The independent wrestling scene can provide its share of ups and downs for even the most seasoned and experienced promoters.
But for one just starting out, it can be a tough and sometimes frustrating process that takes patience, passion and in some cases insanity.
Local wrestling promotions like Combat Zone Wrestling have enjoyed some measure of success over the course of 15 years on the less-than-glamorous independent scene. On-Point Wrestling, based out of South Jersey, is just starting to find its way.
The promotion was the brainchild of wrestler Matt Tremont and wrestling manager Jeff Kane. Like most ideas in independent wrestling, it wasn’t hatched in a fancy, air-conditioned boardroom. It was thought of while sitting on a couch in a living room after a wrestling show.
What started as a germ of an idea became a reality in May of 2012. Well, sort of.
“We didn’t really have a large budget at the time, so we just got together eight guys that we knew very well and we had a gym that everyone trained at,” Kane said during an interview with philly.com. “In the gym, we ran and filmed an eight-man tournament with no crowd, just to see how it went down. Afterward, we put the matches online and the buzz started coming like, ‘Hey, you guys should run a live show.’”
Kane, a native of Northeast Philadelphia, grew up watching wrestling. He was introduced to the live aspect of it when he attended Extreme Championship Wrestling shows.
He eventually stumbled upon CZW, which was where he began to establish relationships with people inside of the wrestling industry.
Being around both promotions gave Kane a first-hand look at the peaks and valleys that can come with running a wrestling promotion without the benefit of a million-dollar budget or shareholders.
None of what Kane saw deterred him and Tremont from running their first live show in front of fans in January of 2013.
“I guess the basic thing we really looked at was that we embraced the challenge and believed that if we put our two heads together and do it grassroots style and contact all of our friends, Kane said. “As you’re involved you get to know more fans, so word spreads if you spread it correctly.”
After first show, the pair received questions from fans online asking them when they were running another show. But there was only one problem: Kane and Tremont never intended on running a second show.
“We didn’t run again until May because we really had no desire to run,” Kane said. “I remember that I was like, ‘Uh, are we doing this again?’”
At the request of some new loyal fans, On-Point Wrestling held quarterly shows in 2013. The promotion is looking to slightly expand in 2014 by running six shows.
One of those six shows will take place Saturday at Monroe Business Center in Williamstown, N.J. The event is being dubbed “Unfinished Violence” and features a main event of Tremont going one-on-one with Balls Mahoney of ECW fame.
But alas, this is independent wrestling. Although it may sound like business is picking up for On-Point Wrestling, it’s one of many that perform in front of very small audiences.
Most WWE crowds consist of thousands of people. According to Kane, most independent wrestling promotions are bringing in between 100 and 150 people. Some notable promotions drawing around 500 per show.
On-Point Wrestling has yet to even reach that level. Kane estimates that there are between 80-100 consistent fans at every show. Kane and Tremont would obviously like for that number to increase one day, but with so many promotions for fans to choose from, it’s hard for anyone to draw major audiences. For Kane, gaining new fans is on top on the promotion’s agenda.
“It’s hard,” Kane said. “Wrestling is very over-saturated, as we’re finding out.”
“The biggest thing is to not get discouraged, because I believe you could easily lose momentum by getting discouraged,” he added. “There are a lot of federations, especially here in New Jersey... Our goal each time is to continue to provide not a different style than everyone else - because everyone tries to do that - but we just give a little bit of every style of wrestling.”
When you’re a company as small as On-Point Wrestling, however, every minute detail can become problematic - and costly.
The first thing he and Tremont have to do is find a venue to host the. That is apparently easier said than done in some cases.
“Everyone thinks that every gym with a basketball net is going to let you run a show,” Kane said. “It’s not true.”
Once the building is locked in, now Kane and Tremont have sift through all of the state regulations that are required for holding a wrestling event.
And of course, you can’t have a wrestling event without a wrestling ring. That's another task that sounds like an easy one. But in the world of independent wrestling, it can be an adventure unto itself.
That’s because if a promotion does not own a ring, it has to rent one from a reliable source. Once the ring is secured, then it has to be transported to the venue. Again, something that is easier said than done on the independent circuit.
So the venue is taken care of. There’s a wrestling ring. The proper paperwork has been filled out. But wait, what are the fans going to sit on? Chairs, of course.
“One of our biggest hurdles is some of the gyms we rent don’t have chairs,” Kane said. “Here’s an added cost that people don’t even think of. They just assume chairs are there. When I was going to shows I never even thought of them.”
He does now, of course.
“I always laugh when I rent the chairs," Kane said. "I always think back to when Cactus Jack and Terry Funk threw the chairs into the ring and I just go, ‘Oh my god!' If that was a rental I’d have a heart attack."
Okay, so now the fans have somewhere to sit, but what are they going to eat? Well, there’s usually concession stands, but even that can bring about an issue.
“That’s another big aspect that a lot of people lose out on,” Kane said. “If the building already sells food, there’s some income you could be making as well.”
“You have to add all of these variables in before you even book the talent, and then the talent’s money, he added. “Before you’ve even paid one wrestler, you could already be looking at maybe $1,500.”
After all of those costs and variables are taken into account, Kane said that he could estimate how many paid fans are needed just to cover the various costs of the show. Turning a profit, however, is a different story.
“Whether it’s 100 people or 500 people, whoever shows up is getting the full emotional investment during in an On-Point experience throughout the show,” Kane said.
Kane and Tremont have high hopes on advancing the promotion by next year. Instead of running six shows a year, the duo hopes to be able to run a show every month.
Despite the optimism, Kane understands where his promotion stands in the grand scheme of things and is taking a realistic approach to the business aspect of it.
“To me, not losing money to be perfectly frank,” he said about what the promotion’s future goals are.
“I look at it like a five-year plan,” he added. “We’re slowly getting out name out there. I mean we’re new.”
For more information on “Unfinished Violence”, click here.