February 17, 2004
UK fanzine carves unique niche
By ROD DESNOMIE -- SLAM! Wrestling
If the Pro Wrestling Press was a WWE grappler, it would be Rey Mysterio Jr.: small in size and stature, but full of energy, excitement, and unwilling to bow down before the "bigger" boys.
The PWP, a wrestling "Fanzine" started three years ago, is the creation of Greg Kelly, a 28-year-old writer and designer, and huge fan of the business.
Kelly first began grappling with the idea of producing his own wrestling rag after watching taped WWE matches and attending shows put on by smaller UK-based federations.
As his fascination with the business grew, so did the idea of the newsletter. And in November 2001, the Pro Wrestling Press made its debut on news stands and at small Indy shows throughout the United Kingdom.
"I had all of the necessary equipment at home (to put the newsletter together)," said Kelly, who relied heavily on his writing, web hosting and publishing experience to get his product in circulation. "Months before launching it, I designed several prototypes and started contacting people in the industry, mainly writers, who I wanted as contributors."
The first edition of PWP was a success, at least in Kelly's hometown of Manchester, England. The 28-page rookie newsletter was lapped up by rabid wrestling fans desperate to get their hands on anything related to the industry -- a hunger Kelly has been cashing in on ever since. Subsequent issues have showcased Kelly's skills at graphic layout, balancing photos and graphics nicely with the prose.
In addition to the starving fan base, Kelly also attributes the PWP's early and prolonged success to "the quality of the writing and editing" of the writers he recruited when putting his team together.
"A majority of the contributors are a lot more experienced and knowledgeable of the business than I am," said Kelly, who brought in such names as John Lister, Marie "Froggy" Humphrey, Nigel Law and 20-year-veteran grappler Dusty Wolfe.
"Being based in England, we started up with mainly English contributors. As time went on, it was obvious that a more international flavour was needed," he said. "Today, we have a well rounded group (of writers), but I'd definitely consider (using) writers from other countries if we feel they're better situated to cover a particular promotion."
The PWP's readership is based primarily in England and Ireland, although the newsletter boasts subscribers from Canada, America, Spain, Germany and Australia.
Aside from being based in the UK, Kelly's publication sets itself apart from other wrestling magazines by printing stories rarely covered. Interviews with wrestlers working the smaller, local circuits, and human-interest and light-hearted tales from the "road" are all common in the PWP.
"I like to write light-hearted stuff and focus more on the fun side of wrestling," added Humphrey. "As a female writer, I like to try and focus more on women in wrestling, although I try to promote UK wrestling as much as possible, too."
Kelly and his team stay away from such things as printing results from shows, rumours, and stories with a disrespectful or distasteful nature, noting that readers can find those articles in other "dirt sheet" publications or through the Internet, which borrows heavily from the newsletters.
However, Kelly is quick to admit that his readers cannot live on Indy information alone.
"I have made a conscious decision to have at least one WWE-related article in each issue," the long-time wrasslin' fan confessed. "As we promote ourselves as a well rounded publication that suits all tastes, it would seem slightly bizarre to omit Vince's (McMahon) product all together."
With the PWP's main competitors based in the United States, along with the most powerful wrestling federation, Kelly remains at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of accessibility to the WWE.
However, true to the Mysterio analogy, the PWP finds other ways to compete.
"We don't have the same restrictions (other wrestling publications) do. They generally have to remain WWE heavy, using (Steve) Austin on their cover to help reach their sales target.
"Our readership is more savvy and aren't put off by, say, a career profile of Eddie Gilbert or an extensive OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling) article."
While each writer adds a different perspective and flavour to the PWP, two stand out through their intimate relationship with the wrestling world.
Dusty Wolfe, a former wrestler for the WWF/E and other federations, and Frankie Capone, who has been working the Indy circuit for the past seven years, each bring in-depth, well-informed and personal accounts of the business.
"I like the historical stuff," said Wolfe. "(Through my time as a wrestler) I already know a lot of it. And if I wasn't there or didn't live part of (some significant event), chances are I know someone who did."
And it's this experience and writing that PWP's readership has come to expect.
As for the difference between readers from the UK and those in North America, particularly Canada.
"I don't think there is much of a difference at all, except that UK fans are more wrestling starved in terms of marquee names," explained Kelly. "The WWE doesn't visit all that often, which is why they receive such a phenomenal response when performing here.
"I love watching RAW and Smackdown! when it's in Canada because, similar to the UK, Canadian fans are more appreciative of the action." The PWP has recently changed from printing once a month to six times a year. This way, Kelly says, the PWP can provide more information to readers in a larger edition, and maintain the quality his publication has become known for.
Editor Greg Kelly has a free issue available for people to download in PDF format. Simply head to: pwpress.hypermart.net/sample.htm.
When he's not at wrestling, Rod Desnomie moonlights for the Canadian government.