Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – The alpha was OMEGA…

Once upon a time, a group of young lions who have since achieved fame were trying to make their mark on the crazy world of professional wrestling, so they blazed a new trail in their very own promotion. Matt Hardy, along with his brother Jeff, is featured in a major storyline today for the most financially successful wrestling promotion in the world, but 12 years ago he owned and operated a unique independent promotion known as OMEGA.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Organization of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts (OMEGA).

From 1997 to 1999, OMEGA was something of a precursor to TNA’s X Division. Based out of Cameron, North Carolina, Hardy’s promotion featured high-flying, hungry young cruiserweight daredevils in match after match of exciting performances. These risk-takers were not only authorized to steal the show, unlike in the bigger feds, but encouraged by ownership to go out and to grab the spotlight for themselves. Although OMEGA’s run was brief, its influence on the industry is far reaching. Famous wrestlers like the Hardys, Shane “Hurricane” Helms, Steve “King of Old School” Corino, Shannon Moore, Joey “Mercury” Matthews, Jason “Joey Abs” Ahrndt, and even Amy “Lita” Dumas saw their careers launched thanks to their early educations in the classrooms of OMEGA. Performing before live crowds, perfecting their repertoires, and honing their craft, these emerging stars built the foundations of their impressive careers in OMEGA.

The history of the promotion is chronicled in OMEGA: Uncommon Passion, which tells the story of how Matt Hardy, who was clearly the creative visionary, shrewd businessman, and more focused of the two Hardy Boyz, had first operated a small fed known as the East Coast Wrestling Federation, later renamed the New Frontier Wrestling Alliance. After an investor in NFWA gave up on Hardy and pulled his sponsorship, Hardy regrouped and changed names again, this time to the Organization of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts, or OMEGA, a name as unusual as the product itself.

That’s when American Championship Wrestling owner/promoter Thomas Simpson stepped in. Simpson promised Hardy that if he could sell enough sponsorship to pay for the building and guarantee a great wrestling show, Simpson would cover the rest. Matt never failed to live up to that bargain, beating the trees for funding show after show, and booking an entertaining product without fail. The partnership between Simpson and Hardy was a synergy of drive, desire, and hard work, which began on March 7, 1997. Hardy organized it all, made every decision, conceived every angle, plotted every match, and booked every event throughout the run of the promotion until they folded in October of 1999. Matt was highly respected for these efforts by the entire crew based on the interviews on disc 1 of the 2-disc set. Simpson supported Hardy financially and creatively, and stood behind the future WWF/E superstar every step of the way.

In an interview on the DVD, former ECW World Champion and OMEGA alumnus Steve Corino stated that if Matt and Jeff hadn’t signed exclusive WWF contracts in 1999, there might have been a fourth promotion during the reign of the Big Three (WWF, WCW, and ECW). That’s how entertaining and creative OMEGA was, with outstanding wrestling action and crowd-pleasing performers filling out the roster. Had the stars been aligned behind them, OMEGA could have been huge.

The other interviews on the first disc cover the entire short history of the promotion and brim with great stories and interesting looks at the geneses of wrestling performers, characters, and lifelong friendships that make a wrestling fan feel good, especially considering how many bad things and sad tales wrestling fans are forced to swallow year after year. These men always pulled together and worked hard, looking after one another and helping each other get over and succeed rather than undercutting each other’s momentum like so many self-serving backstabbers in the business have done, and will always do.

Unfortunately there must always be a tragic chapter in every pro wrestling saga, and in the case of OMEGA it was Jason Ahrndt’s fall from grace that broke many hearts. Touted by everyone on the documentary as the can’t-miss prospect who had all the tools, was a true natural, and should have gone on to a great career in the big leagues, the man who would be known as Joey Abs in Shane McMahon’s Mean Street Posse destroyed his wrestling career by making bad decisions and failing to keep his eye on the prize. You can truly see sadness and frustration in the eyes of Matt, Thomas, Marty “Cham Pain” Garner and the others when they discuss Ahrndt and how he threw away such a bright future when he had so much potential. I hope anyone, wrestling fan or not, who hears Ahrndt’s story realizes the successes he was willing to give up for such short-term pleasures, and avoids making the same mistakes.

Disc 2 includes five OMEGA matches, two of which feature the Hardy Boyz versus the Serial Thrillaz (Shane Helms and “Big Daddy” Mike Maverick) in exciting action, with the heel/face alignment reversed for the rematch. There is also a tag team match from the OMEGA reunion show with a unique dynamic as ECW’s Christian York and Joey Matthews squared off against WCW’s Shane Helms and Shannon Moore, a first during that era. There’s one other gem, a one-on-one contest between Matt “Surge” Hardy and Jeff “Will O’ the Wisp” Hardy years before they’d ever face each other in the WWF.

Now it looks as though Matt and Jeff Hardy will battle at the 25th edition of WrestleMania in just a few weeks, and some might say there’s no greater way for their lifelong dreams to be fulfilled. These brothers, as well as many other OMEGA alumni, have performed on some of the grandest stages in American professional wrestling, held world championships, and earned the respect of their peers and the admiration of adoring fans. Twelve of the OMEGA originals went on to sign full-time contracts in the three big U.S. promotions of the day and earn good livings as professional wrestlers. Several of them are still working in the big leagues today, and it’s a thrill watching their humble beginnings in OMEGA, seeing them work out their first gimmicks, and polishing the signature spots you’ve seen them execute between the ropes for years. They struggled against a monstrous tide and immense odds to carve their own niche in professional wrestling without a lot of money, instead relying on hard work and dedication to their dreams, and you’ve just got to respect that kind of effort.

If you are the sort of fan who’d enjoy going back to watch Metallica play a small venue, or scouting a young Cassius Clay on his way to the Olympic games in 1960, or seeing Dan Marino lead the Pittsburgh Panthers to victory in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, this DVD set is certainly for you. The drive, energy, and uncommon passion of the OMEGA crew is infectious, and watching this retrospective will likely enhance your appreciation for the more evolved versions of these performers whom you see on television today. Also keep in mind the next time you’re checking out a small, humble indy fed that you just might be witnessing the next world champion or household name beginning his journey down the path toward greatness. You never know; everyone starts somewhere, everything comes from nothing, and every bright star was once a thin, dull shimmer of light looking for a spot in the sky all its own from which to shine.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of OMEGA: Uncommon Passion and watch this Cinderella story come true right before your very own eyes.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein

Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

Iain Burnside brings an interesting bit of news regarding Christian’s return to WWE and his standing in the company in Vince McMahon Hates Christian.

It’s a double-shot of rock, as Norine “The Machine” Stice covered both the red and blue brands last week.

John Wiswell brings us all up to speed on Ring of Honor happenings in this week’s Cult of ROH.

Speaking of ROH, Jake Ziegler reviews another Adam Pearce-era DVD called Escalation.

Kace Evers talks WrestleMania XXV in his latest Kace in Point.

Paul Marshall has your TNA fix in Total Nonstop Weekly.

For Valentine’s Day, Mark Allen took a look at Romance… Pro Wrestling Style, and then returned to discuss the ultimate opportunist in
This Week in ‘E.

Finally this week, Scott Keith reviews WWE’s latest DVD set, The Best of Saturday Night’s Main Event.

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