Northside native Martin deserves to be near top of pro wrestling list
By Thomas Leturgey | Contributor
*Editor’s note: This column was submitted to The Chronicle by Thomas Leturgey, who is a Pittsburgh- based freelance writer of news and sports for more than 30 years and who has earned six Press Club of Western Pennsylvania Golden Quill Awards.
Each year as summer ends, a list of the “Top 500” professional wrestlers in the sport is dropped onto the industry by a leading magazine. As one might expect, the list is dominated by athletes one sees on television primarily on Monday, Wednesday and/or Friday nights, with pay-per-view appearances liberally sprinkled in.
Then there are other athletes you’d see far less frequently on an athletic program, but far more often on a politically charged talk show.
Be sure, none of the athletes work the same grueling schedule that grapplers did in more recent decades. Television wrestlers are no longer hustling between events every week and all over the country to participate in 300 matches a year.
Generously, the Top 200 wrestlers working today can firmly comprise a solid list, but that leaves threefifths of the compilation as purely random. The “list” is always good fodder for discussion and debate. Print magazines are a dying industry, which means controversy is a must, even if it is about an activity that’s oftentimes more entertainment than pure Greco-Roman action.
Then there are professional wrestlers like Northside native Lou Martin, the reigning and defending, three-time Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) Heavyweight Champion. Martin has just come off of an unprecedented string of six weekends in a row in which he defended the most prestigious title in the Commonwealth and/or participated in tag team matches with a variety of fearsome foes.
“I’m not the best technical wrestler,” Martin, who grew up on Voskamp Street and spent most of his childhood playing sports in the neighborhood, noted recently. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a more important standard bearer for the sport anywhere.
Since winning the KSWA title in December of 2022, the Oliver High School graduate has defended an unprecedented 17 times. If there is a champion anywhere in the world who has come anywhere near that durability and consistency in 2023, their existence escapes the media.
In addition to the workmen-like schedule of a champion who has pinned a variety of challengers in one-on-one matches, he has wrestled in tag team contests and wrestled in an underdog role in a wild and chaotic “Uncivil War” match in front of more than 800 fans at the summer’s biggest event under the Homestead Grays Bridge.
The KSWA has hosted 21 events thus far in 2023. Two events were cancelled due to the weather, as many of the wrestling fests are held outdoors, especially in months with warmer conditions. Five more stops are scheduled for 2023, which puts the KSWA appearances on-par with those of recent years.
The matches and defenses alone set Martin apart from every other champion in wrestling, television or otherwise. He also leads in another category: community outreach. Martin and the KSWA Megastars recently took to the hardwood for a charity fundraiser benefitting a Sharpsburg youth basketball club and to the diamond to play softball benefiting the Special Olympics. Two separate appearances earlier in the summer at a car dealership included free admission with the suggestion of bringing food for the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. In the past, he’s hosted children from Connecting Communities to various events, and has granted Make A Wish visits. Martin and the other Megastars of the KSWA have made annual holiday visits to the Citizens Care group home in Coraopolis.
Martin and others dab their eyes after seeing the fans they call “The Hattman Crew” treat them like celebrities.
A group from that home often makes a trip to the KSWA to watch Martin and their other friends in action. Aside from a corporate monolith that broadcasts in red and blue “brands,” there isn’t a more civic- minded professional wrestling organization on the planet than Pittsburgh’s official outlet.
A few weeks ago, a Millvale Days appearance scored the biggest business the VFW in that small borough in months, and repeated showings at an American Legion in the city of Pittsburgh’s Sheraden neighborhood has scored the KSWA the closest thing it has to a steady performance home. Before that, the KSWA single-handedly kept the doors of the former Lawrenceville Moose open for a decade.
“It’s why we do what we do,” he said of community involvement.
In addition to all of that, Martin continues to represent the city as “The Face of Pittsburgh,” a joyful champion who shares missives of positivity on social media daily. Martin and the KSWA return to the American Legion in Sheraden on November 4 and KSWA FanFest/Toy Drive on December 2. Since 2005, Fan Fest/Toy Drive has collected thousands of toys for needy children through Allegheny County’s “Holiday Project.”
Lou Martin wasn’t included in the slanted list, but clearly ought to be near the top of the heap.