Welcome back to The Grevas Report, my weekly wrestling column here on Sports Obsessive. Some of you may not know this about me, but this isn’t my first weekly wrestling column. More than a decade ago, I worked for the Heartland Wrestling Association and started off as a columnist, before working my way up to the company’s play-by-play announcer. It was here that I met Richard Phillips, aka King Vu, who we lost way too young in August of 2020.
Because of the pandemic, we didn’t get to properly say goodbye to Richard last year. This year, we did it right. Former HWA stars Cody Hawk, “The Baddest Man Alive” Aaron Williams, Heather Owens, Ed Gonzales, Tim Lutz, the reunited Noble Bloods, Donovan Cane, Damian Daniels, as well as many other Ohio independent wrestling stars and up and comers alike, came together for a tribute show, “Long Live the King”, with all proceeds going to Richard Phillips’ family.
The atmosphere for many, myself included, felt like a family reunion. I hadn’t seen many of these people in 10 years and I wasn’t the only one in this position. Before the show, hugs and tears filled the arena. If you didn’t know Richard Phillips, then it’s hard to imagine how much he was loved. In the ring, he was an incredibly agile super heavyweight who should’ve been a bigger star than he was. Outside of the ring, he had a heart of gold, would give you the shirt off his back, and was as loyal of a friend as you could find. That was all being celebrated at “Long Live The King”.
The wrestling itself on the card was memorable, headlined by “The Icon” Cody Hawk taking on “The Baddest Man on the Planet” Aaron Williams in the main event that could’ve headlined any big-name indie around the country. Cody Hawk, a trainer of stars such as Jon Moxley and Sami Callahan, was also Richard Phillip’s trainer and Williams was arguably Phillips’ greatest in-ring foe. This match was a “locker room sellout”, meaning literally everyone from the back came out to the arena’s balcony, so they could enjoy the technical wizardry on display here.
Watching this main event, I couldn’t help but think to myself that both Ring of Honor and Impact have severely dropped the ball by not bringing Aaron Williams in. This man has been one of the Midwest’s top performers for over a decade now and has the talent, tools, and charisma to be plying his trade on a much bigger scale. I will go as far as to say that these two companies in particular look foolish for not having brought Williams in by now. Ok, tangent over. Williams defeated Hawk in an incredible main event, with a frog splash, before giving an impassioned post-show promo, paying tribute to his former in-ring adversary and outside of the ring friend, Richard Phillips.
For long-time fans of the Midwestern independent wrestling scene, another huge treat of the evening was seeing Matt Taylor and Chad Cruise, The Noble Bloods, reunite for the first time in nearly ten years. For my money, in 2009 and 2010, The Noble Bloods were the unsung heroes of tag team wrestling. Good enough to be competing on a larger stage, The Noble Bloods had epic feuds with the likes of The Irish Airborne, The Heat Seekers, and The Hybrids, among others, in an era where tag team wrestling was revitalized on the independent scene. Cruise has since retired while Matt Taylor continues to go strong. To the crowd in attendance at “Long Live The King”, seeing The Noble Bloods reunite to win the tag team gauntlet was a “moment”, a special place and time that they can say they were there for. Everything about that moment was “real”, especially given The Noble Bloods history with Richard Phillips as a faction, or Royal Family if you will.
“Long Live The King” was a show designed for two purposes: To celebrate our friend who was taken too soon and to raise money for his mother, who had to bury her son Richard. There were free-flowing tears when the grieving mother of Richard Phillips was presented with literally every dime this show raised, plus donations that came in as well. When she took the microphone and addressed the crowd, it was a powerful moment that nobody there will ever forget. No parent should ever have to bury their child. Ever. The wrestling community rallied around her, offering her love, support, and all the money we could raise to help her through this trying period of her life, and damn, I was proud to be a part of this business at that moment.
For the rest of my life, I will cherish my time working for the HWA. I will cherish the memories of the people I worked with and the amazing wrestling I got to witness firsthand. I will always think back with a smile, remembering Richard Phillips being the funniest, sweetest guy before fans got to the building and being a ruthless monster in the ring when it was showtime. Watching him crack up with the boys until the camera was pointed his way and it was time for his promo and then it was all about selling tickets. And sell tickets he could. There was nothing Richard couldn’t do in this business and while the larger world never got to see it, we did. And if you did, consider yourself fortunate as I do. Fortunate to see his work, be his friend and on Saturday, August 22nd, 2021, celebrate his life at “Long Live The King”.
Take care of yourself. I’ll be back next week with another edition of “The Gravas Report”.
A special shout out to GK – for everything.