December 8, 2005
ECCW buys TRW in BC TV deal
By FRED JOHNS - SLAM! Wrestling
VANCOUVER -- The Pacific Northwest scene changed dramatically this week, as Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW) -- a promotion set to celebrate its 10th anniversary in January -- purchased Top Ranked Wrestling (TRW), a much younger promotion that landed a TV deal with KVOS-TV earlier this year.
That television deal now belongs to ECCW, and represents the "holy grail" the promotion has been searching for in the decade it has been alive. ECCW owner Dave Republic told SLAM! Wrestling that the sale of TRW -- and the TV deal that came with it -- literally "fell into our laps. We're very excited. TV has been something we have been trying to do for so long and is something we can do well with. Our track record producing live shows is something that will hopefully translate into successful television shows as well."
Kevin MacDonald, the producer of the TRW shows that have been broadcasting on KVOS since September of this year, said the deal happened within a couple of days after one of the investors in the show decided he wanted out. "We tried to find a buyer and offered it to ECCW and they jumped at it," he said, adding that while the specific content of the show and the wrestlers appearing on it will certainly change, those changes may be limited. "The sale means very little as far as the grand scheme of TV goes. It's still has to be a family-friendly show because that's the way it has to be to be on TV."
MacDonald said one of the reasons TRW was put up for sale was the poor attendance numbers at the promotion's live events, most of which were filmed in Abbotsford, British Columbia. "Maybe Abbotsford couldn't hold the market and wasn't big enough for wrestling," MacDonald replied when asked why TRW drew so poorly during the past few weeks. "I think it was just over-saturation. It was on TV every week and people were asking why they should go to the live shows when they could just stay home and watch it on TV."
In an earlier interview, MacDonald said the ratings for the show were good, and was one of the top-rated shows for that time slot and for KVOS generally. Before the TV deal, TRW held monthly shows in Abbotsford that drew close to a hundred people. ECCW, on the other hand, has been running one to two shows a month in different venues and has been drawing between 150-200 people at each. But at a recent TRW TV taping in Cloverdale, no more than fifty people showed up to watch the wrestling -- a sobering sign for a promotion with the "holy grail" of independent wrestling.
"I was a little shocked at how sparse the crowd was," Republic said after watching his first TRW show, which he admitted he only watched the night after the sale was in the books. "Our crowds are not drawing six billion people, but we were outdrawing [TRW] by four or five times." Republic suggested while the quality of wrestling on the TRW show was good, the marketing for the show could have been better. "A lot of people didn't even realize it was on television and that's where we will make our investment. We will definitely be doing something different. ECCW is an event, a live event. We want to entice people to come to see the live shows and if we're not doing that, then we're not doing our jobs as promoters and business people."
There is no question ECCW has the experience putting on live shows (Republic joked that he and ECCW promoter Michelle Starr have put on "at least a million shows"), but is family-friendly TV really their strong suit? After all, ECCW is a promotion Starr has in the past called "the outlaw promotion". At their last show in Surrey, ECCW hosted a 10,000 Thumbtack Death Match -- perhaps not something the KVOS executives would want their viewing audience to see on Saturday afternoon.
"I think we have evolved a lot over the past ten years," Republic countered, acknowledging the format required by the television executives. "But it's more important not to water down your product. As I've always experienced in business, when you are trying to sell a product and it starts selling for different reasons than you had anticipated, you don't stop selling the product, you change the way you market it. On KVOS, we will have stronger content -- not necessarily extreme content -- but better storylines, improved production, characters that are developed and that people will care about. And hopefully it will bring fans to the live shows because that's what we want as well."
Kevin MacDonald said he had no problems with the change, even though many of the guys on the ECCW roster he has never met. "I don't mind [the change], and I look forward to working with them and seeing where it all goes," he said. He is aware of the "outlaw" qualities that have made ECCW popular with local fans, but is insistent that the WWE-like brand of wrestling is not a good fit for KVOS. "The swearing, the scantily-clad women is not what KVOS is about. But they don't have a problem with the high-impact stuff like you see in TNA. So hopefully the ECCW guys can change gears, at least on TV."
One of the suggestions MacDonald has for ECCW is to put on shorter matches. "That's one thing I really want to see," he said. "TV matches can't go ten minutes because on TV you have to be quick and you gotta keep the viewers' attention. What might look good at a house show arena won't necessarily translate as well on TV, where you have one guy at home with a remote in his hand where he can choose from 30-40 other channels. So it will be interesting."
What is clear is that there are challenges for ECCW and Kevin MacDonald to work out. The first KVOS show to air under ECCW's ownership will be broadcast January 7th, 2006. On ECCW's website -- eccw.com -- Republic has cryptically stated that "big changes are coming". But he revealed to SLAM! Wrestling that the new show will cater more to the fans. "We want them to see a taste of what they would see at a live ECCW event. We want to do more to get the fans involved and the one way we can do that is to put on exciting television."
For his part, MacDonald says the sale of TRW's TV show should make for an interesting period in the Pacific Northwest. "I think this is great for ECCW. They have been around for ten years, and they have the experience. They have been through some rocky, rough times and still didn't give up." There will be challenges, he said, but as the producer of a televised independent wrestling show, he's used to that. "What's one more?"
Fred Johns is the editor of SCNW -- an online wrestling news magazine covering events and promotions in the Pacific Northwest. Check it out at SomethingCool.ca. He lives in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia and can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.