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Advice to Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks: Don’t do it!

Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks are reportedly planning a major indy pro wrestling event in 2018 that they hope can draw in the area of 10,000 fans.

As such, the event would be the biggest non-WWE live draw since WCW closed down in 2001.

Rhodes is apparently willing to make good on his end of an online bet with wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who tweeted earlier this year that Ring of Honor, with whom Rhodes and The Young Bucks are affiliated, wouldn’t sell out a 10,000-seat show “any time soon.”

Rhodes and The Bucks would apparently look to partner with ROH on the show, which would also feature indy talents from across the U.S., Mexico and Japan.

No location or any other details have been set or been rumored at this stage.

Now, to some perspective. A 10,000-seat show is above my pay grade, but I do have experience putting together indy wrestling shows that have drawn 2,000-plus, including one show that was broadcast live on InDemand pay-per-view.

My perspective on what Rhodes and The Bucks are trying to do is: much easier said than done.

Our most recent big show was in 2013 at a local high school with a 1,200-seat gym that we were able to squeeze just below 1,900 into including ringsides.

The card for that house show was stacked: Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman worked our main event with The Rock ‘n Roll Express, and we also had Mick Foley, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Robbie E and Brooke Adams.

The total on-paper budget for that one: $30,000. When all was said and done, we lost money, not much, but even with a sellout crowd, the money had plenty of directions to go into before it ended up in our promotion’s coffers.

The experience with the 2011 Night of Legends pay-per-view was similar. That one was held in a 2,500-seat arena, ended up being a live sellout, but because of the expenses associated with the TV production, the company that put the show on, Awesome Wrestling Entertainment, ended up having to close up shop.

The issues with why it is so hard to make money in indy wrestling are myriad, and I’ll try to break them down here.


The lure of TV

In retrospect, AWE, which I worked for in creative and in marketing, made a terrible call in partnering with InDemand on the live pay-per-view broadcast. All InDemand did was provide the outlet for us to get our signal out; AWE had to assume all the costs related to the production, including cameras, a TV truck and the broadcast team.

This was on top of building rental and talent, which got more expensive, a lot more expensive, I should say, when the show, originally booked as a house show, became a TV event.

We could have saved a lot of money, and probably the company, had we just hired cameramen to film the show, and then put it together later with dubbed play-by-play and commentary, for an Internet pay-per-view.


The boys will take what they can get

One of the articles that I read about the Rhodes-Bucks plans for their big show had the guys musing out loud about how they’d expect to be able to book talent on a discount because of their extensive contacts in the business, and guys wanting to band together to help pull the project off.

I wish them luck in that respect. AWE was a similar type project for a lot of us involved, but as much as we hoped to get discounts with a future launch of an AWE promotion that could make us all a lot more down the line in mind, yeah, that didn’t happen.

The moment the show became a pay-per-view TV event, everybody’s rates went up, some dramatically.

After the demise of AWE, I tried my hand for a year-plus as a promoter, and found the same to be the case. Wrestling is a business like any other business, and like any other business, everybody is out to make as much money as they can while they can.

We even had one talent at our big 2013 sellout show hold us up for more money, on top of what he’d already been paid, at the threat of going to the ring, taking the mic from the ring announcer, and telling the hot crowd that the promoters weren’t paying the talents what they’d promised.

We also famously had another top name tweet after the show that he hadn’t been paid, though we’d actually paid him days in advance, and had a copy of the check to share with the dirt sheets when they picked up the story.


The things you don’t think about

The boring stuff really adds up. Building rental, for example, seems simple and straightforward, except that it isn’t. Pay attention to the little details, such as whether you have to pay extra for heat or AC, for chairs to be set up or broken down, for cleanup crews to stand there while you and your guys do all the actual cleaning post-event.

And then there’s licensing, both for the event and for the talents. Virginia has a two-person government office whose main task seems to be to discourage anybody from wanting to put on live pro wrestling events, based on how they seem to go out of their way to make it hard for promoters to do business. The rumor mill among indy promoters here is that WWE basically gets a free ride, because WWE, but the office has to make its annual budget somehow, so it falls on the backs of the indy guys who aren’t making any money anyway.

Other headaches: airline tickets, van rentals, hotel rooms, printing tickets, what to do about concessions.



I’ve never worked in WWE, Impact or ROH, but based on my experiences in the indies, I can only imagine that it’s infinitely easier to handle creative when you have the ultimate sanction of being able to fire somebody who doesn’t want to do business to hang over their heads.

My experience in the indies is that getting wrestlers to agree to work a match the way you want them to and also agree to a finish is akin to trying to herd cats.

And consider: we’re still paying the guys, just like WWE, Impact and ROH are paying their guys. But when it’s a one-night gig, you’ve got no power just because you’re the one handing over a bag of cash.

The easiest thing to do is put together a card, book guys to fill out the roster, and get the guys to show up – which isn’t always a given, and if you assume that paying a guy ahead of time and sending him a plane ticket is a guarantee that he’ll show up, you’ve never heard of double-booking.

That said, assuming everybody shows up that you booked, it’s nice to have your creative all thought out ahead of time. Just don’t get too wedded to seeing the show that you planned out move for move for two-plus hours of action destined to have fans chanting “this is awesome!” actually go the way you planned.

Because it won’t.


Don’t do it!

I have been a wrestling fan since childhood, and I had a lot of fun over the five years that I was able to work in the business.

But as I said above, it’s still a business, and it’s among the more cut-throat ways to make money known to man.

I’m rooting for Rhodes and The Young Bucks to pull off their big show, but at the same time, if they were, for some reason, to bring me in as an unpaid consultant to bounce ideas off before they pulled the trigger, I’d scream for 20 minutes that there’s no way in hell they should try to do what they’re trying to do, and stick to making money main-eventing somebody else’s shows.

Story by Chris Graham