It’s not easy to run an independent promotion in the WWE era. Most promotions only last a few months at best, struggling to draw an audience and attract talent the fans want to see. Very few have been able to sustain any long term success. Louisville, Kentucky is truly unique because not one but two such promotions have thrived and survived since the mid 1990s.
Much has already been written about Ohio Valley Wrestling, the brainchild of Danny Davis that became (for a time) the developmental center for the WWE. But when Danny Davis was opening his doors at the Quadrangle in Jeffersonville, Ian Rotten was already building a cult-like following at IWA Mid-South.
In 1996 former ECW star Ian Rotten brought the hardcore style to Louisville, filling a void left in the hearts of fans when Memphis closed its doors. IWA Mid-South has always been known for violence and bloodshed, but over time, the promotion also developed a reputation for showcasing some of the brightest young stars in the business. The list of talent who worked for Ian reads like a Who’s Who of today’s indy and hardcore scene, as well as the current WWE roster. Even the current champion, Seth Rollins, once worked for IWA Mid-South.
When Ian ran into trouble with the Kentucky Athletic Commission, he had to move across the river to Indiana. Changing buildings or cities is usually enough to put an end to a wrestling promotion, but the IWA Mid-South fans followed their favorite show across the river. IWA Mid-South has been in at least six different buildings since the printing of Bluegrass Brawlers, and no matter where they go, the fans followed.
I asked a few members of the IWA Mid-South family, what is it that makes IWA Mid-South so special? How in the world is a promotion that has faced so much adversity about to celebrate its 19th anniversary? Here, in their own words, are your answers.
Vic Filpot, Indy Power Rankings: Building a cult like following and having a boss that believes in his product as much as his fans do.
Aidan Blackhart, Wrestler: IWA is going strong in my opinion due to the hard work put out by its talent alongside a family mentality shared both in the locker room and the fans themselves.
Misty Duncan, Ticket Sales: I believe it has been around so long because of the mind of Ian Rotten. His eye for talent and ability to create his own stars is second to none. Over the years he has put together a lot of matches that no one else would ever have the eye to book. Let’s not forget that the revolving door of stars that this company has seen on it’s regular roster is incredible, and the friends Ian has made over the years has allowed him to bring in a lot of names that other Indies, especially in this area, just don’t have the power to do.
Shane Mercer, current IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion: Passion. If you come to a IWA show regardless if there is 10 ppl or 500. You always know the talent there puts it all on the line to be the best. One of those vibes that’s different you get than most locker rooms. Makes you wanna push that much harder.
If any word sums up the IWA Mid-South “universe,” it is the word passion. Ian Rotten is a passionate leader with an outstanding eye for talent and an instinct for giving the fans what they want. The fans of IWA Mid-South are passionate about wrestling and rabid about their favorite promotion. It doesn’t matter if it’s indoors, outdoors, down the street or hours away, they will be there to see their favorite show. That passion fuels the wrestlers who put their bodies on the line every night for their leader and their fans. They are all at IWA Mid-South in hopes that they too might one day follow in the footsteps of Seth Rollins, Chris Hero, and CM Punk.
Congratulations to Ian Rotten and the IWA Mid-South faithful as you celebrate 19 years of keeping independent wrestling alive.