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.