Steve’s View #148 – Distribution of Wrestling in SoCal

Back in 2004 the French magazine C’est Enorme featured an article on wrestling in Southern California titled, translated from French, “SoCal Wrestling: Wrestling’s Heaven?”. The article talked about the abundance of wrestling in the area, and focused on promotions such as PWG, UPW, and Revolution Pro. Thirteen years have gone by and the amount of wrestling in the area has only increased since then. If you are a fan of professional wrestling, on practically any weekend there is a cornucopia of choices within a 3 hour drive if you want to see a show. However, the number of wrestling fans willing to drive three hours for a show are a small subset, with most fans being far more local.

Recently I was adding an event to the site’s event calendar and the show was in an area that for whatever reason doesn’t get a lot of wrestling. It got me thinking about how many shows are in certain areas (possibly more than some areas can really support) while some areas get nothing. I decided to go through the events calendar and take a look at the distribution of pro-wrestling through the area, and see if there are areas that are underserved (or over served).

For this study I decided to break it down by county. There are 10 counties that this website considers part of Southern California as far as our coverage goes. I also used SCU’s events calendar in order to get the number of shows and the locations. While it is possible a show or two were missed on our calendar, I’m fairly confident it is pretty accurate. I also used the last three complete months, May, June, and July, to get my data. Those months are all pretty typical and have probably slightly less midget shows than other months.

Speaking of midget shows, I think the audience for those shows isn’t really the typical wrestling audience, but there may be some overlap. Also the WWE would realistically only run in 5 of Southern California’s counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Kern, and San Diego). For these reasons I have included two sets of numbers, one with midget and WWE shows counted, and one set with them not included.

For the 3 month period of May, June, and July 2017 there were 133 pro-wrestling events in Southern California (124 not including WWE and midget shows) spread out over all ten counties. Going by the California Department of Finance’s statistics, the total population of the ten counties in this study is 23,968,121. That means there is approximately one wrestling show for every 180,211 people in the region (193,291 not including WWE and midget shows).

Here is the breakdown of population by county:

San Diego: 3,316,192
Imperial: 188,334
Orange: 3,194,024
Riverside: 2,384,783
Los Angeles: 10,241,278
San Bernardino: 2,160,256
Ventura: 857,386
Kern: 895,112
Santa Barbara: 450,663
San Luis Obispo: 280,101

Now here is how many shows were in each county during May, June, and July 2017:

San Diego: 18 (2 WWE)
Imperial: 5
Orange: 5 (1 midget)
Riverside: 2 (1 WWE)
Los Angeles: 67 (1 WWE, 1 midget)
San Bernardino: 7
Ventura: 23
Kern: 2 (1 WWE, 1 midget)
Santa Barbara: 3 (1 midget)
San Luis Obispo: 1

Taking the populations and dividing by the total number of shows gives the show per X number of people number:

San Diego: 184,232 (207,262)
Imperial: 37,667
Orange: 638,805 (798,506)
Riverside: 1,192,392 (2,384,783)
Los Angeles: 152,855 (157,558)
San Bernardino: 308,608
Ventura: 37,278
Kern: 447,556 (N/A)
Santa Barbara: 150,221
San Luis Obispo: 280,101

Right off the bat there are a couple of areas that stand out. Ventura looks like it has a ton of wrestling versus its population while Orange and Riverside don’t have much at all. Ventura has 3 promotions running regularly, including 1 running weekly and another bi-weekly which skews the numbers a little. Also really Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and Riverside should be considered 1 super area. A drive from the western part of Riverside (there were no shows in the less populated eastern half), Orange County, or Ventura into Los Angeles for wrestling is not really a far drive (depending on traffic anyway). While there may not be many who drive from Orange County to Ventura for a show, Los Angeles draws a lot from surrounding areas. Combining those four counties into one area gives us a total population of 16,677,471 for that area. The people per show number becomes 171,933 (179,327), still below the region’s average.

That leaves two areas that appear to be far off the average, Imperial and Kern. As far as Imperial goes, for the longest time there was rarely any pro-wrestling there. Now there are two promotions running regularly and fighting it out. The area is fairly isolated from everywhere else, and unless they are able to pull fans from Mexico (where Mexicali has regular lucha libre shows that are further competition to the area as well) or from Yuma, AZ (which has a population of over half of Imperial County by itself) the number of shows in the area might not be sustainable.

Kern is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Bakersfield area is by far the most underutilized area in Southern California for wrestling. The county has a population approaching a million with 383,512 in Bakersfield alone, a long wrestling history, and not a single independent wrestling show in the 3 month period. Now, Knokx Pro had run there earlier in the year, and a lucha promotion based out of Chicago ran there this month, but there should be more than the occasional one-off show. I was told there’s a Facebook group devoted to supporting wrestling in Bakersfield, and I have to question what they have to talk about most of the time. At times independent wrestling doesn’t attract the most business savvy of people, but a huge opportunity is being wasted by no one running an independent promotion in Bakersfield.

It is worth noting that the population size or number of shows in area by itself has nothing to do with a promotion’s draw. A lot more factors such as promotion and the lineup go into play. Still, running a show in an area with 16 million people gives a definite advantage over running in an area with two-hundred thousand as does running in an area where there is 1 show for every eight-hundred and ninety-five thousand fans instead of 1 for every thirty-seven thousand.

About the Author

Steve Bryant
Fan of Godzilla.