Professional wrestling event being held this weekend in memory of Jeff Thompson

Marlys BarkerNevada
Journal Editor
Professional wrestling event being held this weekend in memory of Jeff Thompson

In 2015, Jeff Thompson, a 1989 graduate of Nevada High School, died unexpectedly after collapsing at the Girls’ State Basketball Tournament, where the Nevada Cubs won a state title.

This coming weekend, friends and fellow professional wrestling fans — Jeff was one of the biggest — will honor his memory as they hold the second annual Jeff Thompson Memorial Show, May 14, starting at 7 p.m.

“Last year, it was a fundraiser for his parents (Kenneth and Deb Thompson) because Jeff didn’t have life insurance,” said Brian VanderWal, promoter of the event. “Deb told me that she was more interested in the show being a memorial to Jeff than a fundraiser. This year, the proceeds will go to the food bank.”

Admission to the show, which will be held at the Leonard Dueland Pavilion at the Story County Fairgrounds, is $12 for adults, $6 for kids 12 and under. The admission fee is how most of the funds are being raised, in addition to a small concession stand. “Since the proceeds are going to the food bank this year, everyone that brings a nonperishable food item will be entered into a drawing,” VanderWal said. “One of the prizes will be a video of last year’s show. If I can’t get any other items to give away, then I will add a couple of vouchers for items from the concession stand.”

The 2nd Annual Jeff Thompson Memorial Show is being presented by a company called 3XWrestling, which holds monthly shows in Des Moines, as well as a few in other towns around central Iowa. “Jeff would always stick around after the show was done and talk to any of the wrestlers and owners that would talk to him,” VanderWal recalls. “Sometimes, they would pretty much have to chase him out of the building when they had everything packed up and cleaned up. He was also friends with several of them on Facebook and chatted with them quite a bit.”

Jeff loved professional wrestling.

Jeremy Wyatt, one of Jeff’s favorite wrestlers from 3XW and someone that he talked to quite a bit, said this about Jeff: “He was just a really supportive fan. Would pretty regularly send me messages on Facebook saying that he enjoyed my match. You could tell he looked forward to coming to shows every month. Most of the time when I look out into a crowd, the faces are a bunch of blurs. There’s a few people that become recognizable because they’re there show after show. He was one of the recognizables.”

Another cool story is from a wrestler named Arik Cannon, who has wrestled all over the world, for some of the top organizations. He is well known around the “Independent” wrestling scene.

“I invited Arik and Darin Corbin to the event last year because I knew that Jeff liked them,” said VanderWal, recalling that Jeff would always talk to them when they would come to Des Moines to wrestle at times. “I didn’t realize just how much he talked to Arik on Facebook though. Arik’s appearance fee is rather large for a little show to be able to afford, so this year, I had decided I wasn’t going to spend the money to get him to come. After I made an event (listing) on Facebook for the show though, Arik messaged me and asked if he could be a part of the show again this year. That was a huge honor for me, and an even bigger testament to Jeff that Arik Cannon, who is contacted by the biggest “indy” organizations in the world, would reach out and ask to be a part of a show to honor Jeff. I couldn’t tell him no, so he will be here on May 14. It’s a great example of how Jeff touched people that he talked to.”

VanderWal said although there are a few wrestlers who are disappointed they can’t be a part of the show again due to prior commitments, there are some great wrestlers coming. Devin Carter and Brady A. Dezire, who are regulars with 3XW, made sure they could be a part of the show again this year.

“There will also be a Nevada native who is moving up the ranks in the wrestling world.” VanderWal said he goes by “Flawless” Brandon Wallace in wrestling.

VanderWal takes the organization of this show personally, because Jeff was someone he knew. “I met Jeff because he worked for my brother at the can redemption in Nevada for many years. I will always remember Jeff for being very talkative and very well liked by just about everyone that met him.”

VanderWal has a goal for this year’s event. “Last year, there were 242 people there. I’m really hoping to hit 300 this year, but will be happy with 200.” VanderWal said a few fans attended from out of town last year, but because another company had a show at the same time in Des Moines, most of the people from Des Moines went to that one. “This year, I’m expecting a few more from Des Moines,” he said, knowing of no conflicting shows.

For those who haven’t been to a professional wrestling event, but would like to come and show support for Jeff, here is how VanderWal said a part owner and commissioner of 3XW explains the show: “Professional wrestling is an athletic performance art. A combination of theater and sport. Combining the timing of an athletic competition with improv performance, it is one of the most difficult arts to master. Each match has two opponents working together to create an illusion of battle, telling a story of good versus evil, big versus small, etc. See the bully finally get a taste of his own medicine, the underdog triumph against all odds. Drama, comedy, athletic endurance. A whirlwind of emotions in each match.”