June 18, 2010
Lance Storm runs PWA by the book
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
Lance Storm keeps pretty close to home these days. The former WWE, WCW and ECW star still lives in Calgary... Alberta Canada and focuses on running his StormWrestling Academy and being with his family. In November, he took on another role, as booker for the Prairie Wrestling Alliance.
“I am not even sure how it started. I had gone to a couple of shows because a couple of my students worked there. I liked the show but there seemed to be a little bit of a lack of overall direction or veteran presence if you will and I thought the show could be greatly improved without a whole lot of adjustments. I had dealt with Kurt (Sorochan) and Don (Ferguson), who own and run PWA before, I broached the topic with them to see if they were interested, they were very much so, and it took off from there. It's an attempt to help out the local scene, especially since they were using some of my former students, I thought maybe they could benefit as having me as a bit of a director to the show.”
“It was a very unique opportunity to work with someone as experienced and respected as Lance. When he approached us about booking we saw a lot of positives and almost no negatives. With Lance as booker he gives PWA even more validity and credibility in the wrestling community. We have a great relationship with TNA and some former WWE wrestlers but there are a lot that haven't heard of PWA. There are so many independent promotions running in North America a lot of name wrestlers are leary for working for most unless they come highly recommended or have a reputable booker,” added Sorochan. “PWA has been around for 9 years becoming the top promotion in Western Canada but with fewer veterans around to pass knowledge down to the younger wrestlers the product could suffer. Even with the return of “Hot Shot” Johnny Devine and Apocalypse to help lead in the locker room we needed someone in a non-wrestling role to critique and advise all the talent how to work better. Lance has a great mind for the business with experience working in the ring for all the top promotions including developing young wrestlers for television. If WWE had that much trust and confidence in him how could we not do the same? Lance believed the PWA product was good but with some guidance and more leadership it could be much better. It was our hope that Lance would be able to work with all the talent to work smarter and help those who would like to move on to bigger promotions like ROH, TNA or WWE.”
With 20 years in the business, Storm has a lot of experience to back up his guidance. It is a very different animal booking approximately 24 shows per year in two cities compared to the weekly episodic TV of WWE and TNA.
“The biggest thing I have had to try and explain and translate to the guys is that you can't try to emulate RAW or Impact. So many guys come up with ideas for an angle that won't work. It is not the same as a weekly TV show where you can recap and remind and do promos and highlights and they only have to remember it a week later. When it is only once a month in Calgary without extra storytelling is hard. Even just having a commentator explain what is going on and means something. When you don't have that you have to keep things much more simple. You can't have 10 angles on your show. I think that is one thing that people like Jerry Lynn finds frustrating when you look at the indy scene. Because there isn't a veteran presence running things, it is the generation that grew up on the Monday Night Wars - three minute matches, 10 angles on a show, crash TV - and they think that is what wrestling is. At the independent level of a monthly show without TV and commentators you can't do that kind of product. You have to keep things a lot more simple. You can do a couple of simple angles or they won't remember them or figure them out. I have to explain this to guys and educate them that it is a whole different ballgame. This isn't the Monday Night Wars, it is a monthly wrestling show that people show up at, and that's it.”
Sorochan agrees that Storms input has made a difference.
“Lance has been working on tightening up the show concentrating on a few angles per show only. We're running once a month in two major cities (Edmonton and Calgary) so there's no need to have all matches carry a storyline. The fans are still being entertained but are seeing a distinct difference in the product as a whole. The goal is to make every PWA show a "can't miss event" and Lance is helping to make that happen. It was difficult to hand over the reins for myself, not only did I co-found the promotion but was always involved in developing storylines and booking. This was an opportunity to learn and observe and after some initial awkwardness and some mis-communication, Lance, Don and I are working really well together.”
The behind the scenes role translates to a return to the ring this weekend, as Storm teams with Jerry Lynn to take on Superfly Dan and Mattias Wild – Super Wild at PWA's Night of Champions VIII in Calgary at the Acadia Rec Centre. At a recent show Storm cost Super Wild the tag titles during a match he refereed leading to the grudge match. Storm enjoyed building an angle and feels it is more important to work with the local talent then the imports.
“It accomplishes more to wrestle them. Because I am doing it with local guys and because I am at the shows anyways, it allowed us to do a longer program and angle that built up to mean something. If it was just going to be me vs. Jerry Lynn there isn't going to be any angle behind it, any build or learning process either from the fan standpoint of getting to see a logical build of a pro wrestling angle and getting involved with and enjoying the process, or allowing a team like Super Wild to be involved in a longer term angle that has some storytelling and promos involved. Hopefully the learning process of getting learn from working Jerry and I as well. I think it accomplishes more then 'Oh hey here's Lance and Jerry in a match come see it.' It accomplishes more and because of that will be more fun.”
Having a respected name like his involved lends credibility as well. When a promotion reaches out to a wrestler like Booker T, who defends the PWA championship this weekend against former champion “T-Bone” Jack Sloan it goes a long way to making it happen.
“I hope it helps out. I had called Jerry Lynn ahead of time to ask him if he would be interested in coming up. When Booker came up he said 'I wouldn't have come up to Canada if it wasn't for you.' It is great to know that we've got a good enough friendship and reputation from working together for so long that he would be willing to come up. I think it puts them at ease to know that I am not going to put them in the ring with somebody they wouldn't want to work with, not going to be asked to do anything stupid or deal with any other BS or crap because they know me and that they will be treated right. When you take that headache out of the way then it becomes 'I get to go up and see a few people I know and like and have a fun match.' It relieves the uncertainty.”
However it also leads to some fans wanting a “star” at every show, something that is impossible for a lot of reasons, Storm explains.
“It is economics. You are not going to draw the amount of fans that you need to support flying guys in and paying them the price they warrant. This is Night of Champions which for lack of a different term is their Wrestlemania, their biggest show. They can stretch their budget a little bit more and because it is a special event they can raise ticket prices a little bit and people will be accepting of it. If they charged the same ticket price every single show even with a Jerry Lynn, Booker T or Christopher Daniels on every show. Fans have so much going on and there is so much TV are not going to support it every show in my opinion. When it is the only one in the last six months with an extra special angle or attraction they will make more of a point to see it. Unfortunately you don't have the fan support and base at a local level anymore because there is 5 hours of WWE, 2 hours of TNA and if you get HDNet 1 hour of ROH every week. WHen you are competing with that it is hard to draw consistent enough numbers that you can have a budget to afford flying people in. When it is the big show hopefully the crowds show up and enjoy themselves.”
The most important thing of a show like Night of Champions is to get the fans that came to see the big names to come back next time.
“Something important that I wanted to make sure is that Night of Champions isn't the finale. When promotions ask me what they should do when they bring talent in, I say 'make sure you've got something else on the show that is going to be significant and memorable to advance the next show.' You don't just want to close the show with Booker and Jerry. The only thing they remember is Jerry and Booker and don't remember Super Wild or Chris Steel, T-Bone, guys on the next show. If you are going to have a bit of an angle or one of your local guys you want to get noticed, you do that on a show that you use a Booker T on to draw some extra fans in. Hopefully they leave remembering Apoc or Randy Myers and go 'those guys were pretty good to, I would like to go back and see them.'”
A name that may make an appearance at a future PWA show is Bryan Danielson. He was scheduled to appear at Night of Champions 2009 but a staph infection prevented the appearance and he signed with WWE shortly thereafter. As it is the hot topic of the wrestling world, Storm weighed in with his thoughts.
“It is really unfortunate. Bryan is a great guy and an amazing talent. If it comes down to somebody who is more important and a bigger money contributor to the product then Bryan Danielson is who says he's gotta go, it sucks and he's gotta go. It is unfortunate provided everything we've heard is the truth. He made a mistake that he didn't even know was a mistake and probably paid for it far more dearly than he ever should have. Sometimes you have to answer to people and take the bullet and it was Bryan. Hopefully when all the heat dies down they will bring him back because he is a talented guy, just amazing.”
Storm's booking PWA iis another step in the legacy of Alberta wrestling. Where names like Bret Hart, Chris Jericho and Lance Storm defined the Calgary legacy, PWA has seen a number of its stars travel the world including “Hotshot” Johnny Devine, Raj Singh(now in WWE Developmental), Apoc (former OVW Champion) and The Hart Dynasty, all of whom spent a lot of time wrestling in the early years of PWA.
“There are a lot of good Canadian athletes out there still. I like to think that I am giving them a good foundation at my school. As much as it is great to take the credit and say 'he was from PWA' these guys worked a lot of places and paid a lot of dues not just in PWA. It wouldn't be fair for me or PWA to take the credit for their success when they get it. It is still a good foundation, there is a lot of history here and you get people who want to get into wrestling, push hard, and succeed. It is nice to see a lot of local guys succeed. Any chance they have to work a show and get feedback is great.”
Jason Clevett is a from Calgary... Alberta Canada. He will be attending Night of Champions, if you are in Calgary so should you.