Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reflecting on #RAWlternative

Chris Hero's match was a big reason why #RAWlternative was worth it
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Last night's #RAWlternative event was a seemingly rousing success. The stream got 12,310 views on YouTube, and although I suspect some of those clicks were duplicates from singular people, that number is staggeringly impressive for a single-serving stream with no paid advertising. Even if the single-time peaks, which people who were in the chat said were at 1,700 people, were the ceilings for the number of people who joined in, the numbers were enviable for any non-WWE promotion. A lot of indies might get 1,700 people over two or three shows if they're lucky. Hell, TNA, which has a decade-plus history of being nationally distributed, was lucky to approach that number for house show gates. The initial eyes on the stream showed a good sign, but how many will be retained?

If quality correlates with retention, then these agglomerated independent promotions should see an uptick in their sales, whether at the box office or through DVD sales. I don't know if these companies put their best feet forward, because many of them I was seeing for the first time and am unfamiliar with their general quality, especially since promotions like SMASH presented a match between the Super Smash Bros. and Young Bucks that was similar to what the two teams had done in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. That is not a knock on the Canadian company at all; it just doesn't give me insight on the rest of its roster. Still, the offerings that were put forth were all at least solid to spectacular. Special kudos belong to Squared Circle Wrestling and Alpha-1 Wrestling for providing two outstanding bouts, Chris Hero vs. Colin Delaney and Ricochet vs. Josh Alexander respectively. Those two matches were among my favorite of the show, with the rider that I wasn't able to catch the beginning which contained the C*4 and Inter Species Wrestling offerings. Still, whether they presented a match I'd seen a bunch of times or something that was somewhat new to me, I came away with knowing at least a piece of each company's identity, which is important for a promotion wanting to get fans to want to see more.

The broadcast wasn't without flaws. Apparently, Colt Cabana kicked off the stream with a promo that many who saw it said was self-serving and shallow. I didn't see it so I can't really judge. The biggest problem, which was pointed out by Dylan Hales on Twitter, was that every match except for the Takaaki Watanabe/Andy Dalton match from Inspire Pro Wrestling had a similar, breakneck, "modern indie" pace to it. Wrestling shows aren't laid out to have nitro-fueled broadways for every match for a reason. Matches have roles, and the roles help regulate the crowd. Asking people to sit down in front of a computer screen or a television for four hours is demanding, so ebbs and flows are required to keep attention. I would have liked to have seen more comedy filtered in later, or maybe a few sprint type matches, a cerebral Timothy Thatcher-esque British mat grappling exhibition, or multi-man scrambles sprinkled in among the long, arcing epics that dropped like bombs. I know that some of those companies had matches in their repertoires that would have fit the bill. Absolute Intense Wrestling, for example, had a few cards in 2012 where the shorter, more chaotic matches shone brightly. I remember a Gary Jay/Sugar Dunkerton/Alex Colon/Eric Ryan elimination four-way that hit some notes and was tidily over in shorter order.

Then again, each company was asked to put forward its strongest effort, not necessarily build a pastiche that was constructed like a real card, and I can't blame the promoters for wanting to drop their big bombs, especially since this #RAWlternative was only a one-week thing. If I had to choose between a midcard match featuring two guys that may or may not be known or going with a longer, more detailed affair featuring a name like Johnny Gargano or Eddie Edwards or AR Fox or the man known now as Kevin Owens, I would go the latter route. Fortunately, each match selected had more strong points than weak spots, and I would hope that everyone who watched found something that resonated with them.

Overall, the fates worked out well for Denver Colorado (the man, not the place!) and everyone who helped plan #RAWlternative. WWE trotted out a good show last night, but hardly one that was worth the praise and hype that RAW regularly got two years ago. Furthermore, WWE continued to hammer home the point that nothing is ever as good as the past, with the wrestlers of yesteryear being trotted out for cheap pops rather than being used to enhance the guys who are going to be around the next week. #RAWlternative showcased a bevy of promotions who are at the vanguard of modern American wrestling. The combined stream was fresh, new, and front-line compared to the retreading on USA Network. Hopefully, people who chose the alternative were able to see the change and will look to at least supplement their WWE viewing habits with a healthy dose of independent wrestling. These companies can't survive without your money. They gave you the free sample. If you like it, buy from them at Smart Mark Video. Go to their shows. Be the change you want to see in wrestling. If not, then have fun being cursed to watch some old dude show up on RAW to make it eminently clear that no one on the regular roster not named John Cena or Daniel Bryan really matters over and over again.