20 Years On, IWA Mid-South May Have Its Best Roster Ever

It had been a while since I paid a visit to Southern Indiana’s legendary wrestling promotion, IWA Mid-South. I’m not big on blood and hardcore and deathmatches, a hallmark of IWA-MS, and truth be told, I decided to go tonight for one reason: OI4K. I’m a big fan of Jake and Dave Crist and their frequent companion Aaron Williams. All three have been regulars at IWA-MS for some time, and when I saw Dave Crist was scheduled to face another favorite in Shane Mercer, I decided it was time to go.

It was a trip worth taking.

The boys from Ohio delivered as they always do, but this was hardly a three man show. Every match on the card tonight delivered, from the opening bout between Desmond Xavier and A.J. Gray to the main event with Larry D. and John Wayne Murdoch. Top to bottom, this was the best wrestling show I’ve ever seen from IWA-Mid-South and one of the best independent shows I’ve ever witnessed.

 

Corey Storm and Myron Reed were two of the younger stars of IWA-MS who impressed in the early matches. Reed is a Louisville veteran with a ton of talent and charisma, and he took an action-packed three way match from Teddy King and Brett Havoc. Storm is just fifteen years old, but he looked like a a seasoned veteran in the ring with Jake Crist. He’s getting the education of a lifetime, working with veterans like Crist, and it’s very clear he has a bright future ahead.

Aaron Williams had a hard-hitting bout with Japanese star Shigehiro Irie. Despite his alliance with the hated manager The Rick, Williams had a strong following in the crowd. Ian Rotten stunned Williams and the crowd after the match by announcing that Williams will face Jessica Havok next week.

Two more members of OI4K, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel, had a show-stopping tag match against the Player’s Club, Mance Warner and Ray Waddell. Wentz is the current heavyweight champion at Rockstar Pro Wrestling in Dayton, and he and Miguel put on a clinic with Warner and Waddell.

Dave Crist vs. Shane Mercer followed the tag match and stole the show in every way possible. Mercer and Crist are two of the best kept secrets in the Midwest. Mercer is all power; Crist is a high-flyer. The crowd was electric for the entire match, and when Crist got the win, the fans leapt to their feet with a standing ovation.

As soon as the match was over, Dave Crist grabbed a microphone and told the fans they were witness to one of the best shows he had ever been a part of. Christ praised the fans for their dedication and heaped even more praise on the young stars of IWA Mid-South. “Ian Rotten has an incredible eye for talent,” he told the fans, and he encouraged everyone to, “Tell a friend, bring a friend, and make IWA Mid-South the best promotion in the Midwest!”

It would be a bold statement to say that the current incarnation of IWA Mid-South is the best ever. This is, after all, the promotion that helped launch the careers of superstars like CM Punk, Chris Hero, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins. That said, it’s clear that something special is happening in Southern Indiana.

IWA Mid-South is in their 21st year. They are packing the Arena in Jeffersonville every Thursday night and the Memphis Flea Market (where Rotten says fans can see more of the hardcore action they are used to) every Saturday. That’s no small feat, running twice a week, and with Joey Ryan, Gary Jay, and Jessica Havok on the card for next week, it’s only getting better.

If you like great wrestling, I’d encourage you to check out IWA Mid-South Thursdays at the Arena. And if you like violence for violence’s sake, you won’t want to miss their Saturday shows (including this weekend’s King of the Crimson Mask show) in Memphis, Indiana.

Congratulations to Ian and the entire crew at IWA Mid-South. Thanks for an amazing night of wrestling.

Puppet Loves Raw!

13051508_493845727473198_1038889222692637872_nIf you’re an embittered old school wrestling fan still longing for the good old days of the Attitude Era, or Memphis, or the pre-WWF takeover, you’ll find plenty of blogs and podcasts to back your feelings on Tuesday. The Internet Wrestling Community is rife with folks who can’t wait for Monday Night Raw – just so they can trash it and tell you how bad it is.

Puppet is not another Raw hater. Puppet is a puppet who simply loves wrestling. Every week, he posts a new video to Youtube, offering his thoughts on the latest edition of the WWE’s flagship show. He also does special episodes to highlight the pay-per-views.

Unlike most of his IWC colleagues, Puppet focuses on the positive. There’s plenty of good out there in wrestling, even in the now Sandow-less WWE, and Puppet isn’t afraid to share how he feels.

I contacted Puppet last week through his Facebook page, and he graciously granted me an interview. Here, in his own words, is Puppet.

How long have you been a wrestling fan? 

I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I’ve been conscious. My dad was fan because his grandmother was a fan. It is sort of a family tradition. Anyway, I started watching very young and I never stopped. Some of my best memories are of watching WWE with my dad, my brother, and my mom. Wrestling is very special to me in that way.

Who are some of your favorite wrestlers?

That’s a really hard question actually. I have a handful and I’m sure I’ll leave someone out that I really like. I really think the WWE roster right now has the best talent, top to bottom, that they’ve ever had. My number 1 guy right now is of course Cesaro. Just a guy that can have a great match with anyone he’s in the ring with. Other than that… again I am leaving people out… I love Kevin Owens, Sami, AJ, Ziggler, Dean, Seth, New Day, Enzo and Cass, Neville, Stardust, Shinsuke, Nattie, Sasha, Charlotte, and the like. I like the wrestlers that ALWAYS look crisp in the ring. Sorry! I always have trouble just picking a few favorites.

What do you think is the match of the year (so far) in 2016? 

Match of the year so far in 2016 is Shinsuke/Sami from Takeover Dallas. I know this is a pretty “safe” choice… but that match is just awesome. Set aside the fact that the action in the ring was relentless, purposeful, and told a great story… Hearing Shinsuke’s music for the first time, his perfectly produced entrance, the circumstances of it likely being Sami’s NXT farewell… it was all just amazing. I was watching with a group of friends and we were all just mesmerized by the spectacle of that match. Spectacle + technically sound wrestling? Doesn’t get any better than that.

Do you see the WWE headed in the right direction? 

Yes. I do think WWE is headed in a great direction. Again, I think top of the card to the bottom of the card they are more stacked with great wrestlers than they’ve ever been. I think more recently they have started to take advantage of that fact. Story is important… story is very, very important… but great wrestler + great wrestler = great TV. Sometimes you can push story aside for matches like that to round out your show. I think we’ve seen that happening recently. Who cares if they are both good fan favorites?! Let the great wrestlers do what they do! Have great matches with each other. The IC title scene right now is a great example of just letting great wrestlers do great work. Anyway, they’ve got great talent right now, I think they are learning this lesson of talent vs. talent trumps forced face vs. heel story any day of the week (probably in large part thanks to how successful this has been for NXT) and I really think the sky is the limit for WWE right now and in the future. I’ve never booked a wrestling show in my life, so i really have no idea what I’m talking about… But as a longtime fan, I’m excited every week for WWE.

Be sure to join the #PuppetClub on Facebook to hear his thoughts on every WWE Raw and Pay-Per-View.

The Ted Petty Invitational Returns

The rumors you’ve heard are true.

Yes, IWA Mid-South is hardcore.

Yes, the fans live for blood and gore.

Yes, they were so violent back in the 90s, they were kicked out of Kentucky.

But if you think IWA Mid-South is all blood and guts, think again.

This Friday, IWA Mid-South is resurrecting the “other” tournament it is famous for, the Ted Petty Invitational. The tournament began in 2000 as a showcase for the best technical wrestlers in the world, and in 2002, it was named in memory of Ted Petty.

If you’ve never heard of Ted Petty or the tournament that bears his name, here’s a look at the participants from the 2002 edition.

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Pictured in this photo: Christopher Daniels, Jimmy Rave, Matt Stryker, Colt Cabana, Spyder Nate Webb, “Sick” Nick Mondo, M-Dogg 20 (Matt Cross), AJ Styles, Ace Steel, Chris Hero, BJ Whitmer, Tarek the Great and CM Punk.

Not pictured: “All That” Matt Murphy, “Kamikaze” Ken Anderson & Super Dragon.

Other past participants include Nova, Mike Quackenbush, Jerry Lynn, Chris Sabin, Sonjay Dutt, Nigel McGuinness, Samoa Joe, Matt Sydal, Hallowicked, Kevin Owens, Delirious, Davey Richards, Ricochet, Low Ki, Tracy Smothers, and Sami Callihan.

Not enough name dropping for you? How about Sara Del Ray (the woman behind NXT’s Four Horsewomen), Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, and Daniel Bryan?

Yes, IWA is hardcore, but it is much, much more than that.

Some of the IWA Mid-South faithful say this year may prove to be the best tournament ever. With names like Kongo Kong, Chris Hero, Reed Bentley, Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, and Masada on the card, they may be right.

The action kicks off Friday night at the Colgate Gym in Clarksville, Indiana. Click here to go to the event page for ticket information. 

You’re welcome.

The Door Opens a Little Wider

https://youtu.be/qB-qEKI37eY

Seth Rollins is out 6-9 months.

The WWE title is vacant.

Rollins will be back in less than a year, and when he returns, he’ll likely get a huge babyface pop. He will be bigger than ever.

Question is, who will step up and take the top spot?

Orton is out for months, also injured.

Cena’s gone until late December.

Brock will be back in January.

Vince is about to push Roman Reigns to the moon… but who will garner the fans’ support?

Cesaro? Owens? Ambrose? Ziggler? Ryback?

Dare I say it… Sasha Banks?

Pick your favorite and tune in. A star is going to be born out of this.

Anybody but Cena? Prove it!

John Cena is out for two months. Every time he’s out, the ratings drop. This in spite of all the “Cena sucks” and “Anybody but Cena” mantras of the Internet wrestling fans.

If you’re ready to “move on” from John Cena, it’s time to prove it.

Do not miss Raw and Smackdown. Watch them again on Hulu and DVR.

Do not miss the pay-per-views that air while he is gone.

Above all, show support for your next guy. You don’t like Roman Reigns? Fine. Buy a shirt to support KO, Ambrose, Ryback, Cesaro, Rollins, Ziggler. Whomever your guy is, put your money where your mouth is. That’s really how the WWE pays attention to whom they need to push.

Reality is, Cena’s a once in a generation star. There are some very talented guys waiting in the wings to take his spot right now, but I’m not sure there’s any one guy yet ready to fill his shoes. The time is coming he won’t want to lace them up as often, but if the ratings plunge like normal, you can expect another major Cena push all the way through Wrestlemania!

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.

Why you should read Eat Sleep Wrestle

esw coverMany wrestling fans are enjoying the indy invasion that has quietly taken over the WWE. They reveled in the triumphs of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. They’re loving the incredible matches put on by Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, and Luke Harper, just to name a few. “Finally,” they say, “Finally, the indies are taking over the WWE.”

Let’s be honest: most of those fans, even the most ardent, were not watching the indies when CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Kevin Steen, Tyler Black, Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, and Brodie Lee were working the warehouses, the high school gyms, and the roller rinks that have become today’s indy wrestling arenas. Most of those fans would be hard pressed to even match the WWE names with the indie names.

That’s a shame, because even with so much talent in the WWE, there’s still more where it came from in the indies. There are names people know or have heard of like Colt Cabana, Chris Hero, and Adam Cole. There are veterans like Sabu, Tracy Smothers, Apollo, LuFisto, and Mad Man Pondo. And there are plenty more they need to hear: Jamin Olivencia, Aaron Williams, Crazy Mary Dobson, the Lovely Lylah, Ron Mathis, Marc Hauss, Eric Emanon, Hy Zaya, and Tyson Dux.

Eat Sleep Wrestle is an introduction to today’s indie wrestling world. It’s a look at the lives of those who truly eat, sleep, and breathe the business. From those just starting out to those working multiple jobs to those who live from show to show, it’s the story of the men and women keeping indie wrestling alive.

I’ve just dropped the price on the book to $9.99. Kindle readers can get it for $3.99. If you’re enjoying what you see on WWE but have never bothered to check out what’s happening on the indie scene near you, this is the kick in the pants you need. Not only that, it’s the kick in the pants every dreamer needs. These stories will do more than make you a fan. They will inspire you to pursue your own dreams.

Get Eat Sleep Wrestle now on Amazon.com!