by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—North American Pro Wrestling invaded Elburn last Saturday night, and for anyone who caught the show at the Elburn Community Center, don’t be surprised if some of the wrestlers featured on that card eventually land in the mecca of pro wrestling: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
“The show (on April 21) was unbelievable. We have the best group of recognizable talent you could possibly have in the Midwest, as far as wrestlers go,” said Randy Ricci, who serves as chief operating officer of NAPW. “Our talent roster are guys who are hungry and work their tail off. They want to be stimulated in hopes of getting that next spot. These guys work harder than the guys in WWE, because they’re on their way up … and I’ve gotten a lot of guys hired by WWE.”
The show at the community center only drew about 120 people, but Ricci said the performers didn’t care—they were intent on entertaining and dazzling those in attendance.
“After shows, I get a chance to talk to wrestling fans of all ages—from 6-year-old kids to people who are 80 years old—and they say, “Oh my gosh, I would put this level of action up against World Wrestling Entertainment any day of the week,” Ricci said.
Ricci, who was brought on by Midwest-based NAPW earlier this year, has been in the wrestling business since 1988 and has an extensive resume, having served as a performer, production manager, promoter and television producer for companies such as WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). Wrestling under the alias of “Jerry Fox” while in WWE, Ricci had the privilege to square off against squared-circle legends such as Ravishing Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Dino Bravo, Earthquake, Big Boss Man, King Kong Bundy and Haku.
“It’s a heck of an industry,” Ricci said.
NAPW was founded last year by Joey Rose and Chris Koley. According to Ricci, the company’s roster currently features 12 veterans and an additional eight to 10 rookies. He said the average age for wrestlers who enter NAPW is about 22 years old, and many of these kids hail from Rockford, Ill., downtown Chicago, Janesville, Wis., and Griffith, Ind. NAPW does about 200 dates each year, so there’s plenty of experience to be had by anyone who wrestles in the company’s ranks.
Ricci raved about NAPW rookie grappler Anthony Antonelli.
“What a gifted athlete he is. There’s nothing this kid can’t do in the ring, and he’s got heart like you wouldn’t believe,” Ricci said.
Anyone interested in attending an NAPW show is in luck, as the company will return to the Elburn Community Center for an event on Saturday, May 12. The main event that night will feature NAPW Heavyweight World Champion Pauly Thomaselli in a title defense. If you need further incentive to attend, Ricci can help with that.
“Independent wrestling organizations have popped up all over the Chicago area (as of late), and they’re kind of a dime a dozen, and I am not trying to pick on anyone else, but I am someone who has been through every facet of the industry and worked for every company,” he said. “I’ve been all over the world and have made a living in wrestling … that’s why (NAPW) brought me on the first of this year.”