June 8, 2012
The headaches and hassles of getting booked
By TOMMY DREAMER - For SLAM! Wrestling
One question I am often asked is how I go about getting booked for appearances or wrestling matches as an independent professional wrestler. The answer is that no two bookings follow the same process.
In the event I have never worked with the person or promotion before, I usually send them to speak with my booking agent. He decides if the person is legitimate or not. He will also make sure all deposits are paid to secure the date on which the promotion has requested me to work.
I am often asked to work by different people on the same date. I like to go with whomever asks first, but to secure the date, a deposit is required. If I have worked with a person before, and I haven't had a problem, I usually take the date without asking for a deposit and I pencil it in on my calender and all goes well.
The final circumstance in finding a booking is if I don't know you and you are recommended by someone whom I trust, I will work with the person without a deposit.
Since I left World Wrestling Entertainment nearly two and a half years ago, I have had only two weekends off. Most promoters run their shows on weekends, in order draw larger crowds. I have been very fortunate, and my system has worked very well, until recently, that is, when I ran into a situation that didn't produce a happy outcome.
Typically, I am booked about three to four months in advance. In this case, I received a phone call from a guy wanting to book me for a show on May 26. He told me he doesn't deal with booking agents due to a personal situation between him and my agent. Most promoters don't like agents because they are looking out for their clients' best interests.
They try to get the most money they can and keep a percentage of the booking fee for themselves. If they (the promoter) have had a bad business dealing with someone in the past, it does affect future business. With that in mind, I also understand that not everyone can do business together and get along.
This particular person said my good friend Little Guido (a.k.a. Nunzio) would vouch for him, if I was available for the date in question, and would like to take the booking. He claimed he always pays his talent the agreed-upon booking fee and runs successful shows in the Massachusetts area.
So I called Nunzio. He told me he had worked for the promotion twice in the past and everything ran smoothly. So, with a positive recommendation, I texted the promoter to confirm the date. My text came back undeliverable. Two days passed before the promoter called me back, asking why I hadn't returned his call. I explained that I had sent a text, but it could not be delivered. He apologized and explained he didn't have a texting plan on his phone. That was red flag No. 1.
In this day and age, it's hard to believe someone doesn't have a texting plan on their cellphone, but I let it pass. We agreed on a booking fee and for me to wrestle on the show. A few days later, he called me asking for a few other wrestlers' phone numbers. I told him that I don't give out telephone numbers to people for whom I have never worked and whom I can't recommend. I told him I would take his list of desired wrestlers and that I would have them contact him, if they were interested.
A few weeks passed before I was asked to work on May 26 by a different promoter, with whom I had worked before. I called up the first promoter and asked how his show was going. He said it was still happening, and that he had ordered the posters and was airing local commercials on Monday Night Raw. I turned down the second promoter, trying to be a man of my word, and stuck to my original commitment. I recommended to the second promoter that he use former ECW WWE and TNA wrestler Rhino in my place.
A few days later, I got another call from a third promoter who wanted to book me for May 26, as well as a follow-up date in July. They had local TV and wanted me to wrestle their champion and have a return match in July based on the May match. I called the first promoter again, and he said the commercials were airing and that I was his main event against TNA wrestler Robbie E.
The first promoter then called me and said he had a personal appearance for me the day of the show and that he would give me $150 more to do it. I called him back and left a message on his answering machine. We played phone tag and, eventually, he left a message stating to call him at a certain time because he would be home, as he didn't own a cellphone. That's red flag No. 2.
I immediately called Nunzio to confirm that this guy didn't have a cellphone. To that point, I had declined three shows to work for this guy. Nunzio assured me all was well and we would have a good time. I then asked Nunzio about the personal appearance the promoter had requested. Nunzio said he spoke to the promoter and the appearance was for his sponsor and he (the sponsor) just wanted a picture with his kid in front of his restaurant. Nunzio said he was offered $75 to do it. I told him I was offered $150, and he said that now that he was going, as well, we were splitting the appearance fee. I declined, to Nunzio's dismay.
Two weeks before the event, I had the chance to speak to Robbie E and he said that he had declined to work for the promotion months ago, due to a TNA commitment. I also ran into two wrestlers whom I had previously tried to call to discuss the promoter and they said they wouldn't work for this promoter because he didn't pay them one time before.
By now I was very worried and angry. Nunzio again re-assured me all was well. By now, you can guess where this story is going. The Tuesday before the event, the promoter called me, leaving a message to say the building cancelled his event due to insurance reasons, but not to worry as I was booked on his next show in July.
I wish I would have picked up his call, or, better yet, have seen him in person, because he would have had hell to pay. May 26 came and went, with me sitting at home making no money while everyone else I had recommended was out wrestling. But the plot thickens.
I received a tweet about how unprofessional I was for not making a scheduled appearance. Having no clue what this person was talking about, I sent several direct messages on Twitter, as well as e-mails. I later discovered that this was the appearance for the promoter that I had never agreed to. This poor guy who owned the restaurant had paid for both myself and Robbie E to appear at his establishment. He, too, was scammed by this promoter and he paid a lot more than the $150 I was promised.
I tried to make the appearance work, and the owner of the restaurant explained to me some shady dealings he had in the past with this promoter. It appears the promoter had claimed he would have certain wrestlers go to the restaurant after the wrestling show and they never appeared. One of those wrestlers was Rhino, who later told me he knew nothing about the appearance and was not even given the amount of money he was promised by the promoter to wrestle. I try to find good in every situation. This one is a hard one.
I guess what stands out to me is how one lie leads to so many others. In the end, I am happy that certain wrestlers wouldn't go work for this guy. If we all band together, guys like this will no longer exist. With social media, it is also a good way to draw attention to other people's misdoings, not by using personal grudges, but by using the facts. I spoke to the bar owner now and he is well aware of the situation and won't be fooled again.
Usually, everyone loses in this case. The fans, the wrestlers and any sponsors that are involved. I am not mad at Nunzio, because he was going from his two past experiences. He got screwed over just like I did. I enjoyed my weekend with friends and family, so it wasn't all a loss. At least I know I kept my word to a promoter, even if this person didn't deserve it. I won't work for him ever, nor will I ever recommend him. Not all stories have happy endings. This is just a tale of one wrestler echoing a story of the same thing that has happened to many throughout the years. Hopefully the end of the shady promoter is coming, thanks to social awareness.
Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. His column appears in the Kingston Whig-Standard and on SLAM! Wrestling. Follow him on Twitter @THETOMMYDREAMER and check out his website at thetommydreamer.com. He can be booked for live appearances through his website. Check out his new, custom-designed T-shirts and merchandise on his website as well.