“THE TERRITORIES ARE DEAD. LONG LIVE THE TERRITORIES.” Many will say that the Golden Age of Wrestling is back. Is it? And is it the same as before?
There has never been a better time to be in independent wrestling. There has also never been a worse time to be in independent wrestling. Sounds like a blatant contradiction, doesn’t it? But it’s really not. Let me explain.
It’s never been a better time to be in independent wrestling if you KNOW HOW TO LEVERAGE YOURSELF.
There’s also never been a worse time, because now more than ever, it’s on you, as a talent, to be 100% responsible for your career.
A lot of people are say “We’re in the new Golden Age of wrestling” right now. And Wrestling’s hot! It’s making a major comeback. Especially independent wrestling.And I agree, we ARE in a golden age.
Here’s what I want to point out, though. While the fans are saying it’s a golden age to WATCH wrestling as a fan, I’m saying “It’s a golden age for talent with opportunity that never existed before.”
Let’s take a look at talent like Cody Rhodes & The Young Bucks. We’re legitimately watching history right now. The funny thing about watching history while it happens though is sometimes we don’t REALIZE we’re watching it while we’re in it.
We’re watching something monumental unfold that has the potential to change the way the business operates for a long time to come. We’re in a shift right now where the power is going back to the performer.
IF… and it’s a BIG IF… IF… the performer knows how to leverage it right.
Cody & The Young Bucks have figured out how to leverage opportunity. And this side of their story isn’t really a wrestling story.
To really understand this, we have to go back in the early 90’s, when wrestling didn’t have guaranteed contracts. You were at the promoter’s mercy, you usually had a pay-per-appearance deal, and unless you were a major headlining star, the money you made was equivalent to how often you worked. You, as a talent, were dependent on a company putting the “machine” behind you. And since what one promoter likes is never the same as what another promoter likes, it was very hit and miss as to guys being protected with their spots.
You needed to get in with a major promoter and have a major company behind you. And all they would give you is an opportunity. That’s exactly how WWE (then WWF) worked. Most performers, even bigger names, did not have guaranteed contracts.
That all changed back in 96 – 97. Hall and Nash jump to WCW from WWF and largely get credited with getting the first big money guaranteed contract.
It changed the business. A performer had a downside which was guaranteed. “You’re going to make THIS much money minimum, regardless, and anything above and beyond that is great.” It’s never been done before then, allegedly. Remember–wrestling was still very much handshakes and opportunities. So there wasn’t really any safety net for the performers.
And that changed things for the better for the performer. They even refer to this in Hall and Nash’s Hall of Fame speeches.
If things weren’t working out for you in one company, you could leverage yourself and move to another-either for more money, for more opportunity, or for both.
Look at Chris Jericho. While WWF might not have paid him the same in guaranteed downside money compared to WCW, WWF offered him more in opportunity. If you were coming to the end of your run and wanted to switch things up, you could go to WCW and get big guaranteed money. And vice versa.
It was great for everyone.
Until WCW and ECW went out of business, and WWE became the only game in town. You still had guaranteed contracts, but you as a performer no longer had leverage.
It became feast or famine. Work for WWE and get whatever they’re offering…or go to the independents and “good luck to you.”
But independent wrestling wasn’t what it is today. It was drawing on average 200 or less a night most places. Most talent could only make $50 – $150 a weekend some weekends.
Until recently–when a funny little thing called “Technology, Social Media, and the Internet” started to grow up.
For the first time in history, there can be big time wrestling products, aired worldwide, without ANY need for a network. And things that used to cost millions of dollars now only cost thousands by way of production. We live in a world right now with a little bit of innovation, a good mind behind it, and some know-how, and a local independent company can become a national phenomenon. It’s never been possible before, because the barrier of entry was too great.
You have like 6 major TV corporations, and Vince McMahon is on most of them, and the rest of them don’t want wrestling. Or you’d have to pay to get on.
But today, you technically don’t even need a network technically. And the crazy thing is, the TALENT can utilize it too.
Cody Rhodes & The Young Bucks presented Being the Elite on YouTube, that’s what helped sell over 10,000 people into the Sears Center in Chicago.
And they did it by building a brand mostly on their own. Yes they’re in New Japan and Ring of Honor and things of that nature, but you know what I mean.
And here’s the amazing thing, they’re not tied down to ONLY one thing!
Before, the guaranteed contract meant you HAD to ONLY wrestle for ONE company and that’s IT.
Guys like Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks – they can work Japan, they can work ROH, they can travel and do high level independents outside of the United States and command a premium price.
For the first time in HISTORY, just like a promotion can now become a major promotion without needing TV, a wrestling star can become a major wrestling star WITHOUT the help of one particular company or machine behind them.
Cody & The Young Bucks are the first in on this phenomenon, they’re the trailblazers here. They’re the Scott Hall’s and Kevin Nash’s blazing the trail for guaranteed contracts.
Only in 2018, the trail they’re blazing is freedom for the performer to be able to make a major name for themselves, and as long as they create the value, they can command a premium price for their appearances while not NEEDING to be tied down to ANYONE.
We’re in an era where if you play this right, and you’re a smart performer, and you know how to market, you can become a major star making 6 figures in this business without ever needing to set foot in a WWE ring.
It’s insanity. It’s amazing. And it’s true.
The only thing is, though, it’s not for the weak of heart. Now more than ever, this business is going to be sink or swim. You want to know why?
Because now it’s the performers 100% responsibility for his own career.
Before, you could blame politics, or Vince, or a whole number of things. “I didn’t have an opportunity.”
Now you have nothing BUT opportunity, but it’s up to you to take advantage of it. If you as a performer can take the ball and run with it, you can do very well. Some will, a lot of them will stay right where they’re at, hoping someone discovers them.
You want to know another great example of someone doing this? Killer Kross.
I’ve known and followed him since he started. He was a local talent in Las Vegas, doing his own thing – but he was HUGE on marketing and branding himself. He’d make his own YouTube videos and create mystique around his character. Pretty soon, he started going to Mexico. Then Lucha Underground. Then Impact wants him. Now it’s reported WWE wants him.
All because of HIS own efforts and grassroots marketing. And he’s not tied down–he has as much freedom as he wants.
So we’re in an age right now where if you’re SAVVY enough, you can become a MAJOR star without the need to be tied down to one promotion. The only question is – who’s going to take advantage of the opportunity?
The power is completely in the talents hands now. Who’s going to use it to step up?
Jared Ganem most notably has been the Technical Director for All In, Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor, Best in the World, Supercard of Honor, and ROH TV tapings, and the producer/director for Ring Warriors on WGN America. He’s worked with a who’s who in the world of professional wrestling.
To learn more about the work Jared is doing with the talent of today, visit The Inner Squared Circle: Elite Pro Wrestling Training and Mindset on Facebook. Talent in the business, looking for an edge, are encouraged to submit a request to join.