Kevin Knight had run his International Wrestling Federation program in its Nutley headquarters _ Knight’s hometown _ for the last three years. Prior to that, the IWF was housed in Woodland Park.
Over the years, Knight and his organization entertained local wrestling fans who could get up close and personal with the wrestlers for a reasonable price.
At times, Knight called upon some of professional wrestling’s all-time greats like Tito Santana, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Cowboy Bob Orton, The Honky Tonk Man and Jim Powers to stop by and offer support, maybe even climb into the ring with Knight.
Knight also gave lessons to aspiring wrestlers and some actually graduated into prominent roles with his IWF productions, especially North Arlington’s own Michael “Golden Boy” Cammett, who went from being a student of wrestling to one of the organization’s champions.
It all started rather innocently.
Knight, a former athlete at Nutley High, a baseball player for the Maroon Raiders and a referee in soccer and basketball for Nutley Recreation, was attending William Paterson University and worked in the school’s television and radio production.
“I did sports updates,” Knight said of his broadcasting upbringing. “I did news updates and I did play-by-play for the football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.”
In fact, Knight’s partner was Kevin Burkhardt, the famed FOX Sports announcer who used to be the sideline reporter for Mets’ games on SNY.
Burkhardt is now a rising star on FOX and actually does some of the network’s football coverage, as well as the main anchor for baseball and college basketball.
Knight was hired by radio station WGHT 1500 on the dial from Pompton Lakes, doing a morning show and acting as the station’s sports director.
“The first person I hired at the station was Kevin Burkhardt,” Knight said. “It was our first professional jobs.”
Knight then expanded his horizons as a ring announcer for local wrestling shows, representing the radio station.
“We would give out free tickets for the wrestling shows on the radio station,” Knight said.
One of the organizers from NWA, the wrestling organization that hired Knight, asked me if I ever gave wrestling a try.
“You have a good look and you have good personality,” Knight said of the NWA promoter. “That was it. I continued to wrestle and do the radio, but that didn’t work. I had to learn more about wrestling.”
And that’s what Knight did. In 1999, the IWF was formed and did a ton of wrestling shows over the years. There’s a ton of local wrestlers who signed on to learn and move up the ranks like Cammett did.
“Over the years, I must have developed 50 or so,” Wright said.
And for many years, Knight was having the time of his life.
“For many years, it was fun,” Knight said. “It wasn’t work.”
Then about three years ago, things dramatically changed.
“It became work,” Knight said. “To do it right in wrestling, you have to do it all the time, practicing, training. People were getting lazier and weren’t ready to make the full commitment. They had to eat right and exercise. Some people came to me, thinking I was the easy out. People were looking for instant success.
“Like take the easy roads,” said Knight. “Over the years, I treated my sports heroes with respectthat I know they deserve. I see kids coming in and they’re fans of the WWE on television. They see what the WWE does and want to do the same right away. They don’t understand it takes five or 10 years of learning. You have to teach them the right way, but nowadays, they just don’t want to learn the craft. It’s taken the fun right out of it for me.”
So that was it. At the end of June, after 20 years of putting on shows, entertaining at birthday parties and teaching others the proper skills needed to be a pro wrestler, Knight decided to hang it up.
“A lot of them were shocked, but most understood that it was time to go,” Knight said. “It was a good run, but it became a chore. It was 24/7/365. It became my life. I never had a vacation. I never took a day off. I was doing it all. Not only was I doing wrestling shows and acting as a wrestling coach, but I was ordering concessions and making sure they were delivered. I was promoting, but I was also helping the crew set up and take down. Who would be crazy to do all that?”
So that was it. Knight sold off anything that wasn’t bolted down and walked away, closing the doors on his Nutley headquarters forever. He found places for his most dedicated wrestlers could do, but Cammett has decided to take the summer off and concentrate on his classes at Rutgers-Newark.
Five of IWF’s former wrestlers have try outs with the WWE.
“That’s all we can ask for,” Knight said.
So what’s next for Knight?
“I have been co-hosting the radio shows on Sirius XM with Dave LaGreca,” Knight said. “I think I’m looking to get back into broadcasting.”
Knight was asked if he misses the great times he had with the IWF.
“I don’t miss the physical aspect of it,” Knight said. “I didn’t want to do this forever. I’ll miss the fun things like the birthday parties, seeing the kids get excited. Time will tell what happens next.”
Nutley’s Kevin Knight announced recently that he was retiring from professional wrestling and closing up his IWF headquarters that was based in his hometown. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knight