OTTUMWA—Over five hundred pro wrestling fans packed the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa, Iowa last Saturday, January 4 for Central Empire Wrestling’s Bridge City Slam 2 event.

It was a night of intense, action-packed wrestling that featured a handful of former WWE superstars, including WWE Hall of Fame member Jerry “The King” Lawler.

The big stars in attendance, combined with the large audience, made this the biggest show in CEW history, something that brought a real sense of pride to promoter Austin Bayliss.

“When you look at the things we’ve done in the decade leading up to Bridge City Slam 2, and then you see the event, you know we just made a significant step,” Bayliss said. “We had fans here from every state that touches Iowa, and even some from Florida. It’s incredible how much our fans believed in what we were trying to do.”

Those fans were treated to more than just a wrestling show. Two hours before the bell rang for the first match, anyone who purchased a ticket was able to participate in the CEW Fan Fest that included a meet-and-greet with the wrestlers, food vendors, and a video game area.

A total of eight matches entertained the fans in attendance and they featured former WWE superstars Jerry Lawler, Terri Runnels, Mr. Anderson, “The Masterpiece” Chris Masters and Hornswoggle.

Joining the former WWE stars were some of the top independent wrestlers in the country including “6-Star Booty” JT Energy, who recently wrestled on Monday Night Raw when WWE was in Iowa, “Buns of Steel” J Fowler, Valentina Loca, Frontman Jah C, “Suplex Cyclone” Curt Gannon, “Pop Icon” Donnie Peppercricket and Tony Eveland.

For Eveland, better known to wrestling fans as ‘The Storm’, performing at Bridge City Slam 2 was a homecoming in more ways than one.

A William Penn graduate and former William Penn football player, Eveland began his wrestling career with Bayliss and CEW. He wrestled his final show with the company last April at the Nelson Pioneer Farm in Oskaloosa during CEW’s 10-year anniversary show.

Since then he has been working the independent wrestling scene in Florida, and is currently the Full Throttle Pro Wrestling Golden Challenge Champion. He jumped at the opportunity to return to his wrestling roots for such a momentous show.

“As much as I love Central Empire Wrestling, and it will always be a second home for me, I found another home with Full Throttle Pro Wrestling,” Eveland said. “Being away gave me the opportunity to miss Iowa, it gave me the opportunity to come back bigger, stronger, faster and with a vengeance. Not only am I representing FTPW, but I am also representing the great state of Iowa. This means the world to me.”

While wrestling in Florida, Eveland earned the opportunity to take part in a three-day tryout at the WWE Performance Center, something he knows was a valuable learning experience.

“That was a blast and a lot of fun,” Eveland said. “I learned a lot and got to meet a lot of great people and forge some really good relationships out of that opportunity. One of the big things I learned from that experience was that I needed to figure out how to do a little bit more to stand out, to show what separates me from the pack and makes me The Storm. Last year was a lot of growing for me as a wrestler.”

During the show, Eveland defended his Full Throttle Pro Wrestling Colden Challenge Championship against Mr. Anderson, Curt Gannon, and “Flawless” Brandon Wallace.

With their first show of the year officially in the books, the stars of Central Empire Wrestling have set the bar high for the remainder of 2020, something that excites CEW promoter, Austin Bayliss.

“We look forward to traveling throughout Iowa once again this year and bringing matches into even more new communities,” Bayliss said. “Our goal is to allow wrestling fans to escape reality for a couple of hours when they come to our shows. We want to take them on a roller coaster ride of emotions and at the end of the event we want our fans to look forward to seeing us again.”

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