Thursday, February 22, 2007

GENESIS 6, WWW Pick Your Poison Notes

There is a whole lot of "buzz" going on in our area over this coming weekend's NECW & WWW events.

This coming Saturday night is the continuation of one of the great traditions in New England independent wrestling, GENESIS. GENESIS was PWF's big show of the year and an annual milestone that gave the promotion direction, focus and identity.

Last year's GENESIS was an especially memorable one for me, as on that night we announced the merger of NECW and PWF to the PWF locker room, prior to making a public announcement. I will never forget the looks on the faces in the room that night - happiness, befuddlement, curiousity and, in some cases even anger. The reactions were understandable. In our little corner of the industry, it's a business that is often much more about the emotional than the practical.

In fact, last year's GENESIS truly was a "genesis" - a creation of something new, evolved out of two companies that each had their own storied history. When we discussed the merger prior to it actually taking place, I felt it was important to combine and maintain the traditions of both promotions. As such , we have four "signature events" per year, GENESIS and Toxic Waltz from PWF and the IRON 8 Championship and BIRTHDAY BASH from NECW.

This year's GENESIS comes at a point where NECW has gathered the most momentum as a promotion than at any point in it's six and a half year history. Sellouts right and left. Talent at their most compelling. GENESIS 6 has the biggest advance sale of any event in NECW or PWF history. I promise you it will absolutely be a night to remember.

Speaking of memorable event, the follwing afternoon, World Women's Wrestling returns to Good Time Emporium for "Pick Your Poison." WWW Champion, Tanya Lee, Jana and Portia Perez draw their opponents names at random from Nikki Roxx, "The Portuguese Princess" Ariel and Lexxus. Any combination of possibilites there will be exciting to watch and it's another can't miss WWW event. Of course, Tanya Lee defends against Nikki Roxx at GENESIS the night before and I am sure that result will have a big impact on Sunday afternoon's event.

If you're at all close to the area, I hope you'll join us for a fantastic weekend of wrestling.

Friday, February 16, 2007

WSX Considered, R.I.P. Bob Luce, NECW Notes

It seems that everyone is talking about the new Wrestling Society X on MTV and some vigorous debate is going on about the show, especially in light of an episode being pulled this week by MTV's standards and practices department.

I watched the debut episode and some of the online content. Producer, Kevin Kleinrock of Big Vision Entertainment, who I've known for a number of years, told me that he thought they would be criticized by "old school fans," yet he was excited by what they were doing and called it "innovative" and way over the top, by MTV's request.

To put WSX in perspective you have to bear in mind that this is NOT a wrestling promotion. WSX is a TV show that hopes to become a wrestling promotion. It's a lot like the late 1960's TV show The Monkees, about a fictitious band, except they actually made records and ended up taking creative control of their music and becoming a real band.

The concept of pre-fab pro wrestling is not new. Paul Alperstein's ill-fated American Wrestling Federation actually taped its shows in front of an audience of paid extras who held signs made by the company and cheered and booed on cue. That failure had more to do with trying to establish the company through paid TV syndication, than whether it was good or not.

WSX is at the very least interesting. The talent is mostly young high flyers and the violent style is laced with a variety of stunts and explosions - kind of like Atsushi Onita and Tony Hawk had a love child and invited some cool bands. After I watched it, I was like, "Yeah this looks like an MTV parody of pro wrestling."

What hurts WSX most is the 30 minute format. There is no way you can draw interest in the matches, feuds and characters in a 30 minute TV format, which translates to about 18 or 19 minutes of action. WSX answers this with WSXtra, a supplemental Internet broadcast that gives you extra matches and features. WSXtra is actually the most innovative thing about WSX - it's attempt to draw fans to the net from conventional TV to flesh out their programming and make that an essential part of the WSX experience. The question is will their fans have the attention span to actually want to do that? There doesn't seem to be enough time to hook people in far enough to want to get in deeper by watching online. The WSXtra shows use an embedded player on the website, which is small in size and not conducive to viewing something like professional wrestling - especially the fast-paced, high flying variety.

Since MTV is a music network, here are some musical analogies about the WSX product. As in MTV itself, not every song is uptempo. Most of the best selling songs in music history are ballads, because they are ones that connect the most with the emotions of the audience. When you go to a concert, the best shows take the audience on a journey with different tempos and pacing. The same holds true with wrestling. Variety on a card makes it more interesting to watch than having every match be the same kind of thing.

Ultimately, WSX will be judged by TV standards and not wrestling standards and that is as it should be. If the ratings hold up, WSX has a chance to survive on the world's biggest TV network. I really don't see it becoming a touring proposition, because you could never recreate that atmosphere live. The fact that MTV has the desire to be involved with pro wrestling on any level is good for the business. It's an endorsement of the industry. It remains to be seen if the network will give the show enough time to find itself.

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Bob Luce was one of the great old time wrestling promoters. Based in Chicago in the 60's and 70's, he was associated with Verne Gagne, and I believe, Dick The Bruiser in Indianapolis as well. I first became acquainted with Luce watching a 4 volume VHS set that he put out in the mid-80's called the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Classics. Luce was a colorful individual, known for being a great local promoter - great with the local press and a larger than life TV host.

Luce was a relic from another era that we sadly won't see again. Guys like Bob Luce were simply irreplaceable. He passed away last week just one day before his 79th birthday after a long illness. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

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We are a little more than a week away from another huge NECW/WWW Double Impact Weekend. NECW's next live event, which is GENESIS 6 at the National Guard Armory in Quincy, MA, takes place Saturday night, February 24 at 7 PM. GENESIS was traditionally the biggest event of the year for PWF and we have continued that tradition post-merger. The GENESIS events were always viewed fondly by local fans as something special, and this year's version will be no exception. All titles will be defended, some big feuds will be coming to a head and it's one you don't want to miss.

GENESIS has already generated the biggest advance sale of any show we've done, so if you are looking for tickets, especially VIP tickets, I would act sooner rather than later.

Sunday afternoon, February 25, it's the return of World Women's Wrestling to Good Time Emporium in Somerville, MA with a 3:00 PM bell time. It's topped by a very unique "Pick Your Poison" Triple Main Event, where WWW Champion, Tanya Lee, Jana and Portia Perez choose their opponents at random from the trio of Nikki Roxx, Ariel and Lexxus. All the participants have bad blood with each other and it should be a real throwdown in Somerville.

Check out and for tickets and information.

Monday, February 12, 2007

R.I.P. Jim Melby

I was deeply saddened to hear that Jim Melby passed away yesterday at his home in Minnesota. Melby, along with Norman Kietzer, published Wrestling Revue magazine, as well as arena programs for many of the major wrestling offices in the 70's.

Jim was a true gentleman and one of wrestling's great historians. Long after Wrestling Revue went away, Melby published numerous record books on major stars, compiling years and years of match results. He also wrote a book on the history of wrestling in Minnesota.

I first met Jim at one of The Fabulous Moolah's LIWA conventions in Las Vegas, where he regularly attended and often refereed some of the matches on the women's cards they would hold as part of the convention.

Jim was very supportive of the MAT MARKETPLACE newsletter I used to publish and furnished photos and facts on a number of occasions.

Jim was one of those people I would never have met had we not had that common interest and passion for professional wrestling. His love of the grappling game was pure and true. Here was someone who published an important publication and wrote thousands of articles, but if you ever saw him in the presence of one of wrestling's legends, his reverence for those men and women was always evident.

There are a select group of individuals who over the years have kept and complied the photos, clippings, publications, facts and stories of the rich history of professional wrestling. They are guys like Steve Yohe, J. Michael Kenyon, Fred Hornby, Scott Teal, Dave Meltzer and Jim Melby, whose love for professional wrestling never faltered. They have done us all a great service by preserving something truly unique and truly an American cultural phenomenon.

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Jim Melby.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Things They Don't Teach in Wrestling School: Part 2

My last blog entry on this subject got quite the response with almost all of it being positive. There were the few message board posts that accused me of being bitter, but nothing could be further from the truth. I love professional wrestling and it's been a privilege, as a promoter to present it. I have been lucky enough to have made friends with many of my childhood heroes - the pioneers of this sport (and I do believe it is a sport, but that's another blog subject for another day) - and they have shaped many of my views.

I got a few responses along the lines of "the promoters always screw the boys, so it's cool to screw them back." Hey, I have heard a million stories about crooked promoters or clueless marks trying to be big shots up until the time comes to pay up. How many of us have been screwed by our employers in one way or another? Did you still show up for work? Did you still do what you were supposed to do? Of course you did. Does that make it right? No. But in the end it's better to rise above the bad behavior of others than behave that way yourself. Just because independent shows are mostly weekend gigs for short money and ring time does not mean you shouldn't carry yourself like a professional. This is a small business and it takes notice of people who carry themselves with class. Many times, your next booking comes, not from the promoter, but from the guy next to you in the locker room.

There are those who believe that "old school thinking" isn't relevant to today's business. I believe that it couldn't be more relevant. It's not about in ring style or talent or booking choices. It's about being a professional and running your business like one.

In the last blog, I talked about how the dissolution of the territory system and the rise of the "independent promotion" created a wrestling world of lowered standards. Independent promotions, including my own, are not full time companies. That fact should not excuse anyone from not conducting themselves just as professionally as if it was.

I have tried to create a positive stage for the talent that works for me to perform on. Some of them have accused me of taking my company too seriously, but to be true to what pro wrestling is, and needs to be, to achieve viability on any level, it must be taken seriously. Anything less is cheating the talent, the staff and ultimately, and most importantly, the audience.

Very few of today's wrestling schools are run by people who were top or even mid-level performers. Many were never consistent working wrestlers in any major organization. This does not necessarily mean that you can't learn anything from them. But professional wrestling is much, much more than what takes place in the ring. I never cease to be dismayed by the out of ring conduct of some wrestlers and even some "promoters." It's anything but "professional" and it holds the business back.

One of the toughest things about promoting independent wrestling is securing good, affordable venues. In New England, we have a history of a few "promoters" that make it habit of leaving every venue they go to in a state of disrepair. We are constantly having to deal with being painted with the same brush as some of these goons.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "You want to have wrestling here? Nahhhhhh. We had that here 6 years ago and they wrecked the place."

I often feel like a grade school teacher when I have to tell guys to pick up the foil packs from their protein shakes and power bars, empty water bottles, etc.

We had a situation that happened here just last week. Ring of Honor ran a show at the National Guard Armory in Braintree, MA. They not only oversold the building, creating a fire hazard, but they left the place a shambles. The Braintree Armory is now no longer available for rental use until further notice. This includes community and youth groups. Though we do not run the Braintree Armory, we do run a couple of other armories in the state. Now, thanks to Ring of Honor, there is a rule in place that we must get a written statement from the local police that they are informed about the event. It's not a deal breaker for us, but it's an extra step that would not have been necessary if that company were not so blatantly irresponsible in this particular case.

Before anyone goes off and says that I'm jealous of Ring of Honor or something equally stupid, let me set the record straight. I respect Ring of Honor. I have known booker Gabe Sapolsky since he was in high school and you cannot knock ROH for its success with a very innovative business model.

That said, why risk it by overselling a building? If there were ever some kind of emergency on the premises, they could lose the whole company over it. Do you want to attend a show in an overcrowded venue? I sure don't. And if the situation were reversed, and I saw a hundred or more fans with money in hand that I could get by putting them in a potentially hazardous situation, the answer is no, I wouldn't do it. I'd turn them away and trumpet the fact that we did that. What better publicity than being able to say "We turned people away?"

Wrestling is not a "quick buck" business. Whether you are a wrestler or a promoter, it's better to think long term than short term. That's not "old school wrestling." That's just common sense.

More to come in this series. Thanks for reading.