I first came across Andy Quildan ring-announcing for Mark Sloan’s WrestlingStore promotion in Bedford last year. I had no idea who he was but I was impressed with his mic’ skills and his comfort in the ring. When I reached deeper into the not-so-murky-anymore depths of British wrestling, I discovered he was a promoter in his own right and, what’s more, his Revolution Pro-Wrestling promotion were a Big Noise on the scene.
Although RevPro have only been around for three years, it might seem much longer for many British wrestling fans because they really started as an offshoot of Kent-based International Pro-Wrestling, where Quildan had risen to the rank of match-maker. The last IPW shows before RevPro formed, booked by Quildan in Sittingbourne, were something of a dry-run for the new promotion, and lessons learned from those – plus a feeling that he had a point to prove, taking risks accordingly – led to a quick growth for his (now not-so) new project.
2015 has been quite the year for RevPro, and it’s still not over yet, so I caught up with him after walking his dogs (him, not me) to talk about some of the more recent developments…
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SC: One of the biggest stories of 2015 has been the cementing of your relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling into an official partnership. How did that come about?
AQ: We’ve worked with them for a while, since June 2013 when Jushin Liger came over, and that was something that came about through Prince Devitt (now Finn Balor in NXT). People had been trying to make it happen for a while and could never really get it going, but Devitt was our Undisputed British Cruiserweight champion and he put us in touch with the right people and we cultivated the relationship from there. We brought over Tanahashi, Nakamura, and Okada, and I guess they felt they were treated really well, had a great time, and loved the fans. The shows were really busy and they felt a part of that, and were impressed in general with the UK wrestling fans knowledge of New Japan and the enthusiasm they were met with. We’ve begun working a bit closer alongside them and I hope from their perspective, and certainly from our perspective, we can help them, too.
SC: New Japan’s other official partners – Ring of Honor & CMLL – send talent over to Japan – can you see that happening with Will Ospreay or Marty Scurll, for example?
AQ: Well, certainly those are two names who would fit right in, to the Super Juniors or maybe even a G1 tournament, and I’m sure there are other guys out there who could go over. I know that we’ve got Tiger Hattori from New Japan coming over to watch our show in Portsmouth (which took place on Friday August 28th), and a big part of the roster coming over in October, obviously with Gedo who is the booker, and several members of the office. So it’s a real opportunity for everyone to impress and I think everyone’s got an equal opportunity to go over there. Not just the guys you’ve mentioned, but also Big Damo, Mark Haskins, Kris Travis, and a laundry list of guys who’ve got an opportunity of a lifetime to go over. It’s all down to them to them to impress. I can point New Japan in the direction of certain talent but, at the end of the day, the office is going to get an opportunity to see everyone this October and that’s why it’s such an exciting time for everyone.
SC: How much freedom do you have when it comes to booking shows with New Japan talent? Personally, I was surprised – pleasantly so – when Big Damo beat Tomohiro Ishii at Summer Sizzler, because I didn’t expect New Japan to give the nod for it…
AQ: In essence, and I don’t want to give away the inner workings of our relationship, but I’ve always tried to keep people guessing, and try to tell stories. In terms of who faces who, using October’s Uprising cards for example, I presented them with two cards for the two nights, and there was only one slight alteration they made to the matches. In terms of storytelling, we always try and make things make sense. I know it can be frustrating for fans when an import goes over – for example, Matt Sydal beating Will Ospreay at Uprising 2014 – but they don’t see the bigger picture, in this case at Summer Sizzler 2015 when Ospreay won the best of three series in a great match which paid off the previous two matches in the series. I’ve not really answered your question there but I hope that gives you an insight into how we put our shows together. It’s also not a forgone conclusion who’s going over. For example, when AJ Styles beat Marty Scurll for the Undisputed British Heavyweight championship. Although at the time Styles was IWGP champion, I don’t think many people thought AJ could go over and win the championship, and I’ve got a lot of pictures that prove that, with the look of shock on the fans’ faces! Being able to create the unexpected is something we really enjoy doing – that “anything can happen” atmosphere where we can pull out all the stops.
SC: Moving on, the other big change for 2015 was the introduction of RevProTV, on YouTube. How did that happen?
AQ: Well, for years there’s been talk of people wanting to get TV deals for British wrestling and, like any promotion which has had any kind of success over the past ten years, we’ve been in talks with production people. The trouble with that is you’ll get so far and they’ll think it’s the best idea in the world but it only takes one person to turn it down and you’re back at square one. It’s a very long process and it becomes very time-draining, especially for the money people are willing to pay for a wrestling show. I remember when I was producing the IPW show for the Wrestling Channel – we were getting paid for it but the money we were getting paid wasn’t worth the effort that was going into it because our ticket sales didn’t increase as a result. So my mentality with the YouTube show was that everyone has access to YouTube and we’re in this new digital age. Our OnDemand service has started to do really well, and especially since the YouTube show started, and the YouTube show has increased in views. A lot of people have said that, perhaps, there’s not enough storylines but the show wasn’t designed for that, more as a taster for the bigger shows. Obviously, it’s something that is evolving and developing and it’s never going to be perfect but hopefully it will get better with time. At the moment we’re looking at next year and it will hopefully evolve further. I do everything myself and I’m learning, too, and where I am now is miles ahead of where I was, especially looking back at the Wrestling Channel stuff. For next year, we’re increasing the frequency of the Cockpit tapings and the shows will become much more episodic.
SC: Are you still chasing TV? Or do you agree with Jim Smallman of PROGRESS, who – and I’m paraphrasing here – said there’s no need for it in the digital age?
AQ: There’s still no substitute at the moment for proper TV, because the majority of wrestling fans watch their wrestling through their TV. But the chase can damage the product and you have to make sure you don’t let it take over. Digital is still a few years away from taking over but you can walk into WHSmiths or Tesco and see offers on Netflix now, so it is coming.
SC: I mentioned PROGRESS back there, and they don’t tend to use imported talent all that much, and if they do it’s a certain type of talent, that an internet-savvy crowd can savour. Conversely, Preston City Wrestling and Southside use an ex-WWE or TNA type. How do you pick your imports, which seem to strike a balance between the two?
AQ: Well, even with the New Japan guys because of that relationship, there has to be a logic to it. Generally, they have to be exciting, but I’m mindful of my market, which can include a lot of families, so I’ll go for the ex-WWE wrestlers, too. And, when it comes down to it, smart fans want workrate, but they also want nostalgia, and Too Cool & Rikishi were very well-received when they came over late last year. The bottom line is that they have to work hard, and as long they work hard, they’ll be invited back.
SC: Although you’ve promoted in other areas before, you’re primarily a South East and London promotion, but Uprising 2015 sees you go into a new area, Reading, for the first time. How do you approach geographical expansion?
AQ: Reading is interesting because it wasn’t originally on the cards. We should have been running two nights at York Hall but it wasn’t available to us on the Saturday night so we had to look elsewhere. And the thing is with London, the size of venue you need immediately prices you out of the market. So we looked further afield and found the Rivermead Centre in Reading, and thought that it was perfect. You can get to reading from pretty much anywhere in the country – from London, from Birmingham, and beyond – and most people know where it is because of the festival. New areas don’t really hold any fear for us because I’m a believer in a promoter actually promoting – we’ll get out there and flyer, and poster, and the ticket sales for the Reading show are proof of that.
SC: I noticed that 4-Front Wrestling were going to use the same venue, did that pose any problems?
AQ: They didn’t end up using it in the end but that was nothing to do with us. I did actually speak to (4FW promoter) David Sharp and checked he was cool with it, and he had no problems.
SC: How do you approach working with other promotions?
AQ: The basic rule, to borrow from PROGRESS, is Don’t Be A Dick! Don’t tread on anyone’s toes if you can help it, and respect other promoters if you want to be respected yourself. I’m too busy with my own promotion to worry about sabotaging anyone else, and everyone else should be, too.
SC: Does that extend to how you use the wrestlers that are also working for other promotions?
AQ: Look, everyone benefits from keeping guys strong. As an example, when we made Martin Stone the champion at IPW I had to stress to him the importance of not doing jobs for other promotions, and the benefits that would have to him, as well as us, and also to the other promotions. Because if a wrestler is booked strongly, he will be seen as a big deal by the fans, and everyone who books him shares in those rewards. It’s especially true for champions, and being on the same page helps, but there are sometimes promotions who will do their own thing and that can be frustrating. I try to keep abreast of what everyone else is doing, and luckily there are enough different styles that we can all do our own thing to an extent, but you have to work together to a certain extent.
SC: What are your plans for the future, for 2016 and beyond?
AQ: The main thing to do when moving forward is to learn from your mistakes. You should never be afraid of criticism and feedback, even when you don’t ask for it. It’s important not to take it personally and to realise that it’s mostly not meant that way. I try to stay level-headed and use my experience. The main plan, as always, is to move forwards. No coasting! More specifically, we’re going to go monthly with our TV tapings at the Cockpit Theatre, which should have an impact on the structure of the YouTube show. We also have plans to increase the presence of women on our shows because there are a lot of great women wrestlers in the UK. And we want to continue to sell out the York Hall and bigger venues where we can!
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As big as 2015 has been for RevPro, 2016 looks to be every bit as huge, and hopefully more so. The UK scene is in a healthy place and Andy Quildan’s efforts are a big part of that. I’ve enjoyed the RevPro shows I’ve seen – and paid to see because they’re worth that money! – and I’ll be back for the Uprising show at the York Hall in Bethnal Green in October. You should, too. Well, if it hadn’t sold out, that is…