AS I SEE IT
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
As most of you know, PWBTS.com, the flagship site of this column, focuses on coverage and promotion of independent wrestling. As someone who happily shills independent wrestling promotions whenever possible, one of the things that pisses me off is the way independent promotions seems to have no sense about the basic sorts of things that they need to do to promote their product. Again, as I do wevery few months, I’d like to offer some observations as to some of those things I think that promotions need to do to publicize their product online. I realize that some people may find some of the suggestions listed below to be painfully obvious, but trust me…they aren’t. All too many independent promoters don’t use some or all of these ideas. I’ve seen all too many cases where promoters don’t…well…promote… and crowds suffer accordingly. But that’s not all.
Even with me putting this column up, every three months or so, I’m amazed at how promoters ignore the most basic points. I had two promoters send me shills without the most basic material: location, time and where to buy tickets.
You don’t need to attend the Wharton School of Business to know that the most important thing, no matter whether you’re running wrestling shows or selling cars… is to advertise, advertise, advertise. If marks like me who run wrestling websites are ready to help you do so…you’ve lost nothing, spent nothing…and quite possibly gained a lot. Better yet, you can promote your own company online as well. Along with the usual (and necessary) grunt work of getting up posters, handing out flyers, as well as getting sponsors to defer the cost of your show, and help sell tickets for you… all of which are necessary no matter what kind of fan base you have, the most cost-effective way to promote your shows is online.
Here’s some of the things that can be done…that don’t cost much, and can potentially help a lot.
First, does your company have a website? If not, why not? it’s one of the easiest ways to promote your product to fans. A website doesn’t require technical genius to put up and keep current. Basic ones also aren’t expensive. Most internet service providers will let you post a personal/hobby page. Hell, just do a Facebook page.
If you want to spend a bit more money, you can also buy a domain name like mine at PWBTS.com, and pay a basic monthly fee to have it hosted. What should that website consist of? If nothing else, it should use intelligible English. Use spell check. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE use spell check, and ask someone to check it for grammar and spelling mistakes before you send it out. While website owners know you want to push your show…lay off releases sent in all caps and with a dozen asterisks and exclamation points. Every match is a great one (or you’d like potential fans to think so…we get the point).
After you do all that, just write it simply with items such as these:
Tell fans when your upcoming shows are…far enough in advance to let them make plans, so they don’t attend a nearby competitor’s show instead.
Tell fans where the shows are, and how to get to the shows. The locations of your shows should be listed on your website, with directions from nearby areas, using local landmarks and major highways. You can also use Yahoo Maps, Google maps (my favorite), Expedia or Mapquest to illustrate where you’re running a show.
It also would be nice to include mass transit directions if you live in an area where mass transit connections exist to your venue. You can find these directions easily enough on your local transit agency’s website, then post them in your shills. Google Transit is useful in large markets to tell people where transit connections are to specific addresses.. You can also cheat a bit and use nearby landmarks or an existing map, which typically have websites and /or maps that you can use.
Other things to do are:
Tell fans WHO is on the show and tell fans your current storyline behind key matches, so fans feel there’s a reason to come to see them. Do it AHEAD OF TIME…not just days before the show.
Tell the fans WHAT your tickets cost, and where they can get them. If you have standard ticket costs, list them. If you have remote ticket locations (local merchants that sell tickets for you), list them and where the merchants are located.
If you have an e-mail address, hotline, or ticket phone line (local numbers or tollfree 800/877/888 numbers are preferable), list those as well.
If possible, have a part of your website devoted to online ticket orders. Some promotions, depending on which venues they run, may have to utilize Ticketmaster.com, Tickets.com, or other regional ticket brokers. If that’s the case, you obviously have no problem. Let Ticketmaster do the work. But be sure to post a direct order link for your show, as opposed to just a generic link to Ticketmaster.com. Trust me, Ticketmaster has made it hard sometimes to find an indy show if you’re just looking blindly.
Then, sell your merchandise. Let’s face it, if you’re an independent promoter, you need every revenue stream that there is….or in English, you need any way you can to make a dime. Some promotions are small enough that the wrestlers just sell gimmicks at the shows. But others can also do so on their website. Promotions can also use tape dealers like Smart Mark Video to sell and tape their shows; or use Highspots.com to sell tapes and a variety of other merchandise.
Those are just some very basic suggestions for what you can include on a basic website, and some examples of how some independent promotions do those very things.
Now, does your promotion send out press releases before a show, or results afterwards to websites like PWBTS…or the Wrestling Observer…or a hundred others? If not, why not?
First, press releases. They don’t have to look like something out of Northwestern University’s School of Journalism. But let me suggest a few dos and don’ts. Again, it’s not necessary to capitalize everything…or use exclamation points and asterisks throughout the release you send to a website. We know you want people to come to the show, so write an intelligent sounding release that makes both your company and the show you’re promoting look good….in something approaching English, please.
You might even learn a bit of basic HTML so people can just cut and paste the items into our posting script and get it up on our websites. It makes things LOTS easier when posting your releases. Some promotions do…and it makes life a LOT easier for us. Second, as I’ve said above…PLEASE use spellcheck. You’d be surprised at the e-mails I receive that don’t provide each of those items. You’d also be surprised at the way some of those e-mails are written. To be blunt, I get some press releases that look like a pre-schooler wrote them.
Again, press releases don’t need to look like something out of Northwestern University’s School of Journalism…but it would be nice if they had correct spelling and at least reasonably good grammar. That’s why Bill Gates created spell check and grammar check. I’ve gotten promotional shills for shows that I had to literally spend 15 minutes re-writing in order to post them at PWBTS. I’ve refused to run shills for certain independents, because I’d asked the promotions time after time to check them before sending them to me, because they were written so poorly that the companies should have been embarrassed to send them out in public. Remember that your press release/shill is how a new fan sees you. If your press release is professionally written (or at least semi-literate), that new fan is more likely to read it, and their money is more likely to come your way. Send it to widely distributed mailing lists of upcoming shows supplied to websites. Post them on any one of the million wrestling related message boards that are out there, to regional wrestling websites that cover a variety of independent promotions in their area.
Send releases to the mainstream press, such as your local daily or weekly newspaper. See if that newspaper has a weekly wrestling column. Newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, Miami Herald, New York Daily News, the Dallas News, and Charleston Post and Courier (just to name a few) have such columns. They’ll often run shills for your show. Mainstream coverage is a Godsend for your promotion. Again, remember the rules I listed above….use spell check and provide basic information. If your local newspaper is a smaller weekly or daily, send it to whoever runs a section for community events, particularly if the event is to benefit a local charity, church, or community group. That’s always a good hook.
Send them to your local TV station or cable system, especially if the event is to benefit a local charity or community group. Put together a e-mailing list of regular contacts and send it out to them to plug each and every show you run. Consider paid advertising on certain sites. Use the major websites or those that cover either your region in particular or independent wrestling in general to advertise your product. Get your fans to put together an e-Street Team….fans that know how to write fairly well, or provide them with the information to send yourself. Have them talk you up on message boards, websites, and newsgroups. Again, Facebook is easy and useful…everyone seems to be on it. Use it.
Make being a fan of your company not just a fun evening, but a responsibility. ECW was the first known example of a company that understood this. Fans all but MADE mainstream wrestling publications pay attention to ECW. Those fans were ECW’s best asset, because they felt obligated to let people know about the product. These days, Ring of Honor has benefited from the very same kind of dedication from its fans, who seem to feel obligated to do it.
Now, let’s talk about sending out results, including accurate crowd counts.
Let me use an example of a particular promotion I report on frequently. In the eyes of their fans they’ve often received what they believe to be unfair treatment and/or lack of coverage by online sources, the Wrestling Observer, and even newsstand publications about their major shows. In one example some years back, the promotion believed that the Observer report low-counted their crowd by a good 25-30% (thus ignoring the fact that they drew their second highest crowd ever). It’s important to realize that most online news sources based crowd counts on what they receive via e-mail, and don’t have staff to send on to your show. Thus, if someone sending results to a newsletter or website didn’t like the show, or has a grudge against your promotion, they may low-ball you with a ridiculously low crowd count, and make you look bad. Send out your own information…and, as strange as this may sound for wrestling… tell the truth. Provide websites and newsletters with ridiculously high crowd count, and you’ll be called on it. I know there have been times in the past when the above promotion’s fans and staff were upset at a major website for reviews of shows that were posted. I’ve seen where their fans and staff basically said “screw [insert name of site]”. They said pretty much the same thing in this case regarding what they felt about the Observer report.
Let me say this. This particular promotion is friendly to me, as I’ve gone to their shows since the very beginning. I’ve generally liked their product, and feel I’ve given them fair reviews. That’s all well and good. But the fact of the matter is that major sites like WrestlingObserver.com or PWinsider.com get more hits in an hour then PWBTS does in a week or maybe a month. A newsletter like The Wrestling Observer gets at least as many readers on a weekend than I get page views in 2 weeks. The Observer’s reputation is also far more well-known and respected by wrestling fans than PWBTS or this column will ever be in my wildest dreams or fantasies.
Therefore, giving me information to publicize their product is a good thing, but it’d be far better if they also did the same for 1wrestling.com, PWinsider.com, the Observer, Prowrestling.net, or the Torch.
Let me use an example from a different field of entertainment. If you wrote a Broadway play, and had a previous play you’d written panned by the New York Times; does that mean that you’d stay pissed off at them and wouldn’t try to use them to promote your next play, and would just send your releases to the Staten Island Advance? Not if you have any sense, you wouldn’t. Letting your ego get in the way of using an online source or newsletter is idiotic. You’re taking money out of your own pocket and those of your workers…just for spite. Instead, spend some time talking to the reviewer (yes, promoters, that means kissing up to those who run or report for websites with such things as press passes, or interviews with your talent) and try to get them on your side.
Unfortunately, some promoters seem to subscribe to the ld School of Wrestling Website Interaction…namely, that online reporters and sheetwriters are better off dead, or are “parasites” and “scum” and ignore them. Call me stupid…but if someone’s going to help me advertise my product for free…I’d kiss up to them in a New York minute. Independent promotions that are able to do so should spend some time with the Dave Meltzers, Wade Kellers, and Mike Johnsons of the world, and develop relationships with them so as to get fair reviews for their product and encourage new people to come to shows.
Again, send your results….that night or the next morning (not a week, or two or three later) or to wrestling websites. Give a basic outline of who went over, major storylines that were advanced, how well you drew (especially if the crowd was good for your promotion), and a reminder of when your next show is happening. If you had a good show and drew a good crowd, make a point to get the word out…that’s advertising, too.
I’m not a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. I’m just one more mark sitting in the seats, who just wants to see independent wrestling succeed….at a time when wrestling fans need alternatives….badly.
Speaking of independent promotions….to conclude, a reminder about three killer shows at the ECW Arena….first, the return of Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling’s tenth annual Best of The Best tournament, and CHIKARA Pro Wrestling’s King of Trios all in April; then concluding with the historic May debut of New Japan Pro Wrestling here in Philadelphia. Thing start off on April 9 with an ECW Arena doubleheader, where Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling makes its United States return in an afternoon show to start at 2:30 pm. Westside Xtreme Wrestling debuted in Philadelphia last March, with their “Vision” event featuring a brutal main event of wXw’s Thumbtack Jack and Drake Younger and dream matches including Alex Shelley vs. Chris Hero and wXw Tag champions Switchblade Conspiracy defending against The American Wolves.
In the main event, Japan Deathmatch Icon Jun Kasai takes on the “Golden Boy” Drake Younger! This match is the most anticipated by all fans of Hardcore Wrestling….and they will collide in a No Ropes Barbed Wired Match! So many legendary Barbed Wire Matches have been seen by Arena fans, but “Kasai vs. Drake” will open a new chapter of violence. To balance things, technical wrestling fans will see Zack Sabre, Jr. and Emil Sitoci, who holds victories over Japanese top cruiserweights CIMA, Taiji Ishimori and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Last June, Sabre beat Steve Douglas to unify the wXw lightweight and heavyweight titles to win wXw’s first “Unified World Championship”, a title eventually lost to the massive Austrian Big van Walter. Elsewhere on the show, Big van Walter and Sami Callihan will also be in action. Visit Westside Xtreme Wrestling’s United States site for the latest news and ticket information on wXw’s U.S. return! Early purchases of fronyt row tickets are available via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the topic “wXw Philadelphia First Row”.
That evening, Combat Zone Wrestling presents the tenth annual “Best of The Best” tournament, with a scheduled 7:30 pm belltime. Early participants announced are wXw’s Zack Sabre, Jr., Big Japan Wrestling’s Deisuke Sekimoto, Dragon Gate USA’s Chuck Taylor, CHIKARA’s Johnny Gargano, CZW’s (Gran) Akuma and Sami Callihan. Along with the Best of the Best tournament, a Dream Death Match will take place with the CZW return of “Crazy Monkey’ Jun Kasai. Tickets will be available through the CZW Pro Shop at this link.
The very next week, CHIKARA Pro Wrestling comes to the world’s most famous Bingo Hall for King of Trios 2011 on April 15-17. Belltimes are 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday and 4:30 pm on Sunday for the finals. F.I.S.T, The Colony, The Osirian Portal, The Throwbacks, Da Soul Touchaz, and the newly announced trio of Mike Quakenbush, Jigsaw, and Japanese legend Manami Toyota are the first six trios announced. Saturday afternoon will feature the fourth annual Fan Conclave at 2:30 pm priopr to showtime. Tickets for this year’s Fan Conclave are $10 (free tob those buying tickets for all three nights) . Along with wrestler autographs and gimmick sales, Stan Bush (who has the official song of King of Trios 2011) will be performing a concert during the Fan Conclave. Tickets for all events are available NOW at the CHIKARA store.
Finally, on May 15, New Japan Pro Wrestling debuts at the ECW Arena with a full lineup including 2010 Super J Tag League winners Jado and Gedo, Japanese legend Jushin “Thunder” Liger, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, 2010 G1 Climax tournament winner Satoshi Kojima, Tiger Mask IV, Shinsuke Nakamura, Ryusuke Taguchi, Kazuchika Okada, Giant Bernard, Karl “Machine Guns” Anderson, Prince Devitt, Kenny Omega, Yujiro Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Mitsuhide Hirasawa, Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, and new addition MVP. Fair warning: tickets are not cheap, plus there is a $4 convenience fee for tickets purchased through the website. Tickets are Gold (Row 2/3) $65, Blue (row 4/5) $45, Red (GA) $25 and can be ordered at this site. Fans that purchase a GOLD ticket will receive a special meet and greet with NJPW Superstars at 2:30pm before the doors open, as well as, a commemorative ticket and DVD gift (redeemable with ticket the night of the show).
Until next time…
If you have comments/questions/event announcements/results, if you’d like to add the AS I SEE IT column to your website, or if you’d like to add advertising on PWBTS.com (the flagship website of this column), e-mail me at the address above. Advertising consists of banner ads, available for $400 for one year. These ads would appear on each newspage appearing on the newsboard. Cube ads are also available for $200 for one year, which would be placed on the main newsboard page.