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Fan Enthusiasm Propels Over-the-Top Warhorse to Huge AEW Opportunity

Warhorse told us all of his quotes should be published in all caps. We didn’t do it, but that should give you an idea of the kind of guy he is.

Wrestling world, prepare for the unexpected this Wednesday.

Warhorse makes his All Elite Wrestling debut this week on Dynamite, a chance at stardom for the independent wrestling sensation.

AEW promised to be different, and adding Warhorse to its show as part of the open challenge against Cody Rhodes for the TNT Championship demonstrates a willingness to take bold chances that runs counter to what viewers are accustomed to seeing from mainstream wrestling companies. 

Open challenges are nothing new to the world of wrestling. But AEW is putting a unique spin on the concept, bringing in wrestlers that are not under company employ to work matches against Rhodes for the TNT Championship.

Warhorse is the reigning IWTV Independent Wrestling Champion. He has amassed a dedicated and devoted following on social media, which has helped propel him to a position where he is wrestling on TNT in a match of this magnitude.

“I’ll be head banging like nobody’s business on TNT,” said Jake Parnell, who is the 27-year-old under Warhorse’s face paint. “People are going to see independent wrestling is alive and well. That’s the most important part of this match to me. Indie wrestling is going to rise to the occasion.”

Parnell is completely committed to wrestling—he had his mouth ripped open mid-match by a turnbuckle in 2018 yet still finished the match—as well as to the success of Warhorse, even going as far to request that his quotes in this piece be published in all caps. That intensity captures the essence of Warhorse, equal parts horsepower and heavy metal.

This Wednesday’s match, a meeting of a warhorse and an industry workhorse in an AEW ring, is the result of a grassroots campaign from Warhorse’s legions of fans on social media.

Over the past few weeks, Rhodes has been the subject of endless tweets from the Warhorse fan base, each demanding he receive a shot at the open challenge for the TNT Championship.

“None of this happens without my fans,” said Parnell. “People kept getting louder and louder, and they kept blowing up Cody about the match. Them getting riled up and fired up got me on television.”

After a barrage of tweets, Rhodes reached out to set up the match, and now he has a genuine must-see encounter with the Independent Wrestling Champion.

Warhorse defeated Erick Stevens for that belt in September 2019, adding his name to a title that continues to grow in significance. In addition to Stevens, former champions include current AEW stars Orange Cassidy and Kris Statlander, as well as Ring of Honor’s Jonathan Gresham and Tracy Williams.

And his title reign has been noteworthy, with 38 title defenses that have spanned 14 states in 22 different promotions, as well as the first-ever international title defense. Warhorse main-evented this past Sunday’s Beyond Wrestling show in Atlantic City, and he continues to put a radiant spotlight on IWTV and independent wrestling.

As over-the-top as the character may appear, Warhorse is a throwback. He built his persona through promos, using what he refers to as his charming immaturity to connect with wrestling’s fandom.

“I’ve treated everything I did like territory wrestling would treat it,” said Parnell. “People got over in the territories by cutting promos. They had TV, I have the internet.”

It is yet to be determined whether Warhorse will carry his IWTV title to the ring on Wednesday, but there is zero question about his desire to cut a promo on TNT.

“I’ll be looking for a mic as soon as I walk in the building,” said Parnell. “My personality, that is how I have a connection with the fans. And I’ve got a lot to say.”

National television awaits, as does the type of exposure he has never before encountered. He will have the honor of being on the receiving end of a call from the broadcast team of Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur, all while introducing AEW viewers to a wider scope of the heartbeat of the business—and, in the event there is any doubt, he plans on delivering.

“Warhorse rules ass,” said Parnell, echoing his trademark phrase. “And my plan is to get in the ring and move faster than a bullet, with twice the firepower, and beat the ever-living s--- out of Cody Rhodes.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.