The Contentious Ten 3.18.13: The Top 10 Failed Promotions
Posted by Gavin Napier on 03.18.2013
From the Sting-led World Wrestling All-Stars and the controversial Xtreme Professional Wrestling to MTV's Wrestling Society X, the Global Wrestling Federation and more, 411's Gavin Napier counts down the top 10 failed wrestling promotions of all time!
You know the drill. I'm Gavin and this is the Contentious Ten. After the better part of nine months of making top ten lists, I'm starting to struggle to come up with new ideas. I don't want this to turn into a list of nothing but "Best Matches from (insert wrestler here)" or "Best Moments From (insert pay per view here)", so I'm asking for help. In this week's column, you can still call me an idiot at the bottom. You can still tell me how my opinion is invalid because it doesn't mesh perfectly with yours. That's all still perfectly ok. Along with that, though, leave me some ideas for columns. What top 10 lists do you want to see? Let me know at the bottom.
This week, I wanted to look at some of the promotions in recent memory that have failed in a big way. Why? Because nothing makes someone feel better about themselves than seeing someone else's failures put on display. I'm just trying to help your self esteem out. Honest.
Here's the criteria forTop 10 Failed US Promotions
-Company must be out of business
-Company must have held some sort of expectation at some point
-The fewer expectations met, the better
-The more ridiculous the reason for failure, the better
No matter how bad, if a company is still clinging to life then it doesn't warrant inclusion here. That means that no matter your opinion of a promotion such as CHIKARA, that doesn't fit the bill of traditional professional wrestling (And I have absolutely no problem with CHIKARA, they're just being used as an example), they're still active and they haven't failed. The matter of expectations is also significant. Nobody expects the promotion that's running out of a bar or fire station in your hometown, doesn't charge admission, never books talent that lives more than 15 miles away, and regularly draws a dozen people to accomplish much. WCW? WCW had expectations. And they met them. Sure, WCW collapsed, but they collapsed after dominating the wrestling land scape for a significant period of the late 1990's, introducing several genuine phenomenons to the wrestling culture, and then died after the worst corporate merger in the history of this country. WCW won't make this list because their run was a good one. Same for ECW. If a company failed because they made a sensible business decision and shut the doors, I won't be too harsh on them. If they went out of business because the owner was sinking large amounts of money into porn, well...yeah, they'll probably show up. Finally, as always, my personal opinion plays a part in the rankings.
Items that just missed the cut:
Could have been worse.
-Owned by Dusty Rhodes, among others
-Operated from 1989-1991
Once the NWA started crumbling, Florida Championship Wrestling was without a home. Dusty Rhodes took over the territory (along with Gordon Solie and others) and renamed it "Professional Wrestling Federation." Clever name. The idea was to keep the Florida wrestling territory alive. In hindsight, it's amazing that someone as smart as Dusty in relation to the way wrestling works didn't see the way wrestling was headed. Territories were quickly dying and being replaced by independent promotions. The PWF could have been worse. They had talent such as Fred "Tugboat" Ottman, Al Perez, Kendall Windham, Steve "Skinner" Keirn, and The Nasty Boys. They featured Dusty and a very young Dustin Rhodes. There were appearances from guys like Bam Bam Bigelow and Scott Hall while they were between bookings from larger promotions. So why did they fail? Well, they were drawing anywhere between 50 and 300 fans, even with name talent on the show. Wrestlers - like Ottman, Dusty, and The Nasty Boys - kept disappearing when they got calls from Vince McMahon. Take low turnout with a company taking full advantage of "Card Subject To Change" and the writing is on the wall. They struggled for 18 months before finally throwing in the towel.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
-Owned by Herb Abrams
-Operated from 1990-1996
Herb Abrams didn't have a terrible idea. He had money to spend and was going to spend it on wrestling. In 1990, there was still plenty of "free agent" talent available with which to start a promotion. It didn't hurt that the AWA and World Class were gone, with East Coast Wrestling yet to find their groove. There are two sayings that apply to what Herb Abrams did, though. The first is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The second is that ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby. Herb's stated goal was to "take wrestling back to its roots." The roster reflected that. "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, Danny Spivey, Terry Gordy, Paul Orndorff, Bob Backlund, Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, and Ivan Koloff were all involved with the company. While that roster seems kind of awful now, in 1990 it wasn't that bad. Williams and Gordy were still in their primes. Backlund would have a main event WWE run a few years later. Orndorff would turn up in WCW not long after. What happened? Well, the company never took out. Major events drew only 500 people. They had a deal with SportsChannel USA, which had zero chance of competing with ESPN. The product never caught on, and the UWF closed up shop shortly after Abrams died of a heart attack. While covered in cocaine. And covered in vaseline. With hookers. Naked. After destroying a lot of furniture with a baseball bat. The 90's, ladies and gentlemen!
Urban Wrestling Federation
Sometimes innovation sucks.
-Owned by Steve Karel
-Operated from 2011-2012
Steve Karel had an idea. He wanted to bring back "ECW Style" wrestling. He wanted to appeal to an entirely new demographic. And so, Steve Karel came up with a concept called the Urban Wrestling Federation. In this version of the UWF, rappers like Uncle Murda and and 40 Glocc would act as "shot callers." They would send wrestlers into battle against the wrestlers of other rappers. It essentially turned wrestling into a gang war. Now, this doesn't sound entirely terrible. They also ramped up the sex, violence, and language. Again, if your demographic is solely young adult males, not a bad thing. The roster wasn't bad, either. Ricky Ortiz, Ruckus, Homicide, and Joel and Jose Maximo all were featured. Here's the thing, though: sometimes innovation sucks. It did here. The company made several press releases and actually managed to have several events. Then they just sort of...went away. Their website still features a video promoting the event coming up on May 27, 2012. Will they make a return? Maybe. For Uncle Murda's sake, I hope so.
Global Wrestling Federation
A launching pad.
-Owned by Max Andrews and Joe Pedicino
-Operated from 1991-1994
After the Memphis territory absorbed World Class Championship Wrestling to form the USWA, there was a void in Texas wrestling. Joe Pedicino and Max Andrews stepped in to fill the void with the Global Wrestling Federation. They got off to a great start, managing to hold shows in the old Sportatorium. They got a television deal with ESPN. Perhaps most importantly, they had a great roster that mixed veteran talent with up and coming young stars. As veterans go, Eddie and Doug Gilbert were there. So were John Tatum and Rod Price, Gary Young, "Maniac" Mike Davis, Manny Fernandez, "Iceman" King Parsons, "Gentleman" Chris Adams, and Kerry Von Erich. It was also a launching pad. Young stars that got their first national exposure through GWF included Sean Waltman, Jerry Lynn, Booker T, Stevie Ray, Cactus Jack, Scott "Raven" Levy, and John Bradshaw Layfield. So why did GWF die so quickly? Mainly for the same reason that World Class died. The wrestling business was in a state of flux, and GWF wasn't equipped to cope. Management changed hands three times in three years, with Northstar Promotions taking over towards the end. While the rest of wrestling was slowly gravitating towards more realism, Global featured guys that thought they had been to the moon and an announcer that thought he was Elvis after being attacked by Manny Fernandez. Eventually the money just wasn't there and the promotion shut down.
Wrestling Society X
Had a fighting chance.
-Owned by Viacom via MTV
-Operated in 2007
Wrestling and MTV have a long history. It dates back to the Rock N Wrestling Connection with Hogan, Piper, and Cyndi Lauper. There was Sunday Night Heat, Wrestling Society X, and Lucha Libre USA. When it was announced that Wrestling Society X would debut on the MTV Network, people expected...something. It was wrestling owned by the network that it would be airing on. That hadn't happened since WCW. That alone seemed to give it some stability. The roster lacked star power, with names like Sean Waltman, Vampiro, New Jack, and Justin Credible representing their biggest draw. To fans of the independent scene of six years ago, though, there were plenty of recognizable names. Jimmy Jacobs, Joey Ryan, Luke Hawx, Matt Sydal, Matt Cross, Tyler Black, Puma, Scorpio Sky, and Teddy Hart all appeared on the show's one season. Obviously, many of those men have gone on to star in Ring of Honor, TNA, WWE, and other independent promotions around the country. WSX's greatest asset was also likely it's greatest downfall. MTV doesn't have a history of sticking with shows for extended runs. The shows rating struggled, and MTV pulled the plug after four weeks. The presentation probably didn't help, as the cameras would shake with faux explosions among other things. Wrestling Society X had a fighting chance, but was snuffed out quickly.
-Owned by MAGNUMGROUP srl
-Operated from 2005-2008
Perhaps best known for the Ultimate Warrior vs. Orlando Jordan match in 2008 that marked Warrior's return to the ring after a decade away, Nu Wrestling Evolution had a bit of success before that. Rikishi took the Italian promotion Nu-Wrestling over in 2005 and started using his connections to bring in name talent. As the years went on, the promotion managed to score television distribution deals across Europe and attracted larger names. Along with Warrior, the company also brought in Scott Steiner, Carlito Colon, Ultimo Dragon, Test, Booker T, Raven, and Ken Anderson. They featured some of the top European wrestlers as well, such as Jody Fleisch. The company did things the right way, starting small and building around their home base. They gained a level of worldwide notoriety through the match with Warrior, but couldn't capitalize. Ultimately, their downfall sprang from the fact that they were a European company. Creating a global market for a sport in a country where the sport isn't a priority is difficult. See also: MLS in the United States, the NBA in Europe. Europe just isn't a hotbed for wrestling. The two major markets remain North America and Japan. NWE deserves credit for making as much headway as it did, but geography made the product's growth unsustainable. After a period of inactivity, the company officially rebranded to Nu-Wrestling Entertainment this year.
statement from blurb
-Owned by Sione Havea Vailahi
-Operated in 2000
Take a promotion that has the capacity to operate on a global scale. Give them recognizable talent such as Curt Hennig, The Barbarian, Tatanka, and The Road Warriors. Add in their ability to draw in someone with mainstream appeal like Dennis Rodman. How does this company fail spectacularly? Well, i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling is your answer. Sione Vailahi is better known as The Barbarian, and if he never struck you as much of a promoter, you'd be right. The company made some waves when they debuted, featuring Curt Hennig as their World Champion. They also managed to get Ted DiBiase in for commentary. The set looked professional. The crowds were decent. They managed to get on pay per view. Unfortunately, their roster wasn't built to last. When One Man Gang is one of your feature attractions in the year 2000, there's a problem. Had IGSW recruited even a handful of younger wrestlers that could have worked with Hennig, each other, and even stars like The Road Warriors, they may have been able to bring the product to America on a smaller scale. Then again, they put Dennis Rodman in the main event of their only pay per view in a singles match. Foresight wasn't a strong point. The company folded after their tour of Australia for what would appear to be fairly obvious reasons.
-Owned by Rob Zicari
-Operated from 1999-2003
XPW was the brainchild of Rob Zicari, better known as Rob Black, and was...well, it was something. It was looking to capitalize on the popularity of ECW and extreme wrestling in general, only Rob took thing about 30 levels too far. If you know anything about Rob, that shouldn't come as a surprise. He ended up being indicted on federal obscenity charges in 2005, but more on that later. XPW's roster featured plenty of recognizable names. New Jack, Abdullah the Butcher, Sabu, Terry Funk, Kronus, Sandman, Vampiro, and Shane Douglas showed up at various points. They had "homegrown" "talent" such as The Messiah, Vic Grimes, and Supreme. They were among the first to give exposure to Necro Butcher. Porn Stars Lizzy Borden and Veronica Caine made regular appearances. The show was, in short, a train wreck. It was all of the Extreme parts of ECW, but with none of the charm. You heard me. The violence was so far over the top that it became desensitizing after a while. The frequent misogyny would have made Vince McMahon blush. Aside from the spectacle of light tubes and barbed wire and other weapons, along with a chance to see former ECW standouts one more time, there wasn't really much of a redeeming quality to XPW. The end came when Rob and Lizzy were embroiled in a court battle that ate up all of the porn mogul's finances. XPW could no longer be subsidized and the company closed. Zicari and Borden would be sentenced to a year and one day in prison on obscenity charges related to a movie produced by Zicari and starring Borden that featured several simulated rape scenes. Just...ugh.
American Wrestling Federation
-Owned by Jim Alperstein
-Operated from 1994-1996
Jim Alperstein had a brainstorm one day. He decided that wrestling would work better if it had rounds, and strict rules. I can only imagine that such an idea was inspired by the underground popularity that mixed martial arts was gaining in those days, but the result was MST3K worthy. Alperstein was based in Chicago, and had ideas on becoming the third major company in America. Their roster was a veritable who's who of guys that were past their prime. Tito Santana, Tommy Rich, Greg Valentine, Bob Orton, Jr., Tony Atlas, Koko B. Ware, Hercules, Nailz, and others were the focus of the show. It was staggeringly bad for a promotion that spent a lot of money making sure that people knew they existed. The "rounds" format didn't fly. The talent roster was a collection of mostly midcarders whose best years were behind them. Terry Taylor on commentary was actually probably the best thing about the promotion, if that gives you any idea of what they had to offer. Somehow, Alperstein was building towards a pay per view in 1996, but the company kept hemorrhaging money until he was forced to close up shop.
World Wrestling All Stars
The one that should have made it.
-Owned by Andrew McManus
-Operated from 2001-2003
Of all the promotions that have come and gone in professional wrestling over the last 10 to 15 years, this is the one that should have made it. Like i-Generation, it started in Australia. The promotion started out with major shows. Unlike i-Generation, the roster was, well, loaded. Given that WCW and ECW were recently dead and TNA hadn't gained steam yet, there was a definite void in professional wrestling. WWA made an attempt to fill that void, and did a pretty solid job of it, initially. Bret Hart was the "commissioner." They had Jerry Lawler on commentary. The roster included Jeff Jarrett, Eddie Guerrero, Scott Steiner, Sting, Lex Luger, KroniK, Jerry Lynn, Rick Steiner, AJ Styles, Perry Saturn, and more recognizable names that probably wouldn't sell a pay per view on their own, but made for good midcard filler. So what happened? Well, after tours of Austrailia and Europe, the conclusion was made that there wasn't really room for TNA and WWA in America, especially since they were sharing some key talent. Production values had increased steadily with each major show, and WWA was making progress, but the decision was made to fold up shop. Jeff Jarrett unified the NWA-TNA and WWA World Titles by defeating Sting, and Chris Sabin merged the X-Division and WWA Cruiserweight titles. Of the ten promotions that made this list, WWA was the most entertaining. Because of that, it was also the most disappointing to watch disappear. The one positive? The departure of WWA strengthened TNA's position early on.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know and discuss the above list in the comment section below. You can find me on Twitter @GavinNapier411 and check out my new podcast on iTunes by searching for The Casual Heroes, or go to www.thecasualheroes.com and I'll be back here in 7..6..5..