CEW eyeing return to Sigourney in 2019

JT Energy and Chad Strong were the featured matchup on October 6 when CEW was in Sigourney at Memorial Hall. Promoter Austin Bayliss is hoping to return to Sigourney in 2019 with more marquee matchups. Photo courtesy of: Photos by Manning.

Sigourney was bustling with activity on October 6, beginning with the Car on the Square Show which featured multiple open houses by the local businesses on the square. In the surrounding area, What Cheer was also busy with activity for their flea market. The day concluded with many residents and visitors filing into Memorial Hall where a ring was set up for the Central Empire Wrestling event.

In preparation for the event, Austin Bayliss, his supporters, family and some of the wrestler’s went door to door to encourage people to attend the evening of October 6.

“I thought we were well received by the community, hanging posters and reading the previews and everyone seemed nice and welcoming. Wrestling might not be something they were necessarily excited in, but they were excited about something coming to Sigourney and Memorial Hall,” Bayliss said. “For me as a promoter, it’s always good to come into a community and it feels like you’re wanted there.”

Bayliss is an area kid who grew up in Keota, graduated in Keota and opened CEW just North of there in Wellman. For him, Sigourney is considered an extended home. One thing did put a slight damper on things, with rain falling most of the day during the various events in and around Sigourney.  

“Some of the wrestlers came down early with the intent of going down to the car show. If it wasn’t for the rain, it would’ve been an incredible day for Sigourney,” Bayliss said. “The rain didn’t keep wrestling from happening at least and we put on a nice little show.”

While attendance may not have been as high as Bayliss wanted, he claims it’s a starting point for him and CEW, considering it was something different to the area and new for many. CEW used to come to Sigourney more often, putting on shows as part of charity for the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life. It started in 2007 and we did it every year until CEW closed shop in 2013 for a few years. They finally ended their “hiatus” of sorts by bringing a show to town and are hoping to come back in the early quarter of 2019.

“I had always wanted to put on a ticketed show in Sigourney, because we’d always been there in some presence. One day I was driving back to Oskaloosa and passed through Sigourney and I thought to myself I really wanted to bring a show here,” Bayliss said. “All I wanted was to put on a show I could feel good about and that we could grow from. Hopefully those people who came liked it and they go home and tell two more people and that turns into four more people, then eight more people, etc.”

Five different matches went down inside the Hall that night, three of which were highly-anticipated. One match was between two of the youngest up and coming women’s wrestlers for CEW, another was between “Six-Star Booty” and midget-man Chad Strong and the third match had “WWE’s original reality TV star” Rory Fox.

“It was time for the midget wrestling match and I said to Steve Shettler, who was my ringside announcer and sitting near me, look around you, everyone has their camera out right now. The goal of professional wrestling is to create memories and that was really cool,” Bayliss said. “I walked around the venue and some people were doing Facebook live and to see the comments coming in, that was cool. That match was something Sigourney hadn’t seen before.”

For Bayliss, it was more than just another event on the wrestling tour. Not only was it his “home away from home” but he also noted how much of an impact an event like this can have on small town Sigourney.

“I woke up Sunday and I looked on Facebook and saw the fans who came to town had spent their day in the area, despite the rain. I saw photos from them at the What Cheer Flea Market and at the Dumont Museum and from Pizza Ranch and in town in general,” Bayliss said. “That’s something I’m really proud of and it’s nice to see Sigourney get some more attention.”

As of now, there aren’t any definite plans set in stone for CEW to return but Bayliss is hoping to come back around March of 2019.

“I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of community support. It’s one thing to support a show as part of a charity but now we’re putting on shows people want to spend their hard-earned money on,” Bayliss said. “The sky is the limit for professional wrestling. Nothing is too crazy for us.”