Indie Watch is our regular series that looks at all of the amazing talent working the independent circuits around the world. Some are veterans revitalizing their careers, some are indie prospects hitting their peaks, while others are names to be on the watch for! This edition looks at one of the rising stars from the Southern US indie scene, Kevin Ku. Not only is he an emerging indie wrestling star in his own right, he’s a co-promoter with one of the rising promotions in the South, Southern Underground Graps (SUP).
Back in the days of the NWA territories of the 1970s, the South was a region or territory that wielded great influence – Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mid South, NWA Gulf Coast, NWA Mid-America, Continental Wrestling Association, etc. But in the indie boom of the past two decades, it’s been promotions from the East Coast, like Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, and Beyond Wrestling, and the West Coast, with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), that has lead the charge. In the past few years, and the advent of on-demand streaming networks, pro wrestling promotions from around the world have found a platform and suddenly geography took a backseat to quality. Southern pro wrestling has recently seen a resurgence in not only talent and accessibility, but respect, with the likes of Carolina Wrestling Federation (CWF) Mid-Atlantic, Premiere Wrestling Xperience (PWX), Southern Underground Graps (SUP), and NOVA Pro Wrestling, not to mention events like the Scenic City Invitational Tournament.
More and more Southern indie stars are emerging as new faces electrifying audiences around the country (and world on-demand), like Marko Stunt, Trevor Lee, and more. But there’s a renaissance going on in the South, and one of the names becoming more and more familiar is Kevin Ku. He recently appeared on Season One of Dojo Pro on Amazon Prime, co-promotes SUP, and is breaking stereotypes as an Asian wrestler that one is not defined by their culture, but by their actions. Drawing on inspirations from the UK, mainland Europe and Strong Style, this Korean-American is creating a personality as unique as it is honest. A former touring punk rock musician, he’s applied his DIY attitude to a world that thrives on such mentality and is becoming one of the South’s next rising stars. Last Word on Pro Wrestling recently chatted with Kevin Ku about his journey from stage to ring and the new rise of the South in pro wrestling.
So it’s a bit of a cliche question, but it’s always interesting to see what got people into wrestling in the first place. You’ve mentioned on podcasts that you started watching wrestling as a teen in the Attitude Era – what was it about wrestling that captured your imagination?
Kevin Ku: It was just cool to see something as crazy and wild as pro wrestling. Like I could just sit back and watch people fight each other and talk trash. It was sick!
You’ve stated Stone Cold was an early inspiration until you got into the indie stuff, like Daniel Bryanson and the junior heavyweight style. What was it about the “real” wrestling style that won you over?
The physical competition part of it was really the most appealing part of it. I loved watching people trying to actual win the competition. No matter what.
You came from a punk rock/hardcore background prior to wrestling. You were touring in a band at the time. What bands was it? How did the band life prepare you for wrestling?
I played in a couple of hardcore bands in Birmingham and Nashville and we usually played locally. I did one tour with this 90’s emo type band called Courtesy Drop and that was super fun because I actually got to play on tour. For “bigger” tours, I would do merch or tour manage and it was usually for bands like Make Do And Mend and Young Statues. I got to do one really cool tour with Sharks from the U.K., Frank Turner, and Social Distortion. I think it really gave me the mind set to be in a car for hours to get to where you were going to play and be ok with that, haha.
You relocated to Boston for your band, but it lead to pro wrestling. Was the band fading for you? What lead you to switch gears and turn to pro wrestling?
I was in a relationship at the time and I kind of wanted to slow down with touring and the possibility of wrestling kind of fell into my lap after I came back from my last tour.
You found a good school in Brian Fury’s New England Wrestling Academy. What were some of the things you took away from learning from someone like Fury?
Honestly, the biggest thing was the fundamentals of wrestling. That school is known for producing some of the most technically sound pro wrestlers in the U.S. and I’m very proud to say that I’m a product of that school. And I think my last match with Tracy Williams showed I can stand up technically with the best in the world and I accredit a lot of that to what Brian Fury and everyone else taught me.
Some of your trainers/guest trainers included the likes of Hanson, Eddie Edwards and Tommaso Ciampa. What kinds of things did you pick up from guys like that?
Everyone has a different perspective on wrestling and I was super fortunate to get little tricks and tips on not only how to wrestle, but also how to handle myself in and out of the locker room from all of them.
You’ve relocated to the Nashville area. Was that band driven as well, or was this more for wrestling?
t was really to be closer to my parents and who I was with at the time hated it in the northeast, haha.
You’re working heavily in the promoting side now as well, co-promoting with SUP Graps. How did SUP come together? Are you in ownership as well?
The other promoter in SUP is Jesse and we’ve known each other for a long time, from going to hardcore and punk shows in the Southeast, and we just kind of joked about running a show and then it really happened and we sold out our first show, so we just kind of kept going with it. I don’t really like to say I’m an “owner” because so many people help us behind the scenes too.
The indie boom feels like it’s really bringing back the territorial system to a degree, with strong emerging markets coming out of the Midwest, West Coast, East Coast, etc. The South and Mid-Atlantic seem to be a bit behind as far as exposure goes but it’s getting there. Is there a vibe or a style that marks Southern wrestlers these days?
There’s really only a handful of guys in the South who are willing to make the 14 hour drives just for a chance to get out there. And I’m not talking shit on people who want to stay regional. But people like The Carnies and me are the ones who are trying to shake that stigma of “Southern Rasslin'” and show the South is just as good as anywhere else.
Obviously there’s some buzz coming from some southern guys, like Marko Stunt, Curt Stallion, Joey Lynch, etc. What are some other names of some Southern wrestlers, male or female, that you think people should be more aware of?
Brett Ison is someone people will be talking about very soon. I have no doubt about that and I fully support him and will recommend him to anyone.
You’re a regular with SUP, Pro Wrestling Freedom, CWF, etc., but it feels like in the past year you’re starting to get on people’s radars outside the South. Do you feel things turning a corner?
I really do. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I got bummed for a second and didn’t think anyone would notice me but with the boom of places like Powerbomb.tv, it’s really helped guys like me.
Dojo Pro was a lot of people’s first introduction to you on a more national level. How did that experience come about?
I got an email asking to book me and I thought it was fake at first (I watch a lot of Catfish) but I did some research and it was super legit.
Are you going to be on the next season or is it an all new cast?
I hope so!
You mentioned on Dojo Pro you were hoping to break the “Asian stereotype” of Asian wrestlers, i.e they’re karate guys, or traditionally garbed. You’ve brought a more punk rock chic to your presentation. Have you had people try and steer you to more of a “stereotype” character at all?
It’s happened quite a bit. I actually got a message last year asking to work a place in Georgia and I would be their Kim Jung Un character and would feud with their Trump character. I was not kind in my response.
What inspires you today in your wrestling development. You never really stop learning, so who are you studying or picking the brain of?
I watch where I want to be so I watch a lot of international wrestling. Like Progress, OTT, revpro, and NJPW.
Are there any plans to branch out further, move on to some East Coast promotions, head overseas?
Of course. I put it out there on the Struggles podcast but I want to be overseas as much as possible.
What does 2019 hold for Kevin Ku?
More places across the U.S. and overseas is the goal!
Catch Up on Previous Indie Watch Articles!
- Indie Watch: The Filip Brothers (Australia), October 10, 2018
- Indie Watch: Daga (Mexico), October 9, 2018
- Indie Watch: Salina de la Renta (Puerto Rico), October 5, 2018
- Indie Watch: Sheldon Jean (Canada), September 29, 2018
- Indie Watch: King Khash (USA/Persia), September 25, 2018
- Indie Watch: Martina ‘The Session Moth’ (Ireland), September 18, 2018
- Indie Watch: Zachary Wentz (USA), September 9, 2018
- Indie Watch: Scotty Davis (Ireland), September 4, 2018
- Indie Watch: SCHAFF (USA), August 21, 2018
- Indie Watch: Bandido (Mexico), August 15, 2018
- Indie Watch: Aiden Prince (Canada), August 7, 2018
- Indie Watch: “The Business” Slex (Australia), May 9, 2018
- Indie Watch: Robbie Eagles (Australia), May 1, 2018
- Indie Watch: Jordynne Grace (USA), April 27, 2018
- Indie Watch: D.L. Hurst (USA), April 13, 2018
- Indie Watch: The Maine State Posse (USA), January 24, 2018
- Indie Watch: The Women of PROGRESS (UK), January 20, 2018