As any British wrestling fan will know, we are spoilt for choice in the UK. Cast your eyes around the internet and you will see a myriad of companies offering shows purporting to offer an excellent night of sports entertainment. There are however some companies more than others that exude a sense of professionalism and quality. IPW:UK is one such company and so it was that we ventured down from London to Kent to take in their show.
The birth of IPW:UK and its subsequent growth and success is a compelling story, one which promoter and IPW founder Daniel Edler recounted for us. Having worked for wrestling news sites making "a decent living for a 15 year old at the time", Daniel decided to volunteer to help out acquaintances that were running wrestling shows. Seeing various events fail - and in particular one event in Blackburn - was a good learning curve for Daniel and the more he learned, the more he was convinced he could do it better.
Scouting local venues, Daniel found somewhere conveniently "a 15 second walk from my house. It was affordable it was practical and so we ran our first show". In September 2004, 75 people came to see the birth of IPW: UK. The first show lost "a lot" of money but the tenacious and then budding entrepreneur thought "I could still do it better, so I gave it another go". Their fourth show included the international superstar Samoa Joe on the card and recouped all the money from the first three loss making shows. From then on, Daniel realised he was onto something. "We fixed all the mistakes we had made on the first few shows and now we've done something in the region of 300 hall shows during our time and some 50 camp shows in the last 10 years, so it's gone really well".
Perhaps going well is an understatement. IPW: UK had a show on Sky Digital, they have expanded their output from a show every two months to a show a week and have ventured beyond the borders of Kent, down into Sussex and up into the North.
Whilst understated about IPW's potential expansion, Edler test-ran an "Open Day" for promotions in Surrey for fear that they were offering a sub-standard product. In his words "I just want people that aren't doing it great to see a better way, so hopefully they can improve". "It didn't really catch on how I wanted it to" he says, "so I'm going to try again next year". This speaks volumes about Daniel. His focus is resolutely on quality and his determination resolute. Meanwhile he has no particular concerns about one of the potential competitor promotions we mention because "they use good guys, I'm not worried about the quality of their shows." As he put it "We're able to run in Kent and do it the way we'd like to". This focus on output and attention to detail pays off both for IPW fans and members of the local community -be they fans or not.
IPW:UK has featured in the local press and simply as spectators it was clear to us the level of support that the promotion has garnered from the local community. There were people from across the generations in the audience, parents with their kids, avid wrestling fans and others. It was particularly impressive how inclusive IPW:UK aimed to be, looking to accommodate those with disabilities who were in attendance.
With no regular TV show, we put it to Daniel that fans could struggle to follow the storylines IPW:UK try to establish but he has this covered too. "We try and ensure that anything storyline based that we do follows a venue to venue rather than show to show pattern. So for example we might have something on in Ashford that we're starting there that wouldn't happen in Swanley". "We will occasionally play something off of different venues in order to get our fans to travel from one to the other - to try and get every show sold". In addition, IPW have invested in their programmes which seek to "keep existing fans informed and catch new fans up". With the programmes now included in the ticket prices, everyone benefits. "They're fantastic" says Daniel - something we can attest to.
Featured in detail in the programme and on the card for the evening we attended were TNA's breakout tag-team, The Wolves together with former WWE star Brian "Curt Hawkins" Myers and the much hyped Uhaa Nation. Asked for the advantages and disadvantages of using international talent on his cards, Daniel offered a characteristically positive view. "The advantages are massive. Look at Will Ospreay, if he'd have been wrestling the same old people, he'd still be having good matches but he never would have come on in leaps and bounds. There are things that Ricochet for example has told Will Ospreay that have blown his mind..." "Now when Will goes to wrestle someone else he can offer advice, so it has a knock-on effect".
The international talent all appear to hold Daniel is high esteem - and it is difficult not to, even if only spending a few minutes with him. He handles interruptions to our conversation with ease, giving advice on ring entrances, match timings and ticketing queries. He is as hands on as ever and deploys his expertise to IPW's benefit.
If nothing else, the calibre of the matches on the card speak for themselves. From the get go, the in-ring storytelling was excellent. We sat front row for amongst other matches, an IPW title bout between Germany's Bad Bones and the USA's Uhaa Nation (soon to sign to WWE if the rumours are to be believed) not to mention UK superstars Will Ospreay and Tom Dawkins facing Paul Robinson and Brian Myers. Space prohibits us detailing all the matches but the card was excellent from top to bottom.
Between Daniel's expertise and a well booked card, IPW has a lot going for it. Asked why people should buy a ticket, Daniel demonstrates a good understanding of what the community wants. "Hopefully we're more local!" he says before continuing "I think we're an affordable night out when compared to other options in the entertainment field". "You'd be hard pushed to find a way to sit second row at a show for £38 for a family of four and get to see bona fide international superstars." "I'd be surprised if there's anyone in the M25 region that knows about IPW that wouldn't want to come". Having been to an IPW:UK event, we'd be surprised too.