With no fight in cards, Berkshire Mall tenant looks for new home

Lance Madewell, right, catches his breath after finally vanquishing Justin Day, aka "Justin Kase," in a match last year at the Berkshire Mall. The business, Truly Independent Wrestling, is now looking for a new home in Berkshire County after a two-year run as a mall tenant.

LANESBOROUGH — When the "End of the Road" came, Lance Madewell hoped it would have a roof.

But as the date of that long-planned extravaganza neared this month, the owner of Truly Independent Wrestling had to think outside the box.

The big box known as the Berkshire Mall.

With help from a sympathetic town, Madewell moved the wrestling show from the former Old Navy store out into the parking lot, a move forced by the lack of electricity inside.

With the mall owner apparently not paying utility bills once again, ringside seats for the "End of the Road" were placed on an otherwise empty parking lot, along with the ring itself. It was likely the wrestling promoter's last hurrah at his home of two years.

A May show had to be canceled because it was too cold that month to move the show outside. Power was not on that day at the mall, which left the space unusable.

Truly Independent Wrestling, which trains fighters and produces shows, is now looking for a new home in Berkshire County after two years as a mall tenant. In the meantime, Madewell will produce a July 6 wrestling event in Hancock.

The June 15 show outside at the mall drew an audience, Madewell said, but had to deal with showers. Die-hard fans came but the setting didn't offer the same intimacy as the clubby indoor arena, which has drawn audiences of all ages, including children to birthday parties, since it opened in July 2017.

In an interview this week, Madewell was keeping a sunny attitude, as he works to find a new home.

"We're just going to keep moving on and keep a positive mindset," he said. When asked about his relations with mall owner Mike Kohan, who also uses the name Mehran Kohansieh, Madewell, known to fans as a bruising brawler, was diplomatic.

"I don't agree with how things have been going," he said of management of the mall, which remains closed. "It's unfortunate with how things have been going."

In his two years as a tenant, Madewell said, he had never met Kohan, the subject of a recent investigative series in The Eagle.

He said the owner could have tended more to tenant needs, particularly paying utility bills — a common problem in many of Kohan's malls. "I just don't agree with the way he runs his business."

One mall employee on Madewell's MVP list, though, is Jim Ruiz, a longtime local manager."He's been doing his best with what he's been given," Madewell said.

If possible, Truly Independent Wrestling will remain a local affair. Madewell said he hopes to find a location where he can both train wrestlers and stage shows.

Madewell hopes to hear from prospective landlords. The ability to stage events matters most.

"The shows are what keep us going financially," said Madewell, who works a full-time job outside wrestling. "You can have the shows without the school. Shows are what's important."

In its two years, Truly Independent Wrestling has graduated 10 trainees, and still had two others learning the ropes when the business closed.

"We're hoping to continue their learning in other ways," Madewell said of the students. "It would be perfect if we could find a place to run both shows and a school."

Madewell isn't ruling out a return to the mall, but only under a new owner.

"If there was ever a changing of hands, who knows?" he said. "You can never say never."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.