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Tampa’s Championship Wrestling from Florida is relaunched and ‘reloaded’

It was once among the nation’s best promotions, starring Dusty Rhodes, Buddy Colt, Eddie Graham and The Great Malenko.
Wolfe Taylor punishes Jake St. Patrick at a Championship Wrestling from Florida Reloaded show in July.
Wolfe Taylor punishes Jake St. Patrick at a Championship Wrestling from Florida Reloaded show in July. [ Courtesy of Eye Reyes Photography ]
Published Feb. 18

TAMPA — Fidel Sierra and Ricky Santana wrestled for Championship Wrestling from Florida, which was nationally renowned before it shuttered in the 1980s.

Now they are part of reviving the promotion that once helped launch the careers of wrestlers like Dusty Rhodes and Gerald and Jack Brisco.

Well, they are part of reloading it.

Palmetto’s Jeff Weaver has established the Championship Wrestling from Florida Reloaded promotion.

Its next show is at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Lake Wimauma Convention Center. Tickets are $10 at the door.

The event will feature a mix of those who performed for the original promotion, current established stars and up-and-comers looking for their shot at the big time.

Sierra will be a ringside manager as part of the show. Santana will make an appearance, too. Both also work backstage as mentors.

“For me, I’m like a coach behind the scenes,” said Santana. “I’m like that former football player who returns to his alma mater as coach.”

Related: Facebook group and Tampa event connect fans with Florida wrestling legends

The promotion’s inaugural event in July had the same mix, with former CWF bad guy Kevin Sullivan making an appearance and mentoring young talent.

Weaver said he chose to add “Reloaded” to the promotion’s name for two reasons.

WWE owns the rights to most of CWF’s classic footage and the name Florida Championship Wrestling, which was once the WWE’s farm league promotion.

“I just wanted to avoid any legal issues because CWF and FCW could be similar,” Weaver said. More importantly, “we’re not the original guys. We’re the new guys in Florida. We’re the reload. We’re bringing it back, continuing the tradition, but also introducing new stars.”

Jeff Weaver is the founder of Championship Wrestling from Florida Reloaded.
Jeff Weaver is the founder of Championship Wrestling from Florida Reloaded. [ Courtesy of Jeff Weaver ]

Championship Wrestling from Florida was founded in the 1950s. The promotion was headquartered in Tampa but traveled the state.

Back then, before the advent of cable television and the internet, professional wrestling was local. Different states and regions had their own promotions, but CWF was considered one of the best.

“Jack and Jerry Brisco, Dory and Terry Funk, The Great Malenko, Dusty Rhodes, Eddie and Mike Graham,” said Sierra, a former Florida heavyweight champion. “So many greats were part of that great promotion.”

Others included Buddy Colt, Rocky Johnson, Brian Blair, Steve Keirn, television commentator Gordon Solie and referee Stu Schwartz.

And, in an era before the Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays, CWF performers were the area’s biggest celebrities.

“My father used to take me to Miami Beach Convention Center every Wednesday to watch CWF,” Santana said. “So it was surreal when my father later got to sit ringside and watch his son in the ring. He was even signing autographs.”

Eddie Graham, a wrestler who ran and performed for Championship Wrestling from Florida.
Eddie Graham, a wrestler who ran and performed for Championship Wrestling from Florida. [ Courtesy of Nicole Alonso ]

Sierra and Santana formed a tag team in CWF in the mid-1980s known as The Cuban Connection.

Santana recalled that their final major feud was with a team known as The Sheepherders.

The CWF shut down in 1987, due in large part to the international growth of the WWE — then known as the WWF — and the now defunct WCW, which was owned by Ted Turner.

Sierra and Santana worked for both.

Weaver, 47, said he wrestled for independent promotions but never sought out the big time.

“I have four kids and a family,” he said. “That wasn’t for me.”

He did have a dream promotion, though.

“I’d have wanted to wrestle for CWF,” he said. “I grew up on Championship Wrestling from Florida, that’s what gave me my first experience with wrestling.

But it was gone by the time he got into the business.

Related: You won’t believe how hard they once worked to make professional wrestling ‘real’

Weaver reloaded Championship Wrestling from Florida in 2020, he said, but the pandemic has limited him to just one event so far.

Now he hopes that February’s card is the first of “11, maybe 12, to be held this year.”

Young stars performing at the event include tag team Midnight Tribe, “The Purple Haze” Andrew Anderson, Romeo Quevedo and Storm Thomas, and other CWF legends will include former ring announcer Jay Goodley and former referee Bill Alfonso.

For future shows, Weaver said he has signed Charlie Haas and Gangrel, both of whom formerly performed for the WWE, and “the hottest tag team in the country, The Briscoe Brothers,” who are different than the CWF’s original Brisco brothers.

“Getting this thing going has been a dream come true,” Weaver said. “The young guys are excited and the response I’ve gotten from the legends has been overwhelming. It’s been like waking up on Christmas morning every day.”

If you go

What: Championship Wrestling from Florida Reloaded

When: 6 p.m. Feb. 26

Where: Lake Wimauma Convention Center, 5408 Florida Highway 674, Wimauma

Tickets: $10 at the door

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