Is This Holding Back Growth Of The UK Scene?
This is an off the cuff blog which I have decided to do after recent conversations I have been involved in or following on from events I have attended in recent months in terms of how I see some of the factors which after following the UK scene very closely now for over a year spring to mind.
I make no pretensions that I know how to either book or promote a wrestling show, I have never done either and generally in life I do not think that you are in a strong position to take aim at those who do something which you yourself have not done or made any effort to do – that is I guess akin to the ‘keyboard warrior’ syndrome prevalent in modern life, I hope that this is viewed as an attempt to be positive and offering some constructive thoughts which is the mindset with which I write this as opposed to it being taken as a wholly negative piece aimed at slating individual promoters or other workers in the scene because trust me it isn’t but at the same time it is difficult to challenge this topic without at least an element of critical sounding thoughts coming out but my passion is the UK scene hence why I feel that I have to put this out there.
After watching approximately seventy shows live across a number of different promotions and witnessing shows ranging from simply breathtakingly good to average (but never poor) I came some time ago firmly to the conclusion that the in ring product we offer here is extremely strong, I cannot comment upon how it is compared to say five years ago as I was not following the scene then all I can take it is from how it is now and that as I say is dazzling.
There appears to be across the country an almost endless supply of wonderfully entertaining and immensely gifted men and women who are prepared to step into that squared ring and entertain us all so much, many of them are also under 25 so the long-term picture for the scene in terms of the in ring product is tremendous, no doubt some of them will move on to pastures anew, whether that is in Japan or America time will tell and good luck to whoever manages to achieve such an opportunity but we shall be left with plenty on our doorstep given how many are still coming through the ever-growing academies across the country.
So I ask myself what on earth is going wrong, there is no doubt at all that the product is richly entertaining, why do the majority of shows struggle like mad to get 300 people through the door, why do promotions run a show at venue x which is attended by 300 people and the night ends with the crowd in its entirety on its feet chanting this is awesome and clearly having had an amazing time but when the promotion next runs at the same venue perhaps there is only 120 people there even though the roster is very similar, the card looks strong and the previous experience was as I say superb.
I look at the shows which I attend and I also look at shows which I have not attended but I take notice of the shows which I have not been to what the approximate crowd size was judging by a mixture of reports from the show and pictures on facebook and then I think to myself well why did Promotion A only get 100 people in and Promotion B got 300 people in on the same day?
As most people involved in the UK scene are only too aware and as I have learnt there are a tremendous amount of politics and infighting within UK wrestling, behind the scenes it is often an absolute battlefield with various sniping running off in all directions about so and so’s show is rubbish because they charge too much or this promotion is rubbish because they do not pay their workers etc.
When I have taken some time to look into these I have often discovered that accusations made were totally false and were sometimes born out of rivalry or possibly misinformed second hand opinion or I guess even just simply human emotion of plain jealousy but the reason why I bring this rather sore subject out into the open is because in my book those out of the ring are often letting down those who work so hard in the ring by fighting with each other instead of pooling resources and sharing ideas and learning from each other.
One of the accusations I have seen said about certain promotions is that they employ workers who are sub-standard or who are poorly paid but then when such promotions put on shows I have seen them put on a show with well over 300 people in the building and people locked out and that is without any or a very small number of the UK ‘names’ on board.
Equally I have seen it the other way around when a promotion which is very well regarded on UKFF and facebook and on podcasts run a show stacked with big UK names and possibly imports and struggle to get 200 through the door.
Now in the example I have just given, most people would describe the promoter of the second promotion as being the better promoter because he has got big names on the show and puts together a show which is widely acknowledged afterwards by those who attend of being outstanding, but is he the better promoter?
What makes a good promoter? Is it the guy who puts on the names and pays more money out in the process but who fails to promote with ‘promote’ being the operative word here sufficiently well to get people through the door (often I find that the 200 or so are by and large the same people each show so repeat fans no growth of the product is occurring) or is it the guy who despite having a show with names that most of us are unfamiliar with gets an extra 100 people through the door compared to the other guy, probably pays the workers not so much initially whilst he builds the promotion up to the point where he can then afford to pay the workers what they deserve?
Virtually all of the UK promotions appear to have the same person working both as the promoter and as the booker of the shows, I totally understand why this is, most people run it as a hobby (a very hard working one!) besides their main job and having a life outside of work and wrestling but deep down I suspect that most of those people dream of booking their own shows, they want to create great storylines and put on dream matches and by and large from my experience they do that extremely well, I see little problem usually with the booking of shows and how they are scripted out but I do see lots of issues with how shows are promoted in terms of how to get the word out there and how to actually grow the product and how to control the finances of it as well – is the UK scene not littered with a history of failed promotions?
You see selling a product is a specialist role for which you often require a certain amount of specialist skills to manage, if you work for a company selling stationery then before being unleashed onto the marketplace it is a fair bet that if you work for a successful stationery company that they will either provide you with full sales training or they will recruit people already proven in the art of selling (and I don’t mean in the ring!).
Also the all important finances, fantasy bookings are one thing, but you have to think of it as a business, you have money coming in and money going out, if you want your promotion to see the light of the next day then the absolute basic rule here is that you do not spend more money than you have coming in because guess where that will leave you!
Every single person I know who runs wrestling promotions I admire and respect in different ways, I absolutely love the passion they hold for the business, I respect the fact that they go to a lot of effort to put on shows for the likes of myself, some of them I like to consider as personal friends BUT my daytime job, my position in real life is that in the far from exciting world of accountancy, perhaps not as enjoyable as booking wrestling shows I would agree but you do learn some key skills in the role and it is a position which I have been in now for the best part of 25 years and in that time particularly in my former position when I used to work with small businesses I saw many both succeed and fail and there were common denominators in those that worked and those that did not and often those who did work appointed people who had specialist skills in key areas, so there was somebody who knew how to sell the product, there was somebody who knew how to control the finances and importantly most of all the person at the top of the business the proprietor or in wrestling parlance the promoter listened to those advising him or her and by assembling such expertise around them and listening to them those businesses always stood far higher chance of success than those where the proprietor simply because he or she held fierce passion for their chosen line of business just steamed ahead without the expertise and who when offered advice from those who possess the skills and experience chose to ignore and yes that is often the guy who fails.
Back to wrestling and working together perhaps those who are struggling to get people through the door should be contacting the promotions who are attracting decent crowds and asking the question of how do you do it? If that is asked by those struggling and they listen to the answer of those succeeding then pooling that knowledge along with sharing resources will in the end help and enable the UK product in my book grow stronger.
I appreciate that this is a fairly dry subject but I felt one worthy of writing as there are some superb shows going on out there involving some amazing in ring talent that I feel could and should be going out to a larger audience and I don’t feel it is too far down the lines of thinking as to how to make that happen.
Thank you for reading.