Longtime Pittsburgh wrestling veteran, Jason Clements, known to wrestling fans as Brandon K for almost 25 years, founded his own organization six years ago. After so many years of zigzagging across different states in his pursuit of stardom, the man with the moniker “First Klass” wanted to bring the sport he loves to his hometown so Ryse Wrestling was launched in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a blue collar town just south of Pittsburgh, in 2016. With an extensive résumé of in-ring accomplishments, he knew that even the most polished performers eventually have to hang up their boots. But, Clements has such a passion for the industry, not only did he want to complete his career on his terms, but wanted to remain a part of the business that has meant so much to him and his family.
Breaking into the business in 1998, the performer that became a fan favorite among the Pittsburgh indy circuit went on to become not only one of the most respected in-ring workers, but also one of the steel city’s most notable trainers. Over the two decades that he has competed inside the ring ropes, Brandon K traveled to several states and even had a few WWE dark matches because he had a reputation as a consistent quality worker. He translated those in-ring skills to being a trainer and considers his time teaching others as one of the most rewarding aspects of his extensive career.
“This year has been a payoff for all the hard work everyone has put into this brand. Our growth has seen a substantial increase because of how hard everyone works in front of the curtain and decisions made behind it. It’s amazing to go back to the beginning and watch the product where we only charged $10 for what was almost a rookie event. Now, those athletes worked hard enough to put us as a major player in the wrestling world,” Brandon explained.
Just some of the names that he is responsible for introducing to the business are AEW star Lee Moriarty, NXT’s Thea Hail, and Duke Davis. Davis, one half of the tag team, The Mane Event alongside Gannon Jones Jr., are considered by many to be the next break out tag team from Pittsburgh. Along with those grapplers, Brandon trained many that became successful staples of the Pittsburgh in the scene, including fixtures of the Ryse organization.
“Ryse has so much young quality talent mixed in with guys that have been around for a while that can help that young talent grow and get better. I am one of the oldest guys in the locker room and being in Ryse not only makes me feel young, but gives me hope that the future is in good hands,” commented BC Steele, regarded by many Pittsburgh pundits as the best manager in the history of the region’s extensive independent scene.
The project was very much a family affair, as Clements’ parents that often supported him from the audience throughout the vast majority of his career, enthusiastically took positions on staff to help with the project. Mrs. Clements cheerfully greets the wrestlers that are scheduled for the card on any particular night before the doors open and then she’s just as happy to greet the fans as she runs the snack bar. Mr. Clements can often be seen supervising the ring crew before and after events. Kristy Clements, the founder’s wife, is a co-owner of the organization and often takes care of paperwork throughout an event.
The upstart league took many of the prospects that Brandon trained and gave them an opportunity to truly showcase their skills. A mixture of young talent and solid veterans gave the organization a level of quality from the opening match to the final bell. Names like Matt Conard, Derek Dillinger, Christian Noir, and many others made Ryse an organization that grew its following over the first few years of its existence. As the league continue to build itself and expand to other towns outside of its home base, the COVID-19 pandemic that shuddered the entire world also had a major impact on Brandon‘s wrestling venture in 2020.
Initially based in a converted cinema, when the building wasn’t hosting live matches and rowdy fans, the venue doubled as the training center, where Brandon gave his years of knowledge to the next generation of aspiring hopefuls. When the pandemic prevented live events or training sessions, Brandon was faced with the harsh reality of the economics of the situation. In an effort to keep ticket prices affordable to fans, and by nature of independent wrestling, Ryse couldn’t continue its lease at the cinema if it couldn’t bring in the usual revenue from its training center and live events.
Real life, Jason Clements had to consider if his wrestling passion as Brandon K could whether the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Instead of allowing his dream of promoting his students to live out their own dreams to be shuttered, he explored his options and eventually found refuge in the Uniontown Mall. The space that was a Burlington Coat Factory was transformed into a full-fledged wrestling arena, with a video screen, full entrance way, and of course, a wrestling ring, a canvas for the grapplers to apply their art form.
When 2022 provided some sense of hope for a return to a level of normalcy, Ryse looked to shuffle up the deck to create a fresh chapter in its new location, hiring Pittsburgh veteran Chris LeRusso, who has a twenty-year career of his own, to work as an organizer in a management role.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of our younger talent develop and start to bring their A game. Seeing Tad Jarvis learn so much under the learning tree of Brandon K or how the Cowpoke Paul has grown, even talent like The Great Alexander have really improved and showed why they belong in the main event. My job is to put on the best pro wrestling show possible with the talents we have; along with some special guests. I look at potential match-ups with the fans in mind first. I want them to walk away knowing they got their money’s worth,” LeRusso said.
The dreams, hopes, and aspirations of Ryse Wrestling will be celebrated this Saturday night at the Uniontown mall for its sixth anniversary show, an event that everyone involved looks to make a special evening for the dedicated fan base that followed the product to its newest location. A stacked card of stellar talent set the stage for what should be a memorable night of action. Pretty Boy Smooth puts his nearly year long reign on the line when he defends the Ryse Grand Championship against Edric Everhart, a performer that many have said had a break out year in 2022. Other action on the card brings the legendary Sumie Sakai to Pittsburgh in a tag team bout with AJ Alexander to face off against Laura Loveless and Christian Noir. The Runway of Calvin Couture, and Tyler Klein, a duo that have made an impression on the independent circuit inn several states this year, will defend their tag titles in a four-way contest . Finally, Cowpoke Paul, upstart with less than one year of in-ring experience, but someone that shows poise beyond his years, will clash with the villainous Great Alexander in a bull rope match.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the story of Ryse Wrestling is the level of dedication and persistence that was required to make it possible. As mentioned, the independent circuit is a small business by nature and thus the company relies on its dedicated audience to help the league continue to flourish. There were no corporate sponsors to ensure the future of the organization through the rocky times of COVID-19. Instead, it was the persistence of Clements and his family for their passion project tonight to continue and flourish through the efforts of the athletes that put forth their best efforts to entertain the paying audience. Some might say it would’ve been easier to close up shop with the uncertainty of the venue, a training school ,or when life events could resume during the pandemic, but the persistence to continue to contribute to the sport of professional wrestling brought Ryse Wrestling to its sixth anniversary event this Saturday night in Uniontown.
“We’ve all learned so much over the years, especially me. I’ve made bonehead decisions and I’ve made intuitive ones, but I’ve learned from them all, and hope to continue to learn and do better for this awesome company. Next year, we will continue to evolve and we won’t rest until we are at the top of the mountain,” Brandon concluded.
For more information about the Ryse sixth anniversary event, you can go to www.facebook.com/rysewrestling
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