Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 10, 2011

Promoter arrested for not paying

Wrestling show organizer faces 10 counts for obtaining services on false pretenses

BRUSHFORK — The professional wrestling card at the National Guard Armory in Brushfork Saturday night was real, but the promoter’s promises proved to be fake.

Ernest Mack Shell, 31, of London, Ky., was arrested late Saturday night soon after the wrestlers who participated in the program billed as “Dare to Compare” learned that Shell didn’t have any money to pay them or to pay other people who worked the event.

“He had promised to pay and provide motel rooms for all of the wrestlers who appeared Saturday night,” Deputy W.E. Rose of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department said. “Two of the wrestlers, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and Diamond Dallas Page flew in to participate in the event, but all of the others drove here. Some of them came from as far away as Nashville, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and other areas. Most drove 6-7 hours to be part of this.”

Shell had contacted the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department in early December to hire off-duty personnel to provide security at the event. Rose and two other officers agreed to work the extra time. “The extra money would have come in handy with Christmas just a few weeks ago,” Rose said. “The three of us didn’t get paid just like the wrestlers.

“But really, I think the ones who suffered the most were the people who came out in that weather Saturday night and didn’t get to see the event they paid to see,” Rose said. “Tickets were $20 and $25 for VIP tickets that were supposed to register the buyer for a 55-inch TV, but none of that happened. It was bad weather ... really bad weather, and only about 150 people made it to the armory. Since the weather was that bad, he should have canceled the event.”

Rose said that he and the other deputies arrived at 6 p.m., and at about 11:10 p.m., Shell’s booking agent told the officers that they should keep a close watch on Shell. “He said that Shell didn’t have any money and that he thought he might try to skip out,” Rose said. “About five minutes later the armory manager came and got us and said: ‘You guys might want to get up here. This guy’s about to get his butt kicked.”

Rose said that several of the wrestlers had cornered the 5’8” tall, 140 lb., Shell. “I said: ‘Can you pay us and the rest of these here?’ When he said he couldn’t, I said: ‘Put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest.’ He said this was his 174th wrestling promotion,” Rose said. “Some of these wrestlers didn’t have the money to drive back home. Just like us, they were planning to get paid. He was lucky he hired us. Otherwise, he would have had to deal with all of those wrestlers.”

Rose said that there were 26 wrestlers in all — a group that included Neidhart, Page, Chase Stevens, Chance Profitt, JD Maverick and April Hunter among others, according to some of the online promotional information concerning the event that Shell billed as being an East Coast Wrestling Promotions event.

“All of them had matches until the last two,” Rose said. “They were supposed to be drawing for a big screen TV and they were supposed to be throwing prizes into the crowd. None of that happened.”

Rose said he arrested Shell on 10 counts of obtaining services on false pretenses. “Those were just the counts in Mercer County,” Rose said. “He is facing another 19 counts where he was calling people when he was in Kentucky to participate in the event. He was making deals with the wrestlers as the matches were going on. He said that all he had was an ATM card with a $400 limit.”

A Mercer County magistrate set Shell’s bail at $50,000 Sunday afternoon. He was being held at the Bluefield City Jail after his appearance in magistrate court.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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