Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Weekend Thoughts on MARCH BADNESS & WWW's 1st Anniversary

Wow, what a weekend!

I can't thank all the fans enough who came out to NECW's MARCH BADNESS this past Saturday night and to WWW's 1st Anniversary Show this past Sunday.

There are two great joys in being a wrestling promoter. One is seeing people realize their potential. NECW and WWW both have great rosters. It's very gratifying to me when I see someone improve their abilities, show a new audience what they have to offer or just step up and do something good, because our company set the stage for them to do that.

The other is seeing fans get caught up in the action and really enjoy themselves. I especially love the families who come with young kids who are getting the chance to see great professional wrestling unlike they way they see it on TV. That up close and personal experience really is magic to children and it's a great thing to witness. I'm also pleased that we can present these events at prices that families can afford. Professional sports have steadily priced themselves out of the range of the average working family and I think that's sad. I've had many people comment to me specifically about how much they appreciate the fact that NECW is so affordable. It's so great to see mom's and dad's bringing their kids to the matches every month.

I am one of those promoters that enjoys talking to fans and interacting with the people. At this stage of NECW, I still have the ability to do that. I've always believed that if you own a business and your customer know that you really appreciate their business, they will keep coming back and support you.

We had a fantastic event Sunday afternoon prior to the WWW anniversary show. It was a "Meet & Eat" lunch with the stars - a chance for our most loyal fans to share a meal with us and ask questions, get photos taken, etc. Chris Norman and Amber did a great job hosting this event. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces and to have the chance to give them a personal experience like that. You can bet that will not be the last event we do like that.

We had some great matches this weekend too! Everyone has been raving about the debut of "The Infamous" Bobby Fish as he and "Die Hard" Eddie Edwards battled to a time limit draw. This was just a phenomenal match and I congratulated both men afterward. Bobby Fish impressed me both in and out of the ring and he will be a tremendous addition to the NECW roster.

On the WWW side, I am thrilled to have Malia Hosaka in the promotion. While we had met before many years ago, I did not know her well, though I had always heard good things. Whatever I heard was an understatement. Her impromptu match with "The Portuguese Princess" Ariel was amazing. She is dedicated and professional and a real credit to the business.

I'm too tired to write more at the moment, but fans, friends, workers and staff thanks again for everything this past weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

R.I.P. Arnold Skaaland

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Arnold Skaaland today.

Arnold Skaaland was a key figure in the wrestling business for decades. While most fans knew him as prelim wrestler and the manager of Bruno and Backlund, in fact he was also a partner in the old Capital Wrestling corporation that was the parent company of the World Wide Wrestling Federation. The other partners were Vince McMahon Sr., Gorilla Monsoon and Phil Zacko, who promoted Philly and Baltimore.

He was the guy who deposited the gate receipts for Vince Sr. and Jr. for years - a position which demonstrated that he was one of the most trusted figures in the company. Anyone who ever worked a dark match will tell you that it was Arnie Skaaland who sat at a table behind his trademark Haliburton suitcase that was loaded with cash, checking his list and making the payoffs.

At WrestleMania 14, the late Tony Rumble and a group of us were cast as the Undertaker's Druids. It was an unforgettable experience, but for me, what was most fun was Tony Garea telling us to get in line to get paid. When I finally got to the front of the line, Arnie looked up at me and said, "What's your name son?" He peeled off the cash and put it in an envelope. I thanked him and he winked at me. I looked into that Haliburton and there had to be at least $75,000 to $100,000 in cash in it. I thought to myself, "Now I know why they call him 'The Golden Boy'."

I couldn't help but think after that, how many other guys that I respected and admired stood in that same line and what a priviledge it was to do so. I apologize if this goes over people's heads. It's a little hard to convey the significance of that experience to people whose frame of reference for wrestling is just watching it at home or in the stands. Guys like Arnold Skaaland, who most of today's fans wouldn't even know, was such an important figure in the business. He was one of the "keepers of the castle", another irreplaceble legend who will truly be missed.

Monday, March 05, 2007

WWW Proves The Pundits Wrong

"I am skeptical of the success of this promotion. History has shown that for a womens promotion to be successful, it needs to be a stand alone promotion so the owner can concentrate on that promotion alone." - Frank Pozen, January 22, 2006

I love proving people wrong. Especially people who have never actually spent 5 minutes in the wrestling business, who post on message boards and purport to be some sort of expert on some aspect of this industry. In the words of that great wrestling philosopher, Antoine Roy (pronounced RU-ah), "Poo poo on you!"

Frank was hardly alone when I made the announcement of spinning the women's division of NECW into World Women's Wrestling as its own promotion. A lot people thought I was out of my mind.

NECW had developed a great track record with women's wrestling. Mercedes Martinez, who was the first woman booked into NECW back in 2000, won her spot due to her extraordinary in ring talent. He booking, was in fact an accident. A no-show at an NECW event led to her getting a spot in match against a guy she had been training with. The minute Martinez stepped through the curtain that night, she had the audience won. The match was another story. She didn't win that, but she got a rematch the next month in Vermont and that match (which is featured on the DVD "Gateway to Greatness," click here to see a trailer and order) cemented her as star in our company and launched her career on the independent circuit.

It also proved that women could be a viable attraction for us. A real turning point was the following May when I got a call from a friend of mine named Shun Yamaguchi, a photographer for the Japanese pro wrestling magazine, Weekly Gong. Shun, who lives locally and covers events in the U.S. for Gong, asked me if would help him book a young lady who was going to be living with him and his family for a few months. Her name was Sumie Sakai, and at the time, she worked for the Jd' Yoshimoto Ladies Pro Wrestling promotion in Japan. Sakai would be bringing a belt and the agreement was that we would co-sanction the title with Jd' and Sakai would win the belt here and take it back to Japan. I got them to agree to a two match program, where Mercedes would win the first match and the title and be defeated by Sakai in the return match. The first match took place the night Sakai had arrived in America for the first time. Though she barely spoke any English, Sakai did something very important that night. She cast a different light on women's pro wrestling as something that could be taken seriously and be effectively featured by an independent company.

Sakai fell in love with America and returned numerous times. She started working with other girls in the area and no doubt had a big impact on the local female talent pool. The number of good women wrestlers in the area was increasing and my interest in expanding our women's division increased with it.

At NECW's 4th Anniversary show, which was a two night event, we featured an 8 woman "Survivor style" elimination match each night. The matches were both well done and well received. At that point my mind was made up that it would enhance our company to take the next step and run an all women's show.

In June 2005, I promoted an NECW event called SUPERSLAM at Good Time Emporium in Somerville, MA. SUPERSLAM was a rarity in these parts - a Sunday doubleheader event that featured our regular NECW crew in the afternoon and a first-ever all women's event in the evening. The women's show featured a tournament to crown a first ever NECW Women's Champion.

What I did not know until just days before the show, was that some of our crew at the time were unhappy that the girls were going on last. Some of the guys felt that it was a slap in the face, and that they should have been "the main event" of the day. In fact, that was the exact wrong thing to do. After all, if you are selling something that would be viewed as a novelty, you don't put the novelty on first, because then people see it and they leave. Not knowing what to expect, how embarrassing would it be for the girls to sell out first and then have half a house for the guys? NECW was still the horse drawing the wagon and putting the men on first protected them.

As it turned out, both shows did extremely well, with the women drawing what was our best house in months at higher ticket prices.

Sadly, the then booker decided that he was going to try and ruin it by giving the girls a hard time and deliberately doing things like screwing up the women's entrance music and a variety of other sophmoric stunts. None of it mattered. It drew, and done properly in the future it would continue to do so.

A second SUPERSLAM took place in September of that year, and again, business held up. We had much of the same gripes internally, and more of the same moronic behavior from the booker and his "boys."

After that, I knew that in order for our women's division to live up to its potential, it needed to be its own brand and have its own identity and lose anyone that couldn't deal with it.

After a spilt with the booker a few months later, I announced that we would take a few months off and be back in March with the premiere of World Women's Wrestling. We announced the day of the event that NECW had merged with PWF Mayhem. With management and booking now committed to it's success, World Women's Wrestling flourished from the start. The promotion has received unprecedented local publicity and done capacity or near capacity business at almost every outing.

The women, who finally had a stage that could really show off their skills, rose to the occasion. Nikki Roxx and Ariel, along with Tanya Lee and all the other workers, put on matches that often equalled or surpassed the men on some level. The World Women’s Wrestling product was something fresh and uinque. Nothing had ever been seen like it in this area, and it quickly found a loyal fan base. By November, we expanded the schedule into monthly shows and World Women’s Wrestling continues to grow and improve. While not a perfect product, World Women’s Wrestling has carved out a solid niche and proved that women can be the main attraction in pro wrestling and not just a special attraction.

March 25th will be a special day for us, as we celebrate the first anniversary of a company that changed the business in a positive way. If you are near the area, I hope you will make an effort to join us.