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The Indie Corner: Let's Work Together

ROH new logo
ROH new logo

Independent wrestling can be viewed in one of two ways. One, it can be assessed as a collective of loosely confederated wrestlers and promotions that work to provide a pseudo-national, neo-regional network to help further the art of wrestling on a smaller yet more creatively boosted stage than what is presented in WWE and TNA. The other, it can be considered to be a term that is labeled upon any start-up promotion that is trying to make money either locally or nationally, with the promotions not working with each other but against each other. We all want it to be more of the former, but it's becoming increasingly clear that the landscape is taking on the shape of the latter.

There are two culprits for this. The first is iPPV. The medium has done wonders for fan accessibility for shows live and on demand, but it has an unintended consequence of companies, two in particular, forcing their wrestlers to sign contracts that include exclusivity clauses that they won't appear on anyone else's iPPV telecasts. The second, which ties in strongly to the first, is that there is bad blood between two indie companies, Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA, mainly stemming from the former letting booker Gabe Sapolsky go unceremoniously and the latter starting up around his vision. The problem is that other companies like Chikara and especially PWG suffer from this turf war.

Granted, businesses have a right to make money, and if the idea of wrestler exclusivity helps the idea that a promotion will or won't make money, then yeah, these companies have a right to make their talent sign contracts. That being said, does it really help? Would Chuck Taylor appearing only on DGUSA iPPV enhance that current product? Obviously the answer to that question is yes, but inversely, would Taylor being able to appear for Chikara or a wholly-theoretical PWG iPPV hurt DGUSA business? I have no market research to go off because none such exists. That being said, my gut feeling is that it wouldn't.

The indie wrestling community is different from the mainstream in that stars rarely are ever minted as property of a single promotion. Stars may come into prominence in certain promotions (CM Punk in IWA-Mid South, Kevin Steen in PWG, Eddie Kingston in Chikara) but they rarely ever belong to just one promotion their entire careers. The reason is that the national indie is somewhat of a recent concept. Even with ROH, DGUSA, Chikara and CZW attaining national status, most indie promotions are held to local venues. Even if every independent promotion in America went national, there's a limited potential market for indie wrestling. If mainstream wrestling has trouble finding an audience, how smart would it be for the smaller promotions to try and claim portions of the crowd for themselves?

That's why it baffles me as to why any company below a true national level would make talent sign contracts or require contracts to be a part of their promotion. The talent pool should be kept as open as possible, especially since the number of ready-for-prime time talent in the high indies is also finite. While the biggest indie companies treat this like it's a high stakes world full of competition, the reality is that the combined forces of WWE, TNA and the federal government through SOPA-like legislation would not discriminate at all among these smaller promotions that dot the landscape in an attempt to wipe them out, either through talent raiding or through premium fees in order to exist.

That's why while I can understand the desire to run like a competitive business, I feel like the collective of indie promotions, ESPECIALLY the two at the very top in ROH and DGUSA would do a lot better to band together as a loose confederation rather than a staunch collection of autonomous and unfriendly companies that end up as a microcosm of the greater climate. Apart, indie wrestling can be good, but as a community, it can be great.

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