The Professional Grappling Association is a privately controlled integrated-media and sports entertainment company that deals primarily in professional wrestling. It uses television, the Internet, and live events, with additional major revenue sources from product licensing and direct product sales. Bradley A. Ruby is the owner and chief executive officer of the company.
The company has its headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.
- 1 History of PGA
- 2 Post-Unionization
- 3 Alumni
- 4 Tournament Winners
- 5 External Links
History of PGA[edit | edit source]
Origins and Early Promotion (1972-1983)[edit | edit source]
Legend has it that sports entertainment entrepreneur Balk Ruby, the great grandson of British immigrants and principal owner of the Pro Graps Association from 1972-2009, formed the wrestling organization on a bet. It is said that Ruby bet Chester Chipperfield, a friend from the Old Country, that a $10 bill could be earned from a stranger on the street by offering him only the promise of being able to watch a man pretending to be Scottish freestyle wrestling a man dressed as a bear. He won the bet, and exactly one man paid in cash to watch James "The Lowlander" MacBeth wrestle Chumly the Bear to a 90 minute draw in what would become known retroactively as the first PGA show in 1972.
Ruby also promoted other events in the northern Ohio and southern-to-midwest Michigan (including musical concerts, theatrical plays, and minor league baseball and hockey) under the banner of Balk Ruby Promotions. The company was called Balk Ruby Promotions throughout its history and used many brand names for its various TV shows, newspaper and radio ads, and on tickets. Among those brand names were the generic standbys "Championship Wrestling" and "All Star Wrestling," as well as "Wrestling," "Wrestling Is Here," and "Give Me Money For The Wrestlings."
National Expansion and Popularity (1984-1994)[edit | edit source]
While Balk Ruby Promotions enjoyed great success and endorsements from both East Side and West Side Metals as a regional wrestling promotion, the national expansion of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation made clear the writing on the wall. Wanting to maintain a quality of life for his young family (wife Rue, born 1945, son Bradley Alastair, born 1969, and daughter Pearl, born 1981), Balk Ruby turned down a buyout from McMahon, choosing to forge ahead with his own national expansion. By doing so, he became the only independently run wrestling company to do everything right ever. By 1986, Balk Ruby Promotions had become the more nationally palatable "Professional Grappling Association," and was reaping the bountiful harvest of musical television cross-promotion.
PGA's role in the wrestling boom of the 1980s rests squarely on the shoulders of young newcomer Cat Gunsmith. Gunsmith's flowing blonde locks, bodybuilder physique, and extreme xenophobia made him an instant fan favorite. From 1985-1986 he set box office records for the promotion, teaming with idiosyncratic vocalist Chrissie Hynde and vee jay J.J. Jackson to battle forces of evil from around the world, including The Panamanian Assassin, The Russian Barry, and Viking Inuit "Nanook of the Norse." Gunsmith's most famous moment was his era-defining body slam of the near 1,100 pound Antoine Cetacea in an event that broke open the very fault lines of our continent, plunging much of the country into the ocean and drowning many billionaire industrialists who had previously doubted Gunsmith's ability to execute the slam. During this era the Professional Grappling Association became colloquially known as the "Pro Graps Association," a name which stuck and is used almost exclusively today.
The popularity of Gunsmith's PGA propelled the company into the closed circuit pay-per-view arena, first with "This Wrestling Event" in 1986, followed several months later by the inaugural Crowning A Champion's Waist event. The success of CACW86 pushed PGA deeper into the pay-per-view market, and that event was soon followed by Grande Royale (1988), Remain Alive (1990), and Autumnal Equi-Knocks (1990). These events became known as the "big four."
B. Armstrong Ruby and Some Rad Ass Wrestling (1995-2003)[edit | edit source]
With the popularity of professional wrestling waning in the early-to-mid 90s, Gunsmith and his friends who had been so successful in the late-80s began drawing smaller and smaller crowds. In an interview with the Wrestling Contemplator, Balk Ruby claimed that the company was "near bankruptcy" and that he considered turning the company into a "hybrid arena football/bodybuilding competition with storylines." Instead, he gave increased power to his son Bradley, who became the character B. Armstrong Ruby, a smash-mouth, hands-on boss with a progressive perspective on professional wrestling. B. Armstrong Ruby made his television debut in 1996.
The second generation Ruby made his presence felt almost immediately, reinventing the PGA as "Some Rad Ass Wrestling!" SRAW was a new brand of Pro Graps entertainment, focusing more on storytelling and exaggerated, hardcore violence. Changes to the show included installation of air mattresses in the ring, as well as trampolines on the top ropes and on the arena floor. Many of the show's signature characters underwent changes as well. The formerly docile "Flower" became the grotesque, enraged Hillbilly Clown. The Panamanian Assassin stopped a match unexpectedly, launching into a profane, vaguely racist rant about those "[expletive deleted] up in Connecticut." Even the do-gooding Cat Gunsmith was reborn as "The Dog" Cat Gunsmith, a conniving heel running rampant on the PGA and growing one half of a curiously colored beard.
Despite high ratings and a resurgance of popularity, the SRAW style caused numerous injuries and was considered "totally fake" by the Internet Wrestling Community. It was discontinued for a slower, more nostalgic style in late 2003, but the seeds of discontent had been sewn. Morale was down, injuries were piling up, and the Rubys were not matching the health care and salary demands of their "independently contracted" employees.
Malaise and Exodus to USA (2003-2008)[edit | edit source]
The time between 2003-2008 is referred to by many fans and sources in the industry as the lowest point in PGA history. Ratings began to sink as shows became more uniform, often featuring the same matches and situations with different names from week to week. In one instance, "The Dog" Cat Gunsmith was confronted by the general manager and forced into a handicap match against Sexual Nightmare and Pulp on thirteen consecutive episodes of PGA Primetime Wednesday! Celebrity guest hosts like Detlef Schrempf and Julie McCullough only exacerbated the problem, turning the show into an extended commercial for D-list celebrities who are half-interested in being on a professional wrestling show at best. In an especially embarrassing moment, guest host Chrissie Hynde used her style, her fingers, and her sidestep to defeat the PGA Cruiserweight Champion “Swat Cat” Jake Razor.
In early 2008, Gunsmith, who had been booking the company for several years, began to gather support for the idea of unionization, feeling that PGA upper management and the Ruby family would never meet their demands. All previous attempts at a professional wrestlers union had failed, and B. Armstrong Ruby felt there was no need to take another attempt seriously. What he didn't know is that Gunsmith had been in negotiation under the table with financial backers and had contacted several major television stations with the idea of pitching a new wrestling organization. After a series of events that have still not been made public, B. Armstrong Ruby was proven right - a professional wrestlers union would never work. What Gunsmith had created was not a union, but a new product called USA: Unionized Simulated Fighting Association. Under the spirit of unionization, Gunsmith left the PGA without notice, taking all but two wrestlers, the PGA championship title belts, and a large portion of the backstage crew.
The new show, USA, debuted on Turner Network Television shortly thereafter. In response to the mass exodus, B. Armstrong Ruby released a statement to the press reading, simply, "the show must go on."
Post-Unionization[edit | edit source]
World Talent Initiative[edit | edit source]
In early 2009, B. Armstrong Ruby began what is known as the World Talent Initiative. With only Pru and Salvador Serpiente left on the PGA roster, Ruby sought out superstars from around the world to promote as a "second generation" of PGA stars. Locations for scouting included the United States, Mexico, and Japan as well as unexpected locations such as Morocco, the Middle East, and India.
On February 18, 2009, PGA Primetime Wednesday! redebuted in a late night timeslot on The Golf Channel with a series of qualifying matches. The winner of each match would be awarded a spot on the new roster. The World Talent Initiative is widely considered to be a great success, introducing North American audiences to wrestlers from around the globe and giving many independent workers their first national exposure.
PGA vs. The World (2009-)[edit | edit source]
In order to supplement its roster, PGA began a talent exchange program with the Japan based All Asia Pro Wrestling as well as the Pennsylvania based independent POWER Pro Wrestling. They returned to pay-per-view with Crowning A Champion's Waist '09, and have seen continued success throughout the year. With a roster of unknowns and working from an unsteady foundation, the company has soldiered through and redefined itself as an encapsulation of the chaos, competition, and history of professional wrestling.
Alumni[edit | edit source]
Tournament Winners[edit | edit source]
- Crowning A Champion's Waist '09 – Ben Crane
- World Juniors Cup – Rusty Cooledge; Raijin Narukami
- XX-Division Title Tournament – Pru
- Remain Alive Trios Tournament 2010 - Zen Dungeon: Stevens N. Stevens, Ben Crane, Lester Balaam Jackson; retroactively changed to Good Dudes Alliance: Slyclops IX, Buster Abbott, Zane "Zubaz" Vance at CACW'11