Independent Thoughts: Are any of them original anymore?

Photo by Gabe Sapolsky

Independent wrestling can be a tough business.  Areas become saturated.  Costs escalate.  Talent can become thin.  So many things can happen to make it difficult if not impossible for an independent promotion to succeed.  So what can a promotion do to set itself apart?  Well, by definition, “setting apart” means different – What do I have that others don’t?  We see it in all walks of life.  Take movies, for instance.  Remakes may be nice sometimes, but people want to see something new – something original.  So why do independent wrestling promotions, who have a much shorter shelf-life than movie studios, continue to follow this pattern?

Take the Super 8 for example.  The Super 8 is the crown jewel of the East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA).  For the last 15 years, this 8-man tournament has crowned a champion.  This year, the 15th anniversary, saw the greatest assortment of talent and styles in the history of the Super 8.  Booker Joe Zanolle went out of his way to make sure that we had tacticians (Bobby Shields, Austin Aries), high-flyers (Rich Swann, Shiima Xion), brawlers (Sami Callihan) and all kinds of other combinations.  This was a Super 8 of great talent and diverse styles.  So on April 30th, this tournament went down in Voorhees, NJ and on GoFightLive (GFL) iPPV and did not disappoint (congratulations to the winner, Tommaso Ciampa).

So why am I telling you all this?  Because on May 20th, another independent promotion in North Jersey is having Style Battle – an 8-man tournament consisting of competitors with different wrestling styles.  This includes guys like Sami Callihan, Rich Swann and Austin Aries.  Wait…….where have I heard these names before?  Oh, that’s right.  They were all in the 2011 Super 8 tournament on April 30th.  So we’re not only copying the event – we’re copying the talent.  Is it a coincidence that the owner of this promotion attended the Super 8 in Voorhees, NJ?  You could argue it……..but you better bring a good lawyer to help you.

Another example again involves the ECWA.  In recent months, they have brought in new talent for their fans, including Kekoa the Flyin’ Hawaiian and the man who truly fits the title “The Monster” Athu.  These relative unknowns had a strong local following, but they had yet to enter the independent mainstream.  After both making successful debuts in ECWA, would it surprise you to know they were called the next day by another promoter from DE and told they could be made stars if they went withthem?  I understand using talent from other promotions.  In fact, I appreciate it.  But after one match?  If they had that much of a presence along with charisma, why didn’t you take the risk?  Wouldn’t it be better to find these talented individuals and introduce them yourself?  Even the WWE waits until they have established some kind of following before pillaging talent from other, smaller promotions.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many examples of originality out there.  Evolve keeps a win-loss record for all competitors.  You may not like the idea, but at least it’s original.  ChikaraPro has a King of Trios tournament; a three-day tournament of all three-man teams.  Again, you may or may not like the idea, but it is something they can call their own.  Heck, the ECWA has named the owner of another promotion (Combat Zone Wrestling – CZW) as it’s commissioner.  In fact DJ Hyde was just inducted into the ECWA Hall of Fame this past week.  While this may not sit well with the ECWA faithful, it’s an original idea.

So what’s the point?  Well, I guess I’m saying be original.  Come up with something new.  Make something your own.  Whether you hold a special event, develop your own stars or simply give the fans something they can’t get anywhere else, use your creativity.  If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, it’s not hard to see who should be smiling.  To the rest of you, I say don’t be lazy.  Independent wrestling, especially in this area, needs new ideas to thrive – not same old, same old.

12 Responses to Independent Thoughts: Are any of them original anymore?

  1. Avatar Stan the dick
    Stan the dick says:


  2. Avatar Jeff Malinoski
    Jeff Malinoski says:

    Thank you. I appreciate well thought out and articulated comments. Good luck next year in 3rd grade!

  3. Avatar BigErn
    BigErn says:

    Well done, Jeff. Thanks for your tidbit on the indys, which I unfortunately cannot seem to follow at all these days due to time constraints. The obvious example of this in the ‘big leagues’ is TNA copying a dying WCW or WWE attitude era. It’s surprising to hear about the Style Battle. Wonder if they will get Brady on commentary and insight from Dave Lagana. :)

    stan should do fine. Next September will be his 4th time in the 3rd grade. At least he changed his handle and replaced ‘craves’ with ‘the’. There is some promise with this modern day Einstein. There are plenty of websites with more pictures and less words to match his intellect.

  4. Avatar Jeff Malinoski
    Jeff Malinoski says:

    Thanks, BigErn. I’ll actually be writing a follow-up, hopefully later today, about Kekoa being in the next issue of PWI, hitting stands May 24th.

  5. Avatar Jason
    Jason says:

    Good article Jeff. I think its very hard for indys to do something that different from the other. There is a limited talent pool and for the most part indys are viewed as independent of one another, meaning for most people what happens in Voorhees is irrelevant to what happens in Union City because they have limited knowledge of it or never saw it. Its not too different than when the WWE used to tour all the time and do the exact same match, promo leads, finish, etc…as they travelled around the country. I remember how funny it was when Flair would wrestle Hogan and Id read the results in PWI and see Flair won every night but then the ref saw brass knuckles and reversed the decision. It was like “how dumb could Flair be to get caught doing the same thing every single night”.

    Im not sure how expensive it would be but I do think indys could set themselves apart by doing low budget filming and use their websites to stream the content on tape delay and essentially build an internet TV show. If they ever could make something like that work they could probably build a territory again which would probably bring some originality back and maybe some steady work for the wrestlers to boot.

  6. Great idea, Jason! I have been saying that for a long time. I don’t know how many people would actually watch the streams, but the overhead cost would have to be minimal.

    • Avatar Jason
      Jason says:

      I think people would watch Brady. I mean it might not be alot, certainly at first, but I think fans would watch a good show when they have free time, which the internet allows them to do since its not a set showtime. Plus with the way the wrestlers try to promote themselves with their youtube channels and websites they would probably send traffic right to the shows and if the shows are good those people might come back more often. And Id agree it should be cheap. A handheld camera or 2 and an overdubbed commentary is all you need. I saw someone used a handheld at the Super 8 (the TWA/ECWA 7 man tag match) and posted it and the quality was just as good as any local TV wrestling or even the old ECW from back in the pre PPV days.

  7. Avatar Jeff Malinoski
    Jeff Malinoski says:

    I don’t know guys. I’m not 100% sure where Jason is from, but it seems like here in Jersey many people see more than one indy promotion. Maybe the vast majority don’t. I just know several that do, so you hear about the same thing over and over again. I remember the wrestling haydays of the 80’s where WWF and NWA were completelt different, and I enjoyed the separate programming.

    You may be on to something with the streaming internet. I’ll reach out to some of my more tech-savy cohorts and see what would be involved.

    • Avatar Jason
      Jason says:

      Im also from Jersey Jeff and the Jersey/Philly/NY metro area is a bit of a hotbed for the indys (especially Philly) but I have a hard time thinking that most of the fans who go to the shows travel all around to see the shows. I made the trip to see the Super 8 from up north Jersey and from all the Philly team shirts and people who seemed to be very familiar with all the ECWA guys I cant imagine there were too many people in the crowd from my neck of the woods. Likewise I cant imagine too many people making the drive north to check out the Evolve show. Maybe the hardcores do but they would be happy seeing Adam Cole take on Sami Callahan 100 times in a year. The promotions survive on the local audience. Even when I used to go watch ECW when they had a big regional following the audience in Asbury Park was totally different than the one in Elizabeth and those two towns are about an hour apart.

  8. I have no doubt an indie fan is an indie fan, but Jason is dead on. Nobody in Union City has any idea what is going on in Voorhees unless it is reported on DOI. Just sayin’.

  9. The goal was to attract that N Jersey crowd, and we fell short. I think the problem was they can see Sami, Rich, Shiima, Cole, even Austin, at almost any EVOLVE, DG, or ROH show. Hell, Gabe is running an EVOLVE 8 tourney with several of our guys!!! And in the interest of disclosure Jason was invited by me. He was one of the guys I was sitting with :).

  10. Avatar Jeff Malinoski
    Jeff Malinoski says:

    I certainly agree with one thing; the 2011 Suoer 8 tried to mix styles and guys from other local promotions hoping to hit it big. But since Sami, Adam and Rich compete for multiple promotions, it didn’t attract anyone to see their home players compete. You would probably be better off with home-grown talent in these tournaments. The locals would want to see “their” guys, while the others may be interested in seeeing the best of what another promotion has to offer.