An Interview with Matt Jackson about AEW & OWE

NC: Tell me the story of what led to AEW having a working agreement with OWE: What attracted you to the promotion? Was it a unanimous decision to go in this direction, or were there people who had doubts about the idea? How long has this been in the works? Was there a specific moment that made you go “We have to do this!”?   

MJ: Immediately when I saw a couple of GIFs of the OWE guys on Twitter, I was attracted. So, I looked up more clips and did research on them. I quickly learned my old friend CIMA, who I’d made friends with years ago in Japan, was affiliated with them. That made sense right away, because the clips I watched had a real Dragon Gate feel to it. Yet still, it looked and felt so original. Like a fight scene from an old Kung fu movie.  I knew I’d one day work with these guys right away. I’m attracted to anything out of the ordinary.

 

NC: When you made the announcement of AEW’s partnership with OWE you referred to CIMA’s #Stronghearts faction as “Good Hearts.” How many people have teased you over that flub?

MJ: Hah! Not many, thankfully. I documented the rough travel experience we had, and how I was coming right off a plane from 24 hours of travel with small children, so I think people cut me some slack. Right when I got to the back after I spoke, I looked at PAC whom I knew caught the mistake as well, and we both shared a quick laugh.

 

NC: Speaking of #Stronghearts, you specifically called out the faction in association with OWE. Does this mean fans should expect to see them exclusively from the OWE roster, or should fans expect to see members of their roster not associated with #Stronghearts already?

MJ: Right off the bat, #StrongHearts will be represented strongly, however, that won’t be the end of it. We expect to use several of the talents coming out of OWE. In my perfect world, once we’re running more regularly, I’d love to house several of the wrestlers, use them for a few months as part of an excursion, and send them back home with a little experience under their belts. Then, send more fresh wrestlers from OWE here to the states to do the same.

 

NC: As a follow up to that question, how familiar are you with OWE’s homegrown Chinese roster? Is there anyone you’d want to work with personally?

MJ: I’m fairly new to the Chinese roster, trying to do my homework. I am familiar with the talented Japanese wrestlers that are part of the roster. The guys that have stuck out are Zhao Yilong, Zhao Junjie, and Liu Xinxi. My favorite to watch is probably Zhao Yilong, because of the fun things he incorporates with his character. I can see him getting over huge with the American audience. When I watch some of these unbelievable highspots the OWE crew are doing, immediately I’m thinking about how fun it would be to have a tag team match against any two of them. Excited for the possibilities.

 

NC: It’s no secret that OWE have had difficulties getting international work VISAs for their Chinese talent, with only a handful of their roster who had been advertised to work abroad having actually fulfilled their international bookings. To further complicate matters, the United States and China are presently in the midst of what some call a Trade War. Has AEW worked through these hurdles, or does AEW have a plan in place to do so? Can fans expect to see Chinese OWE roster members at Double or Nothing?

MJ: We are currently working on securing VISAS as we speak. We’ve got a great legal team behind us, with lots of wonderful resources. We are fully expecting to have OWE represented at Double Or Nothing!

 

NC: With an alliance like this in place so early in both companies life spans, AEW and OWE have a strong chance of leaving lasting impressions on each other. How much of a role do you see OWE’s talent pool playing in these foundational first few years of running AEW?

MJ: I think it’s vital to have something completely fresh and unseen by most eyes be one of the major highlights of our shows. We need to be different aesthetically, and OWE is just that. OWE will grab the audience’s attention and deliver something most fans have never seen. I plan to have OWE be one of the first things on our show, because we’ve only got one first time impression, and we’ve got to make it a big one.

 

NC: Is it likely that fans will see AEW talent working cards in China on OWE produced events in the near future? Is China a market you want AEW to expand into, long-term?

MJ: That is definitely part of the plan in the foreseeable future. I’ve already had several members of our roster inquire about doing just that. The plan is to definitely expand into China, as it’s one of the few untapped markets with tons of potential.

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#NoLookingBack #020 – No Witty Title

This week I go visit a lawyer at a free legal clinic for artists for the second time in one calendar year. I’ve had a strategic change of mind about a long ongoing situation and want to make certain that I go about it in the most secure way possible. I’ve found a new path towards resolution that sets me ahead instead of behind. Since it’s a legal matter, I won’t say any more about it specifically.

I don’t like feeling like I’m coming out on the losing side of a situation. It festers like a wound and sometimes this leads me to self-detrimental behaviours and feelings about my worth. Then again, sometimes I find a way forward in the ashes and rubble. The solution I came up with this time, if I can pull it off, provides me with a full and robust project to move forward with. It’s thrilling to have this prospect. If I cannot resolve my legal issue the way I want to, this failure has still provided me with a structure and concept that can be moved forward either way.

The steps I have taken towards creating these comic book projects has been fraught with failures and learning lessons. Too often I have come out feeling like I failed myself, and there are still ways in which I need to improve on the efficiency, efficacy, and other words that end in y, of my burgeoning skillset and projects under my purview. Nevertheless, I see ahead of me big successes and many, many more lessons to learn. I’m certain I will fail to live up to my own expectations time and time again, but I won’t be derailed. Moving forward is the only way to pursue this dream.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Leave a comment here!

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#DiscoveringWrestling #024 – Powerbomb.TV are breaking down barriers for Indie Wrestling

On June 11th 2017 the independent Pro-Wrestling world will once again be breaking the barrier between content and audience, as Powerbomb.TV will be hosting a veritable who’s-who of indie stars in Old Forge, Pennsylvania to promote their streaming service, and help spread awareness of the many brands and star talents available on it.

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Look at how crisp that design is!

In 1999 the founders of scoopswrestling.com arranged the original Break the Barrier, an indie wrestling super-card featuring the likes of Mike Quackenbush, Headbanger Mosh, and Stevie Richards. The card featured participants from thirteen indie promotions and had many different titles on the line. This event from a bygone era completely flew under my radar until Powerbomb.TV announced that they were holding their own event, referencing this past crowning achievement in cross-promotion indie super-card booking. In referencing this event they draw stark comparisons to their own, highlighting that they are bringing together a startling number of promotions under their banner, and also forcing people to become aware of this long dead event. This confrontation seems to be to highlight the fact that had an infrastructure, like their own, been in place back in 1999 to distribute this event it may be more talked about and remembered today.

The card for Break the Barrier is stacked. Seriously, click on that link. Maybe you’re familiar with these guys, maybe this is the first time you’ve ever seen these names. Nevertheless, trust me, this card is great. How great? Let me tell you just about few of the reasons I’m excited for this show:

1: The Olde Wrestling showcase match featuring Dasher Hatfield vs. Jeff King. This promotion puts on a time-travel period piece spin on Pro-Wrestling. They turn back the clock, wear simpler, period appropriate attire, pare down the move sets, pick-up the dialects of, and transports the audience to the roaring 20s. They lean heavily on novelty and comedy, with fanciful storytelling and endearing costuming and characterization. Dasher Hatfield is already an old-fashioned baseball playing hero, so he’ll fit right in, but more importantly he is a storied, exciting veteran over in Chikara Pro. This match promises to show you something you, most likely, have never seen before… and if you like what they’re doing, Powerbomb.TV has two whole events for you to dig your teeth into.

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Old-Timey wrestling for modern eyes!

2: Desean Pratt vs. Ophidian is going to be phenomenal. These two former tag-team partners have battled before, back in Chikara Pro, and each man has gotten more experienced, and better, over the last several years. They know each other intimately, and can tell a phenomenal story with each other in the ring. This will be a solid match, even if they each worked at 50% capability… but I have never seen them put on a match that wasn’t 100%. I’ve been a fan of these guys for near a decade, and distinctly one shirt size ago. If you’ve agreed with my opinions before, or like what I have professed to liking, give this show a chance for this match alone (and stick around for the other exciting matches as well!)

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The men who could travel through time…

3: C*4 bring to the event a match featuring Buxx Belmar, one of the weirdest, most exciting performers to come out of Montreal. Called Dirty and Filthy, Buxx Belmar moves around the ring in a way literally unique to him, that is discomforting and forces you to pay attention to him, and performs bizarre hardcore stunts and gross-out spectacles. That videos pretty gnarly, maybe you don’t wanna click on that link. Now, he’s not always that disgusting, and his weirdness is usually more entrancing. He is unlike anything you have seen before, and is constantly amazing me in how he puts new spins on Pro-Wrestling.

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The weird just oozes out of him!

That’s three great reasons to watch any show and I haven’t even mentioned the insane fact that a legend like Skayde is in a huge lucha libre match or that the main event is jam packed with talent. If you sign up for Powerbomb.TV’s free trial today you will get to see this indie super-card entirely for free, and once you’re pumped up by that free spectacular you’ll want to stick around and dig deep into what the service has to offer.

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Skayde was integral in training many of the men on this card via his association with Chikara pro.

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It’s almost a shame that this isn’t a full time promotion with a main event this exciting and international!

 Service Overview:

Their streaming service itself has a fair number of “pros” to list here. My favourite part of the service is that it has a striking number of companies signed up under its banner. At the time I was crunching my numbers it came to a total of thirty-three promotions with a combined total of One-Hundred-and-Seventy-Three shows spread across them. Each company’s landing page provides the subscriber with links to the various social media, video, and web platforms that company has. This provides people like me with a desire to discover wrestling (see what I did there?) something to really sink their teeth into. Powerbomb.TV, therefore, make themselves an indispensible asset to someone who is looking to scout new talent from around the world, or someone who simply wants to find something completely fresh to engage with. One moment I am watching Italian wrestling, the next hardcore Lucha Libre, the next a bizarre glimpse into history with the retro-chic Olde Wrestling. All for $10.00 a month. Your mileage may vary.

Sign-Up for the service is stupid easy, requiring only an e-mail address, and their billing options are diverse. Having PayPal as an option to counter-balance accruing needless credit card debt is absolutely phenomenal. It puts them on the level of big name players in the streaming service market. Once you have signed up and logged in the landing pages are well designed and easy to navigate, and video playback is generally a simple and clean experience.

Before I start listing the “Cons” of the service, I’ll admit that many of them seem nitpicky. I bring them up herein to point out things that, if improved, would likely guarantee people stay signed up to the service for longer periods of time.

While, strictly mathematically, the average number of shows per promotion is 5.25, it doesn’t really play out in such a balanced way. The vast bulk of these shows, 93 to be specific, can be attributed to just four of the promotions signed up to the service, while eleven of the promotions on the service have a paltry one show a piece. This uneven spread is problematic if what excites you on the service is on the scantier side of content volume, well, then you might not stick around for too long. Furthermore, only seven out of the thirty-three promotions available on the service have content from 2017 actively available. This means that a scant 21% of promotions have content that can be considered moderately current, and the numbers grow more stark when you look at how many videos out of the total are from this calendar year: 6.35%, or 11 videos out of 173. While this scarcity of up-to-date content has no impact on one’s ability to enjoy exploring new promotions and good wrestling, it does, however, mean that Powerbomb.TV is not going to be the place for those who have a need to keep absolutely up to date with the promotions they enjoy.

While I have praised above the ease of use of the service, and the quality of their landing pages, Powerbomb.TV does lack a feature that would greatly improve my enjoyment, and the general ease, of using the service: a search function. So, let’s say that you watched some videos and you really liked one specific guy, and let’s also say that it was one of the few promotions that has double digits worth of shows. In the current set up you have to go through every video the company has one-by-one to tray and find more content featuring that exciting individual. Certainly, some of the videos are one-off matches that list their participants in the titles, but others are full events and a basic set of built-in search functions would greatly improve the experience. A search feature would also allow you to find work that the performers have done in other brands that may be on the service as well. It seems almost too simple a concept to be lacking, and yet it does lack this feature.

Interview:

To get a better feeling for what Powerbomb.TV is, and aims to be, I reached out to Gerard Durling, co-founder of the service for a short interview.

NC: For those unaware, who are you and what is your background?

GD: My name is Gerard Durling and I’m the founder of Coal Creative internet marketing, co-founder of Powerbomb.tv independent wrestling video on demand service. I guess you can say that, in a previous life, I was an independent wrestler by the name of “Vin Gerard” and “Equinox” in CHIKARA.

NC: What made you transition from being an in-ring performer to a partner in a streaming service?

GD: Well, the in-ring performer stuff has been behind me now for about 5-years. Personally, I didn’t feel like I was advancing myself enough to continue performing the amount I was. In my last year of wrestling, I was also creating my first start-up business that was gaining some attention from investors. I ended up taking a deal and it required me to be available a lot on weekend evenings. That is of course, when most independent wrestling shows were. It felt like a natural progression and break to see what else I could do outside of it.

In the last year or two, my company Coal Creative, has really expanded ourselves into video marketing. That’s how this all started with Powerbomb.TV – I was approached by Adam Lash to see if I’d be interested in getting involved in the project with him.

NC: With all the recent waves being made in the streaming service market concerning Pro-Wrestling (WWE Network, NJPW World, Lucha Underground on Netflix, multitudinous indie promotions having their own dedicated streaming options etc.) what is your vision to make Powerbomb.tv stand out from the crowd?

GD: Adam and I both share a passion for wanting to help independent wrestling be more successful and to help however we can. We’re not millionaires, that’s for sure. We can’t compete with some of these services in dollars. We thought that by creating this service, we could reinvest into the companies that work with us. We’re not in this to make money from the subscription service. We want to help make a difference on the independent level and to expose fans to new talent and promotions.

NC: What do you offer to Promoters and Fans that sets you apart as a business partner and as a service to invest in?

GD: I think we offer promoters a lot of opportunity. If someone asks us for help with anything, we’re always open to trying to figure out a way to make it work. As for fans, we have a very diverse catalog of content already, over 30 promotions, and a lot are from partners in Mexico. We want to try to involve the promotions we work with as much as we can in creating out of the box ideas that will garner more attention for everyone.

NC: Who on Powerbomb.tv are you most excited to watch? Who should people be keeping their eyes on?

GD: A lot of the independent lucha libre has me excited. We have some opportunities there to create some interesting content that could help educate American wrestling fans to some of the new faces of Lucha Libre. We’re looking into providing alternate commentary for some of those promotions. C*4 in Ottawa Canada deserves a lot more attention for some of the shows they’ve put together over the last few years.

In Conclusion:

Powerbomb.TV is positioning itself in the independent pro-wrestling scene as an exciting alternative to the standard distribution models of DVD and VOD sales, whose scope offers people like me, and hopefully people like you, something fresh and exciting. While there are some concerns I have raised about the content and the platform’s functionality, this is a living service that is routinely being updated. Since I crunched my numbers at least six new videos across a minimum of three different promotions have been added. I think that they have all the potential in the world to become an exciting, vibrant hub for fans of independent and international pro-wrestling to find what they are craving. I look forward to seeing their offerings expand, and to seeing them take more interesting marketing initiatives like Break the Barrier 2017. Don’t forget to sign up for your free trial today and watch Break the Barrier on June 11th, then dig into the offerings the participating promotions have on the service!

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #022 – But why does YouTube hate Pro-Wrestling? Part 2

Last Monday I laid out that there has been a heavy impact felt by several vocal  Professional Wrestling promotions (and likely many more  who have not voiced their woes) with regards to YouTube’s shifting stance on what is, and what is not, advertising friendly content. Companies like Beyond Wrestling, WCPW, and WWR have all seen their advertisement income through the platform decimated, reduced to one tenth or less of what it had been. Each company impacted by this solemn decree from high atop Mount YouTube, that Professional Wrestling, in its entirety, is heretical and antithetical to advertisers, is coping with the blow to their bottom line in different ways. WCPW has been forced to scale back, cancelling their weekly Loaded show, Beyond is resting, somewhat comfortably, on its diversified income streams, while WWR faces an indefinite hiatus if paid sales of content don’t pan out in the immediate future.

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With the scene set, I left the last article on the idea that there were two paths forward at this critical juncture in the Internet-Age of Pro-Wrestling: Adaptation and Confrontation. So let’s look a little at what these two paths would entail, and what opportunities and pitfalls they each might hold for those companies faced with choosing their own adventure.

ADAPTATION

Herein we will define “adaptation” as the need for companies to diversify and/or strengthen their non-YouTube revenue streams to turn the tide against this loss of income. Now, we can safely assume that, if shows are being cancelled and operations potentially indefinitely suspended, the revenue earned from ticket sales for shows and merch alone is insufficient to cover the various operating costs. The natural assumption would then be to ask “Why not just raise ticket and merch prices?” Well, unfortunately there’s only so much that prices can be raised before you turn off your fan base . This could happen either because they cannot afford to move up to whatever price point you deem necessary to survival, or because they determine that the cost-to-fun ratio isn’t worth it anymore, or they expect that with increased cost comes increased quality of venue, production value, talent et al., not simply maintaining the status quo.

So, while I could see an approximate five to ten dollar increase across the board not driving away fans in stampeding droves, anything greater than that would likely fail to garner you any serious benefits – and even that small increase, with the additional taxes that would have to be paid on them, may turn out to be entirely ineffective.

One could attempt to increase ones profit margins through increased volume of merchandise sales, but for indie companies this can prove to be a difficult, uphill climb. Only a few major companies, such as the WWE, NJPW, ROH, and Impact, can afford to take production and distribution and paying of owed royalties out of the hands of the performers on their shows. This leaves indie promotions to compete for merchandise sales at their shows with the regular talent and special guest attractions. Most often, from my many, many, many years of attending independent shows, those in attendance will purchase far more merchandise directly from the wrestlers than from the promotion. The reasons for this are multitudinous, and not worth exploring in their entirety here for the sake of this article.

There are a few ways that promotions could grow their merchandise sales without having to take on the burden of production, and fronting costs, for performer merchandise or, worse, raise the ire of fan and wrestler alike by banning sales by any parties other than themselves at their events. They could hire top tier graphic designers to produce merchandise that is more visually appealing than that of the talent they bring in, and I can say that great designs have made me buy shirts for brands that I wasn’t a huge fan of before. But designs in and of themselves will not accomplish enough of an increase, on their own. What drives revenue to wrestlers tables, more than to the promotions’ merch, is that people like to support things they are excited to see. The company itself, and not just the people who perform there, has to be seen as a destination, an entity in and of itself, to breed brand loyalty.

Considering the nature of Professional Wrestling in 2017, with most talent working many promotions in a given area, and the speed at which major players are scooping up independent talent to bolster their rosters, making your promotion have an identity, and not relying exclusively on local star talent or special attractions to drive sales, is a key to survival. Creating brand loyalty, instead of being a place where people go to see some big names when they come through town, is crucial. Now, the brands in question here – WCPW, Beyond Wrestling, WWR – are not exactly your standard local indie promotion and have, relatively speaking, entrenched fandoms. Likely this issue wouldn’t be as much of a problem for them as it would be for one of those other companies I posited as hypotheticals earlier.

I feel ill-equipped to advice companies on how to create that crucial identity, that peculiar mixture of characteristics, that will work to generate brand loyalty. There are too many factors to take into account, most of them directly and explicitly unique to the locality a company operates in. This is where you, as a promoter, would have to do some research, learn what your local audience likes, what will click with people who identify with your territory, and tap into the collective regional zeitgeist. This mixture will be wildly different from one audience to the next, with multiple promotions capable of running overlapping geographical space and still having their own full-fledge and hardcore non-overlapping fan base.  I think Smash Wrestling have done a wonderful job of this for Toronto, and I’d love to pick the brains of the men behind the branding – let’s see if I can arrange that for down the line.

So then, if you’re already at a point where you’ve crafted your brand’s identity, and your fandom is loyal and willing to spend money on your merchandise, and you’re still feeling the hit like a bulldozer in this lost revenue, what options are there left? Many companies are turning to digital streaming services, either independently like Chikara and Smash have done, following the WWE’s model, or through platforms like Fite TV, FloSlam and Powerbomb.TV that all offer multiple companies’ shows housed under one roof. To the hardcore fans these are great options for keeping up to date with your company’s content, but the problem here is that the marketplace is brutally crowded, with dozens of companies having dedicated services as well as boatloads of companies having YouTube channels that give away content for free. It is very easy to look at all of these different places vying for your money and become overwhelmed with the sea of choice. Even if you assume that your local indy fan doesn’t want to be subscribed to the WWE’s network, that still places you in direct competition with NJPW, DDT, Stardom, Chikara, Smash, Progress, and others who all have potentially more visibility.

So crafting brand loyalty would certainly help to engage your loyal fans in making a choice towards your service, but a few hundred or a thousand subscribers may not be enough to patch up the lost revenue, when you consider the additional costs that would be associated with it. It certainly helps to shore up your war chest, but if one match previously returned to you thousands of dollars in YouTube revenue and now is giving you scant more than forty bucks, you’re looking at a gulf that may not be patchable on your current fandom…

Is, then, growing your fan base the only solution? Obviously every wrestling promotion should have its sights set  on bringing more eyes to their product and bringing new people into the overall Pro-Wrestling fandom. Yet, realistically speaking, I generally see the same sets of people at the local indy shows month-in and month-out. Reaching beyond your core hardcore audience and attracting new people to Professional Wrestling seems to be the hardest hurdle. Realistically even the E fails to do this in this day and age, and they offer the most flash, bang, and pop in production values and big spectacle shows. There’s clearly a missing component, here. I’m not enough of a businessman, prophet, or savant to be able to answer the questions raised here, about how to grow the popularity of Professional Wrestling beyond its current bounds to the heights it once achieved, and has the potential to exceed, or how to best monetize your existing fans without driving them away. Maybe in the future I’ll come to a point where I have investigated the industry and the fans enough to be of more help. But there’s still another option left…

CONFRONTATION

But another possibility exists, as mentioned above in that video. A cryptic possibility tied tightly with the newly crowned Fighting Back show, which apes the YouTube logo to make its intent clear. A campaign, they call it, will be launched to try and counteract this loss of revenue. Likely this will be aimed at YouTube changing its advertising and monetization guidelines to reinstate Pro-Wrestling as a friendly place to advertise. Hell, the WWE shills Rocket League and Slim Jims (okay, I’ve dated myself with one of those references). But what form the campaign will take, and what impact it will have, leaves much to the imagination.

From my personal experience with the Indivisible crowd funding campaign, and knowing the large social media presence the WhatCulture boys have, a Thunderclap or other similar mass broadcasting message service would seem a logical direction to take this in. Make your noise loud, make it with as many voices as possible, and worst of all for YouTube, make it fucking #trend. Depending upon their choice of words, and the specific platform they use to approach this topic, it wouldn’t be a far cry to see many other Pro-Wrestling companies, and genre appropriate YouTube personalities, enlist their own fan bases to expand the efficacy of this proposed campaign. I can see how I would go about this, were I in their position. We’ll have to wait and see what moves they make. I’d hate to lose such potential after such little time.

In the meantime, however, after WCPW’s cryptic messages, Pro-Wrestling fans across social media have mobilised. Presently there is a petition, launched by Heelbook on Change.org, calling for a reversal of YouTube’s declarations concerning Pro-Wrestling. This petition picks up on the concerns voiced by Adam Blampied in WCPW’s video from last week and runs with it, mentioning Beyond Wrestling, as I have, and adding some new names to the list of those affected. This petition has caught they eye of one Will Ospreay who retweeted it, and is approximately 7000 signatures away from its 25000 signee goal. Whether or not this number of people will make a difference in the eyes of YouTube or just be inconsequential is beyond my grasp, but it is obvious that fans and brands seem to have chosen to fight this rather than strive for those intangibles associated with adaptation. It will be interesting, over the coming months, to see how this plays out.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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