Wrestling promotion laying foundation for future
The first two shows out of the gate have the wrestling world abuzz about AWE. Drawing 1,200 to the first show at Waynesboro High School was one thing. Putting 1,100 butts in seats 50 miles from a TNA show in Richmond that drew 350 is yet another.
“I know it’s going to take time, but my patience is wearing thin. We’ve been building this thing for two years,” said Marvin Ward, the founder and driving force behind Awesome Wrestling Entertainment, who has been promoting shows in Virginia since a charity event that he put on in 2001, but is now aiming at building a national company in AWE.
The AWE product is being aimed at small- and medium-sized markets overlooked by TNA and WWE. What sets AWE apart from indy promoters is the company’s focus on quality in the ring and production values on par with what fans have come to expect at house shows put on by the big boys.
“The lighting, sound and production sets us apart. People can say, The wrestling product, what you do in the ring, is all that matters. Not anymore. People have been spoiled. They’re used to what WWE brings to big arenas. The lighting, the sound, the video screen,” Ward said.
“We bring that. You saw that with our first show. That’s not something that people in small markets are used to in shows in their hometowns. We’re bringing to these size markets the kind of production values that people are used to seeing in the big arenas. That’s our drawing card,” Ward said.
There is no shortage of talent on the open market, and Ward and AWE have been snatching up some of the top free agents on the market, including Carlito, current AWE World Champion Jimmy Yang, and a host of newcomers added to the roster this week highlighted by Shad Gaspar, a former WWE tag-team contender who was in the national headlines following a controversial arrest in Ohio on a jaywalking charge that was captured on video and shared with the world by TMZ.
The focus is on young talent and is heavy on cruiserweights. TNA had staked its early success on its cruiserweight division, but in recent years has become a sort of WWE South with recycled top WWE stars Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash and current world champion Sting.
“Fans, I think, are tired of the same old ‘Monday Night Raw,’ same ‘Smackdown,’ same ‘Impact.’ They’re tired. They want something fresh. And I’m hoping that we can come in and give them something that makes them go, Wow, that is the change that we were looking for,” Ward said.
AWE is also readying itself for its first training camp set to begin in April. The goal is to build for AWE what WWE has in Ohio Valley Wrestling and what WCW had in its famed Power Plant, which Ward trained in before a brief run in WCW that was cut short by injuries.
“We’ve gone through an intense process of talent acquisition and development,” Ward said. “We scouted talent, checked their work. I bet you that in 26 months we went through 100 people just to pull 10 good candidates to build around. Now we bring in guys like Carlito and Jimmy and Sonjay (Dutt), people that have already established their credibility, to get these guys over. So that people are like, Wow, Micah Fletcher, I can’t believe it, last night he beat Carlito.”
Fletcher, Jamin Olivencia, Mohammad Akbar – those are the names of the future in AWE.
“We’re going to build talent from the ground up. Take a year and teach them the psychology of wrestling. How to work a match. How to tell a story, how to build a storyline,” Ward said. “That doesn’t seem to be the focus anymore in WWE and TNA. A guy hits another guy in the head with a chair one week, they’re wrestling on pay-per-view the next week, and then they move on to the next thing. I want storylines. I want something where people will follow us and be able to build with us the storylines for months, and fans have to come see it when it comes to their town.”
Staying power – that’s what Ward is aiming at.
“Our goal this first year is getting people to stand up and take notice,” Ward said. “Once people know who you are, then we can get sponsors, then we can get a TV deal. That’s the hardest part about this whole thing. Do we know we’re going to lose money coming out of the chute? Absolutely. There’s no way to avoid it. but if we can get our name out there this first 12 months, I believe we can make it. Because the wrestling is going to speak for itself.”