When it comes to pro wrestling, most people don’t think twice about showing support for their favourite performers in the easiest way possible: merchandise. Forking over a twenty in exchange for a quick photo and a t-shirt is a time-tested ritual of any independent show, and where wrestlers build their reputation outside of the ring. A bad interaction can irreparably taint a fan’s perspective, but a connection built over those familiar folding tables can last for the rest of a wrestler’s career. That kind of experience gets lost without that venue for interaction, inspiring some wrestlers to take matters — and their merchandise — into their own hands.
New Japan’s Rocky Romero is one such wrestler who is hoping to recreate as much of that experience as possible for long-distance fans. We talked to Romero about his new website, embracing the independent spirit, and, of course, how the Young Bucks are setting yet another industry standard.
“I think the Bucks have done really a good job with being personable with their fans. Every item is personalized,” he explains. “I like that. For me it’s still do it yourself. I think that’s cool. That’s like being a hip hop artist, punk, or whatever. That’s still the cool part. The one on one interaction. When you’re really getting your start in wrestling you have to go through that whole process. I enjoy that now.”
While Romero has always loved the DIY nature of wrestling, his time in Japan gave him a unique perspective, and ultimately the inspiration to get back to his roots.
“Selling t-shirts in Japan is one of the funnest things for me to do. When we have a signing, we don’t speak the same language but I want everybody to really enjoy it. I’m not performing behind that table, I’m genuinely into it. I’m very energetic — I try to be as energetic as I can because I want them to go back and tell their friends, “I met Rocky Romero, I met Trent Beretta and they’re the coolest guys ever. They’re so much fun.” When you’re just standing there, you’re taking people’s money, and it just doesn’t feel…I don’t feel right about it. I want them to have an experience. As a fan, I would have been over the moon first time I met whoever. I want them to be able to have a positive interaction.”
“I think just at this point you can see the success of the Young Bucks, and I think hey, I should be doing that,” he explains. “I can put the album, I can do this and that. I’m working on some video web series stuff that I want to put in there. I just want to have one place that you can just go for everything and make it easy for fans, as well a totally personalized experience.”
As much as this is a part of his livelihood, Romero lights up when talking about his fans. Though I wasn’t the target audience for this newly launched site, his genuine enthusiasm was infectious. As he related, he hopes that same enthusiasm comes across in what he’s trying to do.
“I’m not like some wrestlers that just want your money. I don’t believe in that. I feel like this is wrestling, this is what makes it cool, that we are accessible is the cool part. That’s the human in me.”