Independent Wrestling Federation
IWF Pro Wrestling School Begins 9th Year with Open House December 8-9:
WWE Hopefuls, Public Welcome to Tour West Paterson Training Facility
(WEST PATERSON, NJ)- Aspiring wrestlers ready to rumble their way to stardom and become the next Rock or Hulk Hogan can fulfill their dream! On Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 from 12-4 pm, Independent Wrestling Federation hosts its ninth annual Open House Weekend at IWF Centre, 32 Willow Way, West Paterson, NJ.
Established in 1999, IWF Pro Wrestling School trains hundreds of prospects ages 15 and up from 16 states and six countries that compete in bouts across the world. During the open house, prospective students get an up-close look inside the training methods of a wrestler. IWF Centre features a wrestling ring, weight-room, video classroom, and hosts monthly exhibitions where trainees showcase their skills for family and friends.
Kevin Knight, a 12-year ring veteran and IWF head trainer, leads classes that cover basic holds, high-flying moves and character development. Knight and 15 of his graduates performed on WWE Raw and SmackDown television and pay-per-view events, including former IWF Champion Damian Adams, former IWF Champion BoneCrusher Fred Sampson, and former American Champion Travis Blake.
“Wrestlers excel in our program and receive WWE tryout opportunities as a result of our first-class training regimen coupled with our friendly and safe environment,” said Knight. “Our top graduates literally circle the globe, travelling to Canada, Puerto Rico and Japan.”
IWF graduates also network within the entertainment business appearing in television shows and commercials. Kevin Kage stars as Rangers hockey mascot “Bobby Granger” on the MSG Network. Current IWF Champion Tony Torres, current Tag Team Champion Justin Corino, and referee Matt Bennett appeared on Nickelodeon’s W.A.C.K. wrestling program.
“To supplement our year-round training program, we host clinics with wrestling superstars and legends,” added Knight. “WWE Hall of Famer Tito Santana, Honky Tonk Man, Stevie Richards, Tom Prichard and UFC’s Ken Shamrock appeared as guest instructors.”
The open house is free and visitors can tour the facility, meet wrestlers and staff, and watch an in-ring exhibition. IWF School also conducts amateur mat lessons for youth and scholastic grapplers grades 3 and up. For information call 973-345-7745 or visit www.WrestlingIWF.com.
Independent Wrestling Federation produces family-friendly live events and hosts children’s birthday parties. IWF Pro Wrestling School, recognized as the premiere training facility in the Northeast by countless media outlets, hosts weekly Open House Tours every Saturday and Sunday afternoon and Tuesday and Wednesday evening.
Mike Da Silva’s Indy Interview:
IWF’s Kevin Knight Discusses Working with WWE, Dawn Marie, Burger King Buckin’ Chicken, Wrestling at Madison Square Garden, the NWA, Tito Santana and more.
By: Mike Da Silva
November 19, 2007
Kevin Knight has been in the wrestling business for 14 years. He has wrestled in numerous promotions, including World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the National Wrestling Alliance(NWA). In 1999, Knight established the Independent Wrestling Federation (IWF) Professional Wrestling School in West Paterson, New Jersey. Since then, he has run the school and its affiliated wrestling organization, while continuing his in-ring career. I recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Mr. Knight by e-mail. The results are below. For more information on Knight, the IWF Wrestling School and the IWF visit www.WrestlingIWF.com. A link to IWF’s online wrestling program, Eruption, can be found on that page.
You’ve been in the business for over 14 years now. How did you begin your career?
My first entry into pro wrestling was as a freelance photographer when I was a senior in high school and freshmen in college. I made a few contacts and would attend the NWA-WCW events at the New Jersey Meadowlands and Philadelphia Civic Center. I was able to go backstage and meet many of the stars and got a first-hand look at how the business worked. In college, I gave up photography and majored in Communication with a concentration in Radio and Television. I then worked as a morning show DJ at a local radio station in New Jersey and when the local independent wrestling events would come to town, they would give our station tickets to giveaway, and I would then go and open the events as the emcee to hype up the crowd. I always got compliments from the promoters and wrestlers about my charisma, personality, and my height! I am 6′ 4″ so I was taller than all the Indy wrestlers. So Rik Ratchet and Donnie B (the brother of Simon â€˜Nova’ Dean) took me under their wing and I debuted in 1996 with Dennis Coraluzzo’s NWA Jersey.
What inspired you to start the IWF Pro Wrestling School in 1999?
What inspired me was the lack of quality wrestling schools in the New York, New Jersey area. I opened the school with one goal in mind…I wanted to be a student and learn as much as possible. I did not open the school to teach. I wanted to learn everything about wrestling, from being a wrestler, to managing, ring announcing, play-by-play commentary, setting up the ring…everything! Therefore, from day one through today, I bring in superstars and legends to teach classes and conduct seminars and clinics. WWE’s Stevie Richards, WWE’s Nunzio, WWE Hall of Famer Tito Santana, Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man, WWE legend Ricky Steamboat, WWE trainer Dr. Tom Prichard, former UFC Champion Ken Shamrock, former WWE Diva Dawn Marie, former WWE star Tom Brandi (Sal Sincere), former ECW Champion Steve Corino, and TNA’s Simon Diamond hosted clinics. These sessions are a great supplement to our program. We also had Chris Candido, Nova and Danny Doring host classes.
Why did you choose to train where you did and do you think the IWF has everything you were looking for in a training session when you first broke into the business?
Originally, I would train with Ratchet and Donnie before the old NWA Jersey events. I went to several wrestling schools to learn but they were a joke. There was no instruction. No drills. No tape studies. It was an open ring free-for-all. So I continued to learn on the fly wrestling top notch Indy guys like Ratchet, Steve Corino, Simon Diamond, Harley Lewis, Lupas, and Reckless Youth Tom Carter. When IWF School opened in 1999, I offered everything all the other schools didn’t. A clean facility with first-rate instruction in a friendly and safe training environment.
What differentiates IWF from other New Jersey-based independents like Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW)?
JAPW actually gave me one of my first breaks in 1997 along with NWA Jersey. I am very thankful for that. However, IWF only uses our graduates and current student trainees on our live events, with the occasional use of stars and legends who serve as guest instructors at the school like Tito Santana, Honky Tonk Man, Tom Prichard, Stevie Richards or Nunzio a few times a year. They help supplement our cards, but our graduates are the main players. We only use home-grown talent that is hungry to make it to the top.
How do you balance your responsibilities as a wrestler in IWF with your responsibilities as its owner?
Well, wrestling takes up a lot of time. In addition to wrestling on all of our live events, I still practice at our classes 3 to 4 days a week. To be a halfway decent wrestler, you must be in the ring as often as possible, no matter how much experience you have. As far as being the owner, I really don’t look at it that way. I am still a student, so I just consider myself the captain or a player-coach. The owner responsibilities take place on off-days away from our training classes.
Perhaps your most famous former student is former ECW and WWE performer Dawn Marie. Were you conscious of her potential as a breakout star when she was in IWF?
Dawn was already a star in ECW as a valet before she came to the IWF in 1999. She was tremendous with the Impact Players. I knew Dawn from back in 1996 when I started out with NWA Jersey. While in ECW as a valet, she would host classes for our IWF valets and managers while Simon Diamond would host classes for our wrestlers. When the writing was on the wall that ECW was closing in 2000, Dawn wanted to learn how to wrestle so she would be a more valuable commodity in the hopes of being picked up by WWE. Simon Diamond and I helped train Dawn for about 5 months, and I was her tag team partner in her first-ever pro wrestling match in February 2001. Dawn was then signed by WWE in early 2002.
Which of your current students do you think has the best chance to be the next breakout star?
Out of all our IWF Wrestling School graduates, there are a few that come to mind. Former IWF Heavyweight Champion Damian Adams began training at OVW in late 2005. Damian has tremendous heart and the burning desire necessary to be a major success. Former IWF Champion BoneCrusher Fred Sampson and former IWF American Champion Josh Daniels both already wrestled on many WWE Raw and SmackDown events since 2004. They have all the tools. Also on the rise include current IWF Heavyweight Champion Tony Torres and former IWF American Champion Travis Blake. Others who are already Indy stars are former IWF Champion Biggie Biggs and current IWF Commissioner Rich Ross.
Many of your students have worked as enhancement talent for WWE. How did IWF’s working relationship with WWE begin?
I began a relationship in 1999 with Jim Cornette and Kevin Kelly when they were in the Developmental Talent Department. At the time, I was wrestling with NWA Jersey and many of us appeared as enhancement talent and extras. In 2002, IWF began working with Tom Prichard, who would host clinics at IWF School a few times a year. He scouted me and former IWF Champion Roman and we wrestled for WWE at Raw and SmackDown events at Madison Square Garden in 2003. Since then, we always get a call from the office whenever WWE is in the area looking for extras and enhancement talent.
In addition to wrestling, you and your students have appeared in various skits and angles in WWE. IWF alumni have appeared as The Undertaker’s druids, Kurt Angle‘s cops and security for the likes of Batista, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Eric Bischoff and Shawn Michaels. What is it like being in the ring with stars of that caliber?
So far, 16 graduates made WWE appearances on Raw, SmackDown, Heat, Velocity, Survivor Series commercial, Escape the Rules commercial, etc. All these opportunities were wonderful learning experiences. Whether you are in the ring wrestling at a WWE event or working as a cop or druid or extra in a commercial, you see how their stars conduct themselves with such professionalism and class, it rubs off and makes me and the student’s better professionals as well.
How have you approached your own past matches with WWE differently than your independent appearances?
It’s really the same. Whether you are in front of 200 people at an Indy event, or 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden, the approach should be the same. If you attempt to do anything different or if you try too hard, you are destined to fail. Stick with the basics.
You have also appeared in WWE television commercials. How would you describe that experience?
WWE is a first-class operation with the best television production in all of sports and entertainment. They spare no expense in the quality of their production and programs, so it’s a privilege working with them. To be successful in wrestling, you must learn about all the aspects of the business, both inside and outside of the ring.
In 2006, when I was reviewing IWF Eruption for this site, you appeared in the Burger King Buckin’ Chicken television commercial. How did that opportunity come about?
At IWF Wrestling School, we also market ourselves in other aspects of entertainment. A casting call came in looking for someone 6′ 4″ and 240 pounds to be a stunt man as the Buckin’ Chicken. I dropped everything and went to the audition 20 hours later in New York City, then was on a plane to Los Angeles for a costume fitting 5 days later, then off to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for the shoot the day after that. It all happened so fast. The ad was a hit and I’m glad the Buckin’ Chicken will be long remembered!
From your experience, how does WWE commercial production differ from that of more mainstream companies like Burger King?
It’s quite similar. WWE readily admits they are an entertainment company. A WWE Raw or SmackDown television event, a WWE commercial shoot, or a Burger King commercial shoot are very similar. It takes many grueling days of preparation and incredible man-power to produce a successful shoot.
Given this vast array of experiences in wrestling, what you consider the highlight of your career thus far?
My highlight was wrestling in Madison Square Garden in 2003 in a televised match at the WWE SmackDown event. On the same card were legends I grew up admiring like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Undertaker. Also, seeing my graduates wrestle in WWE is a highlight as well.
IWF has hosted WWE Hall of Fame Tito Santana on a few occasions, most recently during the October 2007 “Evil Intentions Weekend”. What is like hosting and working with a star of Santana’s caliber?
Tito Santana is a first-class individual who brings 30 years of wrestling experience to the table. The knowledge that he has passed along to me and the students at IWF Wrestling School is invaluable. He is a great teacher and still a tremendous wrestler and he enjoys getting in the ring with our top graduates at our live events.
You have also hosted the likes of Ken Shamrock, Ricky Steamboat, Honky Tonk Man and former Club WWI host Dr. Tom Pritchard for wrestling clinics. What do these men bring to the learning process that is different from your regular curriculum?
Well, our regular curriculum is actually a combination of everything I have learned from Santana, Honky Tonk Man, Prichard, Shamrock, Steamboat, Stevie Richards, Nunzio and all the greats who hosted clinics at our school. All our basic drills and fundamental routines are those that Prichard instituted in the WWE’s Developmental Program. Most Indy wrestlers can’t keep up with our students and graduates because ours are the most well schooled up-and-coming talent in the country. Honky and Tito are very old school, as am I, and from them I learned that if you don’t work hard…get out! That’s the only real policy at IWF Wrestling School, if you don’t work hard or if you are there to socialize and chit-chat with friends, or if you think you are a superstar…get out!
Have you seen any of the Deep South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling shows since Dr. Tom took over as Head Trainer of those territories? If so, what do you think of his work in those territories?
I have not seen any of their recent events, but with Dr. Tom back in the fold as trainer, they are in great hands. Tom gave me my first major break and he changed my life. I speak with Tom and seek his advice regularly. The wrestling business needs Tom Prichard.
You have wrestled in the NWA frequently in the past. Recently, one of your former students, Fred Sampson, took part in the NWA Heavyweight Championship Tournament won by Adam Pearce. What is IWF’s relationship with the NWA like?
The NWA of today is different from the NWA of yesterday. It’s so fractured and splintered these days, it’s almost meaningless in the fans eyes. There is the WWE, there is TNA, and then there is everybody else. You can’t recapture past glory be recreating the NWA or ECW. Remember the NWA the way it was. Remember the old ECW the way it was. It’s time for something new. The casual fans don’t care about the initials anyway, they just want to see great wrestling and be entertained.
What do you think of the status of the NWA in its post-TNA incarnation?
I really don’t know. I don’t follow it. When TNA began in 2002, they probably shouldn’t have been affiliated with the NWA anyway; to me it looked like they were clinging to the past by trying to keep the NWA name alive. Does any wrestling fan under the age of 21 even remember the NWA anyway?
I have to say that I enjoyed IWF Eruption. Online wrestling shows seem to be all the rage in independent wrestling right now. How has the Internet changed how you book and market IWF events?
We do the same thing we have always done. Our Eruption online webcast is where the wrestlers talk about their feelings and provide interviews for their upcoming matches. Then at our live events, we wrestle. There is very little talking at our live events. No limousines in the parking lot, no board of directors, no commissioner’s assistants, no skits, no midgets, no swimsuit contests. Just wrestling. Sometimes when you tune into wrestling on TV these days, I wonder why they even bother to set up the ring some nights because it’s all taking and backstage nonsense.
We here at World Wrestling Insanity like to ask the same question whenever we book an interview: If you could wrestle any wrestler from any era in their prime, who would you choose and why?
I have been very fortunate to have already wrestled some major stars and legends, like Bob Backlund, Larry Zbyszko, Tito Santana, Honky Tonk Man, Brutus Beefcake, Jim Neidhart, John Bradshaw Layfield, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, King Kong Bundy, Tom Prichard, Chris Candido, Steven Richards, Nunzio, Patriot, A-Train, Tom Brandi, The Wall, Nicole Bass, Viscera, Nova, Charlie Haas, Joey Mercury, Dawn Marie, Ryan Shamrock, Eliminator Kronus, Steve Corino, Simon Diamond, Crowbar, Danny Doring and more. I owe a lot to them, as I came out a better wrestler after stepping into the ring with them. I would choose to wrestle any wrestler of any era who I would learn from and who would make be a better performer, so if I had to choose from someone I haven’t wrestled yet, I would say Barry Windham, Jake Roberts or Michael Hayes.
Before we let you go, are there any websites or promotions you would like to promote?
This December kicks off the 9th year of the IWF Pro Wrestling School. Also, our 8th Annual Tournament of Champions card on Saturday, December 15 in West Paterson, NJ marks our 275th IWF Live Event. Fans can check out the Independent Wrestling Federation at www.WrestlingIWF.com or www.MySpace.com/WrestlingIWF. Thanks for the interview Michael, I enjoyed it. Thanks for your continued support and keep up the good work with your website WWI.