FSM‘s Will Cooling talks to James Vukmirovic of Wulfrun Pro-Wrestling, a local promotion in Wolverhampton.
I review pro-wrestling events in the West Midlands for our local newspaper, The Express and Star. These are designed for a casual audience, to the extent that they are written in a way that doesn’t explicitly contradict kayfabe. Recently, I reviewed Wulfrun Pro-Wrestling’s first event of the year, Back to Business. Before that event I spoke to the promoter James Vukmirovic, and below are a few edited highlights from that interview.
Obviously there’s a lot of wrestling in the West Midlands, and Wolverhampton in particular. What made you want to set-up Wulfrun Pro-Wrestling?
I’d had an experience a few years ago of booking matches for a couple of shows in Birmingham, although all I was in charge of was the wrestlers and the matches, it wasn’t really my show and there was only so much I can do with it.
I started to get an interest in running my own promotion at the beginning of 2017 as I had an idea of the sort of show I want to put on, the sort of product I want to put out and see if people wanted to be part of it.
It came to be after I was driving home one day and went past the Penn URC building. In a serendipitous moment, I looked and thought “That could be a great venue for a wrestling show”, so I stopped there, had a look around and spoke to the people in charge of the hall. We agreed terms and fees and it snowballed from there, with WPW – Beginnings the first show in May 2017.
The name came from wanting to have a name that wasn’t too basic or too local, so Wolverhampton City Wrestling wouldn’t have worked for a start (WCW, which I think has already been used!). I liked the idea of Wulfrun as the name as it’s eye-catching and a bit different.
You’re right, there are a lot of shows in the West Midlands, but I see it as giving wrestlers more places to work and hone their craft. Also, there isn’t a great amount of Wrestling in Penn and the local area. You have shows in Gornal, Stourbridge, Rowley Regis and Darlaston, but the outskirts of Wolverhampton heading out towards Wombourne doesn’t have a lot, so there’s the room to build and the potential to create a fanbase there.
WPW is a grassroots promotion that uses a lot of young wrestlers. Where do you recruit your wrestlers from?
I’ve been a wrestler for over 11 years now, so a lot of the people I have or have had on WPW shows are people I know from either being in the ring with them or seeing them work on shows I’ve been at, plus they fit into the plans that I have in mind for shows. Some, like the Elliott Jordan Experience and Jayde for example, are people that I hadn’t met beforehand, but who I’ve seen in matches and liked what they did, so I contacted them and asked if they’d be interested in being on these shows.
It means that we have a great mix of youth and experience, people who could go all the way to WWE and people who do it as a hobby, but take it seriously. I’ve also been lucky to have had one of the best Tag Teams in the country on as well, as the Hunter Brothers were on the last show in November, so it’s a real mix of people.
In 2018, you established your first women’s championship, and this show saw two women’s matches. How important is developing your women’s division?
There are lots of very talented women Wrestlers in the UK and I thought they didn’t always get the attention or recognition they deserved. I’ve been told the division I have is one of the strongest in the area and I take pride in that because the matches are good and the crowd gets behind it so it can only lead to bigger and better things.
Seeing Millie McKenzie and Nightshade main-event the first WPW Show in May 2017 and then seeing where they are now, with Millie having had TV exposure on WWE NXT UK, a regular on Fight Club: Pro shows and getting booked in Japan, while Nightshade a marquee name on some of the biggest shows in this country and our first Women’s Champion. It’s a marked indicator of the talent out there and I’m happy to showcase it whenever possible.
Added to that is the likes of Mia Cortez, Shauna Shay, Natalie Wild, Jayde, Melanie Price, Victoria Adams, Dominita. The list goes on of great women Wrestlers and the fact that we get to put them in big, promoted matches with the right build up means a lot to me.
You’ve had a Travis Banks make a special appearance at one of your shows. What contribution has Fight Club Pro and their school made to the local scene?
I will be honest, Travis Banks doing the raffle was an accident! He was there as a paying customer, watching the show with the Fight Club Pro promoter Martin Zaki and our ring announcer Kris called him into the ring to do the raffle for us. Still, it was good publicity and Travis is a nice guy, so all good.
Fight Club Pro are a shining example of how you build something organically, not conforming to a certain style, but creating your own style and your own image.
They attract big names from the independent scenes in the USA, Canada, Japan and everywhere else for a reason, as the shows are big events, with passionate support, great matches and excellent storytelling and I think a lot of promotions can learn from how they put shows together, not just in terms of the wrestling, but the production values, the sound system and the setup of the venues they run shows in.
The training school aids the local scene as a lot of their guys come out ready to work anywhere, which means a ready supply of people to put on shows. It’s also a sign that the training works when you see the number of wrestlers who now work for WWE that started out at the FCP Dojo.
I think they are the level above everything I do for now because of what they’ve built and the fanbase they have. I would like to get to that level someday.
Will Cooling is regular contributor to Fighting Spirit Magazine, the UK’s biggest and best newsstand combat sports monthly, which is available worldwide through Pocketmags. This month’s issue contains FSM’s Top 50 pro-wrestlers worldwide, and also Will’s feature on Pro-Wrestling Eve’s She-1. He also writes about West Midlands pro-wrestling for the Express and Starr and co-hosts It Could Be Wrestling and First Pod of Fight Club Pro.