AS I SEE IT - 2/04/2003:
Smoke, mirrors, half-truths, and spreading the indy wars
by: Bob Magee
Seems like the Philadelphia independent wars have spread
across both the Atlantic and all the way down to Florida.
First, from across the Atlantic... there was the recent announcement of a "working relationship" between XPW and the UK's Frontier Wrestling Association... an announcement which was greeted with displeasure among a number of fans of the British promotion and by this columnist.
A number of FWA fans on the company's own website stated that they would no longer support the company as long as they are associated with XPW based on the company's support by Extreme Associates. One comment from a fan went so far as to say that he wouldn't support FWA if they worked with a company whose sponsors featured "rape for entertainment", referring to the films featuring rape as sexual gratification, and the pseudo-snuff films sold by XPW's parent company Extreme Associates.
FWA fans were, however, warned to "watch out for a second announcement before making any judgments". After a couple weeks... the reason for that statement has become clear.
So far, it seems that the "working relationship" with the UK's FWA seems to be not much more than a couple of matches on a couple of shows, including one in the UK and one on an upcoming XPW Philadelphia show to create an "XPW European Title", as well as a few announcements about XPW matches on the FWA newsboard... with anything further remaining to be seen.
The "second announcement" was made on January 31, and was greeted with a greater degree of enthusiasm as UK's Frontier Wrestling Alliance confirmed that their next show at London's prestigious York Hall at Bethnal Green, scheduled for May 17th would be a joint show with Ring of Honor scheduled to "feature the cream of the FWA in matches with the cream of ROH".
FWA staff was quoted as saying: "With such talent moving frequently back and forth across the Atlantic it seemed an obvious move to one day promote a joint show where UK fans would not only get to see their favourite Ring of Honor stars live for the first time but they could see them on the same bill as their favourite British wrestling stars."
It remains to be seen, however, if some FWA fans will attend these shows if they feel strongly enough about XPW's pornography connections.
Then, this past week, XPW has announced that it has new "developmental territories", the Midwest-based IWA Mid-South Wrestling, California's Revolution Pro, the Pennsylvania-based Heritage Wrestling Association, and a new promotion in Florida.
Many fans of Philadelphia-based independent promotions were upset particularly with the news relating to IWA Mid-South Wrestling, given that many IWA workers; including CM Punk, Colt Cabana, and Chris Hero might be shut out of working Ring of Honor or 3PW as a result. Another concern among fans was any effect this relationship would have on the Pennsylvania-based Smart Mark Video, which has been key in publicizing the shows of IWA Mid-South for years via their successful and fan-friendly tape business.
Apparently, they don't have as much to worry about as the XPW press releases might have made them think.
Mike Burns of Smart Mark Video said the following to me, for anyone concerned about a possible effect of XPW's so-called "working relationship" with IWA on Smart Mark Video's business, or on IWA Mid-South as a whole:
"...XPW has nothing to do with me [Smart Mark Video], or has nothing to do with any promotion I work with whether it be CZW, IWA-Mid South or any other federation.
"Ian owns and controls everything having to do with IWA-Mid South. XPW has no influence or say in what he does or who he books. XPW has no money invested into IWA nor has Ian ever spoke to Rob Black. The whole territory subject matter is blown way out of context."
It's been reported that some XPW talent that wishes to work IWA shows may get the chance to work some extra dates, that Chris Hero will work some XPW shows (and that Ian Rotten might, despite his above denial), but this appears to be the extent of the cooperation.
More interestingly, it's also been noted that IWA talent such as CM Punk and Colt Cabana has said they won't work for XPW, which makes you wonder what real value the "working relationship" has, if the best wrestling talent on the IWA roster won't work with them.
So, let's move on...to the next "developmental territory", Revolution Pro, a California based lucha style promotion.
Socaluncensored.com's Steve Bryant, had the following to say:
"...I think in the areas XPW is already running (California) it's silly anyway, as it doesn't help the promotions that are now basically being called XPW's minor leagues. It's like, why go see the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes when you can see the Dodgers?
"In the case of Rev[olution] Pro I don't really think it changes the talent XPW will be booking from there. They've really only booked b-level guys from Revolution Pro over the last year like AWC and Street Style. I asked Super Dragon about this yesterday and his exact quote was 'I don't care because I won't wrestle the XPW guys, and I won't work for XPW' ."
Super Dragon's feelings are reported to have been due to Black's actions at Redemption back in May 2001 Super Dragon worked a was in a tag match with Xcalibur against vs. Rising Son & Ultrataro Jr. The match was widely praised on XPW fan websites such as Strictly XPW.com However, they were screamed at by Rob Black for "having too good of a opening match" and "making the other talent on the show look bad".
Other Revolution Pro workers are reported to have made similar comments off the record. Other office workers are unhappy about being characterized as a developmental promotion for a promotion that they're in essence competing with. So much for a "working relationship" where a number of the parties in one promotion won't work with the other promotion, and others are unhappy with the association.
Then there's Joseph Blackburn's Heritage Wrestling Alliance, a promotion connected with XPW through the agreement back on August 11th, 2002, for the use of HWA's license to run wrestling shows in Pennsylvania. Later, the claim was amended (despite having sent out a press release to the contrary) that the arrangement was only one where Heritage would allow XPW the use of their license if they lost their own... since XPW's lawyer later obtained a license.
The promotion, until recently, was a small promotion based in suburban Delaware County running monthly shows with their own roster. It's only recently that they began running shows in Philadelphia at the Murphy Recreation Center, the home venue of Ring of Honor.
HWA was scheduled to run a show at Murphy on January 31st, only to have the venue pulled from them by Ring of Honor, which previously claimed an exclusive agreement to run the venue. Given the relationship between XPW and HWA, the show was moved to Viking Hall.
The show, despite creative attempts to get fans to attend by urging them to "come and boo recent XPW signee Justice Pain" drew only 150 people (110 paid reported to the State Athletic Commission). Another creative attempt to get fans to attend claimed that since HWA wasn't a "part of the Philly indy wars", they'd cut your ticket price if you brought a ticket from any Philadelphia independent promotion.
Of course, the XPW announcement of HWA as a "developmental territory" pretty much put the lie to any statement that HWA wasn't involved in the "Philly Indy Wars". So did the fact that less than a month before, the home of one of HWA's workers was used to film the surprise Justice Pain debut promo that aired on XPW TV.
Then, there's the "southern developmental promotion" called "War Zone Wrestling" in Florida.
Gee... creative name. Sound familiar to anyone? I wonder where they got such a name from.
IPW Hardcore (Florida)'s Ron Niemi had the following to say on this matter:
"This new 'promotion' will be owned by Sal Hamaoui who also owns WWN.TV. To say this is a conflict of interest would be a huge understatement, as WWN.TV is supposed to be working hand in hand with CZW as they broadcast and sell CZW streaming video on their site. Now Sal along with some insignificant promoters in South Florida have struck a deal with XPW to be their 'southern developmental promotion' ".
1wrestling.com's Jess McGrath backs up Hamaoui's involvement, and also reports that Hamaoui's partner in WWN, Tony Velamontes, and Harry Venis (owner of IWF/FCW in south Florida will be involved. The promotion will essentially absorb Harry Venis's promotion which runs shows at Florida native reservations. The "new promotion" will also run shows in the Davie/Ft. Lauderdale area, Sebring, and Tampa.
Niemi further states:
"...now [Hamaoui] is going to actually come into Florida and try to raid my talent and run head to head with IPW Hardcore Wrestling which I have owned and operated for 5 years now. It is a shame that the promotional wars of the Northeast seem to be on their way to Florida but I have no problems calling in the boys from CZW to come down and do what it takes as they have done a great job keeping things the way they should be in Philly."
There is no word from CZW itself what, if any, interest they have in becoming involved in this Florida situation.
After going through all of this, I think it's presumptuous as hell for a promotion that can't draw 200 paid to the ECW Arena to have a "developmental system". Further, I think it's insulting as hell to fans and workers of IWA Mid-South Wrestling to call it the "developmental promotion" of XPW, given the history of IWA and the respect that Ian Rotten has for the traditions of wrestling, even with a decidedly non-traditional hardcore style.
What it appears is actually happening is no more than trading talent, hardly what I think a "developmental territory" relationship.
A "developmental territory" is one such as Ohio Valley Wrestling is to WWE... a relationship providing material support, talent and money. If XPW has anything, it may have money...but according to Mike Burns, XPW doesn't have money invested into IWA.
According to 1wrestling.com's Jess McGrath, it's not likely that XPW do in at least two of the other three, either.
In short, all of this noise by XPW about "working relationships" and "developmental territories" strikes me as being little more than smoke, mirrors, and half-truths... on the part of a promotion that claimed to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission to have drawn paid crowds of slightly more than 200 combined over a span of two nights at their "big debut" weekend at Viking Hall.
Wrestling is based on the art of the work, which is just another word for "smoke and mirrors". However, the "art of the work" also involves doing things that draw paid crowds to a promotion's shows. It also involves not pissing off significant segments of your potential fan base by your actions...to the point where you've alienated them totally from attending your shows.
XPW has yet to do the first in Philadelphia, no matter how much talent they attempt to buy or steal from other promotions, no matter what building they take over, and no matter what other relationships they claim to have created, in fact or otherwise. They appear to have been spectacularly successful in alienating large portions of their fan base in Philadelphia from attending their shows.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)