Do you know Orville Brown? Mil Mascaras? Rikidozan? Google them. Go ahead. I'll wait.
If you had to Google them, maybe pro wrestling isn't as important to you as you thought. Wrestling has and will always be a big part of my life. Meaning I study every aspect of the business. I believe everyone should be required to take a test before they ever become a promoter. Like a driver's test. Honestly.
If you know these names and when they won their first titles, should you be a promoter? No. Just because you know the house show results of a 1995 match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart doesn't mean you should be a promoter either.
Marketing. Take a class in marketing. And business. And whatever else. Become a salesman part-time. Because that's what you need. History of the business and history OF business.
Before I ever take the plunge into promoting, I will do these things.
I've wanted to share these ideas for some time. I figured I would wait until I made my triumphant (?) return back to Mississippi and unleash my opus upon the unsuspecting masses. But screw it. I'll talk about it now.
This isn't a blog about what's wrong with the business or what I would do to revolutionize the business. About how it's dead or overexposed or full of untrained and/or unskilled workers. These are problems, sure, but maybe indicative of a deeper problem that will probably never be fixed. As long as people dream to be anything, there will be people who don't really belong. The same goes with music, sports, movies, etc. There's always going to be a share of people who "are destroying the industry." So I won't harp on that.
The problem is everyone thinks they can run a wrestling promotion. I honestly think only people who understand human psychology and selling a product can really get anything out of the business. And that's what it is. A business. If you're not in it to make money then you are doing it for a hobby. Which there is nothing wrong with. I compare some indie wrestlers to actors who do community theater. They may be good or great or the complete shits. Do they plan to make it anywhere? Sometimes. In any case, if you are paid any amount of money, you are a professional wrestler. If it supplements your income and pays your bills, then you're doing even better. If you work for free or basically nothing, you're a hobbyist.
Wrestling is an age old social experiment. Good vs. evil with interactive elements. To me the Golden Age of wrestling has always been the 80s. And the most technical period with the best matches were the 70s. The problem is, a lot of great technical wrestlers aren't very charismatic. And vice versa.
I believe in Paul Heyman's philosophy of "accentuate the positives, hide the negatives." I also believe if you're going to run a professional wrestling company, then you need to have studied those who have made money in the business. Study the history. Read books. Know where the industry's been. Orville Brown, George Hackenschmidt, Jim Londos, Karl Gotch? Do you know these names? Or does your knowledge of the business only track back to 1998? Ask questions. Why were the territories so successful? Why did the NWA have a monopoly on wrestling for years and years? Who booked their territories into oblivion and who thrived even despite Vince McMahon's seizure of talent? Why was Vince's approach to wrestling so successful?
Besides knowing history, it's good to know how to be a good salesman. Wrestling came from the carnivals, full of good salesman (albeit shady). Putting on a show isn't just having a ring and a building and some guys. It's promoting a card. Putting out fliers, radio, TV, word-of-mouth. You HAVE to do this. Every successful promoter has done this.
Back to my point about the 70s and 80s. With the exception of the boom from the NWO and the Attitude Era, the 90s were pretty forgettable. And wrestling in the 2000s has had its moments, but wrestling right now isn't as hot as it once was. However, I believe melding the past and present together will always result in the future. CM Punk's recent success is because he's a student of the game. Jericho's recent re-emergence will have people talking up until Wrestlemania. The Nexus angle really, really worked for the short time it was going. All these moments play into history and what just works. Do what works.
The most successful indie promotions are the ones with great talent, good bookers, and creative concepts. CHIKARA, Ring of Honor, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla are probably the top three companies in indie wrestling. They've carved out a niche, and that's what promoters need to do to get business. If there are five promotions all using the same talent within twenty miles of each other, why not just pool your resources together and put on ONE good show instead of five OK ones?
Ok, I'm rambling a bit.
So, without further ado, here's my vision. I can't say my ideas are completely original, but in the right place at the right time, I think it would work:
1. The Triangle of Doom: When you put "of Doom" it just sounds cooler. My promotion would run in three towns. Far enough away from each other to draw, but close enough that it would be a regional promotion. These three towns would be the basis for the promotion.
2. Credible Champions: For a new promotion, I'd only have one champion. And this guy would have to be reliable, a good worker, a good attitude, and have drawing power. If I don't have someone to build my promotion around, then I'm not doing it. New Japan Pro Wrestling has just had a record long title reign for their champion Hiroshi Tanahashi. It's amazing in this age of hot-shotting and short attention spans. To have a credible, strong champion is paramount.
3. Blending History: In this age, people love nostalgia. They love to look back at the glory days. With gimmicks that are homages or throw-backs, as well as completely original ideas never done before (I know it sounds like it couldn't happen, but I could dream up something). Everyone's gimmick would have to be approved by me. It's great to let guys run their own gimmick, but the most successful promotions always had someone tempering the creativity of their wrestlers. I think Wrestling Revolution Project has the right idea. They've took established wrestlers and given them new gimmicks. It's a fresh look on familiar faces.
4. Money Money Money: I'm not running a show unless I have the funds to do so. That means paying everyone what I've agreed to. I would book only limited workers, but I'd pay them good. So I'd expect an awesome show. If they didn't give me one, they wouldn't be used again.
5. One Man Operation: I have the final say on everything. The reason Vince McMahon is so successful is because he has the final say on everything. Say what you want about Vince, but he is the single most important figure in wrestling history. Not to say I wouldn't have other people helping me, but the complete creative direction of the company would be done by me.
6. Tournaments: Tournaments are one of the most prestigious ways to build up talent. Promotions in Japan love tournaments. And so do I. The Super 8 Tournament is one of the most recognized tournaments in America. Stars are born there. I'd have various "cups" through the year, culminating in crowning a tournament champion (who would be separate from the main champion). Several other indie promotions do this with varied success.
7. Blending Names with Homegrown Talent: I'd bring in names, but much like CHIKARA does, have them like a special attraction. Use that nostalgia factor to lure in the casual fans, but have your homegrown talent keep the curious fans coming back.
8. Use the Triangle of Doom to Keep Things Fresh: Like a mini version of the NWA glory days, I'd have my champion defend his title in the three towns I'm running, but always have the challengers rotating out. Therefore the champion could have three different feuds running in three different towns. I'd presumably book a heel as my first champion and have babyfaces from each of the three towns battle to dethrone him.
9. Make Gimmick Matches Special: I'd only use gimmick matches for blow-offs for feuds. Therefore I'd limit the amount of hardcore, ladder matches, or cage matches. Once in a blue moon only.
10. Training of All Sorts: I'd hire a trainer (a name) to run a school for me. All talent would have to train there in their spare time. I don't want to use anyone who doesn't stay in ring shape or improving their mic skills and promos. That said...
11. Limit Promos: Fans like promos. In moderation. I'd have more wrestling and less promos. I'd try to find unique ways to make up for promos. Various angles that utilize emotion or comedy. I believe comedy has its place in any promotion, but there has to be a sort of balance.
12. Try Cross-Promotion: I'd try to work with other promotions in my area to put together "super shows." I'd only do this every so often to make them special.
13. Good vs. Evil: There would be clear lines with my heels and babyfaces. Characters the fans can love or hate. No one who's "just there."
14. Fan Polls: I'd hand out questionnaires at the shows (just like restaurants do) and have more fan feedback than any other promotion. Having a "Fans Book the Show" night could give the fans a chance to put together their own card. One of my pet projects would be a Fan-Made Tournament, where the fans would seed their favorite wrestlers.
15. And Finally...I Won't Be Wrestling: I've had some awesome times in the four years I was actively wrestling. And I decided the best way to approach my own promotion would to not be one of the talents. Not an "authority figure," not a wrestler. Nothing. Just behind the scenes.
So...I think that's it. I plan to enact my vision at some point. Maybe not in my home state of Mississippi, but maybe in another place if and when I move back to America. Soaking in the experience of seeing puroresu in Japan has given me a new perspective on how wrestling can be approached.
I've always loved wrestling and passion can translate into success sometimes. I look forward to pursuing this dream in the future!
Hope you enjoyed it!