by Thomas Leturgey, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Renard “Tom” Davenport is omnipresent at Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) events and is anonymous at the same time. But his keen eye is always watchful, and his ears are alert.
The KSWA’s official videographer has been capturing action from ringside ever since he first attended a Pittsburgh event in 2004. During the day, he worked alongside wrestlers “Mr. Tenacity” Tommy Faime and “The Latin Assassin” Mike Aponte and they encouraged the long-time wrestling fan to an event. “I offered to video tape it for them. I have been doing it ever since.”
Davenport, 54, a family restaurant cook by day, oftentimes works his schedule as a cook around KSWA events. Right before showtime, he always arrives without much fanfare and with unparalleled professionalism. As part of the staff, Davenport doesn’t have to pay for his own ticket for fundraisers, but he regularly does anyway. For 15 years and more than 200 bell times, Davenport has been a fixture.
Then, COVID-19 hit. Professional wrestling (the KSWA hosted 25 events in 2019 and projected a similar number this year) and day jobs were affected. Davenport was out of the kitchen for three months, but that just allowed this selfless family man time to assist others.
As is the case with most “gig” professionals, Davenport is ready to warm up the hand-held camera once again. “I just miss it tremendously,” he said recently. “I miss the people involved with the KSWA and the fans.” He, like many in the KSWA, has created a strong bond with fans like James Blumer, Patrick Ellison and his daughter Nicole. “The smile on her face makes all the work you put into it worth the time and effort,” Davenport says.
The Washington, PA native sells his commentary-free DVDS of the KSWA shows he attends, and at a very affordable price tag. He has also edited some matches together for compilation of feuds he thinks the fans would like. Even though merchandise sales have slowed, the wrestling shut-down has not affected his income much. In fact, he probably gives away more DVDs than he sells over the course of a year.
A true KSWA historian, Davenport frequently stumps the locker room with wrestling facts. The perfect example: In 2011, Davenport wondered how wrestler Joey Quervo deserved a match in the promotion’s penultimate December event, FanFest, when the masked grappler had only scored one victory all calendar year. A quick review of results determined Davenport’s math was correct, but the contest with fellow wrestler Lou Martin continued. As one might guess, Quervo was pinned for the loss.
“Tom does a tremendous job documenting the KSWA via video,” says KSWA Owner Bobby O. “He has a great passion and knowledge for wrestling both past and present. And to top it all off, Tom is truly one of the nicest people around.”
Davenport is also an expert on 70’s television trivia and all kinds of music. A true fan of independent wrestling, Davenport has also traveled to West Virginia to video shows for a federation in the Mountaineer State, but Pittsburgh and the KSWA is home.
Long-time friend, KSWA Hall of Famer and former Heavyweight Champion Tommy Faime: “Tom’s probably the nicest man I’ve ever met. He is quiet, but very funny. He always checks in on his friends to make sure they are doing ok. He sends challenging and random questions which is a great way to stay connected and let you know he’s there if you need him, even if he doesn’t say it. He’s just an all-around good guy. He’s also a really dedicated, hard-working and loyal man. He’s worked at King’s Family Restaurant for more than 20 years and he rarely ever takes a sick day. He’s even walked 8-10 miles to or from work when he’s had car trouble.”
Davenport hopes that wrestling events can resume soon. “It’s depressing that so many great shows had to be canceled this year. Especially the Brawl Under the Bridge,” he said of the July benchmark under the Homestead Grays Bridge that has become a highlight of the summer. “I was looking forward to that. The atmosphere during that show is so great. It has a Wrestlemania feel to it.”
It’s atmospheres like that in which Davenport listens to the fans. “I enjoy talking to the fans at the intermissions. I also hear them during the matches while recording about things they like, and dislike. I often relay that info to the staff, so that they know what the fans think. I also appreciate the fans who appreciate what you do.”
It’s that dedication to the sport of Independent Professional wrestling that sets Davenport apart and with a video camera in his palm.