AWE: Local business on the verge of hitting it big

It’s thisclose to being another great example of the Great American Success Story.

The Downtown Waynesboro-based Awesome Wrestling Entertainment will make its debut on television on Saturday, Oct. 15, with a live pay-per-view wrestling event that will be broadcast by InDemand, DirecTV, AGTV and Bell TV in Canada to more than 122 million households in North America.

The live TV event is AWE’s attempt to join the heavyweights of pro wrestling like WWE and TNA Impact.

There is a neat human-interest story behind the scenes with the company. Awesome Wrestling Entertainment is based in a small town in Virginia – Waynesboro, Va., population 21,500, far away from the nation’s biggest media markets. And the company’s CEO is a man named Marvin Ward, 37, a former professional wrestler who had to retire in 1997 after suffering a career-ending shoulder injury and in 1999 opened, with his wife, Stacie, a small wrestling-promotion business out of his home.

Ward has said he now has a better appreciation for the term “overnight success.” After 12 years of promoting house shows throughout Virginia and up and down the East Coast, AWE exploded on the scene this summer with a storyline revolving around a decade-old Internet feud between “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash and Ricky Morton of The Rock-n-Roll Express.

Without TV or any house shows in the summer season to back it up, the back-and-forth between Nash and Morton that played out on the Internet and on AWE’s Facebook page caught fire. The company now boasts more than 100,000 Facebook fans, a number that has caught the attention of pay-per-view giant InDemand, which along with DirecTV, AGTV and Bell TV in Canada will be broadcasting AWE’s Night of the Legends on Oct. 15 on live pay-per-view television.

It’s almost hard for Ward to process how quickly things have happened – after years and years and years of banging his head against a wall.

“We knew from the beginning that unless you have millions of dollars, or knew key people in the entertainment industry, then the odds were against us a million to one. But that did not deter us. I am a firm believer that if you have a dream, and you believe in it, then anything is possible,” Ward said.

Even with that as a given, it’s been far from easy. Ward for years promoted shows at high-school gyms and National Guard armories, sometimes making money, “and at times losing money because we would spend more on national-brand talent and advertising to make sure we had large crowds to get attention.”

The losses added up, and Ward and his wife, Stacie, decided to sell their house and moved with their two daughters, Brittany and Hannah, with his parents.

“Every day, we had family and friends tell us we were crazy to continue to fight for this dream,” Ward said.

And now the family is so close to the big time that they can almost taste it. In four short weeks, Ward will join an elite group of wrestling promoters who can put on their resume that they have produced a live broadcast pay-per-view event.

There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. AWE has not produced a single TV show to date, and it now needs to build up the infrastructure necessary to broadcast live TV throughout North America and a worldwide Internet feed.

Ward and the AWE team have put together an impressive production operation to add to the roster of wrestlers that includes former WWE and WCW stars Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Terry Funk and homegrown talents Jamin Olivencia, Alex Silva and Sonjay Dutt.

Friends are trying to remind Ward as the days count down toward Oct. 15 that he needs to take time out every so often to enjoy the scenery.

“This is the first time this has ever happened, a company with no prior TV experience and no background in pay-per-view events being given an opportunity like this to go on live TV,” Ward said. “Entertainment executives are saying this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that our company is being given, and that we have one chance to finally make it and live the American dream.”

AWE online: www.AwesomeWrestlingEntertainment.com



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