College life in Pittsburgh

The history of pro wrestling in Pittsburgh enters the ring in this CCAC class

You have until Oct. 11 to sign up for the non-credit course.

KSWA Champion Mitch Napier wins the Heavyweight Championship at the Teamster Temple in December.

KSWA Champion Mitch Napier wins the Heavyweight Championship at the Teamster Temple in December.

Ken Burch / KSWA
MJ Slaby

Wrestling is suspending disbelief and enjoying a story of good guys vs. bad guys, said local wresting announcer and publicist Thomas Leturgey.

“Pittsburgh gets that.”

Leturgey teaches a new class at Community College of Allegheny County called “The History of Professional Wrestling in Pittsburgh.”

Earlier this fall, The Incline launched a series about the most bizarre college classes in Pittsburgh, including one on texting at Carlow, another all about Beyonce’s “Lemonade” at Chatham and a Point Park class on how to go on tour. While you’re thinking about class, sign up here to have these stories sent to your inbox, or send us class ideas.

This time, you can take this class even if you’re not a college student. It’s a non-credit class, and there’s still time to sign up (more on that later). The Incline chatted with Leturgey about his class. Here’s what we learned:

Pittsburgh ties

It all started with another class at CCAC — The Extraordinary Life of Pittsburgh’s Living Legend Bruno Sammartino — which was all about his life in Pittsburgh and WWE career.

“In 2017, there are pockets of the city that still consider him to be the greatest [Pittsburgh] athlete,” Leturgey said.

Leturgey, a ring announcer and publicist for the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance, took the class and wondered if there was even more to learn about the city’s history with pro wrestling. He started digging and, later, pitched his own class.

Don’t expect this CCAC class to be about who had the best wrist lock or technical skills, Leturgey said. It’s about the culture and people of wrestling — he said there are so many wrestlers who have some sort of tie to this region — as well as historical context.

To pack all the information into just two classes, it’s split chronologically. The first session goes from 1900 to about the 1960s, and the second class picks up there and runs through today.

A local, weekly pro wrestling TV show from the 1960s and early 1970s called “Studio Wrestling” splits the two classes. Since it was a local show on a budget, Leturgey said, the creators taped over all the episodes to reuse the same tape, so there is “almost no video record.”

While there’s a lot to discover, Leturgey said he found there isn’t a comprehensive resource. “It’s a really cool subject matter. I really don’t think it was ever fully flushed out.”

Like a ‘soap opera’

So what makes a great wrestling show? To Leturgey, it’s the story lines, the tales of good vs. evil and the fans.

“Pittsburghers know the stories,” he said, adding that pro wrestling is something generations can bond over and go to shows together.

And there are “perfect moments,” when hundreds of people are cheering and then gasp in union as one wrestler lifts another over his head.

His advice if you want to see a local show?

“Pittsburgh is lucky because there’s probably going to be a [independent] show within 30 minutes,” Leturgey said, adding that local shows are a chance to see it up close and even talk to a wrestler after the show. Just search around, he said. (To start, check out the KSWA website.)

“See what’s closest to you, and go,” he said.

Reading Recommendations

Can’t wait for the start of class for know more? Here are reading suggestions from Leturgey:

Get in the ring

Want more? This history course is two three-hour sessions from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 11 and 18 at the CCAC North Campus, 8701 Perry Highway (McCandless). Per CCAC, registration is open until the first day of class, and you can sign up here. The cost is $49.

Interested in other non-credit courses at CCAC? Check out this list, and sign up here.

Want some more? Explore other College life in Pittsburgh stories.