You might laugh at the proliferation of "Wrestling Is" promotions, but they could very well be the future of CHIKARA, and wrestling in general.
Wrestling is a lot of things. In it's purest form, wrestling can have many positive descriptors attributed to it, and some of those things have taken hold in the form of actual promotions using declarative, reflexive sentences as their appellations. Wrestling, if the names on the marquees are to be believed, is Fun, Awesome, Art, Respect, Cool, and Heart. What do we know about these companies?
Firstly, the rosters are all very similar. There is a core group of wrestlers on each roster page with a few exclusives here and there. That core group hails from CHIKARA, which acts as a parent company. Then, each company's oeuvre, obviously, is the same. They provide family friendly wrestling, at an affordable price, to a localized audience. Each promotion has a national presence, given their parent company is Smart Mark Video's most important client. They've all got their wares for sale, in DVD, .mp4, and video-on-demand (VoD) form.
This business model has drawn some mockery among fans on Twitter. Admittedly, even I can only take the proliferation of Wrestling Is... promotions with cookie cutter websites and similar rosters popping up (and the scuttlebutt is they're not done yet) without taking a little time to laugh at the whole idea. The operation's got a very Stepford Wives (Stepford Feds?) feel. But in the long run, this is probably the future of professional wrestling outside of the corporate model.
While each of these branches has a natural presence, thanks to post-dated video footage available for purchase, the main thrust seems to be building a local brand. Each company has its own niche area or home arena. It's an intensely local way to build up the CHIKARA family, especially since the company is continuing its manifest destiny. The purveyors of American lucha libre will be breaching the Rockies and landing in Southern California in October. With more and more big national markets wanting and getting Chikara, there are fewer dates for the core markets close to home to go around.
It wasn't that long ago that Chikara was running nearly exclusively along the Eastern seaboard with plentiful dates in Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and New England. They only run two shows a year in Philly now. Obviously, part of that is due to the loss of the Arena as a venue, but at the same time, the promotion has built caches in several other cities now, including Burlington, NC, New York, and Chicago, IL. As more and more cities are indoctrinated into the company's touring regimen, the towns that used to be frequent haunts are going to see them less and less.
So, these "Wrestling Is" companies fill the bill in both markets where they used to run all the time (Fun in the Lehigh Valley, Art in Massachusetts, Respect in North Jersey/New York metro) or where they may want to build an audience in the present/future (Awesome in upstate NY, Heart in Indiana, Cool in Columbus/Morgantown). It's a way to give customers the live experience even if the parent company doesn't go there very often.
Secondly, CHIKARA is its own company with a deep roster, several guest stars who cycle in and out, and a complex mythology. For wrestlers imbued in the family, it's easy to step in and out. For newer wrestlers, it might be harder to find footing.
CHIKARA has its own wrestling school (the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory), and the graduates of it can't just step in and operate at full speed. The same goes for the several greenhorns who are getting thrust into action because WWE or Impact Wrestling are poaching the top guys at alarming rates. CHIKARA is no longer the repository for goofy lucha gimmicks that it was in the early days. The top line is polished, and could step into any promotion without missing a beat.
So, in order to get these newer wrestlers and characters ready for prime time, the Wrestling Is promotions provide a place for them to get their feet wet, so to speak. New wrestlers like Juan Francisco de Coronado and Saturyne can ease into the business and work kinks out of their games. Guys in the low or mid-card like Mark Angelosetti can get test runs in the main events of the feeder companies as preparation for the bigger things waiting for them in CHIKARA. Basically, it's more of a branched-out version of NXT.
In the future, this is going to be the model for any localized wrestling company with dreams of going national without a television contract. There's nothing wrong with staying local. Companies like Absolute Intense Wrestling have built national reputations through distribution, and can continue to do so through the implementation of iPPV (which they are kicking off with this Friday's Girls Night Out 8 event).
But there are going to be promoters with ambition, money, and connections to be able to tour outside of their comfort zones. When that happens, they're going to look at Wrestling Is as the precedent for their growth.
No amount of jokes from the peanut gallery will change the fact that this is a smart idea. Wrestling is all about making connections with the fans, and visits to local venues, as well as giving the next generation of wrestlers a chance to cut their teeth, will help keep those connections strong and renewed on a regular basis.