WhatCulture Pro Wrestling uniquely blends covering and promoting pro wrestling with their popular website and YouTube channel which has expanded out into promoting live events across the northeast of England.
This week sees them take two major steps in their development. On Thursday, it will run its first internet pay-per-view, headlined by Kurt Angle taking on local star Joe Hendry, a winner of the Kurt Angle Invitational Elimination Rumble. Entitled Refuse to Lose, it also features Cody Rhodes, Alberto El Patron, and Minoru Suzuki taking on British wrestlers.
Then on Saturday, WCPW leaves its regional base for the first time with a fan convention and live show in Manchester. The live show will see Angle and Rhodes square off for the second time since Rhodes left WWE.
I had a chance to talk to WhatCulture Pro Wrestling's managing editor Adam Clery about the weekend and what the promotion's plans are.
How would you describe your approach to covering wrestling and building a fan base?
I started here about the same time as we launched our wrestling section in earnest, so it's been really crazy to see it grow so quickly. It's always been a fans-first policy in terms of what we produce, which is pretty easy as we are, at heart, all fans. We've known from day one what we'd want to see people producing, so it's second nature to do it ourselves. We're lucky in that the fans we have are quite vocal about what we do, so we're never trapped in our own little bubble.
Outside of Japan, it's unheard for media outlets to transition into promoting. What first gave you the idea to run shows of your own?
It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment we decided to do it. It had always been one of those ideas that sat in the "wouldn't it be cool if..." pile that every business has. Around the turn of the year, though, we started to believe we might have the personnel to really make a good go of it, so the feelers started going out and we started looking at it more seriously. The next thing we knew, the ball was rolling.
To date you've run shows in the northeast of the country -- an area that hasn't previously been seen as a hotbed for wrestling. What made you choose this area as your base?
WhatCulture started in Newcastle many, many years ago. Although we've got writers and producers all over the world, it's still our home and it wouldn't have been right to start a promotion anywhere else. That said, Newcastle's only not seen as a hotbed of wrestling because, like everything else, it's not a part of the world that gets great coverage for what it does.
The other promotions here are fantastic, and the talent that's based in the region has been the main reason we've been able to make this work. Beyond just our own promotion, it's an honour to be able to help shine a bit of a light on what's happening here.
For the first time, you'll be running outside the northeast on Saturday. How have you handled promoting in Manchester? Any issues with the UFC 204 overlap?
It's obviously a little scary moving out of our comfort zone, and logistically it presents a lot of different challenges than running a show 15 minutes from our office. But when you've got Kurt Angle, Cody Rhodes, and Bret Hart on the bill, the promotion handles itself thankfully.
A lot of our fans travel up to Newcastle from all over the UK (and beyond) so we're just trying to approach it like any other show. We're being mindful that a lot of people will be wanting to head over to UFC afterwards though, so we're hoping to have it wrapped up in time for that.
Your shows have a strong emphasis on bringing in stars from American wrestling. What has your experience been of working with these big names?
Honestly, they've been a pleasure. I think a lot of our guys [wrestlers and guys from the site] were understandably nervous about working with some of them, but every single one of them has been at the height of professionalism. They wouldn't have got to where they have in their careers without being great people to work with, and we're continually amazed by how great they are as both wrestlers and people.
You're running iPPV for the first time this weekend. What made you take this step and how will you handle any technical challenges?
The technical challenges have been pretty big, but we've got such a great team here that it's gone about as smoothly as it could. We've got fantastic presenters here at WhatCulture, but the guys behind the scene that make things look, sound, and work right do such an incredible job. Ultimately we want to take this forward, continue to grow and make our shows bigger. Going down the iPPV route is something that's designed to enable us to do that.
You have a stellar announce team of Jim Ross and Jim Cornette. What made you approach both men?
How could we not? For pretty much everyone here, Jim Cornette is the man who created some of their fondest childhood memories, and Jim Ross is the man who voiced them. It's an absolute dream to be able to involve them in WCPW, and we're working incredibly hard to ensure the show deserves to have men of their standing calling it.
Which talent are you particularly looking forward to seeing perform this weekend?
We've got such a stacked card this weekend that it's nearly impossible to pick a favourite. However, seeing Angle vs. Rhodes is something not a lot of wrestling fans believed they'd ever actually get to witness, so I suspect most people here would say that. It's a lazy answer to just pick what's at the top of the card, but it's at the top for a reason.
What does the future hold for WhatCulture Pro Wrestling?
Who knows? Hopefully bigger shows, better ideas, more amazing memories for the fans. Most importantly though, we're hoping that a lot of the guys who've been with us since the beginning [Conners, Hendry, Kirby, et al] can go on to great things while we're still lucky enough to have them here. Who knows who else you might see in a WCPW ring in the near future though.