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Too Much Of The Same

People often complain about TNA wrestling saying that they have turned into a poor man’s version of WWE or worse yet, WCW. Recycling older stars and going with shock-tv and over the top stories more often than going with what put them on the map – awesome workrate.

This brings me to the current state of Indy Wrestling. For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on my home territory, Ontario, because it is the one I am the most familiar with – but according to friends in other parts of North America this is not an isolated issue.

So far in Ontario, almost 40 different promotions have run shows in 2009. 40! I remember back in the late 90s – we had Scott D’Amore’s Border City Wrestling, Ike Shaw / Waldo Von Erich’s ICW, Ron Hutchinson’s AWF, Ricky Johnson’s CWA, Mark Anderson’s HWF, and the Ring N’ Ears shows - that’s about it. A few years later Neo Spirit popped up, but for this examination I’ll stick with the time period before their arrival.

There were other upstarts here and there – guys like Kevin Oakley or the twins would run a show once in a while… or Bob Woods might do something with his EWF – (and RWA certainly played a HUGE role in the development of many of today’s best) but for the most part, Ontario Wrestling revolved around those core promotions.

BCW was based in Windsor. A couple hours east was the HWF in London, and then the Cambridge based ICW. AWF was based out of East Scarborough. CWA mainly ran in the downtown Toronto core, as did Ring N’ Ears.

Not only were all of these companies significantly spread out, they all did something DIFFERENT.

BCW, was a mix of name workers and some of the best young talent. AWF ran small bar shows with heavily gimmicked characters, making a very family-friendly product. HWF was well respected for their “hardcore” style. Ring N’ Ears combined live heavy metal bands with smash mouth wrestling. ICW was built on legends from the 70s and 80s ( Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Typhoon, King Kong Bundy etc).

On top of that, most of these companies had VERY LITTLE overlap in terms of the talent they used.

Names like The Codfather, Squeegee Kid, The All Knighters, and Gail Kim and Traci Brooks would only be found at AWF.

If you wanted to see Tyson Dux, Eric Young, Carlos Ortega, Billy Boogie and a whole host of legends you were going to be headed to an ICW show.

I think you get my point.

Today there are so many different promotions doing the exact same thing – many of which even share the same venue and talent!

BCW continues to do their thing – based out of Windsor and focusing on students / grads of Can / Am and other well respected indy stars (Cody Deaner / Jake O’Reilly, etc).

BSE Pro, which was sort of an evolution from the original AWF and initially from Ring N Ears (when BSE stood for Blood Sweat N Ears) runs a high quality product with plenty of production values. They build around talent from their school (Sqaured Circle) and fill in with talent from TNA, and other respected indy workers (El Tornado, Franky The Mobster etc).

And then you have options like GCW who run a very family focused show and Stranglehold who make the old HWF look like Sesame Street. Add to the mix companies like PWA and PWX (who definitely have their roster of regulars who you don’t find elsewhere) and to some extent PWA and that’s pretty much all you need.

More and more companies keep popping up for different reasons. They want to do a fund raiser. The promoter is a worker who feels he’s not being used properly elsewhere. The promoter is a fan who has money to burn. The promoter feels he is smarter than everyone else and can show the whole world how it should be done.

The truth is, there is just too much of the same on the indy scene. I know a lot of the boys will got hot at this because they feel like if feds start drying up, so will their bookings … but I see it the opposite way.

Less shitty feds doing bad versions of decent ones, means fewer fans going to shitty shows and getting turned off. Theoretically, it means more fans attending good shows. Increased houses, means workers can demand a bigger pay off.

My biggest frustration is when a booker or promoter builds a show that looks very similar to a competitor and says "Well, I don't know what they hell they're doing. I don't pay attention to them". Why? Are you such a big shot that you don't need to worry about anyone else? Coke knows what Pepsi is up to. AmEx follows the promotions being run by Visa and MasterCard. Vince watches TNA. It is your JOB as a business owner and promoter of a wrestling company to know what the market has already been exposed to and what your competition is doing.

Here is my plea to all of the would-be promoters and arm-chair bookers: if you want to get into the business, try contacting one of the existing feds that have already been established and see if they need some help. Maybe you’ll get to learn the business before actually throwing away thousands of your own dollars on a failed event.

This is a concept that many MMA companies are struggling with right now. For some, it is enough to simply be a grass roots version of the UFC (because UFC is so hot) ... but for others, they have to try to tweak and be a little different. Fight in a ring not a cage like Pride, use a team format like the IFL - whatever.

Back to wrestling, the effort is even greater, because unlike in the late 90s, the business is NOT hot. We are in a valley, with a peak on the horizon. Wrestling will survive this period, but indy wrestling is suffering greatly.

Put your ego aside and learn how a show is run, from initial concept to tearing down the ring after the main event.

Then, if you go through that process, and you still have the burning desire to run your own show, make sure it’s because you are offering something different. Not just the same guys in a match with a new stip, but something that YOU yourself would pay money to go see.

Whenever I booked shows I tried to stick to a few simple concepts:
  • Book people you trust to execute your plan,
  • Give the customer as much entertainment value for their dollar as possible
  • Don’t allow the show to become a spotfest
  • Tell a story: not just within the match but the entire sequence of the show

That’s my personal philosophy. I formed it after years of being a fan, and learning from guys that I respected the hell out of and worked with for years.

Create your niche – but if your niche is already being done in a similar fashion by someone else … you have a few options
  • Tweak your idea
  • Move to a new area far enough away from the similarly minded product
  • Don’t do it.
Nobody wants too much of the same.

4 comments: on "Too Much Of The Same"

D. Ross said...

"Nobody wants too much of the same." This is true. But I believe that here in the U.S, the exposure to anything different is so low that no one even knows any better. On TV I can see Smackdown and lucha libre. That's it. I got rid of my cable so whatever else I can see is seen online. If someone's exposure is purely WWE anything else seems silly. Especially if what the E is putting out is the only form of wrestling you watch.

There is some new promotion starting up. I wont say starting up since apparently according to their myspace page they have been around for years. Their name has "Hybrid" in the title. My friend got one of their flyers on her car and started laughing. I finally saw one and just sighed. The shit's a few minutes from me and I wont see it. It looks like garbage. The name alone keeps me away. Their site also has no photos of their product. No videos. But they want $12 for a 2pm show in a club in West Hollywood? Bitch, please.

The fluxuation of terrible shit wont stop because everyone believes that what they are doing is original and new. "You like wrestling? You like sugar? How about SWL?! Sugar Wrestling League!!!" I mean, we live in a world where X-Arm exists. People just wanna be entertained and sometimes they just dont know any better. Tell guys to not show up in three feds as well. What happened to brand loyalty?

Tony said...

My whole jab on this is this;
I am a fan for the past 4 years or so. I am burnt out officially. If or when I do decide to go to shows on a farely regular bases it wont be nearly as often.

For these 4 years I've seen alot of fun, interesting shit. I mean I've witnessed an amazing fed such as LLW, for me then was the premiere of OIW. For there reign I thought was the strongest at the time. When that fell off the map I was like damn well, what the hell do I go to now? besides PWA which I started off with. PWX really caught my eye just last year, I've really wanted to go to these shows, but for whatever reason didn't. Anywho, for the past well 7 months now I've seen less and less as compared to the past 3 years. I've recently come to enjoy BCW in Woodstock. This year for me has literally been nothing but a rollercoaster. If I had missed a show, I've said meh numorous times because either a) seen it or b) seen better matches with given wrestlers.

2 out of the top 3 Matches I've witnessed here in ON had come out of the LLW brand. 1 being 2007 MOTY & the other 2008 MOTY. The 3rd legit is my pick for 2009 MOTY from what I've seen this year. Later to be seen when the time comes.

I'd personally like to thank all the promoters who I've come to known in the past 4 years. BUT mainly for KayFabe reasons Eddie Osbourne, who really was the one who got me out to what started to be a trend of "Shit Faced Sundays"

Thank You all for being my entertainment for the past 4 years. All of you will not be forgotten.


Curtis Y said...

Well said,The LLW shows ive been too and the last EWA show i was at were far better bang for my buck than alot of the indy shows ive been to so that just proves that your plan does work

Anonymous said...

God damn I miss UWA so much. They were the best Ontario Indy promotion bar none.