SLAM! Sports SLAM! Wrestling
   Sat, July 5, 2008



News & Rumours
Bios
Obits
Canadian Hall of Fame
WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania 30 photos
Video
Movie Database
Minority Mat Report
Columnists
Features
Results Archive
PPV Reviews
SLAM! Wrestling store
On Facebook
On Twitter
Send Feedback




Photo Galleries

SHIMMER taping


The Ultimate Warrior


Raw in New Orleans


WrestleMania XXX Main Events


WrestleMania XXX Opening Half


WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony
WWE Hall of Fame Red Carpet


Make-A-Wish party







SCOREBOARD
PHOTO GALLERY
VIDEO GALLERY
COMMENT




RECENT PHOTO GALLERIES: SHIMMER taping
Ultimate Warrior | Raw in New Orleans | ROH Supercard of Honor VIII
WRESTLEMANIA XXX: Section | Photos

THE SCOOP: Visit our News & Rumours page.


PWG's five years in the trenches
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla celebrates a big anniversary
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling


Excalibur

Independent wrestling in the 21st century is never an easy thing to promote, and every milestone should be appreciated as you cannot take for granted that different promotions will still be around. For five years, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla has brought professional wrestling to the greater Los Angeles area, and they celebrate that success on Sunday with Life During Wartime.

PWG was born when six wrestlers, many of whom worked for Revolution Pro in California, came together to create a promotion. The six -- Super Dragon, Joey Ryan, Scott Lost, Disco Machine, Top Gun Talwar, and Excalibur -- balanced both being in-ring performers and management. Disco Machine and Top Gun Talwar have since left the promotion, but the other four are still going strong.

"The biggest challenge we've faced with multiple owners is communication, since we never worked in a central location together," Excalibur told SLAM! Wrestling. "Everything was done via phone or email, so at the beginning there was a lot of phone tag and waiting to hear back from people, but as technology has improved, so has our communication. Now everyone can check their email from their phone, we're in constant contact with one another, and we're really better off for it. God bless the Sidekick, because I'm not sure we'd get anything done without it.

"Having multiple owners was never really a problem because each person brought something very specific to the table," he continued. "We've been able to play to each person's strengths, and have benefited tremendously from that. Instead of just one person having to do everything, we've been able to support each other, which I believe is one of the main reasons we've been around for as long as we have."

Another vital part of PWGs evolution has been the involvement of Highspots.com, which distribute PWG DVDs.

"The deal with Highspots has been crucial to our longevity because when we were first starting out, we had none of the resources that Highspots had," Excalibur said. "In early 2004, Highspots already had a very established customer base, while we were still trying to drive traffic to our website. Without Highspots, we would not have been able to reach nearly as many people as we have, and without that audience, I'm not even sure we'd be around today. Highspots has been a great friend to PWG since our infancy, and its something that everyone on our end is extremely grateful for."

Highspots boss Michael Bochicchio recalled his initial discovery of PWG. "At the time, ROH was a very hot product and they were not looking to allow Highspots or anybody else to touch their DVDS, so I honestly was looking for another promotion to support and be exclusive to Highspots," Bochicchio said. "I had already learned that most of these indy promotions don't make it because of the lack of money from show to show and I was in a position as an internet retailer where I can either really help one group or I could start my own. When I saw PWG, I just thought it was so different than what everybody else was doing and knew it was both an opportunity to help out a group of creative guys that wouldn't be able to survive a few poorly attended shows, that may have nothing to do with their efforts, and also a business opportunity for me."

PWG just released its first national release, PWG Sells Out, featuring nine hours of some of the best matches from the companys history. The discs feature stars like A.J. Styles, CM Punk, Frankie Kazarian, Bryan Danielson as well as PWGs homegrown talent like The Arial Express, Arrogance, and Super Dragon.

"PWG Sells Out was just something that came along at the right time for us," Excalibur explained. "For the last two years, we've toyed with the idea of producing a compilation, but the limitation was that we would essentially be reaching the same fans that we already do. Granted it would help attract some new fans to our product, the upside was limited. But thanks to Big Vision Entertainment and Highspots, we're able to reach a much larger audience than ever before. Since we were already comfortable with the idea of doing a compilation, when BVE showed us the number of new eyeballs we'd be able to reach via Best Buy and Amazon.com, it just made sense. That's not to say that a lot of thought didn't go into this DVD set. Unlike other compilations, this is a PWG production from start to finish."


The special PWG Sells Out DVD cover.
The DVD release stands out in other ways too, in part thanks to Andy Kuhn, who is the artist on the comic Firebreather, who did the cover art.

PWG initially used a number of TNA talents on its shows, until the edict came from TNA that talent would not be allowed to work for promotions that sold their product through retailers like Highspots. Excalibur admits it was a blow at first, but one the company has recovered from.

"It was a bad time. We were building up to the first DDT4, which in the preceding months, focused very heavily on Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley. Both guys were committed to PWG, and so when word came down from TNA management, we felt blindsided," Excalibur said. "At first, there were some hard feelings, but once cooler heads prevailed we were able to accept the situation and make the best of it. Since then, Alex Shelley and Frankie Kazarian have appeared on our shows, so the door isn't completely closed, but it's helped us learn to not rely exclusively on TNA. On both a personal and professional level I'd love to have those guys back for every show, but their absence has forced us to evolve, to look elsewhere for new talent, and I think we're better off for it."

He said that a wrestler like PAC might not have had a breakout year in PWG if the TNA talent was still on-board, and classic match-ups like El Generico versus Bryan Danielson might not have occured at Giant-Size Annual #4. The company's relationship with the Japanese promotion Dragon Gate has grown as well as a result. "Of course, all of those things may have still happened, and we'd have the TNA guys around for it, and I could be sleeping on a mattress full of $1,000 dollar bills," Excalibur mused. "Somehow, though, I doubt it, and I think forcing us to grow like that has benefited us in the long run."

With a current roster that includes Austin Ariess, Roderick Strong, Chris Hero, and Bryan Danielson, PWG is sometimes compared to Ring of Honor, which can be considered a blessing and a curse.

"I think being called 'ROH West' is a compliment, but I also think it's somewhat unfair to us, considering what we've accomplished in the last five years," he said. "While both promotions do feature some of the same wrestlers, I think the fantastic local talent we have in Southern California, along with our very unique approach to professional wrestling helps set us apart. Just because Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver have similar rosters doesn't mean the two bands sound the same. Even though ROH came before us, I'd still like to think that we're the Guns N' Roses of that analogy."

Promoting in California is not without its challenges, some of which Excalibur outlined, starting with the costs associated with talents.

"Flights have always been an extremely tricky issue for us because many of the guys we use aren't local. This ends up increasing the price of producing shows, and forces us to be careful with who we bring in, which is probably the biggest effect," explained Excalibur. "Whereas a promotion on the East Coast or in the Midwest, for the cost of a tank of gas, can take a chance on somebody their fans might not be familiar with, we're forced to anticipate how their appearance on a show will benefit us long-term. We get a lot of feedback from our fans about wanting to see a specific fly-in on our shows, and chances are, we've probably already thought about bringing them in. However, be it budget, timing, or any number of other reasons, the cons just happen to outweigh the pros right now. Historically, I think we've been good about introducing new talent no matter where they're from, and if the expense warrants it, we'll continue to do so."

Another challenge is the saturation of entertainment in the entertainment capital of the world. PWG is competing in a market that includes Hollywood, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and frequent concerts and sporting events that all are after the same dollar.

"The cost of everything is the primary issue. Location rental is major, since even our smallest venue costs roughly five times what a comparable venue on the East Coast would cost," he said. "Couple that with the cost of air travel and we learned early and often to mind our budgets. You're right about competition as well. Sport, maybe even the WNBA, since that would affect our angry lesbian demographic, along with concerts or comedy shows can all cause fluctuations in our attendance. And despite the fact that California is a driving culture, our fans can be very particular about how far they're willing to go for a show. While many fans on the East Coast make regular trips from New York to Philadelphia, a trip of similar distance, say San Diego to Los Angeles, is out of the question for most fans. However, we've learned to account for all those factors, and despite them, we try to keep our shows affordable and give our fans an incentive to keep coming back, which is key to our success."

Bochicchio has found that PWG's fans are around the world. "You meet a lot of creative people in wrestling and PWG certainly has their share of them. I realize that I'm the business arm of PWG, and never interfere with the creative side," he said. "PWG unquestionably has its base of hardcore fans and its very popular among my European and Japanese customers. However, it's a niche market and I think they are comfortable remaining 'underground.'"

The other challenge of being a wrestler/owner is trying to balance the two, something Excalibur and other members of the owner team realized. Excalibur stepped away from the ring, taking on a role as "Commissioner of Food and Beverage" for PWG.

"While I can't speak for everyone else, I think running a show and competing on a show require two very different mindsets, and it's something I found extremely difficult to balance," Excalibur admitted. "I suspect the others would account for similar experiences. Without going to far into it, I think the shows where my responsibilities were the largest I may have put in some of my weakest showings, which disappoints me greatly. No matter what, I always want the best for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and it's frustrating when that doesn't happen, even more so when I play a role in it. So after some deliberation, I decided that I could do more for the company outside of the ring than I could inside. There will always be more wrestlers, that's the easy part. Finding someone to take on the stress and responsibilities of producing a show is much more difficult. That's not to say I do everything, or to downplay the work the other guys are doing. I just think that by stepping away from wrestling, I am able to put my complete focus on what is expected of me by the company."

There isnt one thing that has specifically put PWG on the map, but several things combined. The promotion has a rich history of colourful characters, many of them such as Super Dragon, Zokre, Ronin, Scorpio Sky and Disco Machine wore masks. While the geographical closeness to Mexico would appear to show a lucha influence, Excalibur said that it is more based on a Japanese influence.

"All of the guys you mentioned, myself included, started their careers in Revolution Pro, which was always promoted as 'hybrid wrestling,' he said, crediting the influence of Japanese promotions Universal Pro, Michinoku Pro, and Toryumon. "So while we were able to train with some great guys from Mexico, our goal was to incorporate the Lucha Libre style with American style wrestling, like they were doing in Japan. In Southern California, Revolution Pro was the first promotion to put on shows with that style of wrestling, which other promotions started to copy, which lead to more guys incorporating that Japanese-Mexican influence into their style, which lead to Revolution Pro further changing its style. So while some people may think of the masks as strictly a Lucha Libre thing, the masks you see in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla are about 20 steps removed from actual Lucha Libre. Except in the case of Los Luchas."

Something that catches your eye when looking on at the PWG DVD releases is the often wacky and creative names that PWG gives to its shows. "Free Admission (Just Kidding)," "Teen Outreach Summit," Album of the Year" and "Based on a true story" are just a few of the names.


"Our initial instinct was to not name our shows at all, but we didn't really want to number them, which we figured would inevitably happen, so we had to think of an alternative," Excalibur said. "If you take a look at a random professional wrestling card, chances are it's named something ridiculous, like 'Blood War' or 'War Bowl' or 'Death Cage' or 'Bowl of Cage and Blood and War,' so we decided to name our shows something equally as ridiculous, just using different inspiration. A lot of our show titles are fun, but others can be poignant as well. Life During Wartime, for example, has quite a few different meanings. The method to coming up with the names has varied, from each person carefully maintaining a list of potential show names to panicked emails being sent minutes before the show information is set to be posted. There's no single method."

PWG has experienced its share of ups and downs, and has for certain given its owners headaches at time, but Excalibur firmly believe it was all worth it.

"Personally, I keep going because I love seeing something I've had a hand in building from the ground up flourish, and that's what keeps me around," he said. "I think if we reached a point as a company where we became stagnant, then it would be pretty difficult to stay motivated, but luckily we've had five years of steady growth with things like our European shows sprinkled throughout to keep things interesting. There have been instances where it's seemed difficult to continue, mostly due to the large amount of time the company requires, but those periods pass quickly because it's such a thrill to see PWG grow and evolve.

"At the beginning, we didn't set five year goals, or even a goal to make it X amount of years; However, if we did, I think what Pro Wrestling Guerrilla has been able to accomplish in this time would most likely exceed our own expectations. We're proud to have achieved as much as we have in these first five years, and we're proud we've been able to reach as many fans as we have in that time. But as it's said, time waits for no man. Or in this case, wrestling promotion. The second half of 2008 looks to be our biggest six-month period yet, so while it's cool to have come this far, we are constantly looking ahead."

What does the future hold for PWG?

"Our immediate future is going to be pretty busy. With Life During Wartime, our fifth anniversary show, this weekend, All Star Weekend 7 in late August, and the 2008 Battle of Los Angeles in the fall, the next six months are going to be pretty hectic," he predicted. "Beyond that, we are still working with Dragon Gate on organizing our Japanese event, which is still in a very early stage. We are also looking to return to Europe, though there is no firm timeline on when that would occur." The promotion has heard from fans throughout the European Union, including Spain and Italy, as well as France, England, and Germany, where the promotion has already been. "The East Coast and Canada are always possibilities, though I bring it up more as a way to patronize your readership! Seriously though, closer to home we're hoping to expand our line up of venues, possibly returning to Hollywood, but most importantly, increasing awareness of PWG as a brand and the product we have to offer."

RELATED LINK

  • www.prowrestlingguerrilla.com
    Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!


  • Lots and lots of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla DVDs

    Jason Clevett attended PWG All Star Weekend in 2005 and considers them to be two of the best indy shows he has ever seen. He is now going to search the web to find the wrestling show Bowl of Cage and Blood and War, as it sounds like a TNA gimmick match.