(Blog I wrote for Gerweck.net)
Running an independent wrestling show is like anything else in life worth doing. It takes a lot of hard work. If you have aspirations of starting your own promotion then you need to accept the fact that financially, you’re going to be in the red for at least the first two years and maybe even during your entire run. This is an endeavor you partake in because you love the wrestling business, not because you want to become rich and famous.
I want to preface this by saying this is not meant to be “Promoting for Dummies”. I’m not here to criticize others or claim to have all the answers. Everyone has their own vision of how they feel a professional wrestling show should look and feel. Different markets, different parts of the country and different demographics will influence the decisions you make along the way. Consider this some free advice in case you decide to take your fantasy booking to the next level. Of course, it’s only fair to divulge in my own personal experience.
I started a promotion called North Shore Wrestling and we ran shows from 2006-2009. During and since that time I’ve assisted other promotions in New England with booking, promoting and consulting duties. My desire to start promoting stemmed from an absence of local shows in my area. Massachusetts is a hot bed for wrestling with some tremendous talent to boot. I grew up on the North Shore and know the area better than most, so it seemed like a natural transition. My goal was to produce a quality family wrestling show in my area.
I like to pretend that we still live in a Kayfabe world so details of how and why the matches are booked will be absent from this blog. I know, I know. What’s the big deal you say? Everyone knows it’s a work, right? Well, some of us still believe in the magic that pro wrestling can deliver. However, there are those who think it is easy to run an “indy fed” while others know the amount of time you have to put in to make it all work. Let’s go over the things you need to obtain in order to get your promotion off the ground.
If you are starting your own wrestling promotion, hopefully, you have real and prior experience in another aspect of the business. If this is your first rodeo, ask those who are more experienced than you for advice. Some may simply tell you what you want to hear in order to get booked while others will genuinely give you good advice. I was very fortunate to have some amazing brains to pick during my journey.
When someone gives you a good idea or one that makes sense, check your ego at the door and use it. It’s your promotion and at the end of the day all decisions need to go through you. It’s not an indication of your booking prowess if you don’t book the entire show from conception to birth. I’ll say it again, at the end of the day all ideas need to go through you, and sometimes that includes agreeing to use a great idea when you hear of it, no matter who thought of it. Integrating a good idea is just as important as creating them from scratch.
Some renters don’t ask while others don’t care and then you have those who always ask for insurance. Telling these people you don’t have insurance is always a turn off and usually derails any hope in coming to an agreement. If you decide to not use insurance for your event then as the sign says “Enter at your own risk.” A lot of indy events do not use a ringside baricade so the chances of a fan getting caught in the action increases dramatically.
Photos in the ring with the wrestlers during intermission is another popular item that can put fans at risk to a lesser degree. While a smart promoter will have someone assisting fans in and out of the ring, accidents happen when a rambunctious kid tries to run the ropes while no one is looking. The last thing you want is a lawsuit from a parent or the building administrators sending you a bill for damaged furniture or floors. Running a show, even on a shoe string budget, is costly. You don’t want a hospital bill as an added expense.
Before you even walk into the building to meet with the renter, you should have a polished and informational presentation ready. Simply winging it while using the words “like” and “uhm” for every other word in a conversation is a sure fire way to lose interest from the renter. Make eye contact, stand up straight and shake their hand while introducing yourself.
Have a portfolio ready with pictures, programs and a DVD handy. Like insurance, some ask for it, some don’t but it’s good to have either way because visual aids can be very helpful when making your case.
Please, Please, Please, be professional and have some business cards made. Renters always ask and promptly put them in their wallet, purse or rolodex. Asking the renter for a pen and piece of paper to write it all down gives off a perceived lack of organization and can get lost in the shuffle with all of the other paperwork on their desk.
When hunting for a building to hold the show in, make sure you have a first, second and third choice for a location. Chances are, you’re going to be turned down for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, you know within the first five minutes of talking to someone the answer is going to be no. This can be frustrating but still, grin and bear it and act just as professional as you did when you walked in the door. Rolling your eyes and expressing your anger to someone who takes time out of their busy schedule to talk to you is a quick way to burn bridges.
Notice I said bridges and not bridge. If you were to act in a unprofessional manner during this moment, you will leave a bad impression. Most likely, the person you scoffed at knows the person or knows someone who knows the person who runs the next building you’re going to look at. Another reason to remain professional, besides it being the right thing to do, is because you don’t want to give yourself a bad name in the community. Also, there is a slight chance that you read all the signs wrong and their answer will be yes.
Another tip: if the renter happens to be an old wrestling fan and wants to reminisce about the days of Superstar Billy Graham, guess what? Superstar Billy Graham is now your favorite wrestler.
When scouting a building, you need to check for a few essential things. Make sure the roof is high enough so the ring will fit and the wrestlers can use and jump off the ropes comfortably. I have been to many shows where the ring is plopped between a set of chandeliers and a wrestler has to time their moves to avoid hitting these costly items. That’s life on the independents though, as sometimes, you have no other options and you do the best you can with what you got.
You also want to make sure that you have adequate door space so you can get the ring in and out of the building. Having a spare room for a locker room is also a good thing considering your wrestlers need to change somewhere. Again, some spaces are more desirable than others. Ideally, parking is a must because someone who has to circle your building five times only to not find a parking space will most likely give up and go home rather than park a mile away. You want the fans to enjoy themselves and come back for more instead of being jaded by the experience.
Having a building that is handicap accessible should be a no-brainer. It’s a crummy feeling when a family of five walks up to your building and junior can’t get in. Not doing this shows a poor lack of consideration for people in general, but it is just not good business. Tables and chairs are a necessity when running a show. Some buildings have plenty of tables and chairs you can use while others will require you to supply your own. This is an added expense that could break the bank so keep this in mind when shopping for your event location.
All of this and you still haven’t booked a single wrestler yet! Still want to be a wrestling promoter? Check out part 2 of my blog next Wednesday.
One thought on “So, you wanna be an Independent Wrestling Promoter?”
I remember back in probably 1994, I talked to a promoter named John McAdam about life running his promotion called UCW, which ran out of Nashua. Even back then, I was amazed at the costs involved with insurance, ring transportation, and taping the matches.