Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On the Importance of Scene and Native Talent

The Bucks are fine, but who from SoCal is going to join them in PWG's elite stratum?
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Once upon a time, Southern California wasn't just a balmy venue that hosted Pro Wrestling Guerrilla shows chocked to the gills with talent flown in from the rest of the continent. Sure, the name guys have always clustered around the Reseda-based company, but they were always in good mix with the locals, and additionally, some of those megastars like Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson were based on the West Coast and could conceivably claimed PWG as their biggest home promotion. Over the years, the local guys have dwindled and dwindled out of the company, arguably while the Southern California scene and the West Coast in general has strengthened substantially. Some of the best wrestlers in the country work on the West Coast. So why aren't they getting booked in the most prominent company?

Of the main featured roster, only five wrestlers in PWG could lay claim to SoCal as being their home territory (the Young Bucks, Brian Cage, World's Cutest Tag Team), and all of them have caught fire elsewhere in that they fit the same national profile. Yes, PWG allowed them to get to that national stage, but the people who bring up the rear and are being groomed to replace them are not from the sunny Inland Empire. Then again, it's not really a bad thing to see great wrestlers like Speedball Mike Bailey or Biff Busick getting that shine in PWG. Again, PWG has always been at its best when the imports come into the area to mix with the locals and provide something unique. But at the same time, Bailey and Busick and any other new wrestler brought in is part of another well-formed scene.

Bailey, along with the Monster Mafia, hails from the Greater Toronto Area, which has at least two major promotions, three if you extend into Ottawa and count C*4, that are getting major shine. Busick, along with Team Tremendous, has been raking the New England scene for several companies including Beyond Wrestling. Trevor Lee, Cedric Alexander, and Andrew Everett hail from North Carolina. All of these territories have intermingling, and it leaves PWG without signature matches it can book on its own.

Other companies of PWG's ilk are either on television or they've gone national, and the Reseda company has no designs on doing either. So why is it acting like it's a national promotion instead of bringing in select dudes from elsewhere to have marquee matches with the guys on the West Coast who aren't getting reciprocated elsewhere? Everyone knows Timothy Thatcher nowadays, but he's only one part of a scene that includes a bunch of other guys who either have gotten chances to work PWG opening cards before and have not been booked again or who are still waiting for that opportunity.

This isn't to say that PWG should act as a charity case either. But at the same time, what is it offering that other companies cannot at this point? It can no longer book ROH exclusive talents, and other ROH dudes appearing for the promotion like Roderick Strong are on per-appearance deals and have freedom to work wherever they want. PWG has lost its trump cards, and now, while quality cards may still be in the picture for it, it no longer has what made it special in the first place.

Any good locality should be built upon its native base of talent. St. Louis Anarchy doesn't produce must-see shows because it brings in all the outside talent that's already famous, but because it brings those guys in to supplement for wrestlers like the Submission Squad, Angelus Layne, and the Hooligans among others. Any great indie promotion nowadays is the same way, whether it be Inspire Pro Wrestling, Beyond, Absolute Intense Wrestling, SMASH Wrestling, Full Impact Pro, or Empire Wrestling Entertainment. They all have bases from which they're building, and the guest stars supplement cards or bring eyes upon them from outside the region. That's not only smart promoting, but it helps keep the ecosystems fresh.

IT would be one thing if Southern California were barren, but it's not. Wrestlers are populating places like Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, Santino Bros. Wrestling, or Quintessential Pro Wrestling, or they're going upstate to All-Pro Wrestling or Future Stars of Wrestling. Meanwhile, PWG is bafflingly not booking them. I don't understand how shutting out that many fresh faces is a good idea, but then again, I don't run a wrestling promotion.

(Also, it could stand to bring in a few more women to work alongside Candice LeRae/replace her when she and Johnny Gargano possibly head off to the Performance Center together, but I already wrote this column.)