Pro Wrestling: A State of Independence

Paul AustinCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2010

It's Friday, so all I have to do is flick on my television set and surf through the channels, and eventually I'll find WWE SmackDown! and get my wrestling fix for free. No questions asked, no thought required, and all is well with the world.

Life is easy, isn't it?

What's more is I can stumble online tomorrow and pontificate about the previous night's episode as an unpaid critic, and I still won't have to think too deeply about the subject. This is just as well, as the industry is a lot more complicated than most of us think it is, and it's certainly not just about the glam, the glitz, and the pyrotechnics that we see every week on our television sets.

Wrestling doesn't begin on USA Network or SyFy—wrestling begins in a man's heart and grows from there, from half-empty bingo halls to wherever the dream, or the fates, take it.

I was accused the other day of being rude for trying to prod people into action and get them to look beyond the major brands, toward the independent scene, but if anyone here is familiar with the grassroots of wrestling, they can see why such action is far from rude, but actually good for all of us.

When we tune into Raw , SmackDown! , or Impact , we're not tuning into something formed miraculously that night on our television sets; we're tuning into something that is a culmination of a long, arduous journey. A journey that people in the WWE profit from, while those at the start of the journey struggle to exist and in most cases eventually don't.

Like I said, wrestling begins in a man's heart. One day a man wakes up and decides he wants to wrestle or start a wrestling promotion. That moment is the beginning of the journey that culminates in the TV extravaganza we get to watch, enjoy, and talk about.

Now there are literally thousands of people out there who have had that dream of running their own promotion, but most of them don't get beyond that because it's an expensive dream.

You want to start your own promotion?

Well then get down to the bank, get yourself around $25,000, and be prepared for the fact you're probably never going to make a profit or even see that $25,000 again.

It's weird, isn't it?

We get to enjoy someone like CM Punk putting his body on the line because some guy somewhere else, who's name we'll probably never even know, had a dream, reached inside his pocket, and gave up a large amount of cash to make it come true.

And it's not just the promoters that have to be crazy; it's also the wrestlers.

When some of them take their first steps into the profession, they will find themselves wrestling for a grand total of $0.

They will go out there into a half-empty bingo hall and risk their health for absolutely nothing more than a dream.

You have to have a passion for wrestling to do that.

You have to have a passion for wrestling to spend 40 hours a week stacking shelves at Walmart and another 20 hours a week down at the gym so you can drive 100 miles on a cold and miserable Thursday night, deep in the heart of winter, to go stand in a hired ring.

You have to have a passion for wrestling to get smacked repeatedly over the back with a steel chair, by a complete stranger, for absolutely no financial reward.

It's passion, it's dedication, it's heart.

And most of those guys won't make it much further than that.

They might get themselves onto a regular roster or get to the dizzy levels of earning as much as $100 a show, which isn't quite as glamorous as it sounds; it doesn't include the $20 of gas money to get to the show, the gym fees, or the cost of the outfits, and it certainly doesn't include the health plan that most of them will one day require.

But most won't ever get beyond that.

So what is the payoff?

Well there are two sides to the payoff.

The first side is it fulfills the dream, and the second side is that these promoters and wrestlers are making your dreams come true, even if you never see them, and even if you never know their names.

You see, they give the breaks to the one or two who make it.

They are the guys putting their health and finances on the line so that the one shining light who does come into their promotion has a vehicle to shine on. A vehicle that allows him to shine so brightly that the people in TV land get to see the glow and come along and sign him up.

It's at that point we start to enjoy the end product.

We tune in to see that star, that superstar, that shining light, and by doing so we generate huge sums of money for organizations like WWE.

But back in the Indies, where this star was created, the promoter who promoted him is still digging deep into his own pocket to keep the promotion afloat, and the wrestlers who gave that superstar his opposition, who gave him a vehicle to shine on, are still putting their health on the line, day in, day out, for very little reward.

These people see none of the profits generated by their endeavors; they gain nothing financially from the stars they create and we enjoy.

I think that's sad, and I think they deserve better.

So every now and then, with an article like this, I try to tell their story to try to prod a few people into a direction where they can see a bigger picture and understand and appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that those at the grassroots of the profession put into the industry.

Sadly for some that's seen as being rude. Maybe it is, but if so I won't apologize for it.

I won't apologize for lending my support to these worthy men and women or for speaking out in support and praise for everything they do for us.

Some of us here already watch independent promotions or buy the DVDs to show our support, and some of us don't.

I can't force anyone to change his viewing habits or dictate to him who he should or shouldn't support, but I know each of us here owes these people a debt.

Everyone of us here enjoys our wrestling, everyone of us here gets entertained watching it, and half of us here also get the added enjoyment of talking about it.

And we get all of that because of those people, those unknowns, those unrecognized work horses, who put everything on the line to make it all possible.

We owe them for that, whether we choose to recognize that debt or not; we still owe them for it.

That T-shirt we buy, that DVD we buy, and that ticket we purchase to an independent promotion all help them put on one more match.

It helps pay for one more medical bill, and it helps give one more wrestler a chance to live a dream. It also gives us one more chance to have a new superstar on our screens, one more hero to cheer, or one more heel to more night of entertainment, on Raw , Impact , or SmackDown!

It's really a small price to pay, isn't it?


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