ST. LOUIS — "I’ve loved wrestling my whole life and I’m living a dream when it comes to being in this business."
Joey O'Farrell lives and breathes wrestling, and he wants you to as well. Passion flows best through words, and hearing O'Farrell talk about the wrestling culture around here got the old wrestling addict in myself fired up. When you hear what he has been putting together for years for STL vs. The World, an event scheduled for April 30, you will be fired up as well.
The St. Louis native is putting on a once-in-a-lifetime event next month at the Grandel Theater in Grand Center, but it's not your typical big-time wrestling card. You don't just have national performers coming in to dominate the stage and put on the show. O'Farrell's event is all about exposing the beating heart of wrestling lore in St. Louis.
He has brought in the best wrestlers that St. Louis has to offer and stacked them up against the best wrestlers found around the world. According to O'Farrell, a potent list of current and former champions will put the city's own muscle to the test. Wrestlers from television companies such as New Japan, AEW (All Elite Wrestling), NXT, WWE, and Impact among others. It's big and will only get bigger on April 30.
In a Q & A conducted this week, O'Farrell elaborated on the event.
Dan Buffa: How did Grandel Wrestling come about? Tell me about it.
Joey O'Farrell: After 15 years of being a concert promoter I was burned out and I needed a change of scenery. I took a job as a VIP manager for WWE and worked with all their top talent.
I started hearing about these two local companies: Glory Pro and Anarchy. I went to a few of their shows and was amazed by the caliber of talent they would bring in but more impressed with the amount of homegrown talent from right here in Saint Louis. I decided right there that I wanted to take these guys out of the Knights of Columbus halls and showcase them in a theater with production no local promotion ever dreamed possible.
I wanted it to be an annual showcase of our best talent. The show was originally going to be at the Moolah Theater but after a few months the owners decided they wanted to sell the building. I was so devastated by the news. I was talking to my good friend Chris Denman and was ready to give up on the project when he said you should check out the Grandel Theatre. I was blown away the first time I saw it. (Director of Booking) Robert (Harris) and the Kranzberg staff were so welcoming and wanted us to be there. I immediately knew this was the place.
Buffa: This feels like a project that has been in the making for quite some time. Tell me about the stress and excitement of putting something together like this?
O'Farrell: Where do I begin? I originally booked this event for April 2020. I’ve rescheduled it four times due to the pandemic and I’ve lost two business partners. With all that I’ve weathered the storm and I think this event is going to be something bigger than I could’ve imagined the original show being. There’s more than anyone realizes that goes into booking a wrestling show. You’re a promoter, travel agent, film director, marketing manager, and then there’s all the licensing that comes with it.
Buffa: St. Louis seriously loves wrestling, but I feel like many don't know about the wrestling culture around here. Do you find this to be true?
O'Farrell: I think it’s impossible to reach the scale of people that a WWE or AEW does. With that being said companies like Glory Pro, Anarchy and WrestleMax are drawing 300-500 fans to their shows every month. The big companies come here once a year because it’s such a great wrestling city. The fans here are second to none and if they know they’ll come out and support
Buffa: Will fans walk into the event in April and find a steel cage inside the Grandel? What can people expect next month?
O'Farrell: You’ll see a ladder match for one of the most coveted titles in the Midwest. You’ll see our best vs. the best in the world. The list goes on and on of champions coming to St. Louis to test themselves against our best. You’ll also see a level of production you’ve never seen before besides WWE. Lastly, the Grandel is one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen. I think fans will be blown away with the vibe and production they see.
Buffa: You've brought in wrestlers from all around the world to take on St. Louis' best. Give us a few names to start remembering. Show-stoppers, etc.
O'Farrell: I’ll start with the main event. You’ve got Samuray Del Sol, who was formerly known as Kalisto in WWE. Samuray is in the prime of his career and is a former WWE United States, Tag Team and Cruiserweight champion. He does stuff you only see in video games, which he’s on quite a few of.
Then you have St. Louis’ Davey Richards. He moved here about five or so years ago and has proudly carried the STL banner even starting his own wrestling school here. Davey is a guy who’s been a champion and wrestled in about every big company there is. Davey is a paramedic (and) firefighter, and is currently going to school to become a doctor. Family is No. 1 for him, and that’s why he turns down offers from the big companies on a monthly basis.
(And there's) Moose, also known to Rams fans as Quinn Ojinnaka. After his football career ended in 2012, he became an instant wrestling sensation known as Moose in the wrestling world. Moose is currently the Impact World Champion and one of the most imposing figures in wrestling.
You want to talk about a local here—let’s chat about St. Louis women's wrestling star Tootie Lynn. Tootie is the most beloved wrestler in St. Louis and represented St. Louis when wrestling came back to the Chase this past fall. She’ll be facing the current Mexico and Ring of Honor women's champion Deonna Purazzo. Deonna is known as the best women's wrestler in the world and has the championships to prove it. I could go on and on about how stacked this card is.
Buffa: Why are you doing this? What does wrestling mean to you personally?
O'Farrell: I’ve loved wrestling my whole life, and I’m living a dream when it comes to being in this business. I know some people might want to say, "Oh that’s that fake stuff." It may be predetermined but there’s nothing fake about getting kicked in the head or slammed on that mat.
Wrestling can exude every emotion possible, and you never forget where you were when the emotion is at its peak. To me, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done on an entertainment level. I’m proud to be doing this in my hometown and sharing these amazing St. Louis talents with everyone. STL vs. The World is going to blow people away.
Here's the thing. You can't put on a wrestling event in this town and not make it big and impactful. O'Farrell is hungry on the same level as the wrestlers competing in his event, passionately wanting to make this a way of life for himself and his city. Instead of Wrestling at the Chase, he wants the event at the Grandel to become the new subject in that book of local lore.
Next month at the Grandel for the very modest ticket charge of $25, you can see St. Louis' finest wrestlers take on the world's finest. It's not a matter of win or lose, but the memories that are taken away from that night. A lifelong passion and dream coming true in his hometown is pretty close to the mountain top for Joey O'Farrell. Come out, paint your face, keep an eye out for ladders and world champions, and bring an extra shirt to rip off midway through the event.
St. Louis microbrewery 4 Hands Brewing Co. is the event's title sponsor.