots of “good guys” versus “villains.”
“People love to hate the bad guys and sometimes the good guys,” said Bayliss. “We are masters at provoking emotions.”
CEW puts on events fairly regularly featuring up to 20 wrestlers per show. This Saturday, Bradbury Hall at the Nelson Pioneer Farm will play host to the most ambitious event CEW has ever held. Bayliss said this particular event has been the largest he’s ever put on with CEW, taking six months to organize.
The big names involved in this Saturday’s event are Scotty 2 Hotty and Al Snow, both of whom have wrestled with the WWE, the largest professional wrestling organization. Both of these wrestlers have participated in CEW events in the past, as well.
“The wrestling fan base knows who they are,” said. Bayliss. “They’re family-friendly characters that I took an interest in because they were fun characters to watch on TV.”
Before Saturday’s evening event, CEW wrestlers and Scotty 2 Hotty will be on hand to greet fans at Bradbury Hall from 8 to 11 a.m. for the Oskaloosa Lions Club’s pancake breakfast. Donations given at the breakfast will go toward the Lions Club and their efforts to get glasses and hearing aids for local people in need.
Tickets for Saturday night’s event are available at Summer’s Car Credit, 911 A Ave. W., and Doty Computers, 312 A Ave. E. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. with the show slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Central Empire Wrestling.
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