This Saturday, Ryse Wrestling celebrates it’s seventh anniversary, a lofty goal that many upstart organizations don’t reach. Ryse, the blue collar league founded by Pittsburgh independent legend, Brandon K, runs its event in Uniontown, an equally blue collar destination just south of the steel city.
The real-life Jason Clements has competed in the sport for the past 25 years, quite literally growing up in the industry that he idolized as a youth. When he broke into the business, training under more than 30-year pro, Paul Atlas, Clements wanted to chase the dream of pro wrestling glory. He had no idea that the squared circle would not only impact the direction of his life, but have an influence on his family as well. While light heavyweights weren’t nearly as common in the late-90s as they are now, the grappler known as Brandon K had his share of interactions with the biggest organizations in the sport during the formative years of his career. With Lita acting as a translator, he prepared for a WWE dark match with Essa Rios, and during the primitive stages of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Clements made a few trips to Nashville as well.
Still, his home turf is where he flourished the most. As most youngsters in the business, he zigzagged around the tri-state area to hone his craft, but he always felt most comfortable inside a Pittsburgh ring. With a combination of fast-paced maneuvers and technical skill, the man behind the Brandon K persona became known as one of the best performers in Pittsburgh wrestling history.
Eventually, when he wasn’t in the ring winning championships, he worked as a trainer for the now-defunct Pro Wrestling Express organization. Teaching the next generation and thus allowing them to achieve their dream of being a pro wrestler the same way that he had became a passion for Clements. All Elite Wrestling’s Lee Moriarty, NXT’s Thea Hail, and many other very accomplished talent learned the ropes from Brandon K.
When Brandon was close to the twenty-year milestone of his career, he wanted a way to ensure that he could continue to contribute to the industry that was so rewarding to him. In 2016, he launched the Ryse Wrestling organization, complete with its own training academy so that the next generation would have a proper starting point to pursue the business. Clements wasn’t just a trainer to collect the tuition money for the grappling lessons, when an aspiring hopeful entrusted him as their trainer, he fulfills the role as a mentor and teacher long after they begin their journey into the industry. Safety is paramount, and Clements, along with established veteran Dean Radford, take the time to work with each student’s individual level to allow them to make the most out of their skills.
Over the years, like any small business, Ryse’s existence and ability to excel was based on its fan base. Those that are willing to pay their hard-earned dollars for a night of entertainment aren’t short-changed by the talent that lace up their boots on any given evening. Prior to the doors opening for an event, the ring crew is tightening turnbuckles, Jason’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clements are setting up the concession stand, head of security Phil Coss paperwork signed, and the athletes scheduled for bouts on the card diligently prepare for their performances. The video crew are doing mic checks and setting up cameras to capture the action. Plus, Jason’s wife, Kristy feverishly crisscross the venue to organize ticket orders for those that reserved ringside seats for that night’s action.
It was very much a venture that started from humble beginnings with the only guarantees involved as the costs of running live professional wrestling matches in the state of Pennsylvania. The success realized was a combined effort from everyone involved in the organization. From champions like Matt Conard or The Runway to the trainees that ushered fans to their seats. As trivial as it might sound, each person had a role in the overall success of the company that carved a place for itself among the Pittsburgh independent scene.
But, the path of Ryse Wrestling to its seventh anniversary wasn’t without its trials and tribulations. When the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the world in March 2020, Jason Clements found himself at a crossroads with his pro wrestling league. With health concerns and attendance restrictions in place, live events were shuttered, and the training academy went on hiatus to avoid any health risks to trainers or students. Without the revenue of the training tuition or the proceeds from live event tickets, Brandon was forced to relocated the company’s home based from the converted cinema that hosted events previously.
Even after a return to live action in 2021, scheduling conflicts with different revenues left the Ryse schedule very scattered, with only four events held in the second of the year.
It wasn’t until February 2022 that Ryse reemerged with a fresh chapter, as the pandemic subsided and the organization found a new home inside the Uniontown Mall. The 20-year veteran Chris LeRusso, who worked extensively around the independent scene with appearances for Ring Of Honor over the years, was named the new matchmaker of the organization. With new talent, many of those that were students of Brandon K, and establish pros added to the roster, the organization began to rebuild.
Within the time since that new chapter, Pretty Boy Smooth had a very successful tenure in the company, the tag team division saw an influx of great talent, including the teams that competed in the Ryse Tag Team Invitational, and many of Brandon K’s pupils became staples of his organization. Guest stars were also a part of various events within the past two years as well, with independent legend Delirious, Joshi star Sumie Sakai, and “The Franchise” Shane Douglas among those that have made appearances for Ryse. Christian Noir, regarded as one of the hard-working performers in the area, claimed the newly-minted Ascension championship this past July, a belt that he’s scheduled to defend this Saturday in a four-way scramble match. Alexander Charles and his stablemates in The Great Success faction, while brash, prove how bright of a future the organization has in terms of the depth on the current roster. Money Shot, one of the best tag teams on the independent scene, will defend their belts against the gutsy Rad Boyz this weekend. The main event will featured the superbly talented youngster Cowpoke Paul, who was embraced by the Ryse audience, challenging the unpredictable Ron Mathis in a wild no disqualification match for the Ryse Grand championship.
So, this Saturday at The Uniontown Mall, Ryse Wrestling will celebrates its seventh anniversary, recognition of not only the quality history that the company has and the hurdles it had to overcome, but also a showcase for the future of the organization.
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