South Florida promotion ignites local pro wrestling scene

Jacob Spiwak/ Asst. Sports Director

In my many years as a fan of professional wrestling, I’ve told anybody who will listen that there are more companies out there besides WWE that almost always put on a much better and pure wrestling show.

I specifically mentioned Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling, among others, in my last column as examples of alternatives that I believe to be of a higher quality than the WWE.

However, what if I told you one of these companies was basically right in your backyard?

IGNITE Wrestling, based out of Vero Beach, FL, is a brand new pro wrestling promotion that’s already making a splash as one of the best independent wrestling companies on the east coast.

Even though they’ve only been running shows for about three months, they’re already bringing in some of the top stars in wrestling and signing deals with the likes of FITE TV.

Much of this success can be attributed to IGNITE’s owner Kim Artlip, who is one of only four women in the country to own a pro wrestling company. She takes pride in how far IGNITE has come and has a feeling that the immediate success they’ve experienced is just the beginning.

“We want to be one of the major wrestling promotions in the country and we see no reason why we can’t be,” Artlip told Student Media. “We’ve got guys from all over [the world] coming in and this is the place people want to wrestle.”

Judging by the talent that was on display at their show in Fort Pierce Friday, March 25, she’s 100 percent correct. With former WWE talents Teddy Long and Jesus Rodriguez performing at the show, there was no lack of star power whatsoever.

Long, the former general manager of “WWE SmackDown!” spoke very highly of IGNITE as an up-and-coming company that can provide wonderful opportunities for young wrestlers to make their mark in front of some tremendous fans.

“I think the IGNITE promotion is where you really need to start,” Long told Student Media. “They have good trainers, you’re going to learn exactly what you need to do and you’re going to learn the business and [how to put] people in the seats.”

To see the young talent Long was speaking about that have already capitalized on an opportunity with IGNITE, look no further than Lio Rush, Dezmond Xavier and recently announced competitor in the WWE “Global Cruiserweight Series” Lince Dorado, who were all on display at IGNITE’s March show. Each of these high-flying athletes stole the show in their own right and prove why the future of wrestling is brighter than ever.

Rush, the recent winner of Ring Of Honor’s Top Prospect Tournament at just the age of 21, defeated Xavier by pinfall in the best match of the night.

Despite his age and small size, Rush is considered by many to be the next face of pro wrestling. His aerial arsenal mixed with his ability to perform a five-star match every time he steps between the ropes has made him one of the most highly regarded wrestling superstars in recent memory.

“Lio Rush is just a guy that’s always been hungry,” Rush told Student Media. “I know it’s cliche, but I’ve been an underdog my whole life and I’ve made a name for myself proving people wrong.”

Even in a losing effort, Rush’s opponent Xavier is another rising star to keep your eyes out for. His offense is described as “lightning warfare”, which is a perfect name for such a unique and fast-paced skill-set.

When asked why companies like IGNITE deserve the support of fans, specifically ones in the area, Xavier listed off many reasons why you should be supporting indy wrestling instead of the big guys like WWE.

“This is a unique experience that somebody should at least see once in their life,” Xavier told Student Media. “Just give it a chance. Come out here and see what we bring to the table; the type of matches, the freedom that we have, it gives us the ability to cater to what the fans want. We’re more geared toward the fans, because without them we would not be able to do the things we’re doing.”

That is exactly why IGNITE, and other independent wrestling promotions, are so great. Rather than being in it for the money and control of the industry like WWE, IGNITE caters to its local fans and provides some of the best wrestlers on the planet (Rush, Xavier, Dorado, etc.) for a fraction of the price of a WWE show.

In addition to the wrestlers previously mentioned, IGNITE’s roster has countless other incredible talents that make the product so enjoyable for the fans. With the likes of Damien James, JB Cool, Mark Silva and Gabriel Black in the singles division, The Dreamboats, The Unit and Lucha World Order in the tag team division and Miami’s own Angel Rose in the rising women’s division, some of the brightest stars in independent wrestling are right here in Florida.

The next IGNITE show will be taking place once again in Fort Pierce Friday, April 22. With a card of matches including even more talent, I wouldn’t be surprised if IGNITE one-ups themselves and delivers yet another incredible night of pro wrestling.

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