If I told you there was going to be a local Indy wrestling show in town would you care? What If I told you it would have big names from the Indy circuit? What if I said Low-ki versus the Necrobutcher? Chris Hero versus Sami Callihan? Mickie Knuckles versus Madison Eagles? And admission is only $10. Ah-ha! Now I have your attention! Or do I?
Every weekend across the country, cards like these take place highlighting the best and brightest of the independent circuit. Every weekend, pool halls and high school gymnasiums are filled to the brink with 200 people tops. I have many friends who love wrestling, say they are bored with WWE and TNA, but refuse to go any local shows with me. I’m sure some of you reading have experienced the same.
The purpose of this article is twofold: why do so few people support independent wrestling promotions and why should they?
I think the reason that the Indys have so few people show is really an image issue. They don’t have the expensive pyrotechnics displays, the flashy entrances or the advertising exposure that WWE has. Local independent promotions don’t have the storytelling ability weekly shows have due to a small (if one even exists) writing staff and a limited number of engagements. It’s easier to follow stories on a weekly show than it is a show that occurs every other week or monthly. If the Indy promotion travels, then story-telling is pretty much impossible to follow except for the most die-hard fans.
When you add together flashy entrances and story-telling, what do you get? Sports-entertainment! My theory is that most “wrestling fans” are actually fans of WWE-style sports-entertainment. But that is an article for another day.
If wrestling fans truly cared about in-ring action, the Indy leagues should probably have more fans than they do. Everyone who watches it believes that ROH simply has the best in-ring action in existence, to borrow a phrase from TNA, ROH is where “wrestling matters.” There are also adherents to Chikara who believe the same.
I live in West Virginia. Chikara and ROH are both based in Pennsylvania. Their stars are constantly working for other promotions in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. If you don’t care to drive a few hours, you can see the Kings of Wrestling, Eddie Edwards, Colt Cabana, Delirious and others every single weekend. But yet, it seems no one does.
The Indy promotions do matter and they need support. They are where the stars of tomorrow are made and have became the modern day equivalent to the NWA territory system.
Guys like CM Punk, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Low Ki, Daniel Bryan and others learned the trade there and were over every single place they went. It has been said many times over by the likes of Chris Jericho, Jim Ross and others…wrestling needs a territory system to get guys ready for the bright lights of the WWE. The Indys, for better or worse, are the only remnants of the territory system.
When you go see a local Indy show, you also get to interact with the wrestlers, something you just don’t get with WWE. The guys interact with the audience, they get in people's faces and they sign autographs while selling their own merchandise. For me, this is often one of the better parts of the show and something that is truly lost in the big shows.
Some guys, such as CM Punk or Cody Rhodes, do occasionally interact with the audience but it’s pretty rare. One of my all time favorite lines from an Indy show was when a wrestler cut an extra long promo when a person in the front row shouted “Why don’t you shut up and wrestle?” Without missing a beat, the wrestler replied “Why don’t you suck my !@#$?” After the show was over, that promotion was banned from the facility. Another time, a heel who had gotten boos all match pulled off a truly great technical sequence. The audience went into a slow clap, obviously impressed, when a random voice yells out “You still suck!” and the room erupts in laughter. It’s those unpredictable and memorable moments of fan interaction that truly make Indy shows great for me.
Lastly, Indy shows can sometimes bring innovation. One particular show I attended featured an amazingly cool concept triple ladder match that I would love to see ROH or TNA try with their X-division guys. They set up three rings in the middle of the venue. Above the first ring was a money in the bank briefcase good for a title shot, above the middle ring was the world title and above the third ring was the TV championship. The middle ring was also enclosed in a cage. Then, each ring had 4 wrestlers enter and both titles and the MITB shot were available to anyone. The match ended when both titles and the briefcase had been captured. The entire time I was watching that match I was amazed at what I saw and could only dream of what guys like Styles, Daniels, Kingston, Morrison or Punk could do with it.
If I ever get to work for TNA, WWE or ROH that match will be my very first pitch.