Second Disclaimer You Might Actually Read: Support independent wrestling. End of story. Go to a show, buy t-shirts from guys who need that money for gas and food, have fun. Independent wrestling is great, even when it’s hacky and run by jerks. None of this is meant specifically toward anybody I know or work with. Or for. If I know you, I’ve probably already complained about this in real life and it’s cool.
I go to a lot of shows.
In May, I went to 7 independent wrestling shows in 3 different states in the span of 14 days. I helped run one of them and performed on two. That doesn’t give me the right to say what does and doesn’t work in independent pro wrestling or pro wrestling as a whole, but it’s the Internet so I’m gonna do it anyway.
Some stuff just doesn’t work. The problem is that the way fandom works these days, you can’t like something and view it as imperfect. You have to go all-in, give yourself a fun fan club name and just blindly HOO-RAH any and every decision the promotion you’ve chosen to like makes. The reality is that EVERY wrestling promotion can improve, and that every wrestling promotion does a handful of things it shouldn’t. Why? Because “it’s wrestling,” and most folks are okay making a small amount of money doing “what works,” when what works is why only 40 people showed up, and why they’re all missing teeth.
Pro wrestling may never evolve (even when somebody names a pro wrestling company “Evolve”), but as someone with a blog I know what is best and can instruct you on how to take that next step. Here are five things your independent wrestling promotion should never do again.
1. Beard gimmicks
The big one.
A general rule of thumb for independent wrestling gimmicks should be, “if somebody’s done it on TV, don’t do it.” Wrestling fans don’t love to pay attention, but if something’s been on the USA Network they’re sorta forced to. Still, though, you’ll have guys at your local show walking out to ‘Walk’ by Pantera or that dubstep song they briefly used to sell WWE Network like nobody’s gonna notice. It’s unfortunate when the Fed yanks your good idea — especially when it ends up in NXT on “The Last Of A Dying Breed” Bull Dempsey — but it’s something you have to deal with. They win.
The worst of these is I HAVE A GREAT BEARD gimmicks. There were a few (hundred) (thousand) before Daniel Bryan started doing it on WWE TV, but now there are even more, all of them asking you to “fear the beard.” Some of them come with Daniel Bryan parody shirts. Zero of them should exist.
We live in a bearded world now, guys. Back in the 80s you could rationalize that only mountain men and badasses rocked monster beards, but now beards are so ubiquitous that even hipsters (actual ones, not wrestling ones) are starting to shave as an act of rebellion. Objectively, beards are just a thing people have. Lots of people can grow beards. It takes some of us six months, and some of us only grow them to hide our weak jawlines, but if your gimmick is HERE IS A THING ANYBODY CAN DO AND ALSO I HAVE DONE IT, try harder. FEAR THE BEARD is basically I BOUGHT A NICE HAT, but less hilarious.
2. Ladder matches with regular, home-use ladders
Ladder matches are fun and exciting. And hey, don’t get me wrong, independent promotions can put on good ones. Inspire Pro had a killer one back in May. The problem I have (and the problem I had before the May event, in the interest of full disclosure) is that many indie promotions don’t have access to WWE-style ladders, and that eradicates one of the simplest, most necessary building blocks of a ladder match.
See, WWE manufactures their own ladders. Has them made, whatever. They’re gimmicked to fit the match’s needs … some of them are reinforced to fit heavy guys, some are taller, some are made of wood and painted silver so guys can “break” them. The key, though, is that they’ve got rungs on both sides.
Normal ladders don’t have rungs on both sides. Only one person is meant to be climbing the ladder at any given time, so one side has rungs and one doesn’t. It just has that one thin metal bar in the middle. You’re left trying to create the drama of two guys racing to the top of the ladder with one guy ascending ladder rungs and the other trying to Donkey Kong Jr. his ass up two vertical slats of metal. It’s always awkward, and it makes the guy who has steps look like the biggest goober in the world for not being able to outrace the guy navigating up the Double Dare Sundae Slide. It’s even worse when you’re supposed to be hurt and selling fatigue late in the match.