As you may have seen elsewhere on this site Ground Zero Wrestling’s (GZW) debut show at the Grand Olympic was canceled. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to a lot of people since the show was in question from the very beginning. The situation with this show is part of the overall problem in indy wrestling.
The GZW show was more than a little ambitious. XPW, who is has been around since 1999 and brings in names that are bigger in the U.S. than any of the names on the GZW show, has trouble drawing at the Grand Olympic. A promotion with two obscure (to US fans) Japanese wrestlers, a few luchadores, and a lot of indy talent would be lucky to draw 300.
A lot of people with no knowledge of how the wrestling business runs think they can come into wrestling, throw money at something and they will be the next WWF. That simply isn’t the case. GZW stood to lose a lot of money. Anyone who knows anything could have told them that.
A lot of people won’t go to things they perceive as minor league. ECW never thought of on the same level as WWF or WCW and they drew accordingly. No one even remotely thought of GZW as being major leagues, ECW level, or even XPW level. Why is it they thought they could draw a large enough crowd at the Grand Olympic to do anything but lose their ass?
An indy promotion (or a major promotion) needs to be built from the ground up, or you are going to lose a lot of money fast. Even building from the ground up you have to be prepared to lose a lot of money. Using SoCal as an example most indy feds last about 3 years. It has been that way for a long time. Sure there are a lot of feds that lasted longer than 3 years, but there are even more that ran one or two shows then folded. “Why is that?” is a question GZW needed to ask themselves.
A lot of indies make the most of their money on training students. The shows are more or less advertisements for the school and a way for the wrestlers who trained there to get noticed. This works well as long as the costs of running shows are kept down and new students are constantly coming in. There are very few promotions around SoCal that do not run schools. Still at one point or another the cost of doing the shows is more than the school is making. Its a double edged sword at that point. You don’t run a show, chances are you won’t get any new students. You run a show, you lose money.
A way to offset the cost of running a show, is to make money on the show! I know, what a great concept. In SoCal promoters are lucky, they can book some guys that are over in another fed and instantly they have matches people want to see, and people will show up. MPW was able to do this to start off and now they are working their own storylines in and it is paying off for them. MPW is the hottest promotion in Southern California right now, hands down. GZW had no chance of making money on their show. The cost of renting the Grand Olympic alone assured that.
Back to the 3 year issue. There are currently only two feds in SoCal that have been around longer than 3 years, WPW and EWF. Three years seems to be about the time people give up or they have lost enough money where they can’t go on. Towards the end promotions either start trying all sorts of crazy ideas or keep the same thing that worked in the past not realizing that it is no longer fresh. Sure people want to see the two best wrestlers go at it, but once it has been done a few times it is time to move on. Even if a wrestler isn’t the best wrestler in the world it is always important to keep the storylines fresh. New wrestlers have to be pushed to the top, not the same 4 guys in every main event.
The other issue I mentioned was going totally away from your previous format in hopes that you will catch lightning in a bottle and start to make money. This hardly ever works. An example is when I worked for California Championship Wrestling, CCW was mostly an American style, old school promotion. Everyone knew CCW was in trouble. It was in a position there was no way out of. The promoter was burnt out, and the mistakes were made before this point. So what did CCW try but a barbwire ring match. The match ended badly with one wrestler dehydrated and bleeding to the point he was throwing up. That was CCW’s last show but the plan for the next show was a scaffold match. Totally opposite ends of the spectrum from where CCW was a few shows prior.
CCW’s problems spawned from going long amounts of time between shows twice, killing any heat they had, and not building to matches very well towards the end. But another problem was merchandise. Merchandise can offset a lot of the costs of running a show. T-shirts, hats, videos, candy and soda help. T-shirts need to be changed every once in awhile. If you run a promotion for several years and only have ever had 1 shirt, chances are most people who would have bought your shirt already have it. In my opinion video is the biggest thing. The show is already being held and paid for. The costs to do even a fancam are very low. Say you sell your tapes online and sell 30 of them, that’s $300 dollars more the show made that it wouldn’t have. And maybe a new fan will get a video, like it an order older videos.
I know that I kind of went off the subject of GZW here. In parts I went way off the subject. But I think everything is related. Running an indy show isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Wrestling overall is in a downcycle right now. GZW had big ambitions, but instead of building to them they thought there was an easier way. No current non lucha promotion in Southern California could pull off what they were trying to do. Once they realized things aren’t as easy as they thought, they made their first smart move by pulling out.
UPW returns to the El Rey on the 27th of November. The show features Tom Howard defending the UPW Shoot title against Oliver Steinwandt from the Lion’s Den. Ken Shamrock will be in Oliver Steinwandt’s corner. Also on the card is B-Boy (I refuse to call him Blazin’ Benni Chong) defending his Lightweight Title against Funky Billy Kim and Spanky in a three-way, Keji Sakoda vs. Smelly, and Ultimate Power vs. Hardkore Inc. Ticket information is available at UPW.com
Adam Pearce has a must read summary of his career up on his website. Click here to check it out.
There is 7 days left in the first part of the SoCal MOTY poll. If you haven’t voted yet go here to vote.