OTT Wrestling Interview – “The Irish fans are just as good as the PROGRESS or ICW fans”

Irish promotion OTT Wrestling has only been going for a short while but has already built up a loyal following of fans across the globe. The annual ScrapperMania took place last Saturday for the third year running. Not only was the card stacked with some of the finest indie talent on the scene, they also drew a live crowd of 2,200 fans. We spoke to the owner and former wrestler Joe Cabray about the Irish fans, growing a promotion and why he goes the extra mile to keep talent happy.

How did OTT Wrestling get to this point?

So I’ve been promoting wrestling myself for about 10 years. I used to promote American Wrestling Rampage and we used to do tours around France – France was our biggest market. We were in France, Romania, Germany and Bulgaria. Those shows involved former WWE guys like Bret Hart, Scott Steiner, and Booker T, so that’s essentially where I learnt the promoting aspect of wrestling. Around 2010, the economy kind of crashed which stopped us from running those events, because the events we used to promote were kind of 5,000-seat venues all over France and places like that. I was wrestling myself and I decided I was going to try and get to WWE. So I put my energy into my own wrestling career and I got signed by WWE. But when I got there, I just didn’t gel – I didn’t like it there. So I came back in 2014 and just from being a wrestler myself and travelling around I’d seen that places in the UK had RevPro and Scotland had ICW and Germany had WXW and GWF so there was a place for wrestling fans to go and see indie-style wrestling.

I essentially tried to put together a show that would focus more on the athletic side of wrestling, but also showcase some of the talent we have in Ireland because we’ve produced a lot of talent – Sheamus, Becky Lynch, Finn Balor and plenty more.

Why is your focus on being an over-18s promotion? And does it afford you certain freedoms that you wouldn’t have if you were a promotion that catered for everyone?

The reason why we made it over-18s mainly is just a statement to say that we’re not a wrestling show you’re going to be embarrassed to come to. We want to show people it’s a show that you are going to enjoy – you’re not going to be embarrassed by cheesy storylines or anything like that.

There’s a flip-side that you’re cutting off a huge demographic but at the same time it allows you to do more stuff creatively. Not that you want to go down the line of promoting smut or any kind of hardcore wrestling, but it allows you the creativity. You can make storylines that adult fans can relate to. You can’t do the same for a kids show as you can for an adult show – kids have to be involved a bit more and spurred on a bit.

You guys had your annual ScrapperMania – I have to say that you boasted one of the best cards of the year. Were you pleased with the product?

We upped our production – when you’re doing a 2,000-seater venue, everything has to be upped. So, production was upped, the amount of talent was bigger and we also had some special effects, which was something we’ve never tried before but it was a nice touch and was something different for the fans. I think, looking back on it now, it was pretty successful.

The thing about wrestling is, we don’t have a rich heritage of wrestling in Ireland. Wrestling has only been around for about 13 years, whereas in the UK, you guys go back to the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. We never had an Indie wrestling scene. It started with myself, and I was working for Irish Whip Wrestling at the time and Fergal Devitt and Paul Tracey, they had their own school but that was 13 years ago and that’s where the first batches of Irish wrestlers were created, so it’s still quite new.

I think it was also for the fans – they’ve watched us grow. Two and a half years in existence, so I think the fanbase – it was their night. We’ve grown from struggling to get 300 people, and now we’re selling out 2,200 people. The Irish fans are just as good as the PROGRESS fans or the ICW fans. I think they were so proud, especially because some of the core audience that had been there from the very first few shows. I think the fans really made the night for us.

I think the roster also stepped it up. Some of the guys came prepared with special entrances – even Ospreay and those guys who are pretty busy. For me, as a wrestler myself, I always appreciated when a promoter took care of me, just a decent hotel or just making the trip as easy as possible. I always go out of my way to make it as easy as possible. So, I think the guys appreciate that. Everybody went out of their way to make this as big a show as possible. It was a massive group effort – everyone just wanted to see the show succeed to the best of its capability.

Why do you think there are so many great wrestlers to come out of Ireland?

It’s bizarre – I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t know! We’ve produced Sheamus, Finn Balor and Becky Lynch. There’s plenty of other guys as well – Jordan Devlin and The Kings of the North, for me, are a really good, strong tag team. I think the Irish guys have always been pretty hard workers – they’re very focused on making it. I remember when Sheamus was in Ireland and he went to try-outs and they kept telling him he needed more experience and ring-time. And he relocated to the UK so he could work more. The same deal with Fergal – he went to the States and it didn’t really work out for him but he persisted and went the the second time and that’s when he got in contact with the LA Dojo and he went down there and trained with them and go a deal as a young boy to go to Japan. I think it’s just down to dedication and the top Irish guys are incredibly dedicated.

In terms of your roster, who do we need to keep an eye on?

I think that we’ve already had some breakthroughs – Jordan Devlin is signed to a WWE UK contract, and had really strong matches in PROGRESS and ICW, I think he’s just phenomenal. He’s so crisp and I think he’s going to have an amazing year this year. And he’s really dedicated. Also, “The Session Moth” Martina is on the brink of a major thing – she’s already working for ICW and I think she’s going to e heading back to PROGRESS at some point soon. Then there’s a young guy coming through – Scotty Davis – a major background in freestyle wrestling. He’s just a pure athlete, and you can kind of show him something and he gets it and the next time he’s out there he’s doing it as crisp as anybody. And then I suppose the Kings of the North, for me, our tag team champions, are quality. And also, not in my roster but a guy that I’ve had in my shows for a while is Charlie Garrett – he has everything – I think he has an amazing future ahead of him.

How do you go about building such a great card?

I think one of the lucky things we have here is – I think Ireland is a draw for most people. For most wrestlers, I think when you say “would you like to wrestle in Ireland?” they always think its cool to wrestle in Ireland and that’s the first reaction that I get from some of the guys. I think, as well, it’s the reputation. The reputation we have built over the past two years, obviously the indie market with the high level guys like Marty Scurll, Ricochet and Will Ospreay always talk – “This guy is good to work for”, and I put it down to the fact that I’ve done tours with guys like Bret Hart and Booker T, going out of our way to make sure these guys are looked after. I honestly don’t see the point in throwing them in a £60 hotel where you pay an extra £40 to put them in a decent hotel. You’ve got to be able to rest up and the beds aren’t going to be hard or have any issues. So, I think it’s just the reputation that we have built – there’s not going to be any issues and it’s all going to be professional. That’s something I pride myself on, treating the guys and making trips as easy as possible. If these guys are going out and giving you a really good solid match and they’re putting their bodies on the line they’re going to be sore. I don’t like putting them in a Travelodge – put them in a decent hotel where they get a good night’s rest – that goes a long way.

Having already secured Mick Foley for WrestleRama (August 5th)  OTT is becoming one of Europe’s most exciting promotions. We fully recommend checking out the Vimeo channel and following them on Twitter