If you consider yourself a wrestling fan and live in the UK, then three letters should roll off your tongue - PSI, and If you don't know what we're talking about you must get up to speed and fast.
On Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st June 2015, London will host the inaugural PSI London Wrestling Convention (with tickets onsale here) and what an event it looks to be. Top level talent including Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Jim Ross and Trish Stratus will be in town together with legends like the Nasty Boys! Many of the stars will in fact be coming to the UK for the first-time. Having attended and reviewed PSI events with Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho in the past, we knew the convention was going to be first class and so sought the opportunity to talk with PSI's founder Paul Inwood and learn more.
PSI, taken from Paul's initials given it was "short and easy to remember" was inspired by his experiences as a fan. "I was in New York and saw that Mick Foley was doing one of his shows - and had a really great time listening to his stories". The event, followed by a meet and greet was one of the first times that Paul had met a wrestler and he was inspired by the experience. Working from a blueprint of similar events featuring Mike Tyson, Paul contacted wrestling superstar Bret 'the Hitman' Hart who was "up for giving it a go". Things got off to a great start when show one sold old quickly and to Paul's surprise drew fans from as far afield as Germany and Canada. The second show sold out straight away and so PSI was on its way.
As a savvy entrepreneur, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that one man shows were never the ultimate goal for Paul. Modest and unassuming, he says that he had been "planning for a while to do a Wrestling Convention". So too, Paul has undertaken serious research about wrestling and other conventions and has "...seen there's been problems with a few of them in the past".
Wanting to ensure a quality experience, Paul knew that he couldn't rush the idea and so has been biding his time and building a good name and the right contacts for PSI. This includes help from US convention planners, to ensure that "we're bringing over the good guys. The ones the fans are going to like and want to spend time with". This is important, as the foundation for much of Paul's efforts is his perspective as a fan. "I'm a wrestling fan just like anyone that comes to our shows" and whilst he's been to others shows both good and bad, ultimately "you've just got to give the fans what they want."
The fan's perspective serves Paul and indeed all PSI consumers well. The little things, such as starting on time are basic but important to Paul. "You don't go to a football match and celebrate that they've started at 3 o'clock!" So too, PSI never over-sell their events. Paul lost out to another company that ran a widely criticised UK event with Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall and Kevin "Diesel" Nash. When he saw the £30 price tag for photos with 'the Outsiders', he knew it would require a vast number of such tickets to be sold and this can mean "you're there all night". Wisely, Paul asks "What fan wants to wait 3 or 4 hours?" As a result PSI tries to cap sales so the queues aren't too long for people. Another reason to get tickets for the convention fast!
Entry to the convention is just £10 but photos can cost more. Asking if fans pays for quality, Paul answers again, as a fan. "The cheapest price we can do for fans is what we will always do". "We don't pluck those prices out of the air, we just charge what we feel we need to" says Paul. He explains that where they have charged more, it has been to keep things intimate rather than selling cheap, packing it out and doing a disservice to fans.
There have of course been poor competitors but asked if he fears quality competition like Eros Comedy, Paul demonstrates a classy approach. "They put on great shows" he says. PSI and Eros have been to one another's shows and so "there's no rivalry". That said, Paul knows that there are limits to the talent that will come to the UK and deliver a successful Q&A. "It can drain the market pretty quickly" he says and so he has sought to invite a group of wrestlers not often seen on these shores. As he rightly states, "someone like Trish Stratus you're not going to see in the UK often".
However, Paul's not yet done. Despite the amazing line up there is more to come. "We've still got a couple of people that we've booked, we're just holding out...". "One of them I'm very excited about. He actually works for the WWE and I think he'll do very well." Though we pressed for an inside track, Paul is tight lipped, so keep your eye on the PSI facebook page...
Meet and greets, pictures and autographs aside, there will be a programme of events at the Convention. Already announced is Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels onstage together - for the second time ever. When purchasing a ticket for that one gains free entry to Jim Ross' one man show which was one of Paul's favourite previous PSI events and JR "one of the most popular people we've had over". The "majority of the other wrestlers" will be doing Q&A's throughout the day all free of charge save for the general admission ticket thus ramping up the value for money.
Sadly, those wanting to capitalise on some of the opportunities are already too late. The Saturday "superticket" which includes early entry and more is sold out, so too are Bret and Shawn photos and Hart Foundation picture opportunities - but that's on the Saturday where PSI have "maybe double" those coming on Sunday. Disheartened fans will either need to wait for next year or as Paul is keen to emphasise "come on the Sunday!"
If it weren't named after the promoter, perhaps PSI events might otherwise be called BFF. It's not as catchy but as "Best For Fans" it would certainly be accurate. Tickets for what will no doubt be a top quality London Wrestling Convention are available here. Get them, fast.