Friday, November 17, 2006

Happy Birthday NECW TV

This week marks the second anniversary of New England Championship Wrestling's pioneering Internet television broadcasts, NECW TV.

NECW was the first independent promotion to produce an original weekly wrestling television program specifically produced for distribution via the Internet. It set off a slew of imitators and set a trend for wrestling companies to use the Internet as a direct means to distribute television programming. Both WWE and TNA have distributed Internet-only programming in the wake of our efforts.

This, however, was not my first foray into distributing wrestling programming via the Net. Back in 1996, I worked with Howard Brody and the late Hiro Matsuda on a project called RING WARRIORS. RING WARRIORS was actually re-voiced and re-edited matches from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Hiro Matsuda had obtained the rights from TV Asahi, the Japanese TV network that airs New Japan Pro Wrestling and owns part of the company, to distribute the shows outside of Japan. RING WARRIORS had achieved quite a bit success on Eurosport, the European equivalent to ESPN at the time, and the desire was to find a way to prime the product for an introduction to North America.

My suggestion was to find a way to engage fans via the Internet, specifically using streaming video, which was in its infancy at the time. The company made a deal with VDO Systems, who were developing streaming video technology at the time. A number of episodes were produced featuring Gordon Solie and Bruno Sammartino on commentary. The initial launch was to allow viewers the chance to watch the first week's show free, then charge a modest subscription fee to view subsequent weeks.

The first week's traffic was high, but since few people had broadband access in 1996, the viewing experience was not very good. The Internet aspect of the project was abandoned not long after that, although other attempts to launch RING WARRIORS continued until Hiro's passing in 1999.

I still believed that eventually, the Internet would become the "great equalizer" for small wrestling promotions. The ability to distribute a television product worldwide without a TV station or network was, and is, a revolutionary concept that has now become a reality.

I actually wanted to launch NECW TV a few years earlier, but did not have the staffing or resources to make it happen at the time. I remember being scoffed at by people who thought that no one would watch wrestling on that little screen within a screen. Logic dictated otherwise. At the time, we had roughly 3,000 unique visitors each month to our website without video content. Since we were not drawing 3,000 people per month live, that meant that there were many more people out there who were looking at NECW through that little window that was our website. It only made sense to open that window wider by actually showing them our promotion via streaming video, which by this time had become far more viable.

The launch of NECW TV two years ago was an immediate success. We went from 3,000 unique visitors per month to over 40,000 in the early going. We got significant publicity, including a story in the New York Daily News. While the major wrestling websites, with a few exceptions, ignored it, there was no denying that it started a trend. Within days of our announcement Jersey All Pro Wrestling announced a similar thing. Today, dozens of independent promotions worldwide utilize the Internet as a primary means to distribute their content. All this, two years before YouTube made "user generated content" an entertainment industry catch phrase.

Today, NECW TV enjoys a continued strong worldwide viewership. As a promotional tool, it has been an invaluable means of marketing our company. We have also kept it free. In fact the motto of NECW TV is "Free. On Demand. Worldwide." That always summed it up best for me.

As successful as NECW TV has been, it should be noted that I have never viewed it as a substitute for conventional television. Pro wrestling, much like other mainstreams sports, has always been an experience best enjoyed at full screen size on a conventional television set. Conventional TV is still the best mechanism to reach the most people.

In fact, NECW TV does air on a couple of town cable access channels, so there are some viewers who have seen it on conventional TV, but our goal remains eventually transitioning our content to being primarily produced for broadcast or cable. Having the ability to produce a weekly program on a zero budget is not to be underestimated. NECW TV is a means to end, as well as an end unto itself.

I'd like to thank the fans who have watched and supported NECW TV for these past two years. We have been seen in more than 60 countries and hope that all of you have enjoyed our programs. You have helped us rewrite the history of pro wrestling promotion and opened the door for dozens of unheralded talents - promoters, as well as wrestlers - to be seen and appreciated.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Interesting Times for NECW & WWW

We are getting ready for a big DOUBLE IMPACT WEEKEND with NECW & WWW. Two fantastic events are on tap with NECW in Quincy on Saturyday night and World Women's Wrestling at Good Time Emporium in Somerville on Sunday afternoon with a 3 PM bell time.

This is an interesting time for NECW, as well as World Women's Wrestling (which is referred to as Triple W for short). While we are not as widely covered by the Internet wrestling media as say an ROH, NECW is a vibrant and innovative regional company.

The NECW roster boasts a boatload of talent. From Evan Siks, the Triple Crown Champion on top, to D.C. Dillinger and Eddie Edwards, NECW Tag Team Champions, The Canadian Superstars, 2D Edge, Big Rick Fuller, R.I.O.T., NECW Television Champion, "The Talent" T.J. Richter to managers Sean Gorman and Brian Cairo and up and comers like The Wild Boys, Handsome Johnny, Max Bauer and Scott Reed (apologies to anyone I left out), there is a lot to like in NECW. If you follow our online TV shows - - it's there for you to see every week. These are the best wrestlers in the region. Not the upper class of wrestling school trainees. The best talent is drawn here, because they see things happening. They see bigger, more enthusiastic crowds and a company with a long and consistent track record.

World Women's Wrestling is a story unto itself. A year and a half ago, I ran two all women's shows, as part of a day/night doubleheader. The NECW crew at the time, and this was before the merger with PWF, were resistant to the women's shows to the point of blatant sabotage by the booker and a few of his co-horts. The women drew a receptive audience in spite of that and it was clear to me that a women's company would be viable. The experience of those first two shows was, in one way, a blessing, because it became clear to me that the women needed to stand alone with their own brand name and their own stand alone dates.

Once the shows were presented under the World Women's Wrestling name, it took off like a rocket.

The promotion features some of the best female wrestling talent around and the roster is constantly growing. The women are accomplished pro wrestlers and are presented as such. It is interesting to see how these girls rise to the occasion when given roles equal to how men are normally presented. It is completely fresh and entertaining and I have been very gratified by how fans, the stars and staff have accepted it. The sky is the limit for this company and you can look forward to seeing the same kind of innovation that has been a hallmark of NECW, applied to World Women's Wrestling.

If you have not experienced NECW or WWW before, you are in for a very big treat. Check out and for all the details of this DOUBLE IMPACT Weekend.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Remembering Rumble

When I die, I don't want people to be sad. I want people to be happy, because I'll be with my friends. - "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble

It was 7 years ago today that "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble died suddenly of a massive heart attack.

Most wrestling fans would have been familiar with Rumble from his hosting of Mario Savoldi's old ICW (later ICCW) TV shows. Around these parts, Tony Rumble was the owner and promoter of the Century Wrestling Alliance, later becoming NWA New England.

His exposure on the ICW/ICCW shows made him something of a local celebrity. He was street smart, as opposed to book smart, and a tremendously effective promoter. The CWA/NWA NE dominated the area as far as local promotion goes. Rumble had a knack of being able to pick up sold shows (events where a school or organization would buy the event for a set price) and then promote events off of the sold show. While he was never what you'd call wealthy or even well off, he did made a living from wrestling during much of the last 5 years of his life.

At its best, CWA/NWA NE was a collection of top national (and even some occasional international) stars and some interesting local talent. Rumble also had what he called his "Whack Pack." Guys who were there just to be amusing or entertaining. They gave the promotion a unique character, much like Rumble himself.

Rumble's friendships with the likes of Jim Cornette and Kevin Sullivan put the promotion in a very unique place in the late 90's. Before the beginning of developmental territories that WWE uses now, Rumble was one of those few who had the ear of decision makers in the then-WWF and WCW. Rumble was also still friendly with former ICW proteges like Taz and Tommy Dreamer, as well as Paul Heyman. In New England, Rumble dominated the local scene, such as it was at the time.

In fact, NWA NE was really the first "serious" independent promotion in the region. The company had a cable access TV show called "Mass Madness," produced by a bright young cable access producer named Pat Doyle. The production was fairly high quality for its time and the shows had everything from great wrestling with top talent to funny wrap-around segments. The show eventually made its way onto broadcast TV on an independent UHF station out of Derry, NH. The show used a different format on broadcast TV and lasted 16 weeks before the station wanted to change the deal and get paid for the show. A local car dealership - Atlantic Toyota - had agreed to sponsor the show, but pulled out at the last minute. It was a hard blow to Rumble, who passed away a few weeks later.

Those who knew him remember him fondly. They remember his as a mentor who gave people a chance to perform who would have otherwise not had that chance. He helped a lot of guys get into the national spotlight. He was a larger than life character, always fun to be around and quick with a great story.

But the real person behind Tony Rumble was a lot more complex. Anthony David Magliaro was a street kid whose parents died young. He had a difficult childhood and life with few bright spots. One of Tony's joys as a boy were the monthly wrestling shows at the old Boston Garden. At a Garden show in 1966, Bruno Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon had a match where the ring broke in the middle of the match. It was the moment that Tony decided he wanted to be a wrestler, and years later he fulfilled that dream. He eventually took on the persona of "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble and that was when Tony's life really began.

We became close friends over the last 6 years of his life. He loved wrestling with all his heart, as he did his wife, Ellen, her children and his first grandson, Hunter.

Tony's sudden death threw the New England wrestling scene into turmoil. Rumble was an irreplaceable commodity. His widow tried to put the promotion in hands that would continue the business, but they were the wrong people for the job. The solid business that Tony had built over 6 and half years, crumbled within 6 months. Eventually, Tony's widow turned the operation over to Jason Dellagatta, who had wrestled for NWA NE as Jason Rage. At the urging of Ellen Magliaro, Jason Rage became Jason Rumble, the "son" of Tony. While Jason was no relation to Tony in real life, the promotion did continue under his direction, but Jason did not have the experience as either a wrestler or a businessman to be effective in either role.

With Tony gone, it was inevitable that other promotions would spring up and try and occupy the same place it held on the New England scene. By the time of his death, the business was changing rapidly. The sold shows became more difficult to get and the ability to book top names from WWF and WCW dried up. It became clear, at least to me, that the region called for a different model for doing business. To try and imitate what Tony did would be impossible, because so much of it worked because of him and his personality.

I think about Tony Rumble every single day. He was one of those characters that simply don't exist anymore and probably never will again. And while I am sad that he is not here to lend his street-wise wisdom, humor and love to this world, I pray that he is happy wherever he is now.

Rest in peace my friend.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Post Monster's Brawl Thoughts, Bischoff Book & More!

Thanks to everyone who came out last week for another stellar NECW event at the Armory in Quincy, MA.

I thought this event had great energy led by some feuds that are getting hotter by the month. The issues between "Hurricane" John Walters and Jason Blade are getting more complex with each outing. My take on Walters' "turn to the dark side" is that it was born out of frustration over not being able to regain the NECW Heavyweight Championship and beyond to the Triple Crown. However, on the recent edition of NECW Roundtable, both Evan Siks and Sean Gorman seem to think this attitude change was a calculated move. Wherever the truth lies, there is a passion in Walters' demeanor that makes him a much more interesting athlete to watch. Walters and Blade are two of the best ring technicians in the game right now and each of their collisions has been memorable. They will do it again on November 18th with the count out rule waived and I am looking forward to that one.

Kristian Frost and Brian Fury are in the thick of battle these days. Fury scored a victory last weekend over Frost in a bout that could have gone either way. After the match, Frost laid out Fury with a set of handcuffs and Fury has challenged Frost to a "Handcuffs On a Pole" Match on November 18. Frost and Fury are both marquee athletes who are going to do huge things in NECW in the future.

The Canadian Superstars continue to frustrate their opposition - as well as management. It is a credit to this team that have been so dominant. But their manhandling of Matt and Kyle Storm was as difficult to accept for me as it was for them. I hope that the Storms decide not to hang them up, as they are a team with much to offer.

Of course, the buzz is all about the mystery partner Evan Siks produced last weekend in "Big" Rick Fuller. Talk about impact players! Fuller is going to have a gigantic impact in NECW. It's good to have the big man in house. Fuller and I go back to the days of late, great "Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble. Rick has always been a class act and has deserved a much higher profile in this industry. Do not be surprised if that injustice is rectified within the parameters of NECW.

Thinking about the current state of affairs in NECW, I think this is the most interesting and talent-rich roster in the history of the promotion. That is no knock on anyone in the company's past.

For those of you who have not yet seen NECW or WWW live or who haven't been in a while, we have a very unique opportunity this month. We're calling it a "Double Impact Weekend" an NECW event on Saturday night, November 18 in Quincy (7 PM bell time) and a World Women's Wrestling event the next afternoon at Good Time Emporium in Somerville (3 PM bell time). This is a great opportunity to see the best wrestling New England has to offer and the phenomenon that is World Women's Wrestling.

I read Eric Bischoff's new book, Controversy Creates Cash and highly recommend it to anyone who is a true student of the wrestling business. There will be debate over the veracity of many of the things Eric says in the book, but it is a real education on how pro wrestling got to where it is right now and what the realities of the industry are today. I have had a few personal dealings with Eric over the years and I have a very high opinion of him personally. He is a creative guy with a great work ethic and a "can-do" persona. That describes a lot of successful people and Eric is cast in that mold.

I want to thank Doc Young and Les Thatcher for having me on their Wrestling Weekly radio show this past week. We talked about NECW and World Women's Wrestling amongst other topics. Les Thatcher is one guy that I have so much admiration and respect for. In his four decade career, Les has literally done it all from wrestling (including a stint as World Jr. Heavyweight Champion) to promoting to booking to producing and announcing TV, as well as training young wrestlers. What I marvel at most with Les is that he stills passionately follows the current product and listing to his weekly show is a real education. I hope we can get Les to this area again in 2007 for a training camp.

Next week is the 7th anniversary of the death of "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble. Rumble was my best friend and a guy I would go to the wall for again and again. If you didn't know him, words probably won't do him justice, but he was one of those true characters - a larger than life figure who was loved by many and who lived and - sadly - died for this business we call professional wrestling. I think about Tony everyday and the more time goes by the more I realize that he was truly one-of-a-kind, never to be duplicated. I hope that he is at peace and surrounded by the family he cherished and the friends he treasured.