Pennsylvania’s The Ultimate Wrestling Experience – Interviews With Sage Strong & Kevin Murphy
The name of this indy fed, speaks for its self. If you read my article, on the awesome indy wrestling in Pennsylvania here, then you know about the Ultimate Wrestling Experience, one of the three indy companies I highlighted in that piece, in Harrisburg, Pa. Having just moved back from Austin, Texas, I’ve not had a chance to attend yet, but that’s all being corrected on March 15th, as I’ve secured a second row ticket for “UWE’s Knight of Glory III.”
As with all new indy feds, one has to get to know their wrestlers. Yes, they have guest wrestlers like AJ Styes, AR Fox, Sonjay Dutt, Kevin Nash, etc. but when it comes down to it, an indy fed rises or falls on its home grown stars. They will grow and prosper, or wither and die, based on how good those they train, and raise up, do for them. Will their home based wrestlers put butts in seats? This is what I am asking myself, and what I will ultimately (no pun intended) hold my complete judgment for, until I see them live.
So let me go over what I see in the U.W.E. up to this point. First and foremost, they have an awesome website. In all honesty, it’s better than most other indy websites I’ve ever seen, including major indy promotions websites. Check it out here – TheUWE.com – The site is crisp, clean, and full of easy to find info. Two things are an absolute must for an indy fed website, maybe three. First, is a good roster page. I need to be able to easily navigate your roster page, clicking on each roster member, for an extended bio, and pictures. You’d be shocked at how many indy fed roster pages offer very little information. Most have a picture, and the name of who I’m looking it, and far too often, that’s it. Not with the UWE. On the UWE’s roster page, I get very detailed info on each wrestler, and I love that. There are also links to larger images of the wrestler you’re viewing. The only gripe I have, is that I can’t find who the current champs are. Adam Loncar, agent, and booker, for The U.W.E., has assured me that’s being corrected.
The second thing you need, is a clear link to events. The UWE not only has that, but several of them. I can click on an events link, or watch the countless screens that scroll across the home page, announcing everything that’s coming up, as well as a side bar that lists them. You’re not going to the UWE’s website and walking away not knowing what they have coming up.
Thirdly, pictures, and videos help a lot, especially for new, curious, fans. The UWE has both, especially pictures. There are so many pictures on their media page, my FiOs connection stalled loading them all. They also have a video up, but as of right now, only one. It’s a good one, and clicking on its YouTube link will take you to their YouTube page, where you can watch many others. I do however; think it would be better to host a few more, right on the main web site. Still, a minor complaint, as the UWE’s media page is very, very, good, and informative. Here is their hype video:
Having not seen these guys live yet, I can’t tell you with complete certainty who I think their breakout stars are. I can tell you that many of them look pretty darn good, based off the several matches I’ve watched, on video, so far. I do think many of them would benefit greatly by capitalizing on social media. Only a few have Twitter’s, and in this day and age, that’s not really acceptable, if you truly want to be an indy wrestling star. You can cut promos on YouTube, and post them on your Twitter, you can post your bio, and link to videos of matches you’ve had, and things such as that. The one UWE wrestler that I’ve seen do that, is Eddie Smooth, and I was completely impressed with his mic and ring work. If anyone in UWE is as good, or close to as good, as Eddie, they really need to get on Social media and cut some promos, and post videos of their matches. Today’s indy fan is heavily internet based. You don’t want to not cater to those fans. My only other critique, is that a few UWE stars need to wear legit wrestling gear. There are a few characters that may call for some type of street clothes (think The Shield, or Hillbilly characters) but for the most part, wrestlers should always dress like wrestlers, in legit ring gear, and shoes/boots. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of UWE guys do this wonderfully, looking as good as anyone I’ve see in wrestling, but there are a few that don’t, and they really should. On a similar note, if you feel you’re not toned enough to go shirtless, get a singlet, or a dual strap, like Kurt Angle, or Michael Elgin, (not saying they aren’t toned) instead of wearing a t-shirt.
Another thing that I feel the U.W.E. does right, is that they have a very nice looking ring, with cool graphics. I like that they have a nice building for their shows, with a solid curtain that hides the back stage area, that is not used by fans at all. I’m also very impressed with the large crowds they seem to always draw. I hate seeing great wrestlers perform in a ring that has duct tape holding the matt down in places, and the wrestlers coming through a curtain, hung on half a pole, that also leads to the concession stand. I am glad the UWE, while an indy fed, looks more professional than many others. I also really like that The U.W.E’s title belts look legit, meaning they look like a belt any fan can’t just go out and buy off a website somewhere. I’m not crazy about indy feds that use replica WWE belts as their championships. Take the hit on finances, and get a few legit wrestling title belts made. That instantly makes you seem more legit as an organization.
I also really like that the UWE posts its general philosophy on its home page. It’s simple, but effective. It reads- “The pro wrestling of the U.W.E. stands on the cutting edge of sports entertainment in Central Pennsylvania. The professional wrestling company in Harrisburg, PA undeniably began over 15 years ago as childhood pipe dreams, gluing us to television sets to see Hulkamania take over the world, the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair cheat his way to the win, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat win his first world title. It has since morphed into a devoted group of friends who share both spirited rivalries and a common vision.”
I’m excited about the U.W.E. and I wanted to learn more. So I contacted them, and set a meeting up to sit down with their owner, and their Vice President. The owner is Sage Strong, the face painted freak of the U.W.E. Sage helps elevate every member of the roster. The Vice president, is Hollywood’s Finest, Kevin Murphy. I was excited about U.W.E. going into this interview and I am even more excited after having conducted it. Take a look at what these two men had to say. See, if like me, you believe that the U.W.E. is offering many wrestling fans, exactly what we’ve been asking for, for a long, long, time.
So, When did you guys become interested in becoming a pro wrestler?
SAGE: When I was three years old and received “The Hulkamania workout set” ever since that day, I’ve been hooked. I was a “Hulkamaniac”.
Kevin: I always admired Sage, because he was frequently told that he couldn’t do this. That he would never be a wrestler. I admired his passion, and drive. I credit Sage for getting me into wanting to be a wrestler.
Who are/were some of your influences?
SAGE: My biggest influence as a child was Hulk Hogan, but as I’ve grown in the wrestling business it’s been more recently the men and women that haven’t seen the big paychecks. The workers in the wrestling industry that don’t see the spotlight, but put the faces over in the wrestling industry. It takes someone to lay down, in order to put someone over and make them a star. If no one laid down no one in the wrestling industry would be successful. Just like in life, in the ring, we are all in this thing together. It takes at least two people to have a match, but to have a great match, it takes two people with their egos checked at the door.
Kevin: Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, but to be honest, as I said a moment ago, I really have to say that Sage is my biggest inspiration. If you would have seen Sage, when we were kids, he was the skinny kid that got picked on. He went out and gave it 100% and did this. I actually went with him, when he was trained. He then went out on many tours, getting a ton of experience, and helped train me, to get us ready to do this wrestling thing, together.
Who trained you?
SAGE: I was trained by several people while attending ‘The Wild Samoan Training Center’ in Allentown, Pennsylvania and other places. In some aspects I’ve been blessed to have soo many people play a role early on in my career. Just to name a few, each of these men have taught me something to further my career in the wrestling industry.
- Afa “The Wild Samoan”
- Afa Jr.
- Max Havoc (CCW)
- SLG “Supremeleegreat” Jon Trosky
- Mongoose (my second match)
- Toa Maivia (my first match)
- Rob Noxious
- Joey J-Money (Nate Blazer)
- Damien Destruction
- Calvin Mcgrath (Calvin Guelich)
- Mana “The Polynesian Warrior”
- Havoc (WXW-C4)
Kevin: I got in the ring with Sage, a little, with the Samoans. Took some bumps, picked up a few things. Later, Sage then trained me further, and completely.
Where all have you competed?
SAGE: Allentown, Poconos, Canada, Harrisburg, Reading. Mostly local, with starting your own company, you need to be around for everything. You are the foundation and the lead others must follow, people can’t follow and you can’t instill your values when you’re not around.
KEVIN: I’ve stuck with just the U.W.E. All my time, money, and efforts have just been focused on what I can do here, with us. I have had some recent offers though, to wrestle for other indy feds. I am going to accept a few in 2014 to get my name, and The U.W.E.’s name, out there more.
Who are some of the bigger names, our audience may know, that you’ve been in the ring with?
Sage: Jake “The Snake” Roberts
The Honky Tonk Man
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
“Black Machismo” Jay Lethal
“The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart
Kevin: Same here.
What inspired you to start the UWE?
Sage: The opportunity to make a change for the better in professional wrestling and try to right the wrongs one day at a time. There’s always going to be something that can be better or be altered in any organization. Professional wrestling’s foundation is, and was set, but there will always be opportunity to adjust or change a well thought out formula to make the foundation even stronger. I try and take what hasn’t worked in mine or wrestling’s past and adjust it a hair or two to benefit the future of professional wrestling and the wrestlers. My answer may sound like a blanket statement and not very specific on any one topic, that’s only because I’m still working on several and changing any one will take a tremendous amount of time.
How did you start the UWE?
Sage: With many, many, many hours of research. All the paperwork, bonds, licenses and liabilities have to be set before you step foot inside the ring for a show. It’s changed since the 80’s, more paperwork and red tape.
Kevin: A little history lesson on The U.W.E. We started back in May, 2011. That was our very first show. We actually did 600 people at our first show, turning away 150-200 people. That was without a name. We just had that kind of turn out for our first show. We did our second event at The Zembo Shrine, in Harrisburg, Pa. and drew a crowd of 1000 people. That was the first time we brought in Honky Ton Man. Then in 2012 we did a few events at a gym that we just got too big for. We had guys like Jay Lethal, Tommy Dreamer, Dawn Marie, Jake the Snake Roberts, right after he went to live with DDP. In 2013 we did our last show there with Rhino. Our next show after that, was in the Harrisburg Senators baseball stadium. It went on after a game, and 1000 people actually remained at the stadium to watch. This past September was had “Unfinished Business” that was professionally filmed, and will be airing on local TV in 2014. We had a ton of big name talent on that show, including Brutus Beefcake, Honky Tonk Man, Jim Duggan, and Boogey Man. Our most recent show was this past November that we did without a lot of promotion, but still drew 400 people. That was our lead in show, to what we consider our main show, our Wrestlemania show, if you will, Knight of Glory III, and without much publication at all, we’ve already presold 500 tickets. We’ve not even started airing commercials yet. That will begin in February.
We haven’t been an independent company for very long, but we are trying to build fast, and hold more shows each year. That’s pretty much the history of our company, up to this point.
Does UWE have a philosophy? A style? A concentration?
SAGE: We like to offer something for everyone. We call it “Old school thrill, new school skill” The characters of yesterday, with the moves you see on TV today.
KEVIN: We use a different formula than a lot of other indy feds. We really try and develop our own characters. It’s not that we tell our guys that they can’t accept other bookings, but we do like the idea, or mystique, that there’s only one place to go to see certain characters. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the U.W.E. is so popular right now that people are driving 8-10 hours to see The Untouchable Kevin Murphy, but this is kind of what the goal is. We want to get people to feel like “Oh man, we’ve got to go see the U.W.W. because that’s where so and so is!
Who trains the UWE wrestlers? Do you, Sage?
SAGE: I do, yes.
You’ve done a great job marketing the UWE, you draw very impressive crowds. Any advice to those drawing 300-500 people to their shows?
SAGE: Promote. A lot. Think outside of the box when and where you promote, money isn’t always going to draw big crowds. No offense meant, but take TNA for example… they have talent and money, but the draw isn’t there on a regular basis to support growth. They’re stagnant.
Kevin: Yep, if you look at our shows, you’ll see that we’ve been drawing pretty respectable crowds since day one. We really work hard to promote our shows.
I’ve noticed that you’ve more often gone to former WWE superstars on your cards, than current indy wrestling stars. Is there a reason for that?
SAGE: People still remember them and want to see them, not to mention one of the best sources to make your product better. People that have “been there, done that” have a lot of experience and insight to offer. Learn from your past, to benefit your future.
KEVIN: We think we have a good formula. We bring some of these guys in to help get us, and our wrestlers some buzz. Many of them help us get stories over. I feel that too many indy shows just have match, after match, after match, with no real story. Many of the bigger names help get this story over. That’s kind of my thing, stories are important.
Your upcoming card on March 15, Knight of Glory III, is featuring AJ Styles vs AR Fox. Sonjay Dutt is also appearing. Can we take this to mean more current indy stars like Styles, Fox, and Dutt will be on your future shows as well? If so, any names yet?
SAGE: Just like the saying goes in professional wrestling “anything is possible”, if you I told you the future, you would have nothing to look forward to. The surprise ending just like in a movie, is a major key to succeeding in professional wrestling, that and getting people there to see it. Always stay till the end of the show and you’ll never be disappointed at a U.W.E event.
KEVIN: I can tell you that we have a lot of surprises in store for U.W.E. fans. I can also say that I believe you, and others like yourself, are going to be very happy.
Tell us about the UWE wrestlers. Who is your best and brightest? Do you think you have anyone ready to break out on the indy scene, to have his name known across the indy circuit?
SAGE: As far as the best and brightest, it’s purely up to how much they show up for practice and how well they listen to instruction. The least amount of ego, the easier it is to train them to be the best. I allow all my guys and gals to experience what indy wrestling has to offer whenever they are ready, I don’t hold anyone back from their futures’. – Being known is one thing, how you became known is another.
KEVIN: Right now Eddie Smooth is one of the best guys out there in my opinion. I really see that guy going to the WWE one day before too long.
Can I ask your opinion on current indy feds? Ring of Honor? Pro Wrestling Guerilla? CZW? AAW?
- Slow it down.
- Limit your high-spots, otherwise your finish means nothing.
- Tell me a story.
- Use characters and be larger than life. (no one wants to buy a ticket to see someone that looks just like everyone else walking the street ).
- More crowd interaction. (make me the fan, feel part of the show)
KEVIN: Yep, stories, as I said earlier. We just don’t see enough of that in indy wrestling, and it’s something you will always see in The U.W.E.
Have you considered filming your shows, to sell on DVD? Or to place online for download? Why or why not?
SAGE: We have filmed many of our shows and DVD’s are on their way.
KEVIN: We had our last card filmed for TV. Expect an announcement about that soon, here in 2014
If you could schedule one dream match, at UWE, what would that match be? Who would be in it?
SAGE: Sting and “The Thrill Seeker” Sage Strong vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Untouchable” Kevin Murphy.
KEVIN: That’s absolutely the dream match, but I have to tell you, the AJ Styles vs. AR Fox, on our March 15th card is absolutely a dream match. I can’t absolutely quote AR Fox here, but I can tell you that he told me that’s it is one of the matches he’s always dreamed of having. We are very excited to host their first ever meeting, at Knight of Glory III, on March 15th
What are your thoughts on Pro Wrestling and Sports Entertainment?
SAGE: With time comes change in life or in any sport. Fans have gotten smarter, (not that they were stupid before), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still take them away from their regular lives if only for a few hours. An athlete, actor, comedian (when it’s called for) and pro wrestler all four parts played by the same person, pretty impressive resume for the “bastard son of pro sports”. Professional wrestling or sports entertainment, no matter how you want to say it, has come a long way from bars and carnivals, to sold-out stadiums and arenas.
KEVIN: Honestly, I have not been a huge fan of “Sports Entertainment” since a little bit after the Attitude Era. I still watch it, but it’s the difference between being excited when it’s Monday night, and being excited for a segment on Monday nights. I just don’t feel that the stories are as creative as they once were. As for indy wrestling, I really see it as getting better, and better, over time.
What are your thoughts on comedy in wrestling? To what degree do you find it appropriate? Have you seen or heard of $5 wrestling? If so, what are your thoughts on it?
SAGE: Comedy is a form of entertainment, just like wrestling, and to a certain extent can make your character or your match depending on the story you’re trying to tell to the fans. As far as appropriate, I believe it would depend on what “product” you’re selling i.e. hardcore, family friendly, etc. and your personal core values. I have seen $5 wrestling and it’s not my type of “product” however to some they find it amusing and want to pay money for it. There’s always going to be things out there we don’t like or don’t agree with, that’s why we have freedom of choice. If you don’t like something and don’t agree with it, don’t pay for it or support it.
KEVIN: I agree with Sage. Comedy is good, it is useful, but it can be over used. We are going to use it, but in its appropriate place, and time. I’ve always believed that if comedy is used too heavily, you expose the business. Don’t get me wrong, I know kayfabe is pretty much dead, but I believe that in the moment, you have to try and make it seem as real as you can. Too much comedy kills any kind of realism that you’re trying to present.
What does the future of the UWE look like? What can fans look forward to? Are things looking up?
SAGE: Bright. We try and keep our finger on the pulse in indy wrestling, and create something EVERY fan is looking forward to. If you walk around looking up or down, you’ll miss out on opportunity walking right by you, take one day at a time and change when it’s needed. The same formula doesn’t last forever. The fans are our customers and the customer is always right, albeit you won’t make everyone happy, pleasing the majority and variety is key.
KEVIN: This goes back to characters with me. You not only have to build characters, but you have to build characters that people believe. Ultimately, you want people to believe in these characters 24/7, but in today’s wrestling, if you can at least get them to believe in the characters from the time they get to the show, until the time that they leave, you’ve done a good job.
How is the Harrisburg scene? Not much indy wrestling comes to Harrisburg. Do you think more promotions could hold successful cards in this area? Harrisburg, for example, is a broadcast City for Ring of Honor. I know they like to hold cards in the Cities where their program airs on TV. They also willingly work with local talent, it could be an opportunity for exposure for your UWE guys.
SAGE: We’ve already been in talks with Ring Of Honor. That’s all I’m going to say.
KEVIN: See, there are always surprises in store at U.W.E.
Is there anything else you’d like our fans to know about you, and the UWE? Feel free to plug anything as well!
KEVIN: I just want people to know that the U.W.E. gets better with every show. That we are dedicated to getting even better. We are dedicated at becoming the top indy company in the world, but that’s only going to come with hard work. Indy fans need to stay tuned, as we at The U.W.E. work hard, to go as far as they can. Fans should know that Pennsylvania is full of a lot of great indy talent. We believe in having solid relationships with other indy feds in this area. We aren’t seeking to shut anyone down. If we learn to work together, and not attack one another, we can go further.
SAGE: Be You, Be Unique, But above all else BE A FREAK!!!” – ‘The Thrill Seeker’ Sage Strong
I want to thank Sage, and Kevin, for sitting down with me for PWMania.com! If you love characters, story lines, and that old school style thrill, with new school skills, then follow the U.W.E. and remember where you heard about them first! Look for more features, and exclusives, on The U.W.E. right here, in the future.