Keystone State Wrestling Alliance has Pittsburgh audiences down for the count | Crain's Pittsburgh

Keystone State Wrestling Alliance has Pittsburgh audiences down for the count

  • The Keystone State Wrestling Alliance sponsors matches every six weeks in Lawrenceville. The professional wrestling organization has almost 30 wrestlers on its roster and drew about 4,700 fans in 2017. | Photo courtesy of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance.

  • Dave Fedor, aka Yinza the Pittsburgh Luchador, shouts to wrestling fans at Spirit in Lawrenceville. Fedor is a member of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance. | Photo courtesy of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance.

For Yinza the Pittsburgh Luchador, life is a lot like the movie “Flashdance” … except he’s not dancing in tights, he’s kicking butt in them.

Yinza, whose real name is Dave Fedor, is a member of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance, a professional wrestling organization that formed in 2000.

The 27-year-old rookie got hooked on the sport while watching a VHS tape of Mexican luchadores, grapplers who wear colorful masks and perform acrobatic moves inside the ring. Dave patterned his alter-ego after his high-flying heroes, but with a steel town twist; he dons black headgear that’s a cross between a ski mask and a Steelers football helmet, the aforementioned tights and a yellow cape adorned with city’s coat of arms.

Although he works in a garage during the day, wrestling is his true passion … one he hopes to pursue full-time.

“There’s this ring in the middle of a room with hundreds of people surrounding it, yelling and cheering,” he says. “All that energy is just focused on this 20-foot square, and I get to stand in it and soak it all in. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I can remember the show where the fans really started supporting me, cheering for me, chanting my name. It was electric! I just want to keep getting better, working harder to earn that support. It sounds silly and cliché, but it’s true. I see a kid wearing my T-Shirt and I can’t let him down. I just can’t. Even if I don’t win, I need to try my hardest so I don’t disappoint that kid.”

It takes that kind of passion, dedication and determination to make it in the KSWA, says founder Bob “Bobby O” Orkwis.

Depending on injures and availability, the organization boasts a roster of between 27 and 30 trained “Mega-Stars” who compete for four different titles throughout the year: the Heavyweight Championship, the Golden Triangle Championship, the Tag Team Championship and the Five-Star Championship.

Mitch Napier is the reigning KSWA Heavyweight Champion.

The 34-year-old Iowa native, who now resides in Rimersburg, Penn., has been a wrestling fanatic for as long as he can remember and has been with KSWA for nine years. To remind him of his Midwestern roots, he still wears the same singlet uniform he competed in in high school.

“I always enjoyed the good guys in wrestling and try my best to be a role model for the kids who come to our shows so that they can see how much love I have for the sport,” he says.

Napier is the polar opposite of Bob Giovaniello, whose mobster-based character, Bob Badfingers, was voted KSWA’s Most Hated Wrestler in 2014.

It’s a title he holds as sacred as his numerous championship belts. But, those wins come at a price. The 46-year-old has sustained a few broken ribs and concussions throughout his decade-long career that was inspired by pros such as “Superstar” Billy Graham, Jesse Ventura and Don Muraco.

Despite the risks involved, he and all the other wrestlers look forward to each match, which Orkwis emphasizes, are never staged.

In addition to a few out-of-town events and fundraisers, shows are held every six weeks at Spirit, a former Lawrenceville Moose Lodge that now serves as a bar, pizzeria and event space. More than 4,700 fans, or “Krazies”, attended KSWA matches in 2017.

“The support we receive from our fans is unbelievable and humbling,” Orkwis says. “They are the reason we have been able to celebrate 18 years as an organization.”

This year, KSWA already has four shows under its collective belt with 14 more scheduled and additional dates in the pipeline. All of them are PG-13. The family-friendly nature of KSWA led organizers to offer birthday party packages, which include admission to the show, reserved seating, complimentary snacks and treat bags for each guest.

In addition to entertaining children, the KSWA is seeing more women in the audience.

Although there are no females on the league’s active roster, in the past women have participated as wrestlers, managers and valets. Angie Minelli, a Pittsburgh native who wrestled in the WWF, will be honored at a KSWA tournament on March 24.

“Trapper” Tom Leturgey will be announcing the matches, just as he’s done since 2004.

“I’ve missed three shows in 13 years,” says Leturgey, 50, of Portage, Penn., who met Orkwis when they were students at California University of Pennsylvania. “We get to touch and entertain crowds in a way that few people have an opportunity to do in their lives.”

Fedor, who is still seeking his first title win, can’t wait to get back into the ring as Yinza.

“To paraphrase the song ‘Maniac’ from [Flashdance],” he says, “I’m ‘just a steel town boy on a Saturday night looking for the fight of his life.’”

Keystone State Wrestling Alliance shows are held at Spirit, 242 51st St. in Lawrenceville. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for kids. For more information, visit www.KSWA.net.

March 20, 2018 - 6:54pm