Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So Your Roster Might Disappear: The Cautionary Tale of PWG

Are scenes like these in PWG going to be a thing of the past?
Photo Credit: Devin Chen
Rumors are swirling around that Ring of Honor officials are considering keeping the company's contracted wrestlers exclusive to the company as if they were employees of WWE. The decision is being kicked around by the muckety-mucks in Sinclair Broadcasting Group, not by Hunter Johnston or Joe Koff, which means ROH is on its way to becoming a slick, corporate entity run by people who just don't know wrestling. Of course, rumors are rumors, and nothing concrete has been decided.

On the other side of the eternal indie wrestling pissing match, Gabe Sapolsky's WWN Live group is currently touring China, which easily is the coolest wrestling happening of the year to date. WWE has made initial overtures to the most populous relatively-untapped wrestling market in the world, but it's shocking that Sapolsky, with little name value (outside of guys like Ricochet who've worked Japan) and even less corporate backing, was the first non-Titan entity to tour China. While reception hasn't been fully gauged yet, the group is already in talks to return to the country on a regular basis, especially if the crowds are commensurate with the sheer density of people living in areas where the shows are being booked.

This confluence of potential events could mean a lot of things, but one of the major ramifications is it could end up drastically shrinking Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's current roster.

PWG right now relies heavily on bringing in ROH and WWN Live talent to buttress its shows and create a unique, dream-card atmosphere. The cold war between Sapolsky and his former place of employment allowed the SoCal indie to create one-of-a-kind matches that couldn't happen on other big indie stages at all or that couldn't happen in the frequency that PWG could provide in others. Bringing in outside talent has always been the company's modus operandi, the reliance on the national super-indies has grown stronger over the last few years that its identity has become inextricably tied to booking other feds' talent rather than serving as a mixing pool for the elite of the indie scene to co-mingle with the fertile California wrestling scene.

SoCal has the volume of both wrestling schools and raw talent that befits an area with its dense population, and yet the wrestlers who are names around the country for the most part made their bones on the East Coast. The exceptions, guys like the Young Bucks and Candice LeRae, already got over before the native channels were shut off. I'm convinced that guys like Pretty Peter Avalon, the RockNES Monsters, Famous B, SoCal Crazy, Adam Thornstowe (who's more NorCal than SoCal, but still), and Ray Rosas could end up raking nationwide, but they don't even get the chance to show their wares for really the only wrestling company in the area that has national clout (especially since the falling out with the NWA and the implementation of David Marquez's new nationwide governing body not taking off haven't exactly helped Championship Wrestling from Hollywood). How can anyone become the next Chris Bosh or Young Bucks if they don't get the same opportunities?

Of course, I hate to say I told you so (ALRIGHT!), but I cautioned against ignoring the native guys nearly two years ago. I also cautioned against underserving women wrestlers. Seriously, Cheerleader Melissa lives in San Francisco, is perhaps the biggest non-contracted name in the world right now, and would be able to throw down with anyone on that roster. Working Japan is not an excuse either, because if promotions in Texas could book her regularly, then PWG could have found a way to finagle her in.

Since ROH doesn't seem to think women should be anything greater than eye candy or hype-men for RD Evans (no hate to Veda Scott, she's really good at being a hype-man, but she's also a really good wrestler too), a disproportionately large pool of women compared to men would have been available to the company to continue to book. This would have been especially true since WWN Live mixed tours seem to favor the men wrestlers rather than going heavy on the SHINE roster. PWG could have had a contingency plan for a doomsday scenario and not only been left with the Young Bucks, the World's Cutest Tag Team, Brian Cage, and Trevor Lee as its only really available over wrestlers. But it didn't.

Granted, WWN Live won't be touring China during every PWG weekend more than likely, especially if Sapolsky and Super Dragon do the smart thing and communicate with each other. And maybe at the last minute, the wrestling people in ROH will win out over the stiff corporate suits. However, even if everything comes up roses for PWG, the company should look at this brush with disaster as a wakeup call. You can't get away from your identity, and PWG's identity has always had some element of SoCal wrestlers supplementing and thriving beside the top-name talent that came in to sell DVDs. For years, PWG was ahead of the curve, pushing the people ROH would eventually feature a year or two before the company would get around to it, and now, it is disappointingly behind the times.