Are big names worth the money?

Story by Chris Graham

How does an indy promoter make his product stand out in what is becoming a hypercompetitive professional-wrestling marketplace?

Travis Bradshaw of the Smithfield-based Vanguard Championship Wrestling focues on getting his local talent over – even as he admits to being tempted to bring in former WWE and WCW stars to draw at the box office from time to time.

“We’ll occasionally bring in somebody like The Barbarian or Ricky Morton. We had Chris Candido in at one time. Tracey Smothers works for us occasionally. I have a simple philosophy – if a worker is charging for their appearance x number of dollars over what the average indy worker should make, I feel that they should draw in that dollar amount in ticket sales,” Bradshaw told Off the Top Rope.

That is a key consideration for an independent promotion like VCW, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Unlike the WWEs and ECWs and TNAs of the sports-entertainment world, Vanguard relies on the box office for the bulk of its revenues.

Paying a hero from the past top dollar to come in for one show can be cost-prohibitive in that context.

And that’s just one of the drawbacks to this kind of booking philosophy, to hear Bradshaw tell it.

“I think the big problem that you find with most of your name wrestlers is that they’re charging figures as if they were just on TV a few weeks ago,” Bradshaw said.

“You want to respect them and bring them in – and it looks good on the Internet, certainly. But it’s a bad business move, usually. You tend to just throw your money away. The majority of times we bring in what is considered a name, we don’t draw in any more people than we would have otherwise,” Bradshaw said.

And then you have to factor in the impact that it can have on your booking.

“We have a mix of some local talent and some guys that are more established. The challenge is trying to use those people properly and maintain their storylines and characters and yet still bring in new and fresh faces, which you have to do,” Bradshaw said.

“So when we bring in a big name, we do it sometimes just because we know the person or just to get a storyline over or to get one of our local guys over. It’s never in the name of ticket sales,” Bradshaw said.

“We don’t try to market it like you’ve got to come out and see this guy because if you miss him, you’re going to miss the greatest worker ever, because sadly, that isn’t the case. A lot of fans show up thinking that they’re going to see what they remember from television, and it’s nowhere near close, usually,” Bradshaw said.


(Published 05-26-06)

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