FireStar Wrestling brings St. Patty’s Smackdown to Gibb’s
FireStar Pro Wrestling Academy, located in a small brick warehouse near Greensboro’s Bennett College, is the culmination of a dream that head trainer LaBron Kozone has pursued since junior high. “That’s when I made up my mind about what I wanted to do as a profession,” he said over coffee and hot chocolate at the Green Bean last week.
The friendly and soft-spoken, 6-foot-1-inch and 220-pound Charlotte-born and Reidsville-raised pro-wrestler billed as the Ring Warrior decided what he wanted to be in seventh grade. “It’s when teachers really stress to you that you need to start thinking about future, and you put information about your hobbies and the things you like into the computer,” he told me. “I was looking for ‘professional wrestling,’ and it wouldn’t give me that choice. So since then, the thing I’ve most wanted in my life is to be part of a school that teaches it.”
By the time he was at Rockingham County High School, Kozone was so committed to this dream that he managed to convince his teachers and administration to let him study pro wrestling for his required senior project. “Wrestling helped me graduate,” he said with a laugh. As work toward his diploma as well as preparation for his future career, Kozone studied with Big Daddy Eric Edwards of the Squared Circle Wrestling Alliance at the National Guard Armory in Wentworth, NC, from 2008 until 2010. “Then in 2011, we actually had our own building in Eden, North Carolina, where we could just train all day.”
In November of 2011, Kozone, then billed as the “the Trending Topic,” defeated Edwards in the SCWA Mindshock Championship in a steel cage match that Kozone has called the biggest match of his early career. On March 3, 2013, Kozone made his debut with the recently formed FireStar Pro Wrestling (FSPW) at WrestleRevival 1 in Greensboro, where he and Ouga Booga defeated Corey Duncom and The Scrapyard Dog.
Kozone told me that he started training other wrestlers in 2014, and that, “I’ve spent the majority of my career investing in others.” When the FireStar Wrestling Academy opened at 517 Medley St. in 2016, he was its head trainer, a position he still holds.
“We also run shows there on a monthly basis, event shows, everything you can think of.” He said he started with five students, “but since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds, and I have maybe 40 active right now.” He said he’s worked with students as young as 12 and as old as 50. “Right now, it’s in the range of, maybe, 13 to 35.”
On Sunday, March 17 at 6 p.m., Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Company at 504 State St. in Greensboro is hosting its first FireStar Wrestling event, St. Patty’s Throwdown. Kozone won’t be wrestling, but his former student Cam Carter will be, along with Kyler Myzery, Rocky Webster, Aaron Black, Mickey Fulp, Garrett Coleman, TGA Moss, Jamal the Titan and Prince Mutima. Tickets are $10, and children under 10 get in for free.
He thinks that 2019 will be an exciting year not just for FireStar, but the industry as a whole.
“Nowadays people are embracing what professional wrestling truly is, and people are loving it for that. And it’s just a whole new wave of new and different companies; it’s not just WWE anymore.”
Kozone said social media had played a big part in the survival and growth of grassroots wrestling.
“We don’t have to be on T.V. to get our faces out there. The majority of people these days are on the internet more than they are in front of that box.”
He closed by stressing that pro wrestling is a creative art as well as athletic performance.
“I actually have a team that helps me, and we meet regularly and sit down at a table and try to put together stories that people can relate to. We like to do a little bit more than just match scenarios but to create different scenarios that will make an everyday person feel something when they come to a show. What we do is storytelling, and we want people to feel something from it. We all pitch ideas and bounce them off each other. It has to make sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to me, it probably won’t make sense to somebody else.”
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.