What's up wrestling fans, I want to present to you a new exclusive interview series that I will be featuring on The Bleacher Report called “Kayfabe Kickout.”
For this first edition, I had the tremendous honor of interviewing Mr. Gabe Sapolsky, current vice president of Dragon Gate USA. For the wrestling fans who might not know who Gabe Sapolsky is, I'll give you a little history lesson.
Gabe started out in the wrestling business working for ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) and ran the ECW Hotline, which was a phone number fans could call to get the latest news and rumours about ECW.
When ECW was purchased by the WWE in 2001, Sapolsky along with Rob Feinstein, founder of RF-Video, created Ring of Honor in 2002. Sapolsky became an instrumental part of the company when he was made head booker and Feinstein was owner until 2004, when he sold his share of the company to Cary Silkin.
Sapolsky was employed by Ring of Honor until 2008. Then, in 2009, he announced the launch of Dragon Gate USA, the North American expansion of the successful Japanese Promotion. He works tirelessly to ensure the promotion’s success.
I spoke with Gabe via e-mail regarding the future of Dragon Gate USA, as well as other various topics:
Richard: For wrestling fans that might not know what you are involved with, can you just give us an update on what's going on in the busy schedule of Gabe Sapolsky?
Gabe: I really have my hands full with both Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. It is a lot of fun, but it takes up a lot of time. I book both promotions, but I also pride myself on my work in promotions, public relations, marketing, keeping www.DGUSA.tv updated and customer service for both companies as well as our WWNLive.com iPPV company. I really try to be well-rounded and be involved with as much as I can. Right now, we are gearing up for four really important shows in a two week period. We have DGUSA on March 29th in Hollywood, Florida, and then March 30th and 31st in Miami at a beautiful beach resort. I think there is some other big show in town that weekend by WWE. That is traditionally a huge weekend for us, and this year will be no exception. What makes it even bigger is we are offing the live iPPV at www.WWNLive.com of the March 30th event for just $1.99. The show features Low Ki vs. PAC, which is one of the few remaining true dream matches. We are offering it this one-time-only for such a low price because we are really proud of our product and iPPV service at WWNLive.com, so we want to give everyone a chance to sample it. There's no excuse not to give us a shot for just $1.99. On March 31st in Miami, we have another live iPPV, and this one features the annual six-man tag team match, which is always one of the best matches of the year. This year with have a totally fresh match up with Low Ki, Akira Tozawa & BxB Hulk versus CIMA, Ricochet and Masaaki Mochizuki. I personally can't wait for Ki and Mochizuki to lock up. Then on April 13th we bring EVOLVE to Toronto for the first time and that is a major deal. Toronto is one of the best wrestling markets in the world, so we really have to bring something special. Now that DGUSA and EVOLVE are unified, it gives us a chance to have some great feuds and be really compelling for the fans to follow.
Richard: What was it like working for a man like Paul Heyman when you were employed in ECW?
Gabe: It was an amazing experience. Paul was so unselfish in teaching. He sees things on a different level than other people. He'll say something that doesn't make any sense at the time, but then you think about it and it not only makes perfect sense, but it is a genius way of looking at it.
Richard: When ECW was bought by the WWE in 2001, what made you decide to go back to the drawing board with Rob Feinstein to open Ring of Honor in 2002?
Gabe: We saw a need in the marketplace for something new and fresh. Most importantly on the RF Video side was that they needed something to replace the ECW fan cam series and the revenue that ECW brought in. We had gotten such a great education on how to run things that we decided to just do it ourselves. Doug Gentry needs to be mentioned alongside us as well. He was instrumental in getting everything started.
Richard: For wrestling fans on the outside of the wresting world looking in, can you explain what an average day as a pro wrestling booker entails (without getting too specific about the inner workings)?
Gabe: It's hard to say what an average day is because there is no such thing as an average day. Every day is different and can bring new problems, challenges, responsibilities and triumphs. It is a total roller coaster ride with incredible highs and lows. On any given day, you need to spend time developing characters and storylines, working with talent on new ideas or ways to improve, scouting new talent and managing everyone's needs. Booking is about dealing with personalities, and everyone in the locker room has a different one. In the end of the day, it's about giving your paying customer the most for their money and keeping them happy. That is the most important thing.
Richard: In reference to Dragon Gate USA, who do you see as the Rock's and the Steve Austin's of the company that will ensure it's success in the future?
Gabe: We are lucky now that we have a very deep talent roster with a plethora of different wrestlers who all bring something different to the table in both Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. The fans in Florida will see this with DGUSA on March 29th, 30th and 31st, and the fans in Toronto will see this with EVOLVE on April 13. PAC and Ricochet both do things no one else in the world can do, and are two of the most exciting wrestlers on the planet today. Low Ki and CIMA both have charisma, and are tremendously well rounded veterans. Johnny Gargano, our DGUSA Champion, has an incredible connection to the crowd and has improved into one of today's new stars. Sami Callihan leads our D.U.F. stable, which brings something very different to our roster, and he has emerged as a main player. Akira Tozawa is one of the most outstanding wrestlers in the world. Uhaa Nation is a guy who just exploded on the scene late last year, and is a big man who is so agile. There has never been anyone like him before. I could go on and on, and I'm neglecting to mention a lot of incredible talent, but I don't want to overwhelm you. I love our roster. I hope people will check out our roster section at www.DGUSA.tv to learn more about these guys.
Richard: Continuing with Dragon Gate USA, where would you like to see the company in five years in terms of securing additional media coverage?: IE: Cable Television, DVD sales, etc.
Gabe: We go as far as the fans will take us. There's no telling what the future can bring. It all depends on if we earn your support and if you support us.
Richard: Dragon Gate USA has partnered with other pro wrestling promotions, such as Chikara, and has used stars from Ring of Honor in its shows. Do you envision this as the norm for Dragon Gate's ongoing success, or do you have other plans?
Gabe: We always look to bring in the best talent available. Right now we are fortunate that we have a very exciting and great roster with Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. Low Ki has been a huge addition for us in both companies. He is a franchise player and a game changer. We are also lucky to have Fit Finlay on certain shows. He returns to EVOLVE in Toronto on April 13th. He is one of the best in the world, if not the best. His experience just puts him on a different level and he proved this when he wrestled on the EVOLVE 9 show last year against Sami Callihan. Our fans voted that as the DGUSA/EVOLVE match of the year. We also have El Generico making his EVOLVE debut on the Toronto show. Last January in Los Angeles on DGUSA, we had The Young Bucks. We love having guest stars like that, and they really add to our core roster of today's new stars. We also love partnering up with promotions. For instance, on our March 29th DGUSA event, we are having two death matches from CZW. This gives the show something very unique and different that you won't see on any other DGUSA event. WrestleReunion is another great partner of ours. All the Miami and Toronto shows I mentioned are part of the WrestleReunion convention, which has an incredible roster of Hall of Famers and legends. It really gives the fans once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We hope to continue relationships like this.
Richard: In terms on selling Dragon Gate USA, do you think it's better to brand it as “sports entertainment” or “professional wrestling?”
Gabe: WWE has given the term "sports entertainment" a lot of bad connotations, which I don't think it deserves, so I stick with the term professional wrestling. We are cutting edge professional wrestling.
Richard: What were your first thoughts when you were asked by Highspots.com to participate in their “Guest Booker” series?
Gabe: Guest Booker is by Kayfabe Commentaries, and I have to admit I was real hesitant to do it at first, but they are a great company and do a tremendous job. I love working with them. I've done some stuff with Highspots, too, particularly a Tatsumi Fujinami shoot interview, which they made into a best of disc set, and that was a really awesome experience. Highspots is another great company that is very important to the independent wrestling scene.
Richard: If you were given 200 million dollars and asked to create a new ECW, how would you do it, and would you do things differently from guys like Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon?
Gabe: Well, when Paul and Tod did it, it was a different time. I'm sure they'd do things differently now. I was very lucky to learn a great deal from both of them. I don't think you can have a new ECW now. It would need to be something different. You can't copy the past. You have to create the future.
I want to personally thank Gabe for taking the time out of his hectic schedule to speak with me here on Kayfabe Kickout and on The Bleacher Report.