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.

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