IWA Mid-South: A remarkable anniversary



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.

Click here for details on the 19th anniversary show.

When all else fails, turn heel


The fair is no easy place to work a wrestling show. You might draw a handful of devoted fans, but you’re also going to draw a number of passersby – including people who are only stopping to laugh and heckle you.

Such was the case a few weeks back in my hometown when UWA put on an outdoor show at the fair. The first couple of wrestlers out to the ring did their best to pump up the crowd but received little to no response. Add in the drunks sitting near me on the bleachers, and it was a really tough crowd.

Enter Dick Devlin.

Devlin is a UWA original, and until that night, he had been working as a babyface. But when the fair crowd cheered his opponent – also babyface – and gave him little response on his entrance, he decided to take what he was given and play the heel.

“It was a really weird night,” he said, “We had both been working as babyfaces, but the crowd didn’t know who either one of us was. They seemed to want me to play the heel, so I did.”

In playing the heel, Devlin did something no one on the card had managed to do before him. He got the handful of drunken hecklers to not only engage with the show, but cheer for him.

“I threw my opponent into the fence. They said, ‘Do it again!’ So I did.”

Devlin has since turned heel for UWA, a rising promotion based in Southern Indiana that tapes television once a month at The Production House in New Albany. Devlin fell into the role quite naturally, having played a heel most of his career, and he is enjoying life on the other side once again.

Devlin grew up a fan during the attitude era and decided to give pro wrestling a try after attending a few Destination One Wrestling shows in Indiana. It’s a part-time job for him, as he’s also a full-time student majoring in criminal justice, and while he isn’t sure wrestling will become a full-time vocation, he’s enjoying every second of it.

Devlin is also very proud to be a charter member of UWA, a group he describes as being like family. “The promoters are a father and son, and they really cultivated a family atmosphere. I’ve been in locker room where there’s fighting and drama, but we don’t have any of that. These guys are my brothers, and I love it.”

Devlin can be seen on UWA TV, both on Youtube and the free Indie Wrestling Channel on Roku. Click play on the video below and skip to minute 38 to see Devlin and friends in his favorite match to date: a TLC match filmed at The Arena in Jeffersonville.

Jim Mitchell vs. Gorgeous George

12019762_10205121748430414_4640876728029337564_nHere’s a great little piece of history, courtesy of Tom Burke. This is the newspaper article about the riot that began after Gorgeous George got “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell disqualified during an August 24 match in Los Angeles. Not sure why Jim Mitchell is listed as Billy Mitchell, as I have no record of him working under that name, but I will be looking into it.

Jim Mitchell was a native of Louisville, Kentucky. He was an African American who helped to break the color barrier in wrestling. In fact Mitchell was wrestling before there even was a color barrier.

I’ve paused my work on Mitchell’s biography to work on the bio of Lord Leslie Carlton with his lordship’s daughter, but I am hoping to get back at it later this year in hopes of a 2016 release. If you have any stories, or know someone who does, about this forgotten legend, please pass the word.

The Finnatic Report

BluegrassBrawlers-coverI recently did a podcast with the Finnatic report to discuss Bluegrass Brawlers, Eat Sleep Wrestle, and indie wrestling. You can download the episode on their website or through iTunes.

Also, if you’re in the Owensboro area, be sure to drop by the Daviess County Library Thursday night to hear me speak on Louisville wrestling with stories from Bluegrass Brawlers. Click here for the event page on Facebook.

A little gift for a Giant

Kenny Casanova’s running a small fund raiser for James Harris, aka Kamala the Ugandan Giant. James is a diabetic and currently spending 10 hours a day on dialysis. To help him pass the time, Kenny’s asking some fans to chip in and get him an iPad with Netflix. If you can give, please do.

I strongly urge you to pick up Kamala’s book as well. It’s a great read, and sales go to James too.

Click here to donate.

Thank you!

The Main Event

Being in the main event is nothing new for Crazy Mary Dobson. She’s done it in Southern Indiana, near her hometown of Charlestown. She’s done it in the tradition-rich wrestling city of Chicago. Tonight, she did it on the WWE Network against NXT Women’s Champion, Bayley.


Sarah Dobson, as she’s known at NXT, looked fantastic tonight. She got a lot of offense in her second match at Full Sail, and she looked like she belonged. The announcers even said she looked a little “crazy.”

Louisville and Southern Indiana fans, this is your girl taking the wrestling world by storm. Congratulations, Crazy Mary/ Sarah Dobson. We are so proud of you!

The Greatest Little PPV on Earth!

12019126_1247212388638324_50884786_oWomen have been a side show in professional wrestling for many years. There have always been exceptions, and in certain eras women were main event draws who could pack the house, but for the most part they were treated as eye candy, forced into demeaning hair-pulling matches and worse.

Everyone laughed – and headed for the concession stand.

Last Wednesday the Internet Wrestling Community was set on fire when William Regal announced the Ironwoman match for the next NXT Takeover special featuring Bayley and Sasha Banks. The hard work put in by the Four Horsewomen of NXT has earned them the respect they deserve.

No one is laughing now.

This week an independent wrestling federation is hoping to make a big step forward for another marginalized form of wrestling. You can call them micro-athletes. You can call them midgets. (Yes, in the world of professional wrestling world, the non-PC term is still accepted and preferred.) They are also legitimate professional wrestlers, and on Wednesday they will be taping the first ever all midget pay-per-view event.

Now in its eighth year, Micro Championship Wrestling has been entertaining fans all over the world. The men and women of MCW truly embrace the term “sports entertainment,” and when they hit the ring, they promise and deliver a good show and a good time.

You may not have heard of heard of MCW, or even be aware there are multiple all-midget promotions now in business, but MCW has been featured on Hulk Hogan’s Micro Championship Wrestling, Full Throttle Saloon, and other reality programs. They wrestle all over the country and in eight years have a 100% re-booking rate. In other words, when Micro Championship Wrestling comes to a town, they always get asked back!

The MCW wrestlers also do an incredible amount of charity work, partnering with organizations like Kym’s Kids and Wounded Warrior to raise money for worthy causes.

The men and women of MCW know that what they do is a joke to many. They’re also keenly aware that it’s not politically correct in the eyes of some. But the men and women of MCW got into this business because for the same reason every man and woman in the WWE did: they love wrestling, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. MCW is carrying on a proud legacy, following a trail blazed by oft-forgotten legends like Little Beaver, the Haiti Kid, Sky Low Low, and Lord Littlebrook. MCW goes for the laughs, but they also know how to create real drama and tears. They are professional wrestlers, and they are proud ambassadors of a truly American sport that continues to entertain millions.

Tickets are still available for the live taping at Independence Bar in Orlando, Florida Wednesday night. You can also catch the show on www.ippv.com.

For booking information and a press pack, visit www.mcwnation.com.

Women’s Wrestling Records

A record may or may not be broken next week. A WWE Diva may break another WWE Diva’s record for most consecutive days as champion.

Here are a few records that remain safe.

Most consecutive years (not days, years) as NWA Women’s World Champion: Mildred Burke, 19.

Most consecutive years as WWE Women’s Champion: The Fabulous Moolah, 28.

It should also be noted that both women were not only main event draws, wrestling 2 out of 3 falls every night, but frequently defended their titles more often in a month than the current WWE Diva’s Champion has in her entire reign. She currently stands at 9 title defenses.

Meet the Indy Card Mafia

Last December I was selling books at a local show during intermission. A shadowy, hooded figure approached the table and quietly asked to buy a few books. I looked up and recognized him as Eric Emanon, the man who had just been in the ring, inciting the anger of the locals and drawing heat with his tag team partner, Xavier Fate.

Eric is one of many wrestlers profiled in Eat Sleep Wrestle, a book that’s become a time capsule about the world of independent wrestling. Since it’s printing, all of the featured wrestlers have faced different challenges and found new opportunities. For Emanon, opportunity came in the form of a tag team known as the Indy Card Mafia.

Emanon’s partner is Xavier Fate, a 25 year old thrilled to be living his dream as a professional wrestler. Fate trained at Chikara Wrestle Factory, and he credits wrestling with saving his life.

“I was struggling with depression, a battle I still have, and came across an open tryout at the Wrestle Factory, a seminar hosted by Claudio Castagnoli (now WWE’s Cesaro). Even though I wasn’t selected to win a scholarship, it made me realize how much I loved professional wrestling. I scraped whatever money I had and went south to Philly.”

It was during a show in Buffalo, New York that Emanon and Fate discovered they had a lot in common. “We started talking and realized we had a lot in common with our goals and what we wanted to do with our lives and careers,” says Emanon. “Next thing you know, we got the opportunity to team up and we’ve been kicking people’s heads off ever since!”

“We Came As Bromans, before we were the Indy Card Mafia,” says Fate. “I’m actually really glad that never panned out.”

Emanon calls Fate his best friend, and that friendship has translated into a strong partnership in the ring. Indy Card Mafia can match any style in the ring. They fan fly through the air and they can work the mat. They try their hardest to avoid tag team cliches, and they are always improvising, trying to find new ways to electrify the crowd with their team work.

Both Fate and Emanon are in-demand as singles wrestlers, but the two know they have something special as a tag team. They are good friends, and they both have similar goals: to travel the world together, and to make a splash one day in the WWE.

“I want to work for the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, with some of the top talent in the world, on the biggest stage of them all,” says Emanon. “If that’s NOT your goal, why do you lace up your boots every weekend?”

Indy Card Mafia is certainly on the rise. They captured their first title, the OSPW Tag Team Championship, in August. Just last week they topped the Indy Power Rankings after being unranked the previous week.

Regardless how far up the ladder they go, both Fate and Emanon hope to make it together. “The Indy Card Mafia isn’t just a brand; it’s family. It’s something Eric and I have built. Something Eric and I have grown. It’s our baby, and we want to make sure that it grows in the best possible way. The only direction we’re looking is up.”