Always Leave Them Wanting More: Confessions of a British Indie Wrestling Promoter
“Always leave them wanting more”
…Probably one of the best and most important lessons you can learn in this business no matter what size crowd you’re working or what area of the world you’re working in.
My Name’s Phil Woodvine and I have been running Pro Wrestling 4U since 2011, but I have been working in the wrestling business itself since 2007. Typically there are two kinds of promoter––the business man & the wrestler. The Businessman may have dabbled in performing but is more interested in being on the outside looking in, whereas The Wrestler wants to have their cake and eat it: they want to run the business from the locker room.
I fall into that second category.
Since my first year in training I was working shows as a manager; I guess with struggling to put weight on to be a wrestler and having the ‘gift of the gab’ it was an easy transition for my trainer to make for me. I was stuck in a suit, came up with the name ‘Philthy’ and was given the chance to get to grips with the audience.
Fast forward four years and I am opening up my own promotion––PW4U––with my friend Kim Brown (stage name Kim Roxx) in March 2011. Running any promotion is hard work––I don’t know any promoter that isn’t pulling his hair out and looking 20 years older than they actually are on show day––there’s so much that needs to be done and it will take its toll on you.
So… how do we go from show one to our 7 year anniversary show in March 2018? BLOODY HARD WORK! The list is endless––listen to your crowds, don’t alienate anybody, give them an entertaining product, give them characters they can emotionally invest in and last but not least… Always leave them wanting more.
There are no certainties when promoting shows. You can have the best talent possible, the best entranceway, the best lighting, etc., but sometimes things will come along and ruin all your plans––even something as silly as bad weather. Does the promoter have enough money in their pocket to cover it all? I’ve been at shows before where the promoter may ask to either PayPal it over to talent (which nowadays is fine, but in the early to late 2000s before PayPal or Apple Pay, I’ve seen promoters admit they haven’t made enough money on the door, and they'd be marched to the nearest cash-point by the scruff of the neck until they cough it up).
This brings me to WWE. Realistically can anyone ever challenge them on any scale? In my opinion: No. Their name is synonymous with this business, and if you want something to compare it to: do people buy a vacuum cleaner, or do they get a Hoover? Hoover is a brand name, but people use it to describe all vacuum cleaners––much like people use WWE/WWF as their go-to when it concerns wrestling. So when you look at it like that; it would take something monumental for them to be knocked from that spot.
I get asked from time to time usually via magazines or podcasts: “What would you say to someone that wanted to start being a wrestling promoter?” You want my honest answer? It's simple:
The amount of work you need to put in before you see any return is staggering. How many companies come along and think that they’re going to change the industry, only to fall at the first hurdle because A) they’ve not done their homework, B) they don’t have the money to continue, C) they don’t have a clue what this business is really about… and the list goes on. Do I see an end to this? Unfortunately no, people have always tried their luck. Look at companies like 5 Star Wrestling––but even before them you had PW101, Lucha Forever, Pro Wrestling Kingdom. They all came along with their “I know what they want” attitudes when really their inexperience came racing to the surface, the crowd didn’t take to them, they messed talent and venues about, and then sunk without a trace.
The thing with promoting is that it isn’t just about the fans, it’s about the performers, too. As a promoter and a booker, if you can give the talent your time and invest in them, then you will be met with unshakeable loyalty. We believe in giving chances and this had paid off greatly for PW4U as we have had some amazing talent through our doors over the past 7 years. If you look at the British wrestling scene right now, it’s not been this hot for a very long time. The WWE certainly knows this––look at the list of stars from these shores that they’re using right now––they have all chipped their teeth up and down this country, from wrestling in front of 20 fans in community centres to performing for thousands of fans in huge arenas.
We are very fortunate to have had many of the WWE stars on our shows and very grateful for their contributions to PW4U. Joseph Conners, Nixon Newell, Flash Morgan Webster, El Ligero, Toni Storm, Tyson T-bone, and Zack Gibson have all blessed our audiences with their performances over there years––of which you can find these all on our On-Demand service.
If someone reading this really does want to start promoting shows, please do take some advice:
· Do your research––is a promoter already working that area?
· Do you have enough money to cover all eventualities?
· Have you got sufficient insurance & licences?
· Is the talent you’re after even available for when you want to run shows?
We are extremely fortunate to have two great mentors in our locker room, two men that come armed with decades of experience and have seen so much from all over the world that it’s an absolute pleasure to have them with us and to guide us; head referee Tony Barrett & World of Sport star Keith Myatt.
We have seen many wrestling promotions come and go over the years (some I will admit that it’s a pleasure to see them go) but some is quite sad that they are no longer around. If you used to watch The Wrestling Channel then you’ll know what I mean, but PW4U has gone from strength to strength over the years––getting bigger venues, attracting bigger crowds, and showing off bigger names all while keeping the risks at a minimum.
Vince McMahon is a big believer in taking what he calls calculated risk and I think we think along those lines too. We have fans that buy tickets for our shows without us even releasing a show poster or even announcing a match––because they believe in what we put out there and they believe in what we represent.
And with that kind of support, how could we fail?