SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Indies: The lifeblood of wrestling
By GREG OLIVER -- SLAM! Wrestling
We asked a pretty simple poll question on the site last week: When was the last time you attended a local indy show? What surprised me, however, were the results.
A stunning 53% of the 1,188 people who voted in the poll said that they had never
attended an independent wrestling show. To them, I have a simple question in return: How can you call yourself a wrestling fan?
When was the last time you attended a local indy show?|
Total Votes for this Question: 1188
10% voted for Last couple of weeks
6% voted for Over the past 2 months
15% voted for Last year
16% voted for Not in a long time
53% voted for Never
Indies are the lifeblood of professional wrestling. Sure, they can be minor league, cheezy, insulting, frightening and a waste of money. But I could say the same thing about the big league shows.
They run in bingo halls, high school gyms, arenas and bars. The rings vary in size, quality and makeup. Crowds can be filled with kids, young adults, oldtimers, or a wonderful combination thereof. And the wrestlers, well, they can be all over the map in talent, size, gimmick, and even of indeterminate gender (hello Ms B. Haven!).
Wrestling was created to be experienced live. To yell at the wrestlers and have them react to you; to harass managers at ringside; to start smart-assed chants; to get out of the way when the action spills into the crowd; to get popcorn and beer; to buy programs and cheap dollar photos to get autographed; to pop for a great move, or groan at a mis-timed one; to sympathize with the wannabes, who you know have no chance of making it big, yet bust their butts to entertain you; to talk to the wrestlers afterwards in the parking lot, congratulating them on a job well done -- or not.
As the ticket price continues to rise with the WWF today -- $25 to $80 for the Western Canada tour in May -- it is increasingly becoming inaccessible to the average fan. And it's only going to get worse as the WWF progresses further along the path towards 'entertainment', making $100 tickets for house shows within the realm of possibility, given that it already happens for touring rock groups.
By the time all is said and done, a family of four would be dropping at least a couple of hundred bucks to attend a WWF show. In comparison, most indy shows have their tickets priced from $5 to $15, with price breaks for kids and seniors.
I've been attending indies around southern Ontario (and beyond) for 16 years now, making many, many friends in the process. And lost a few along the way, too, like the Ontario refereee Wayne Cashman.
Cash represented everything good about indy wrestling. He was a great guy, full of laughs, willing to talk to everybody. He'd drive for hours to referee a show, and usually end up with other tasks like setting up the ring as well.
When was the last time a WWF referee or official let you anywhere near their ring, let alone in it? Yet, there I was in Kitchener, after a fall show at the Central Ontario Exhibition, in the ring bouncing around with Wayne's sons. Then we got to take the ring apart.
To use the over-used MasterCard gimmick: Price to get in: $10; Popcorn: $2; Pop: $1; Program: Free; Sitting around the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium with Tony Atlas and Bulldog Don Kent shooting the breeze after they had just wrestled on a traditional amateur wrestling mat because the ring didn't show up: Priceless.
As I got more and more involved with the business and wrote more and more about it, my notebooks from the matches became as much a part of the show as my photos or the programs.
Back in the early '90s, I had given up the Canadian Wrestling Report newsletter to go to Ryerson and study journalism. But I still went to wrestling shows, whether it was some terrible WCW shows at the CNE or SkyDome, or indy shows in small bars.
I recently flipped through an old notebook from that era, and dug out a report from a show at a bar in Toronto's Parkdale area.
Sexton Hardcaste, who is now well-known to all of you as Edge of the WWF, was on that show. My notebook says "could be good if ceiling was higher."
Do yourself a favour and go see who has that same potential that I saw in Sexton Hardcaste on your local indy show. You'll be happy you did.
Apr. 19:Wanted: New WWF main eventers
Excellent column. I could not
agree more. Frankly, I stopped watching the WWF for a while because I
got tired of Austin, HHH, Undertaker and The Rock. I got tired of
watching Jericho and Benoit and others get stuck in mid-card matches and
I only began watching WWF again when they acquired WCW, thinking we
would see some interesting cross over angles but that does not appear to
in the works anytime soon (save the Shane-Vince angle). Now, with a
HHH/Austin vs. Kane/Undertaker program in the horizon, I may stop
watching again. The only thing that may keep me watching is the
Jericho/Benoit vs. Regal/Angle program.
WCW was always criticized for holding back the younger guys like Benoit,
Jericho, Saturn, Raven, etc. - what is the WWF doing? It seems the
older guys in the WWF are doing exactly what the older guys in the WCW
did. It led to the WCW's demise. They are wasting good talent like
Tazz, Billy Gunn, Justin Credible and the others mentioned above.
The WWF may not be losing their viewers to the competition, but they are
losing their viewers. well, one viewer anyway (at least until WCW is
back on TV - at least there is potential).
What the? You rip on Kane's ability to be a main eventer, then
rally behind that 112 pound stick Jeff Hardy? The guy should be fighting
for the lightweight championship (whoever the heck has that), not for the
Intercontinental or Heavyweight! While I admit Kane's spectrum of moves
is slightly limited, his gargantuan strength and ability to deny pain make
him a pretty cool character. With a little tweaking,I don't see any
problem with someday handing him the heavyweight. You may laugh at that,
but really, he's put in his time with the WWF. Stone Cold Steve Austin
hasn't got wrestling ability on Kane (am I ever sick of his punching and
corner stomping). The Rock, well, he's The Rock. If they gave out
Academy awards in wrestling, he'd get one of those funny Oscars movies
like "Showgirls" and "Battlefield Earth" receive. Triple H and Angle,
well, I haven't got much on them. Benoit's pretty good, too. All
right, that's just my opinion. I hope Kane gets the push he's always
Mr. Powell, I just wanted to communicate my feelings to you about
your last article on SLAM! I thought it was insightful, well written and
above all - accurate! Is there not some way to get through to these guys
that they are producing crap! To be honest, I don't watch TV, I don't have
cable or the time to get it. I'm too busy trying to get my own interest on
network television - but I religiously read the reviews on both SLAM! and
the WWF site itself. I watch whenever I can, but otherwise I take it by
word. And it reads terribly! The WWF is turning into the WCW of old it
seems, putting over a small group and having the rest sit and rot. It's
like a deck of cards, the base does all the work and the top gets all the
credit. Thank you for your insight and I hope the WWF ears are open.
You might want to add: Wanted: More major faces needed. Since Austin's turn
I feel a real lack of any exciting faces in the WWF. The only major faces
are the Undertaker and Kane. It's as if everyone would rather be a heel.
You may have Jericho but no one at the major level. You would think with The
Rock gone for awhile they would do something like bring back Mick Foley. The WWF
is going through the duldrums. I can't put my finger on it but Austin/HHH
together seems a bit off cue. One of the dumbest moves is the Big Show
turning on Shane. Remember the Show dressing up last year it was funny. Now
he's another faceless heel.