AS I SEE IT 4/16: Wrestling days of future past?

This week, a look at the future in wrestling…and a
reminder of an wrestling anniversary from the past, and how
two such seemingly different events might relate.

First, The Fight Oracle reported last Thursday that Turner
Sports plans to present All Elite Wrestling at their
upcoming upfronts as part of a presentation for their
advertisers. The upfronts are scheduled for May 15. For
those who don’t know, in the US television industry, an
upfront is a gathering at the start of important advertising
sales periods; spring’s usually being held in the third week
of May. Upfronts are held by all major TV networks, and
attended by TV executives, as well as major advertisers and
media; to allow marketers to buy television commercial
airtime “up front” before the traditional fall television
season begins.

Other sites and sources have reported that the two parties
are in advanced negotiations, but nothing has been signed
yet.

While All Elite Wrestling and Warner/Turner have not
confirmed this report, it would seem credible, as TBS/TNT
would be the most logical option for AEW with their
associated B/R (Bleacher Report) Live pay streaming
services, which airs programming like UEFA Champions League
and Europa League football (soccer), NBA League Pass,
National Lacrosse League, ONE Championship (MMA). The Khan
Family had suggested that they wanted a streaming component
for any potential television partner, as well as for
upcoming PPVs.

As for reminder of that wrestling anniversary, it was 22
years ago this weekend that ECW presented Barely Legal, the
PPV that ECW fans had waited for since the last year’s worth
of rumors had started, finally arrived on April 13, 1997.
Even with the usual pre-show atmosphere at the ECW
Arena…this was something special. Fans waited outside the
ECW Arena from early on that morning. The Arena was filled
as full as physical space would allow, well beyond anything
permitted by city or state fire laws. The atmosphere was
electric.

At 8:00 pm ET, in the converted Bingo Hall that staff had
painted and fixed up on their own, down the street by a
bargain basement store and vacant buildings… the home of a
wrestling promotion founded by a downtown storefront
pawnbroker, started with little more than hopes and
dreams… the impossible dream came true, as Barely Legal
went hot and started the era of ECW on PPV to the United
States. The show itself included The Eliminators vs. ECW Tag
champs D-Von/Bubba Ray Dudley for the ECW Tag team Titles,
Rob Van Dam-Lance Storm, Taz vs. Sabu, Great Sasuke/Gran
Hamada/Masato Yakushiji vs. TAKA Michinoku/Dick Togo/Terry
Boy (aka Mens Teioh), and Terry Funk vs. Raven for the ECW
Heavyweight Title.

What do these two seemingly different things have go do with
each other? ECW, in its nine years of existence, changed the
wrestling business (whatever you may think of it). But ECW
saw, for the first time in wrestling, active fan involvement
during the infancy of the Internet to promote a company. As
wrestling fans used websites, and especially the new concept
of online fan message boards…fans networked to actively
promote the product of a wrestling company for the first
time. ECW was also a start-up before such a word really
existed, going from a small independent running shows on
bars and high school gyms seeking to go to a national
platform.

As I’ve said before in this blog, promoters have a love/hate
relationship with smart marks, wrestling sites and social
media, and any discussion of their product they can’t
control. But this was one case where a promotion largely
welcomed such help (even if they hated critical comments as
much as if not more than WCW and WWF) given the shoestring
budget they operated under.

Now, All Elite Wrestling looks to potentially be another
game changer within wrestling using the newest forms of
online technology in 2019, with the Being The Elite online
reality show marketing to smart marks…and promoted
actively (some day fanatically) by the same using the
technology known as social media. That Being The Elite show
and an online conversation with Dave Meltzer started a
series of events which produced the first sell out of a
major US wrestling venue by the independently run effort
called ALL IN.

ALL IN, in turn, became a actual startup promotion, All
Elite Wrestling, with the financial backing of the
billionaire Khan family.

There are similarities and differences. Both have used
online technology of the time to promote their idea and
their product, and depended on fans to do some of the
legwork. Both are start-ups wanting to take wrestling in a
different direction from the stagnant scene of their time.
Both have a talent roster of note.

They are different in the sense of AEW having funding that
didn’t even exist in Paul Heyman’s wildest fantasies. It
also has a smart owner who has a track record of developing
successful sports franchises (the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars
and English Premier League’s Fulham FC as well as TruMedia
Networks, a pioneer of another new sports, sports analytics.

Until next time…

To contact me, email me at bobmagee1@hotmail.com or
bobmagee856@gmail.com.