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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Allen Withrow ... From headlocks to lock-outs

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Allen Withrow with his CWF World Championship Belt. Photo/Tammy Curtis
A portion of Allen "Tombstone" Withrow's collection of wrestling memorabilia and CWF World Championship Belt. Photo/Tammy Curtis
How does one go from a shy, self-proclaimed "band geek," to a masked professional wrestler who holds the Continental Wrestling Federation's world title, to being a locksmith? For Allen Withrow, it is all a part of living and loving his life. Although still quite young, what an interesting life he has led.

Withrow has watched Memphis wrestling with his grandfather since he was 2 and loved the sport. During the summer before his senior year, the baritone saxophone player took a leap of faith and went against the grain to begin taking amateur wrestling lessons from a man whose yard he mowed. He said that most of his friends knew nothing of his love for the sport or how he loved watching every type of wrestling from WCW, WWF and AWA. "I watched it all, that was my secret passion," Withrow said.

When Withrow went back to school his senior year, classmates saw the obvious transformation and asked how he had trimmed up. The quiet, shy Withrow didn't want to tell them about the wrestling lessons and kept it quiet because he was never athletic in school.

Withrow graduated from Highland High School in 1993, and attended Arkansas State University on a band scholarship and marched with the Indian band for nearly two years before he realized that band wasn't his thing. It was at Arkansas State that Withrow would come face-to-face with real wrestling. One night at the Armory his life changed when he was asked to try out for wrestling by trainer Burt Prentice. Withrow said Prentice noticed his size and invited him into the ring. He said the trainer did a move called a hip toss on him, one in which a person is picked up and tossed across the ring. When Withrow landed on his feet, Prentice decided he wanted to train him. He said the trainer was responsible for training the Colorado Kid, Mike Rapada, who went on to become the NWA world heavy weight champion. Withrow credits Prentice with breaking him into the wrestling business but it wasn't until later that Don Bass took on his full training.

He was trained in a chicken coop in the small town of Jericho, Ark, just outside West Memphis. He said that Bass compared him to an old school wrestler and Withrow credits Bass with helping him get "ring savvy" by getting his timing down and learning things vital to the business. After a year and a half with Bass, Withrow was starting to get into the business.

Withrow won the Continental Wrestling Federations World Title and held it from 1995-2002. He talked with enthusiasm as he relived the night he won the belt. Withrow said he beat 20 men in a Battle Royale in an unstaged event for the honor. He said soon after was when his wrestling name "Tombstone" was born.

He said he traveled the Midsouth competing with such stars as Dangerous Doug Gilbert. He recalls wrestling in Jonesboro, Memphis and Lexington in one weekend. Withrow says they worked a lot at the Earl Bell Center and the Guard Armory at Arkansas State as well as traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, for competitions.

In addition to loving wrestling, Withrow collects wrestling memorabilia, from as far back as the 1970's. He said he considers himself still in the business and when asked if would consider getting back in the ring, he said, "If I get an invitation and only if I get paid to do it, but I consider it every day."

Withrow and his father Roger own the Continental Wrestling Federation and they worked as a team until his father's illness which halted the business.

One of the common stereotypes associated with wrestling is men on steroids with low self-esteem who dress in tights. Withrow was quick to clear up the stereotypes about everything but the tights, which he said he has never worn. Highly publicized cases about steroid and drug use such as Eddie Gilbert's case, has painted wrestling in a negative way.

He says although he has loved his wrestling career, "I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I have knees of an 80 year old man and I am only 35, and I don't think the marching band did it." He frequently gives his stepson Austin advice when he tells Withrow he wants to grow up and be like him. He tells him, "Go get a college degree and do something with your life."

After moving back to the area where he grew up, Withrow opened his own locksmith business. Currently Withrow owns and operates Rebel Lock and Key. He said he has always liked to work with his hands and is looking forward to watching his business grow in the area.

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