In the world of independent professional wrestling, the sport is much closer to the regional days of the business, a time when a territory had a core group of talent and guest stars were cycled throughout the area. In the Pittsburgh scene, a region known almost as much for its wrestling as the steel it once produced, there are a myriad of independent organizations with different philosophies that present different talent in a different manner to create their own unique brand within the microcosm of western, Pennsylvania.
As a commentator on the Pittsburgh scene for a decade and a half, I’ve seen a lot of talent flourish within different groups. One of the most intriguing aspects of the independent circuit, both for fans and the talent themselves, is the ability to not only see talent organically develop, but also the unique opportunities that will spontaneously present themselves.
One such example took place last April at a Ryse Wrestling, the blue collar league that was founded by longtime wrestling veteran and trainer, Brandon K, when a scheduled tag team bout had to be changed just hours before bell time. Again, the independent circuit is built upon the passion and dedication of those that pursue the sport, as well as the fans that support the organizations through their attendance. There aren’t any private planes to get a replacement to the venue with plenty of time to spare.
On that particular spring night in April 2023, Money Shot, the combination of Elijah Dean and Zach Nystrom, were scheduled to defend the Ryse Tag Team titles, championships they held until just last month. Dean and Nystrom are regarded by many as one of the best tag teams in independent wrestling today and their bouts are considered to be featured matches on the card. Money Shot’s opponents’, the Ohio-based tag team of Members Only, were forced to cancel their appearence because of an illness.
Of course, this left Money Shot without title challengers so Chris LeRusso, a 20-year pro in his own right and current matchmaker for Ryse, put down his clipboard and laced up his boots. But, LeRusso had an ace up his sleeve when he called longtime stalwart of the area, “Big League” John McChesney to make the impromptu trip to Uniontown to make a surprise debut for the organization as LeRusso’s mystery tag partner.
McChesney received the call just a few hours before bell time, and as I went over last-minute notes for the broadcast of the event, I was only told that the tag title match was still on the line-up. I had first saw “Big League” on an independent card nearly 20 years earlier so it was a neat occasion to get to call one of his matches.
As the last bout before intermission was ready to take place and the music hit, and I sat at the commentary desk ready to introduce the segment, I saw this wild face zoom through the curtain. With his tongue out in an expression similar to The Road Warriors from years passed, and a backwards hat to imply the swagger, this individual that was smaller in statue immediately exuded larger-than-life personality. This scooter wasn’t simply a mobility aid, it was part of the persona and presentation of this guy. Part manager and part hype man, the energy and enthusiasm that he displayed was infectious. He wasn’t rolling to the ring to get a better view of the action, he was zooming around ringside to hype the audience for the special surprise bout with the Ryse debut of his client as a part of Team Big League.
Who was this energetic guy that looked like he was having the time of his life that it was impossible for the audience not to join in with his enthusiasm?
This was Jordie Noland, and he won the crowd over almost immediately, but his journey that got him to ringside was anything but easy.
Jordie was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease, a challenge that would be a tough task even for his wrestling idols that take all the bumps and burises inside the squared circle. As the name implies, the disease saw the future wrestling manager struggle with several broken bones and near constant pain from the condition. His childhood wasn’t defined by baseball games or sunny days at the pool. Hospital visits and recovering from those broken bones were much more common for him. But, in a display of true grit, a trait often woven into the fabric of pro wrestling storylines, Noland showed a level of real-life toughness that very few have to keep his head up even under challenging circumstances.
“Growing up, was challenging to say the least, but I was able to overcome pretty much any obstacle that stood in front of me. I never did, nor do I still, let my disability control or define me. Nothing was ever handed to me, I earned and fought for everything I have and was given. Dealing with physical pain was always a struggle and challenge but, it made me stronger in the end. Not being able to play outside with the other kids sucked but I made up for it by having great relationships with my teachers, whom I still consider family to this day,” Jordie explained.
Ironically, it was video games that served as Jordie’s introduction to sports entertainment, as his parents didn’t originally allow him to watch professional wrestling. He didn’t start watching the television product until he was 14, but became so memorized by the spectacle that he devoured as much of the history of the industry as possible from any source possible after he was bitten by the pro wrestling bug.
“Honestly, just the athleticism and inspiration the talent were showing made me want to do it,” Noland said of what hooked him on the grappling arts.
Not long after he fell in love with the sport of pro wrestling, he met the previously mentioned McChesney through a friend, and the longtime independent star asked the youngster what his plans were. When Jordie revealed that he wanted to be involved in professional wrestling any way he could, the grappler known as “Big League” promised to help make it happen, and John McChesney kept that promise. A few years later, when Jordie was 18, he did a guest ring announcer spot for the wrestler at an event in Pittsburgh.
Jordie didn’t know it at the time, but that guest spot more than seven years ago turned into a career that has taken him throughout the industry that he admired so much. Throughout that time, the crowds can’t help but get excited when they see Noland zipping around ringside. They can identify with his enthusiasm because he’s having as much fun as they are. The chance to entertain and meet the fans are things that Noland cites as some of the most rewarding aspects of his tenure in the industry.
“Having a special connection with the fans is great for a multitude of reasons, but mainly one of them is being inspiring. I love knowing that the fans are happy to see me and that I make their day or make them smile. The kids, I love giving them hugs or just making them laugh or get excited about the show or matches. I also truly believe it gives them experience to approach someone with special needs without preconceived notions or judgment,” he said.
As Jordie was literally and figuratively zigzagging his way throughout the independent scene alongside John McChesney, he worked alongside many of those that went on to achieve national fame. For example, before Britt Baker and Wardlow were spotlighted on AEW programming, there were mainstays of the Pittsburgh circuit. Baker and Wardlow told former All Elite EVP Cody Rhodes that Jordie was a big fan of his so Noland and his family were invited to a TV taping to meet The American Nightmare. Cody immediately saw Jordie’s dedication and passion for the industry, and the two kept in touch even after Rhodes made the return to WWE.
That meeting led the hype man to take a giant leap in his wrestling journey, being invited to do commentary for Cody’s Nightmare Factory training school events. Jordie found himself on a plane to Atlanta, thinking that this surreal experience was a one-off, but it became a staple of his wrestling schedule.
“I would’ve never guessed a scrappy kid like me on the Indy’s would get such an amazing and humbling experience. It has been a ride of fun and thrills to say the least. Now, what I at first thought was a one-time opportunity has officially become full time quarterly down in Atlanta and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity,” Jordie commented.
Aside from expanding his pro wrestling horizons, Jordie joined the literary ranks as an author with his book, “A Little Life in A Big World,” an autobiography that was written with the help of his former fourth grade teacher. The pages of the 2021 release detail how Noland went from being born in Honduras with the rare disorder to living his dream as a member of the pro wrestling industry.
Noland considers the book an extension of his greater goal in professional wrestling, not a self-serving venture for his own ego, but rather as an inspirational example to others.
“I want people to look at my life, my story, my disability, all of it and realize that dreams do and can come true and to never give up. Do not let the world define you, your past tell you who you are and let anyone tell you what you need to be doing in this world or to stop you from pursuing your passions,” he commented.
Similar to his approach to everything else in his life, Jordie set his sights big for his goals in professional wrestling.
“I want to travel the world, be a part of this as a career, not a hobby. There is no such thing as end all be all promotion for me. What’s good enough for me is knowing that I’m doing this full time, I’m able to provide for myself and family in doing what I love and that is being in professional wrestling,” Noland concluded.
On that April night of 2023, Jordie Noland was introduced to Ryse Wrestling because of a by chance opportunity, and he made the most of it. The same way a spontaneous meeting with Cody Rhodes allowed him to make the most of a chance at a commentary gig that became a regular spot for him. In a business built on egos, Jordie takes the time to serve as an inspiration for those that see his journey. The nature of the business is harsh and unpredictable, but one thing is for sure, don’t count out Jordie Noland. His real-life tale of overcoming poverty, disease, and medical hurdles is an actual story of courage that rivals anything from the over-the-top world of sports entertainment.
Quite simply, when you meet Jordie Noland, you meet a real-life inspiration story.
To order Jordie’s book, you can go to https://www.amazon.com/Little-Life-Big-World/dp/B099BZWYMT
What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, & Threads @jimlamotta89