Members of the Northern Wrestling Federation, who wrestle at the UAW Local 674 hall at 1223 Symmes Road in Fairfield include (from left) Austin Crane, who wrestles under the name Star Rider, longtime trainer Roger Ruffen of West Chester, and trainer/wrestler Tim Minnelli. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

As pro wrestling grows in Butler County, one group prepares for its biggest show

Its biggest show of the year — Fan Fest 13 — will happen Saturday, Aug. 17.

The all-day, fair-style event starts at 2:30 p.m. and will feature games, a grill-out and a booth where fans can dunk the wrestlers, pie-throwing at wrestlers, with the wrestling starting at 5 p.m.

“That’s like our big wrestle mania, and all the big feuds come to a head,” said Roger Ruffen of West Chester, who trains the athletes at his BoneKrushers training center in Elmwood Place. “It’s definitely our fans’ favorite show of the year.”

Before that, another show will happen July 13, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.

“I try to keep it pretty black-and-white — good versus evil — and I like for everyone to be comfortable bringing their kids here,” said Ruffen, who has been training wrestlers 25 years.

One NWF star is Austin Crane, 21, of Fairfield, who competes under the name Star Rider.

Crane, a 2016 graduate of Badin High School, said he enjoys “everything about it — high-flying, the hard-hitting, the wrestling itself, the entertainment, the stories.”

“It’s obviously dangerous,” Crane said. “What we do is real. It’s scripted, if you want to call it that, but when you get hit with a chair, it hurts; when you jump off a ladder, you’re actually jumping off a ladder. So everything we do hurts. It’s not fake, as people want to call it.”

He has trained about three years, appearing in public events about half that time. So far, he hasn’t had to visit the hospital.

“One day, I want this to be my job,” Crane said. “I wake up and go to the show, and that’s my living.”

There’s precedent for that with this organization. Ruffen and one of his wrestlers, Tim Minnelli (Hamilton High School Class of 2000) have trained several who have gone on to fame.

They include Karl Anderson, who wrestles with the WWE on Monday Night Raw, wrestled in the Fairfield venue “many, many, many times,” Ruffen said. Chris Parks, who wrestles under the name “Abyss,” wrestled all over the world, and now is an executive with the WWE, and wrestled in Fairfield “no more than a year or so ago,” he said. Also, “Wildcat Chris Harris” was a seven-time NWA champion. “He actually retired from there, and is back with us now,” Ruffen said.

This year’s launch of Future Great Wrestling in Hamilton, with weekly Friday events at 190 N. Brookwood Ave., hasn’t hurt the NWF, Ruffen said.

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“They run every week. We just run monthly,” in Fairfield, Ruffen said. “Over the years, some of their guys have wrestled here. I know some of their fans come here and some of our fans go there.”

“We’re one of those type of businesses that if they do good, we do good. If we do good, they do good,” Ruffen said. “It’s better for everybody to do good than somebody to do poorly and one do good. We thrive off of all that.”

Both wrestling groups work to appeal to families.

In his 25 years of wrestling training, little has changed, Ruffen said, although, “I think we have a lot more high-flying type action, a lot more acrobatics. I think the athletes we’ve got now are really top-notch athletes.”

Also, women wrestlers are popular now, he said. The NWF has four women who wrestle in shows, and a couple more “who aren’t quite show ready,” he said.

The Fairfield shows average 200-300 people, Ruffen said. Shows in Fairfield happen every 4-5 weeks, with 20-30 wrestlers performing in each event. The best way to know when upcoming shows are is by going to the Northern Wrestling Federation on Facebook.

NWF shows cost $8 in advance for general-admission tickets, with VIP tickets costing $15. Tickets at the door cost $10 for general admission.

“Most people will definitely say they get their bang for the buck,” Ruffen said. “We’re cheaper than the movies, and most of our shows are two hours, 2-1/2 hours. And most of that time is action. We also have intermissions where most of the wrestlers will come out and greet the fans.”

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