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IWA Mid-South: A remarkable anniversary

 

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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.

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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.”